10 Interesting, Surprising or Shocking things from my True Wanderers Saga

The best day of the year 2014 — the day I was announced winner of wrangler’s True Wanderers ride.

From a thousand plus participants I emerged at the top. And the trophy was boy oh boy, what a beautiful machine — The Z800 by Kawasaki.

A brand new superbike and the recognition that followed, is the ultimate achievement of my life. I don’t know what can come close to beat this.

For those who have not read the winning story yet, here is the LINK. Give it a read and come back here for some more bonus stories.

For those who have read my blog, here are few addons that you won’t find there or anywhere else.

Presenting 5 interesting — surprising — shocking things that are products of my True Wanderers Ride timeline.

1.) Did you know I won this contest because of Royal Enfield –

Sounds surprising? but its true. You see much before True Wanderers 3.0 revealed itself, I had bought a Thunderbird 500 for my solo 36 days ride in the Himalayas. It was a long pending dream and since I was about to take a sabbatical from work, I thought this is a perfect window to fit this ride plan in. And so I left for the longest ride of my life on the Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500.

It was a good trip. Regardless of how people keep talking about mechanical issues the brand faces, I had no single problem with the bike. Covered 5000+ kms and came home safe and at peace.

Just a week past by and I penned the travelogue of this ride. It was not easy to find the right words. And the write up, edit, rewrite and proof read… all went on for couple of weeks. When finally it was ready, I shared it here and in few forums for my friends and readers.

To qualify for the final round of True Wanderers, participants had to submit a travel story of any of their past rides. And when my friend insisted to participate, I submitted this 36 days Himalayas entry for the competition. You all know what happened next. So if Himalayas on Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 did not happen, Z800 wouldn’t have happened.

2.) Did you know half of the photos of this ride was shot on iPhone 5 –

I was carrying 2 DSLRs on this ride. One for the wide and the other for telephoto shots. Carrying 1 DSLR and interchanging two lenses would have become a bit of a time wastage. And time was very precious for this ride.

Removing the big cameras from the bag also takes a minute, so I had every intention of using the iPhone too, quite frequently, where I cannot lose any important moment. And it’s the moments timely captured that make amazing and winning photographs.

So at the end of the day when I use to select the best pics from the lot to upload on the blog, I realized most were from my iPhone.

3.) Did you know for the first time in my life I was frighten to get on the motorcycle –

What I planned for those 7 days was something stupid in theory. Right from the first twist of the throttle it was a drag all the way to the end. I was aware that every time I ride the bike I’ll have to push my limits to save time, which was very precious for this feat to complete successfully. And over that, the WTF incident right on day 1 near Surat brought all my confidence to almost zero level.

Thinking of all this was only making me afraid of going ahead in full surety. For the first time I felt an emotion that I thought I was immune to when it comes to motorcycling, …Fear.

4.) Did you know this ride gave me a serious injury on my shoulder –

In this mad rush type of ride, I had to also make myself aware to be careful about the damages physically I may incur. Not that I intend to hurt myself but its my theory that such rides always tend to give you some kind of injury. Mostly a minor one. Least I was expecting that I might get a serious shoulder injury.

This so happened that while coming down from Chopta, one corner had little black ice and slush. I couldn’t spot it from far and the rear tyre went in on the curve; this slid the bike against the hill side of the road and my shoulder brushed against the hard surface at a little high speed. The pain was there just for few immediate hours and gone; but upon returning home and checking up with the doctor I got to know that few tendons have been snapped. I’m still in recovery mode and it hurts when I raise the shoulder back and up. But hey, no pain no gain… I have a 10 lakh rupees supersport bike parked in my garage as my winning. Covers up much of the pain. 🙂

5.) Did you know I almost faced an unrecoverable breakdown of the bike on day 2 itself –

The packing for this ride went almost till the flag off time. Everything was done in so much of hurry that I had a feeling I forgot something important to carry. When I was reaching the flag off point, in my mind I was going over the checklist and wondering whether I forgot, or what I forgot that’s bothering me right now…!

Only when I covered 100kms it hit me that I forgot to carry the chain lubricant. It was very important for the ride. Already I was running on the last setting and lubricating the chain every 500kms was a must. The moment I reached Jaipur the inevitable took place. The chain started making hell of a noise and I couldn’t find a dam shop of motorcycle accessories on my route. Over that my preference was to buy a spray bottle so I can carry it on the ride ahead. Just lubricating with those local oil sprays won’t be enough. They barely stick on the chain (gets thrown off at high speeds.)

