Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Royal Enfield ThunderBird500 - 1,750 kms 8 day My experiential preview

The Royal Enfield Company had introduced ThunderBird500CC, a 500CC cruiser bike in the mid of October 2012 and I got invited to the launch of new bike in Chennai. 

Royal Enfield has an experiential preview program, through which I, as an internet influencer of their brand was offered a ThunderBird500CC for a week. A new bike at my disposal for a week is a thing that made me much exited and plan for a longer road trip. I needed to do a good photo op with this bike as well enjoy the trip to some exciting locations.
Got to tell about this interesting buzz with some of my friends and colleagues. The first reaction from them is a blink on their eyes and most of them thought that I was joking. Then with lending half  a ear, they pursue talking further about my ride plan. 
Few of the folks know that I am not joking. One of my colleagues Ravi who is an old time bulleteer just came off with a 3 day trip plan.  So, there were discussions between us on how the best that trip could be made off. The route was fixed to be around Pollachi, Valparai, Athirappilly Falls and probably to touch West coast(Kerala beach).
Then the day arrived and I needed to go from Cuddalore to Chennai and ride back on this bike.
It was a Saturday (3rd Nov 2012), after finishing my office; I got off the bus to Chennai for my brother's house. Carrying the helmet and riding coat in my back pack on the bus was a cumbersome experience. Since the back pack was bigger, I could not keep it inside the bus on the shelf. Reached my brother's home at Nanganallur in Chennai in the night. 
The thoughts of the next day itinerary kept me on the high and gave a bit of sleeplessness. Its gonna be a first time experience for me.

The above pic was a click during one of the photo ops done at Chavakkad beach in Kerala.
Here goes the story of my experience with the Royal Enfield ThunderBird500

DAY 1: 4 Nov 2012

I went to the company run brand stores of Royal Enfield located at Adyar in Chennai to ride down the bike to Cuddalore.

Around 11.00 a.m., I reached their stores and met Mr.Bala. After necessary formalities of submitting the required photo copies, I got to ride the bike which had petrol filled to its brim. 
My plan was to ride it first to my brother’s house in Nanganallur which is around 15 kms. Photocopies of my driving licence and identity proof needed to be submitted. But, I have not made them earlier. Being a Sunday, the photocopying shops opened up late. So, my plan got delayed by nearly two hours. Now, after taking the vehicle I realized that I am running short of time. The idea of going back to my brother’s house was shelved. Now 'Plan B' was to ride back to Cuddalore without going to Nanganallur.

I needed to touch Villupuram since my wife and kids are there at Father In Law’s house for a small family function. A distance of 220 kms to be clocked for this day. Riding this long is the first ever experience for me.

The helmet linen garment which came as a compliment in the PR kit while I attended the ThunderBird500 launch event was very much useful me to me over the past few days, but I had never been wearing it in the right way. Bala helped me know of where to fold it rightly, hurray! then it got fit on my face in a more comfortable manner.

The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one's feet! Taking off the bike from their brand stores. Thanks Bala, you have clicked at the right time.

The sun is shining bright and traffic on these roads of Chennai is also not that friendly for me. I am a first timer with a two wheeler into these congested metro city traffic; was particular not to get into the congested traffic; suffer inhaling the dense exhaust that are too synonymous at the turn of red light on the Chennai traffic signals.  So, as my brother had advised, I wanted to ride from Adyar till TIDEL park, take OMR, then reach Pallavaram flyover and exit the metro through Tambaram. This I was told would be less of traffic and easy way to zip out of the city. 
Once I was on the road, I assumed that I was going on the right road to the Madhya Kailash junction and shall hopefully catch TIDEL sooner. But, in the midst of so many crossings and couple of traffic diversions, I reached Santhome. Then further riding, I reached Mylapore. Damn it !

Since I was wearing the helmet, a riding coat and a back pack, it was hindering me to query any other biker who is crossing past me on the road. Riding past some more distance, realized that something was going wrong. I then stopped, opened the visor of my helmet and approached an autorickshaw driver. 
My God! he had a bitter truth for me- I have reached Gemini flyover. The plan of escaping the Chennai traffic remained only a plan. Now, in the midst of heavy traffic, the very next junction invited me with the RED signal with a long line of cars. Riding down in the Mount Road (Now called the Anna Salai) is a first ever experience.

