When Goa comes calling…

This trip had to happen. One way or the other. Not that I have been enthralled by my previous visits but hey, it’s Goa. Who in their right mind would refuse?

_DSC4844.JPG

The roads to Goa from Hyderabad haven’t always been easy and not something that I look forward to. But this destination is more inviting than most others. It was also more enticing since the 3 of us cared more about the ride than the destination. This was probably the best way to know how far and comfortably Versys 650 can take us on roads guaranteed to test our limits.

PANO_20170310_173029.jpg

There were equal share of good and bad roads. Some sections were unbelievably good while the others tortured us with back breakers in the name of speed breakers. The highlight of the day came towards the fag end just when our bodies were giving up. The Amboli ghats were stunning and we couldn’t have ridden at a better time through them.

A friend of mine once told me that photography was all about getting the timing right and most importantly having the sun by your side. So, riding to Vasco Da Gama for sunset was probably the best idea ever and roads to reach there added to the fun. Got to give it to the lovely roads that Goa has connecting one beach/place to another.

IMG_20170311_183501.jpg
Easily one of the best pictures I’ve taken so far

We didn’t have an agenda. Everything was on the go, flexible and slow. We started when we want to and stop wherever we felt. What I should admit is that Versys was as much fun riding within Goa as much as it was riding to Goa. There were a few memorable moments: riding all the way Querlim to discover a beauty of a beach there and watch the sun go down at Anjuna lying on a stack.

The ride back was mostly fun except for the insane number of speed breakers and the really bad stretch of roads after Raichur after sunset. Almost a perfect recipe for disaster. But hey, we had the reflective suspenders, the aux lights, and an alternate route that took us back home safely. 1700km later, I’m glad I did this trip to Goa and gave the Versys 650 a real taste of Indian road conditions.

16+ hours towards Goa and 14+ hours from Goa on State Highways.  Body was aching but not as bad as I thought it would be. People ask me why bought a motorcycle at a price of a car. I probably have an answer now – to do what I would have dared to do in a car on just two-wheels. Therefore, the grin…

IMG_20170311_184307.jpg
Goa conquered! 

 

A year with the Versys 650

I’ve managed 9000km and almost zero close calls. I’ve hit speeds higher than 150kmph with so much ease on the National Highways. Contrary to my fears,  I didn’t put the bike down for rest of the year after putting it down on the first day. I’ve done three 1000+ km rides. I even ended up riding 4 days back to back with (almost) no pain or fatigue.

IMG_20160219_144113
The first time I saw the Versys in person. Stunning & massive

I’ve spent a lot on accessories: paddock stand,  side stand extender, handguard, LED lights, radiator guard, frame sliders, and rear tire hugger. Such a hypocrite! Although I have a pretty good soft-saddlebag, I’m still very tempted to buy the stock hard luggage bag just because it fits so beautifully. Not all accessories I bought fit seamlessly – I really wish I had gone with stock handguard & a radiator guard that would allow more air to flow. Even got myself an entire tool kit that I hope to use one day to service the Versys myself.

IMG_20161222_142725
All accessories fitted. Slowly becoming the LT version

I’ve done 2 services ( 1.5K & 6K km) and have mixed experiences from them. There is this whole apprehension around Kawasaki moving out of its partnership with Bajaj/KTM and the concerns around lack of spare parts and service centers for a few months. Just 3 water washes in a year. Can you believe that? Chain cleaning & lubrication every 700km that I did myself. Honestly, there’s very little to worry about this motorcycle.

IMG_20160227_121720-2
My first picture of the Versys. En route to Srisailam (Jyotirlinga 1)

Rides to two (Srisailam & Bhimashanker) Joytirlingas completed. Two more (Trimbakeshwar & Grishneshwar) planned. Another eight more to go after that. This was the real reason why I got a tourer. To travel around this amazing country and visit the most iconic and mystical places. I’ve got a flavor of it  and like what I’ve experienced so far.

versys-650-abs-2015-highway
True test: Ride to Bhimashanker (Jyotirlinga 2). It handled rains & bad roads so effortlessly.

I rode around with a messed up suspension setting for 3000km. A period where I was wondering how did I end up investing so much for a motorcycle (a question I keep getting asked every time I quote the price of the bike) and that the RE Himalayan feels like it has a better suspension and amazing value for money.  But once I got the suspension sorted back to its stock setup, all those thoughts fell through and I had enough reasons why this decision was a good one. On days I couldn’t ride or didn’t want to ride it to the office owing to city traffic, I’d be happy just watching this video.

The Versys brought with it changes in my lifestyle and opportunity to meet new people. I had to move to a better place where parking it was safe and ended up in a wonderful house with a fantastic view. Better still, it has easy access to highways. I’ve met some wonderful people along the way to ride with and new stories to hear every time we stop for a chai or for that highway breakfast.

IMG_20160910_084759
Ride with Avi & Sunder. When weekend breakfast rides became the norm. First trail riding and it was scary as hell.

Although I did a lot of rides (some alone, some with my wife, and some with friends), the best moment of the year was when we were riding as a group somewhere near Telangana-Chhattisgarh border in a forest area with some wonderful curves. 5 superbikes riding in perfect harmony and following exactly the same line at a wonderful pace. Damn, this could have been anyone in any part of the world but hey, it’s us and we are riding in India! Such a dream come true moment. Riding a big motorcycle in my own country on some scenic roads.

IMG-20170114-WA0026
By far the best ride. #kawa #triumph #kawa #triumph #kawa

Enough weekend morning rides and weekday evening spins. If I have to sum up the year I’ve spent with the Versys 650, it’s definitely a mixed bag filled with serious doubts about my ability to ride and maintain such an expensive buy. But all those apprehensions aside, every time I rode the Versys, it brought a big smile on my face. Every time I got the gear change right, it reminded me how far I’ve come in terms of my riding skills. Every time I park and admire it after a ride, the question that runs in my mind is, “where am I going next and when?” The roads have never been more inviting…

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0240.
My favorite picture of the year. This one tells a story of a very memorable trip.
  • Issues with the Versys 650: None
  • Service charges: Nominal (about 3-4K INR per service)
  • Current odo reading: 9010km
  • Top speed I managed: 185km/h (was too afraid to push any further)
  • Maximum distance in a day: 600km
  • Perfect riding speeds (from 75km/h to 120km/h)
  • Ideal RPM for gear changes 3K to 3.5K

What I love the most: insanely smooth engine and a fantastic suspension that makes any road a pleasure to ride on. Oh! that amazing saddle. 

What I hate the most: the seat height. Because if it was even slightly lower, I know I would take this motorcycle virtually anywhere at any time of the year. The seat height makes me think twice before taking it into a potential high traffic zone or on challenging routes.