With that cranking noise I rode from Jaipur to Meerut and wondered that if I don’t find anything here then I’m officially thrown off my schedule. Staying exact on time with my itinerary was very necessary to work everything out for my story.

One, two times I event felt that the chain might snap or jump off from the sprocket. It was now totally dry. And just when my mind was preparing to face the breakdown; …spotted a good shop which sells exactly what I was looking for. A big can of chain lube; not Motul though but as if I was in a situation to complain.

In fact I almost came at a point where I was considering to apply my hair oil on the chain 🙂

6.) Did you know mosquitoes are responsible for the write up of day 0 and 1 –

If I have to win this thing then surely right from word 1 everything has to be awesome. Bullshit has no room in the story.

Day 1 & 2 involved in me covering far distances in short time so I kept the writing for last on day 2. After almost 48 hours I reached close to Lansdowne, found a hotel, checked in and thought of taking a nap first before I start writing the blog in the wee hours of morning. Just when I was tucking myself in, I realized the room is fully invested with mosquitoes. Not even half an hour I was able to sleep at peace.

These rascals were even coming under the bed sheet and tearing into my flesh. (I was just wishing for the mosquito bat over here.) Fuck the sleep I decided to start writing now itself. And decided to put whatever words that come out immediately from my heart and mind. I didn’t even proof read and straightaway published it.

I now realize that if there had been no mosquitoes, what content that arose from me that day would have been different. And that different would have not been the winning one because the winning one was from the mosquitoes incident.

Sounds so stupid but that’s what the chain of events show.

7.) Did you know on the last day I slept on the bus stop for an hour, only to be awakened with the title ‘Ghost’-

On Day 7 I had to ride from Meerut to Mumbai in less then 24 hours to complete my 7 days circuit. Meerut to Mumbai in 24 hours is pure stupidity. Even with my pushing endurance level, I was sure somewhere close to home I might snap. My sleep will take over my mind. But I decided to worry about it when the event nears. And so after 18 hours of rigorous riding, finally somewhere ahead of Modassa I was not able to hold on to. Physically I was so tired that I close my eyes and I would fall asleep.

I decided to give myself few mins break or atleast an hour’s sleep. So like how Dr. Arnob Gupta does, I found the perfect bus stop, parked the bike close to me and slept on the bench. Idea was to refresh myself with a power nap but I opened my eyes to something weird and funny. You see there was a marriage happening close by and the “Baarat” was going from the road where I was sleeping. They saw my bike and me lying on the bench, wearing all these weird things (gears), so they stopped to check this curious sight.

Just when they came close (within a feet) my eyes opened and I got up suddenly. In that dark ambiance I don’t know what happened but I clearly heard someone shouting ‘bhoot bhoot’ and they started running away. It was a LOL moment for me; I quickly spoke and calmed them down. Once relaxed they seem pretty annoyed with what happened and started telling me ‘Aisa koi kidhar sota hai kya…’ Once the show was over I hit the road once again, but this episode didn’t get out of my head till I reached home. Whenever I felt sleepy I thought of this scene, giggled and paced myself.

8.) Did you know I’m struggling to reach the ground when sitting on this bike (Z800) –

This is a funny one. I was not totally aware that this machine is so tall. I’m a good 5.8″ but despite, when I sit on the motorcycle, my feet struggle to reach the ground. So now I cannot move the bike if it’s stationary position and off. It’s heavy and massive.

And me regardless of being a huge person, have to be careful with this mean machine.

9.) Did you know as a prayer to almighty I rode on my bicycle from Mumbai to Shirdi –

I’m not very much in religion but my perspective of prayers and connection with Baba have always had a unique identity.

For some reason I felt a strong urge to be in Shirdi on the day of the announcement. I was already anxious and nervous.

For me riding to Shirdi from home is not a difficult task on my motorcycle. It’s just 3 hours ride from Mumbai. But again for some reason I had this feeling of putting my mind and body through rigorous levels to understand this unfamiliar urge I was experiencing.