Riding amidst such a heavy traffic in the metro was always in my 'NOT TO DO' list. Seeing this choked traffic even while travelling on the MTC bus itself has been an eye sore and gets me headache. I prefer the Chennai local train the most.

A traffic choked Anna Salai invited a sickened rider in me with barricades of the upcoming Chennai Metro Rail that bottlenecked every next turn on the road ahead. For some distance, the barricades appear on the left and then on the right side. Anyway it was not that much interesting to ride on this road.

This new bike with a 500CC of thumping energy is a first kinda for me. The clock on the odometer of the bike showed 12.00 noon. Yes, the bike’s odometer had a digital clock, trip meter, fuel gauge… The Sun was shining at the peak; a full face helmet; a fully closed riding jacket; a shoe that has covered my foot; a Denim which has covered  my legs fully; – All this gave me a hard time. It was like sitting in the midst of couple of camp fire on a HOT day.

Having crossed past some 5 kms so far, I got used up a little with the throttle and the braking of the machine. Both are excellent. Revving up the throttle pushed me to 80 kmph instantly. Leaving the throttle is enough to make the machine to slow down, abrupt halts needed applying the brakes. Though riding on this road was new to me, the power of the machine made me forget my worries little by little.

Having stopped and started at nearly 5 traffic signals, now I had overtaken many fellow bikers on the road. Very a few motorists were before me. Doing a restart just at the press of the switch during those traffic stoppages was never cumbersome.

Signal after signal, I got used up with the machine as well as the metro traffic. The trapezoidal shaped mirror was amply positioned and gave the best view of the traffic trailing me. When the bike is doing a 80 kmph, its was so smooth that I need to look at the odo to realize the speed. Further down the ride till Tambaram was like slicing a cake.

As I crossed past Perungalathur, the traffic thinned down a bit and there was more free space in front of me. The stability and very good pick up of the bike gave me more confidence to push further to 90 kmph.

As the clock showed, 1.00 p.m, Chengelpet toll plaza came in. Now, since I was more than an hour into the hot climate and the busy traffic, I wanted a respite. Pulling to the left most end of the road, I switched off the bike and removed the helmet and the riding coat to get some breeze. Drank water, quenched my thirst and clicked a pic.

Then called my wife who is there with the kids at her Dad’s house near Villupuram. The itinerary for me is to reach FIL's home where a Manjal Neer function for a relative is happening; finish lunch and go to my home in Cuddalore. But, delays, my abrupt round about route and getting into the metro traffic jams got me delayed by more than an hour. Wife told that relatives has mostly left and she is awaiting me for lunch. 
Given such a circumstance, I should atleast reach Villupuram in another couple of hours. Removing the riding apparels and then wearing back has been a hard exercise. 

As the engine got ignited again, it was a quick touch to 80kmph on the odo. Being a lunch hour, many motorists prefer to go off the road for filling their hungry tummy. But I realized it to be the happy hour to ride on this road. Wider NH road, very few traffic, powerful machine which obeys to the twist of my wrist enticed me to push further. I gradually pushed it to 100 kmph.

Yes I got to season with the new higher speed of 100 kmph by now. This is another first experience for me. Then slowed down; checked if its OK; then checked the mirror for any traffic behind me. I repeated this couple of times to get used to the three digit speed.  I never had ridden to this fast before in my life.

The bike has been very smooth when doing 80 kmph. But, if pushed to 100 kmph the vibrations crept in.  
After riding some 50 kms this day, I used up with this three digit speed. Now its time to push higher. As it clocked 120 kmph there were much more vibrations creeping in. I could not see the images on the mirror. A bit later, the mirror itself turned due to the force of the wind on it. Now I am blind of the trailing traffic since the mirror has turned. I had to slow down and adjust the mirror to see the trailing traffic.
I repeated few more times of pushing till 120 kmph and coming down. While doing a 120 kmph, if I release the throttle, the bike stably comes down to 80 kmph. Here I felt the power of the engine brake. AWESOME!  The bike slows down without the need of braking. Its indeed an added safety for riders doing high speed.
The top speed I managed to push was 120 kmph. Although the bike could run faster than that, the uncomfortable vibrations on the vehicle; the resulting invisibility factor on the mirror; the force of the wind on me prevented me against throttling further. Added to this was the fluttering noise of the wind inside my helmet. I do not know how it comes. Though it was a good brand (STUDDS, full face helmet) the noise came in due to wind when clocking clocking past 110 kmph prevented me pushing further.

If a wind shield is there in this bike, it would help in preventing the force of wind on the rider.

Anyway I reached my Father-In-Law’s house at 3.00 p.m. So QUICK was the ride for me. As the ThunderBird500 gets stopped for the second time on that day for my lunch, my elder kid Surya rushes out to have a peep of the new chick.

As my kids got too much peeked in with the new bike, I quickly finished lunch. My elder son Surya was doing photo op of the new bike. One such pic was the above.

After 4.00 p.m. I started off from there. Wife and kids left after an hour and reached home in Cuddalore later by bus. After everybody were at home we need to park this bike. For doing so, my own Royal Enfield STD350 needed to be shifted to neighbour’s house. So, later in the night the ThunderBird500 found its resting place for the day. 

Though it was easier for me to push my own Royal Enfield STD350 (a 1990 model),  I found pushing this new bike into my house a little harder. Firstly the mirrors were wider and touched both sides of the main door of my house; Secondly the tank is almost full of petrol, which contributed to more weight and the Centre of Gravity of the bike be bit higher that took hard efforts for me to push the bike into the parking stand. May be its harder since its a first time experience.

Now I switched ON the bike to note the distance travelled and to have a look of the blinking hazard lights. Kids became overjoyed at seeing the different coloured lights glittering up the console. The distance travelled for the day is 225 kms.

Went into internet; updated few of the clicks and went into slumber. 

DAY 2: 5 Nov 2012

Revving the bike to the top speeds and knowing a bit of its behaviour at higher speeds is over yesterday. Now I wanted to know its characteristics on the local urban roads. For the next three days I rode the bike on daily trips to my office.

My office is 22 kms away (google map above) and the roads are moderate with few speed beakers and plenty of bumps and pot holes. . 

The above click was on a bridge I come across on my bike trip to office. Its across the river Pennar. A petrol bunk was nearby where the tank was topped up with 6.25 Lts of petrol. A elderly fuel station serviceman gave one more look on the vehicle. He readily recognized the extra large fuel tank and started a conversation with me about the vehicle, engine capacity and mileage.

Let the ride be safe over this week. Paid obeisance to Him while going to office.

DAY 3: 6 Nov 2012

It was second day the ThunderBird500 was taking me to my office. My colleague Sakthivel after finishing his night shift was returning back to Cuddalore. He just stopped while we came across, on the way and took the bike for a ride. A nice photo op on the road. He got a liking for the good throttle response of the TB500.

As I was telling, that the long trip of a 3 day itinerary has been in the making. Discussion on how to prepare and when to leave were making rounds with my colleague Ravi.  But, later Ravi told of his inability to spend this long on the trip due to family circumstances. Then, I need to get another friend. 
Mani was my college mate and long ago he had been telling of a bike trip. This discussion came up between us when I was looking out for a old Royal Enfield STD with a right shift gear. To make this plan-B, I got to buzz him. The trip got a head start when I got an immediate reply from him. 'YES'

DAY 4: 7 Nov 2012
Silhouetted the ThunderBird500 on the way to office that morning.

The next day would be the kicking off for a long trip to the West coast via Valparai. 

To get ready for the trip, got the bike topped up with petrol to its brim. I then calculated the mileage of this bike. This was calculated with the fuel usedup by the bike after the last topping up on Day 2.

The distance covered after the last topping up = 141 Kms
Quantity of fuel topped up = 5.07 Lts
Mileage returned by the bike = 141/5.07 = 27.8 Kms / Litre

The riding conditions during the above mentioned 141 kms were usual speeds of 50 kmph; occasional push to 100 kmph;  lots of braking due to speed breakers, pot holes and traffic. Most of the ride was solo and occasionally with pillion.
The ride over the past three days had much of jolting and was not that smooth. May be the shox on the back is not that good.
Now the bike is ready with the fuel for the adventurous trip. Gave a call to Mani to know if he is preparing up. He is working at a software company and after his work hours he need to go buy a helmet for the trip. I got ready with the required things for the ensuing trip and went into slumber. Mani has started his travel on a bus to Cuddalore to join me for the trip.

DAY 5: 7 Nov 2012

It was as early as 2.15 a.m. and got a call from Mani that his bus is now entering into Cuddalore. The time is too early but its also good that we are ready for the adventure. I left my bed, went to finish the morning routines, took bath and started off. Then ticked off the check list that I had with me on a piece of paper before leaving. Being a first time to venture into far away places, that too in a bike, gave me some anxiety.