So I decided to pedal my way to Shirdi this time. I anyways had a bicycle expedition in the Himalayas coming up, so pedaling to Shirdi will just become a perfect training thing for me.
What happen next, you all know. 🙂

10.) Did you know I cried like a baby when I saw this video –

[vsw id=”xZf2E56J8Y8″ source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 Review

There has been enough uproar about the Thunderbird 500 ever since its launch in September. Is this bike is worthy of all the praise and hullabaloo? I rode it on road, off tarmac and on bumpy stretches. Here is my take on the performance, handling and various other aspects of the motorcycle.

thunderbird 500

Power, Performance and Delivery

The engine of Thunderbird 500 is the same from RE Classic 500, as speculated even before the launch. The 499cc single cylinder, 4-stroke, twin spark engine churns out a power of 27.2 bhp and torque 41.3 Nm @ 4000rpm. Simply put, this means despite the heavy weight, coupled with that of the rider and a pillion, it has enough power to lift off almost immediately to reach a three figure speed under 12 seconds.

thunder bird 500

The power and torque available in low and mid range is as satisfying as the CL 500. With just a twist of the throttle the bike shoots off instantaneously from a stationary position to an aggressive speed. What I loved about the bike was when you slow down, you don’t need to shift the gear lower.

thunder bird 500

The bike can take you back to the higher speed without making that inevitable knocking sound, effortlessly. The only other bike I know which executes this efficiently is the KTM Duke 200.The bike has a top speed of 130km/hr before the rpm needle hits red line.  I managed to take it up to 125 and the bike feels stable and very much in control. There were couple of times when we got a false neutral but after riding for an entire day we safely concluded that if you shift the gears perfectly the chances of getting a false neutral is rare.

Handling:

thunder bird 500

The Thunderbird 500 will surprise you big time when it comes to handling. Regardless of the heavy weight of the bike and cruiser position, the bike not only gains high speed instantly but is also swift around the corners. Now don’t go trying knee scraping over this but let’s say that in the earlier version, the rider had to slow down considerably on turns. However, on a Thunderbird 500 you can safely go in and out of the curve with a proper lean. On city roads, you might actually be able to cut through traffic if you are a skilful rider. The length of the bike is not as long as most cruisers are, giving the rider an advantage of going through narrow ways. Most people compare the handling of this bike with Japanese masters like the Kawasaki or Yamaha. But, I personally think the Thunderbird is from a whole other league.

thunder bird 500

The foot pegs location, the new handle and the seat design are all great features for a comfortable cruiser. For a person of average height, the bike gives a stress free ride. Also, there is less vibration on this one as compared to any other RE bike. The result? A delightful ride!

thunder bird 500

Styling and Lineaments:

There’s no doubt that the RE Thunderbird is very popular among the cruiser bike category. It’s one of the ideal touring machines for any rider. Although the 350 version was updated to twinspark unit construction engine, the performance was more or less the same. Having said this, it was high time that Royal Enfield came up with significant upgrades to the well known cruiser, keeping in mind today’s technology, styling and appearance preferred by the rider.

thunder bird 500

 

thunder bird 500

Thunderbird 500 is just what the doctor ordered. Not only the engine but several aspects of the bike have been upgraded. Starting with the headlights, Thunderbird 500 gets a projector lamp and is fixed along with a LED ring that grabs instant attraction. The H7 bulb 55/55W fire a bright beam enough to illuminate the road quite a far distance ahead and a little of side range too. Night riding just became super fun. The tail lights now have 5 streaks of Light Emitting Diodes which even in the darkest night you can spot it from a distance. Overall both the lights, head and tail give the bike very modern stylish stance. But wait, it doesn’t stop here. The list of new features is long and commendable. The seat of the bike has now been split into two. And the pillion seat is also removable so a saddle bag can be mounted on the bike. The back rest has been redesigned and the consoled now has digital numbers in it. The body of instrument cluster, suspension, exhaust pipe and frame of headlight, taillight and indicators, all are chrome finish. If you observe from the sides, the engine and the area around has been given a black paint job which draws a favourable attention and the tank is now large to take in 20 litres of fuel, very muscular in appearance and the fuel cap is located at the top right side above it.

thunder bird 500

thunder bird 500

No doubt that this is the best looking bike ever made by Royal Enfield. The attention to details is worth applauding. Also the bike looks strong and sturdy since the build quality has been improved significantly.