It was around 3.15 a.m. we finally met across near the Cuddalore bus stand. Parked the bike near the Ganesh temple, Paid obeisance to Him for the trip be a safer one. There was one policemen on beat near this place who obliged to click this picture.

Leaving Cuddalore, crossing past Panruti, we reached Kedilam. This is where we got to experience the super smooth 4 lane Chennai Trichy National High way road. The time then was 4.20 a.m. and as the console lights of the ThunderBird500 illuminates my helmet... As the headlight of a distant lorry from behind makes a very mild glitter on the bike, Mani did a magic with his DSLR camera.
We quenched our thirst and went for a piss. This was direly needed to ease off the soaring butts and kill the boredom.

The first toll plaza at Ulundurpet was next pit stop. It was still so dark.

Since we were two, we had the ample choice to change our seats - ride and pillion. One will take care of cruising and the other will get a break. While at stoppages, one will pose and the other will click.

As we rode past Perambalur town and en route to Karur, it was dawned. 
The golden rays of the sun on the sky made us stop for a photo op. Surprise awaited us when we realized that there was a Ragi cultivation at the field on the sides of the road.

This was one of the best silhouettes I achieved on my little P&S camera FujiFilm JZ300.

Mani is busy with finding the right frame to click the perfect shot.

The orange rays of the Sun gave us an opportunity to do some good silhouettes.

Mani is busy with capturing the Ragi crops.

We were off that place and was cruising through. A picturesque spot en route stopped us to do some more clicks. One such above exhilarating shot by Mani made it to the cover pic for my   FaceBook profile.

We were then cruising down the highways to Karur after finishing our breakfast at a small hotel on the way.

It was 9.20 a.m. As we were doing this photo shoot on the national highway, many motorists were slowing down their vehicles to take a look of the goings on. May be this bike is a real head turner or we in riding costume, that too on a hot sunny morning looked funny clowns to them.

Unlike four wheelers, we on the two wheeler need not worry about the money to be paid at the toll plazas and the stoppages to be done at these spots. Just down your shifts, down the throttle, cross past and then rev up. Wow!

It's 10.30 a.m.
We crossed past Karur, bought a few hot vadas. We were riding at a slower speed to find out a perfect spot to give REST to our soaring butts. Atlast this spot which had shadows out of a tree  hosted us to soothen ourselves and munch those hot vadas. 

Realized that, planning the journey time ahead with the distance to be travelled is a bad decision if its on a bike. The force of the wind against us while riding at top speeds drove us tired. Out of continuous nonstop riding, the numbness in the legs made it hard for our foot to step down on the road when the bike came to halt. Though the curving up of the rider seat is great on the looks department, its not that comfortable on longer rides.

May be a wind shield would be of some help. Be it riding or as pillion, both of us got to have more pain. Once we had crossed past more than 150 kms in a day, pain set in on us. May be we are on the wheels for too long periods, or the jolting on the bike is more due to any problem on its shox or the design itself is not suitable to this longer rides.

With the weather getting little hotter, riding further for that day bored us with more pain on the body than getting fun out of riding.

Its 12.50 p.m. 

Further riding we got to see a river. Though it had only a feeble stream of water, though there was already a crowd, we gave rest to the ThunderBird500 and jumped into the just a knee deep water to get a respite from the all day of ride. It was a little breather.

As we were nearing Pollachi, wind mills amidst lush greenery made us stop and do some more clicks. The greens made us forget the little back aches...
Its 4.00 p.m. and its Pollachi. The journey has clocked in 372 kms so far. The console gave a warning of fuel being low. The tank capacity is 20 Lts. We had crossed 370 kms after the topping up of fuel to the brim of the tank. If there is a reserve capacity of 1 Lt, then 17 Lts should have got used up. So, my rough calculation gave the mileage to be 22 kmpl. With no petrol bunk in the near visibility we rode past into the town. Afterwards, we got to see a bunk and wanted them to fill up the tank. My presumption was that 19 Lts of petrol would go in. But the tank brimmed after 12 Lts of petrol went in. So, I am sure that there should be more than 6 Lts of petrol in the tank when it gave warning on the console.
Mileage calculation:

The distance covered after the last topping up = 393 Kms
The quantity of fuel topped up = 12 Lts
Mileage returned by the bike during this local trip = 393/12 = 32.75 Kms / Litre
This was the mileage the bike returned when it has been doing at speeds usually touching around 100 kmph with two adults. The trip was usually mostly on the plains (no hills) and smooth highway roads.
After topping up the fuel tank, we headed to Aliyar dam.

The Valparai hills!
Driving on ghat roads - Another first experience in my life.

With a big task to ride for the first time on the ghat, I could not enjoy the serenity of the Aliyar dam. Alas I took into memory thorough a few clicks on my camera.

After refreshing up with a lemon soda, the journey started up the hills.
I have gone through ghat roads before, but those were happy moments since I would be sitting inside a car or bus which would be driven by someone else. But, seeing this warning board cautioning this first time rider on the ghat road not to overtake - Gave some more chill.

There is almost nil traffic on the ghat road. Only a couple of two wheelers and a government bus to Valparai could be seen. Few minutes into the road, we reached the Monkey falls. The road had a curve which gave the opportunity to do a few more interesting clicks.

A government bus heading to Valparai is seen climbing up the hills. The Sun is now setting behind with darkness coming in.

It was mostly a lonely drive on those dark ghat roads. Sometimes few cars / lorries could be seen climbing down the hill. After nearly one and a half hour ride, we got to see a tea shop. Stopped there and had tea. Given the itch to finish the ride this day; sipping a tea was not our priority, but Mani's camera battery ran out of charge. So we asked for plug point to charge and then only nodded for a cup of tea for each of us from the tea shop owner. As the battery got charged, we had a pep talk with the few local folks loitering in that shop. Next priority is to know of the right hotel to stay for the night which would also have ample facility to park the bike safely. They suggested Hotel Green Hill and after a few minutes we bid adieu to those selfless people who were a lot helpful to us in the times of our need.
Thanks people, of course you would not read this story here.
After having recharged our soul a little, we had our mind in a relaxed state. Mani in the pillion clicked some interesting pics of the road ahead with my small digital camera.

Pitch dark roads, chill weather and thunder bolts at a distance invited us, as our bike cruised up the hair pinned ghat roads of Valparai. 

It was almost a lonely road for us.  Almost nil traffic! Dark surroundings! Thunderbolts in the distant colds. It was a new situation for me giving little fear. As you see in the pic, the diagonal right side of the pic is brighter and the left side is a darker one. If I was concentrating on the dark side, it brought little fear. If I was concentrating on the brighter side, it gave me confidence and helped win over the fear.

The beam of the projector lamp in action! Ofcourse the brighter head lamp which projected a powerful beam of light was very much helpful not only in illuminating the road ahead, but also in giving us confidence that the journey would never stumble for a problem in the bike.

We reached Hotel Green Hill at around 8.00 p.m. checked in after paying the full rent amount of Rs.1000/- I am seeing for the first time of a hotel collecting the full rental amount in advance. After putting off all the luggage with us, we went in to finish the supper at this hotel. The taste was not that good, but given the need to hit the bed to forget the tiredness, we just filled our stomach with chappati / parota / dosa and went to the room to hit the bed.

Riding through the day has got so much of dust, insects and dirt on the visor of the helmet. So, for the ride the next day, it would not be helpful if I am to ride with the dirt on the visor resulting in poor visibility. So, I removed the visor, cleaned it with the wet cotton and then fixed it back.

DAY 6: 8 Nov 2012

Golden rays of the early morning Sun project from between the mountains of Valparai to light up the sky. We got to click from the window of the hotel room.

We two were well ready for moving out. As we got too much pain on the back due to carrying of the heavier back pack the previous day, we decided to remove some weight from it. So we separated some of the clothes to a plastic bag and tied it firmly to the petrol tank. Now a lighter baggage on our back, so less pain on the back.

We need to go to Athirappilly Falls this day. Mani's GPS mobile was very useful to us whenever we needed directions all this journey. But, google never showed up of existence of a road leading to Athirappilly Falls from the Valparai town. It suggested a route which lead to Pollachi and then come to Athirappily. It was too round about route. We then enquired with the attendant at the hotel who told that there is a road leading to Athirappilly through the Sholavaram Dam.

Why Google maps this Kolaveri?  

Huge pine trees dwarfed the ThunderBird500

The hill road was so beautiful, which made us stop often to shoot pics...

Coffee & Tea plantations on either side of the road made for lush greenery everywhere.