thunder bird 500

Braking and Suspension:

For the first time ever, Royal Enfield has brought disc brake system in its rear wheel. 240mm disc in the rear while front has 280mm. Braking is one aspect where I think Royal Enfield has the potential to upgrade its performance. The front brakes did perform well but until you are not used to it, you may not be able to stop the bike exactly where you want. The rear did a fair job in slowing the speed. But if only the calibre had been placed the other way around, it would have been easy to judge the life of the brake liners. Currently, the calibre on the rear wheel is placed such that the rider cannot judge the life of the brake liner, unless s/he bends down right to the ground level.

thunder bird 500

The telescopic forks in the front and twin gas-charged shocks in the rear are perfect to give a smooth ride to the rider. Even when ridden on rough patches with occasional dive in potholes, the bike feels stable and polished. Pretty decent in offroad terrain, too. But for the pillion the picture is little different. On smooth tarmac no issue at all but on offroad/rough patches he/she may feel some discomfort.  

thunder bird 500

Instrument cluster and console:

The body of the instrument cluster is the same twin circular pods from the earlier Thunderbird, but the new blue back lighting touch up and a digital screen is bliss for the eyes. It has a chrome finish and rubber cushioning between the mounts so no vibration or shock can damage the device. Other than the must haves speedometer and tachometer, you’ll also find – digital odometer, twin trip meters, average fuel-efficiency, service due warning and hazard light indicator. Some of them no other Royal Enfield bikes have seen. After dark, the blue lights really make a glowing appearance and it’s not very difficult to read the data at high speeds. Kill switch is the standard button in red and the mode selection is very user friendly.

thunder bird 500

Our Take:

Royal Enfield has done their homework well, having studied the needs of a rider and what s/he expects from a cruiser. With latest technology upgrades and ‘n’ number of features loaded on the bike, Thunderbird 500 is a good buy. A Royal Enfield fan would love to own this machine. And if you are into pure touring it’s the ideal machine for the rider.

thunder bird 500

Game changer:

Thunderbird is no more in the category of affordable Royal Enfield bikes. It now stands in the premium class with a price tag of INR 182000 on road in Mumbai which comes close to  USD 3450, making it the most expensive bike made by RE. It’s now the flagship model of the brand and promoted as the best cruiser on road in India. Along with the launch, the brand has also unveiled their catalogue for the apparels and biking gears of RE series. Right from leather and textile jackets to stylish buffs and motorcycle boots, one can buy them from a RE dealer.

thunder bird 500

High Five for

•    New features
•    Power and performance
•    Stylish stance

Wish It had

•    Tubeless tyres

Modifications:

Fans and owner of Royal Enfield bikes have always gone for various after market accessories to mount on the bike depending on their utility. For Thunderbird 500, you can start by fixing a leg guard on the bike so the body is protected from a fall.

Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500 Specifications:

Engine Single Cylinder, 4 Stroke, OHV, SI Engine, Air cooled, and Keihin Electronic Fuel Injection
Displacement 499 CC
Bore x Stroke 84 mm x 90 mm
Maximum Power 27.2 bhp @ 5250 rpm
Maximum Torque 41.3 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 5 Speed constant mesh
Ignition Digital Electronic Ignition

Dimensions

Ground Clearance 135 mm
Width 895 mm
Wheel Base 1350 mm
Length 2060 mm
Height 1300 mm

Tyres
Front 90/90 – 19
Rear 120/80 – 18

Electricals

Electrical System12 Volts – DC
Head lamp Projection type headlamp, H7 bulb 55 / 55 W
Instrument cluster Digital cluster with LCD
Tail Lamp LED lamp with position light guides
E-Start Starter Motor0.9 KW, DENSO

Brakes

Front 280mm Disc, 2-Piston caliper
Rear 240mm Disc, single Piston caliper

Maximum Speed

Speed 130 Kmp
Suspension
Front Telescopic 41mm forks, Stroke 130 mm
Rear Twin gas charged shock absorbers , 80mm stroke

Vehicle

Fuel Tank Capacity 20 ltr
Compression Ratio 8.5 : 1
Air Cleaner Paper Element
Engine Oil Grade / Qty15W 50 API, SL Grade JASO MA
Weight (Kerb)195 Kg (with 90% fuel &oil )