The plantation workers were busy in the morning harvesting the leaves

Though the boards cautioned of the zone to be crossed by animals, we were not lucky enough to see any of them.

The roads were prone to accidents because of blind curves. With the traffic being near to zero, its a respite and a good opportunity for us to enjoy the nature.

This day of the trip was mostly cruising on the ghat roads of Valpari and reaching to the Athirampilly falls. I had a problem in the bike. Petrol was dripping off and whenever we were stopping the vehicle, petrol smell emanates. Though it leaks out only as drops, there was a small fear running in myself as there is no chance to get the problem corrected. Finding a mechanic that too who knows to attend a multi fuel injection system of this bike in the middle of the ghat section and forest area, that too in other state (Kerala) put my mind to a bitter punch.
But the surprise was that, when we finished off the ghat section and reached the plains, the problem stopped on its own. The next day the dripping off of the petrol has subsidized a lot. Further in the journey, there was no problem at all.

Nearly two hours into journey, there were no shops or hotels that could get us to feed our hungry stomach. There was one small shop, but when enquired, it turned out to be tea shop and they do not serve breakdast.  We were told to go further 5 kms down to find a hotel.

The residents of these hilly villages are a gifted lot enjoying nature at its best, as well employed in the tea/coffee plantations.

Then we reached the Sholavaram Dam.

After this spot, we were able to find the hotel serving appaam with coconut chutney. The tasty food was so much a devour to kill the long aching stomach.

We then entered into the Kerala state.

We were the only two souls riding amidst the dense reserve forest. A surprise came in with a pristine water fall on the left side of the road. It was tempting to have a bath; there were no souls apart we two; there was no way to get help in case of any emergency. So we kept away from the temptation. Simply we clicked the beauty of nature on our cameras and continued our journey.

Mani is busy capturing the butterfly on his camera.

A photography session in progress.

The valve house in the background @ Sholayar Power House of the Kerala State Electricity Board

The reserve forest is devoid of any traffic and the pristine clear atmosphere is of course helpful in perfect pictures.

There was one narrow bridge which was so awesome that we spent nearly 20 minutes clicking the bike in different postures with the bike. During that time there were no vehicles coming across.

Had sore butt due to the long ride. Bit luckier that we got sight of water flowing amidst the forest. Its time to get bath in the river.

Since there were nobody else around near that river, we did not get into it. After riding further, there was a family of nearly ten people who had come in a SUV and enjoying bath in the river. So, its a safer option and we also stopped by and went into the water body. During that time, Mani stopped me to caution me on the presence of a caterpillar on my pant. Lucky that it did not do any harm and we removed it and left it aside.

A respite to beat the tiredness during any long trips is to go into the water body. We had little nice time.  

As water is a danger thingy to venture in, we took turns while entering into it. As I came out of it, Mani went into it to have a bath.

After nearly half hour we came out. But then forest police went by on motor bike as well stopped and informed us that we are not authorized to take bath.

After that, we packed off all the things to continue our  ride. But then, Mani found an injury in his leg from which blood kept on oozing out little by little. We were doubtful of, if some thing has bitten while he was in water. But then, we checked the clothes which he took off before getting into the water stream. There was blood stain in that clothes too. So, we were bit clear that some thing has stung on his leg before he ventured into the river. But, the blood never clotted which put us into worry. We were not clear on what might have bitten.

Added to the worry was the aching stomach crying for food. After riding nearly 5 kms we came across a small hotel. Mani's camera had also drained of its battery charge. So, we needed to have food, as well recharge his battery. The problem of his injury still haunted us. So we stopped by and told our worry to the person manning the little hotel. He blew off our scared mindset telling that it’s just a leech bite and blood will not clot. The only solution to stop the oozing, is to place a small piece of paper on it. 

We followed his advice and were quite relieved. We finished our lunch as well as recharged the camera battery. There was a old lady serving food, she adds up the leech story that, once the leech bites a person, it dies, because human blood is venomous to the leech !! After spending good time with them, we bid adieu and further rode to Vazhachar falls.

The reserve forest area ends just before this falls and we bought the tickets and parked the bike and went in.

Vazhachar falls.

The pristine Vazhachar falls was picture perfect to wannabe phtographers

After riding some 5 more kms we reached the enigmatic Athirappilly falls. There is a cloak facility and we left the helmets before going in. Carrying helmet, camera and a heavy back pack had been a cumbersome experience and it hampered our enjoyment so far. Now it’s a big respite.

Water flowing down the hill and at the right extreme is the water fall. A long trek from here down the hill on the right side lead us to the enigmatic water fall...

The Athirappilly falls in the background. The thud sound of the water was very heavy. People are not allowed nearer to the water body. Standing near this place will get any body wet with the mist of water spraying everywhere around.
Got to hear that many persons had fatal end of venturing into this water fall. Not only the problem ends with the person losing his life, but retrieval of corpse is impossible due to heavy force of the gushing water. The carcass is said to usually decay and go with the water.
Moved off from this place as the security guarding at this point gave the closure call as it was past 5.30 p.m. The freshness that crept on us once we spent some time standing nearby was a great thing to relish.

The pain of enjoying this falls is that we need to walk down hill and then walk up the hill which was so treacherous.  It was too long.

Its 7.15 p.m.  We were on the NH and 5 Kms to Thrissur

We reached Thrissur and it was 8.00 p.m. Manikandan clicked this big temple which was situated in Thrissur. I forgot the name of this temple though. We needed to ride a further 15kms on the road leading to Guruvayur to reach Mani's friend's house.

We reached the Chavakkad town. We were new to this place and it was after bit of search and further calls back and forth, we were in a secluded place unable to locate their house. Finally Mani's friend's Dad came driving in his two wheeler to rescue us. Finally at about 9.00 p.m. we reached their home, chat for a little. They prepared a nice dinner on which we relished and went into slumber.
Riding inside Kerala, many of the roads connecting the towns here were very narrow. But the people were better in respecting the road rules. Not many ventured on to the wrong side of the yellow line on the road.

Later I came to know that, there were many projects coming up for widening of the roads, but, more of opposition by the people is making it tough for the roads getting widened.

DAY 7: 9 Nov 2012

Morning started with Mani clicking some macro photographs of the flowers around. Guruvayur temple is within 20 kms from here, but constraints such as too little time and the need to reach the East coast that day, forced us to skip the awesome spot in our itinerary.

It was 7.30 a.m. we went to the Chavakkad beach which was around 4 kms from their house and did some good photo op of the ThunderBird500.

I was eager to do the planting of the bike into the sands. Had that dream realized here. The technique to achieve is simple. Just go over the loose sands, stand on your legs, i.e. don't sit on the bike, shift the gear to first, if needed, apply the front brake, rev up the vehicle. The wheel would plough out the sands away and in the process the vehicle gets planted as you see above. Ensure that nobody is standing behind.

After finishing the photography with the planted bike, two people were needed to lift the bike at the back. I stood on the sides of the bike and accelerated it. It moved forward. Then there is no need for lifting. I slowly revved up the bike and walked with it bike to the place where the road is.

Then we moved the bike to the road and had a click and left the place.

There were plenty of coconut trees around and I was told that Kerala has plenty of rain and its the reason behind the lush greenery which gives an awesomeness to the people all the year.

It was 8.40 a.m. and we departed from their home.

Its a 500+ kms ride day.  Its gonna an Epic! West Coast to East Coast  of India in a day and that too on road and on  bike! Though we could make it a ride of two days, few things at home needed us to be at our homes by end of this day. There is no other option but to finish the journey. We started off from Chavakkad.

At few of the places the NH road inside Kerala was too bad for a comfortable ride. Any how we managed to avoid that road to some extent and any how reached Coimbatore come by afternoon.

The long trip was not that a cake walk. Along with many challenges, pot holes on the NH was one such thing which we encountered near Coimbatore; it resulted in Mani at the wheels lose control. 

When the bike went for little jumps, the heavy bag tied above the petrol tank slipped to the left side; this resulted in a haphazard pull to the left; the bike finally skidded and fell to the left. As Mani tried pulling it before that fall, it  resulted in sprain in his wrists. In the pillion, I tried balancing the bike, but it was of no help either. I then luckily jumped off the bike.

In the melee the left front indicator broke. The gear pedal got to absorb the shock with a twist. Remember that there was no crash guard / bumper to this bike. I was awestruck when there were no other damages to the vehicle. That calls for the safer design in this bike.

I think the crash guard is not needed in this bike. 

After a while we got to notice that the odo warning us of fuel the drying up. As I got used up with this warning, I am  sure that the tank would have 6 Lts of petrol so I rode it further. It was mid of the day and the sun is at its peak. We reached past Coimbatore and filled our stomach with lunch. Then we filled petrol nearby. 

Mileage calculation:

The distance covered after the last top up of fuel = 417 Kms

The quantity of fuel filled now is = 13.9 Lts  

Mileage returned by the bike during this local trip = 417/13.9 = 30 Kms / Litre

The above 417 kms covered had steep ghat roads (pollachi - valparai), many bends on the forest road (valparai - Athirappilly) and riding at top speed of 110 kmph on the NH road (Chavakkad - Coimbatore).

After crossing past Coimbatore, it was super smooth and wide NH roads. We had the freedom of pushing the bike to 120 kmph.

But, since the roads have come up too recently, we had little opportunity to get shadows. There were no trees on the sides of the road. This was a big dampener to the spirit of riding.  It was too hard to ride with nothing cooler on the eyes. Once, we decided to switch off for a rest, but there were no place to take rest and recharge our tiredness. We needed to ride a few more kilometers just to find a little place to sit down. Thatz the bad thing of riding bike on the NH. 

Since it was more of riding and little of spending time to have fun. The toll plazas were the only things we managed to click on our cameras.

The morning, it was 7.00 a.m. and the journey started at the West Coast - Kerala - Chavakkad.
At 9.30 p.m. in the night we were in the East Coast - Tamil Nadu - Cuddalore 

Seen here in this picture is my college mate Angappan. Before reaching my home, we did a stop at my friend Balaji's house. Angappan too has travelled into Cuddalore this morning by bus from Coimbatore. When we told him about our journey, he was astonished on our loooooong bike journey of that day.

As we were tired, Balaji too was tired for the day.... But that never stopped him to pose for a photo op on the ThunderBird500. We relished our journey with him before calling it a day.

Relived the memories of our trip through the clicks in my camera to Angappan

Balaji, Angappan, Mani and Myself had been doing our graduation at the same college (St. Joseph's College, Cuddalore) during the period 1993 - 96.

As we guys were flaunting of the travel memories, Balaji's dad came out of the house to know whatz going on. We were particular not to disturb him, at the later hour of the night, but our noises were too much and it made him to come out.

After a few minutes, we left. Mani went to catch the Pondicherry bus to reach his home at Pondicherry. Myself went to my house. After dinner I got to sleep by 11.00. 

DAY 8: 10 Nov 2012

Ofcourse it was hard thing to realize that the bike is leaving me. The ride today is from Cuddalore to my brother's house in Nanganallur, Chennai and then to reach the Brand Stores of Royal Enfield  at Adyar. Its a 190 kms ride.

The board tells of 179 kms ahead to reach Chennai.

I left home by 12.00 noon and reached brother's house at 3.30 p.m. Since time was short and being a solo ride, had not got the opportunity to more clicks during the ride.

The bike clocked a fancy number on the odo when I was riding past Guduvancherry. It was around 2.30 p.m. then. I stopped & clicked this pic and called my brother to tell him that I shall be reaching him in another half hour. Reached him and had a sumptuous lunch
I reached the Royal Enfield brand stores at Adyar at about 5.00 p.m. Mr.Bala the supervisor there, received me. I shared about the memories of the trip and explained about the damage to the indicator and the gear pedal. He brushed off my sorry feeling and gave encouragement. Thanks Bala.

The ThunderBird500 is back at its home after an 8 day & 1,735 kms ordeal with me. It was an adventurous experience. I had my good part as an internet influencer of the Royal Enfield brand. Felt very much contended to having completed such an interesting thingy. 

Thatz Kamal Pandey, myself and Bala - clicked minutes before I bid adieu to them. Thanks folks for the courteous followup and providing the support needed for me in doing this ThunderBird500 review.
HATS OFF to Mr. Praveen Prakash Sathaye who is keen in making out this initiative of giving out a new bike to this blogger.

More clicks of the ride are here on my FaceBook album.


Shrinidhi Hande said...

great photos and write up

Dilli Babu said...

Wonderful. Even I have travelled with TB 500, while reading it.

Srini said...

Great of you...

Yash said...

This looks really good, thanks for the suggestions. I'm going to create a link to the blog I just started, Divas Have Curves.

Packers and Movers Perungalathur

Niheel said...

This is really fantastic! I really like the last painting!

Packers and Movers Villupuram

Love Kpop said...

I'm puzzled with lots of exercises. I was afraid I could not do the right time despite my hard work. I need a support person.