Through my college days, motorcycles were just about commuting. It was a more convenient way for going from one place to another. Having a motorcycle meant I could avoid hours of waiting at a bus terminal every Friday evening to go back home. What it brought with it was about 150km ride every other weekend through ghat roads to Ooty. Pretty much everyone around me was stunned when I’d completed about 13,000km within one year of purchase.
After I had got a job in Hyderabad (and it took me 6 months to gather courage to get my Libero here), it didn’t take me long to realize that the fantastic roads here deserved more than 110cc commuter. Thankfully, it was a phase where my friends were buying motorcycles – Pulsars, Unicorns, & Apaches. My first experience with 150cc and instinctively realized that my riding experience can be better in a higher displacement motorcycle.
The next couple of years were spent in mastering four-wheeler and the comfort/convenience of a car slowly overtook my craving for riding two-wheeler. It needed something really special to help me get out of this somber life I was living. That moment happened when Yamaha R15 Version 2.0 launched in India. One look at the motorcycle in the showroom was enough for me to book it. Honestly, this was the moment I stopped commuting. This one was for the corners. This one was for pure selfish riding joy.
One led to other, and the other led to another. Within no time, we (our friends & me) had a KTM Duke 200, RE Classic Dessert Storm, and a Pulsar to ride around the amazing roads of Hyderabad.
I was this happy guy with enough motorcycles to ride around. Had ample time to get used to the thump (and vibrations) of a Classic 500. Then spent few months to master the raw pick up (and the strange exhaust note) that came with Duke 200. A content Indian motorcycle enthusiast who even managed to do 2,600km in 8 days road trip on the R15. I would have claimed that it was one of my best road trips, until I rode in the suburbs of California.
This man, and these two motorcycles changed my perception forever. Ever since I came back from this dream road trip, nothing was the same anymore. Almost, every motorcycle I rode felt like a compromise. First, I wanted two-wheels to travel places and not to just ride everyday. The Suzuki V-Strom 650 showed me what touring on motorcycles actually meant. Two days of riding covering over 400 miles and the only pain in my body was in my left hand because of a hard clutch. Second, India didn’t need a 1 liter engine. Anywhere around 500cc was more than sufficient to traverse the length & breath of India and the kind of terrains it has to offer. No, RE was not my type. ( update: Himalayan is the closest bet but I know I’ll start yawning 45 mins into the ride)
I didn’t have a lot of choices – Tiger 800 was out of question – paying over 10 lakhs for a motorcycle and then maintaining it was out of question. I waited a year for the launch of Benelli 600GT only to be disappointed by it’s size and weight. I contemplated settling down for the TNT 300 but gave up. I was pinning my hope for KTM to launch a 690 (or even 390) version of their Adventure. Everyone in the internet was talking about it except the company itself.
Just like that, out of the blue, Kawasaki did the most amazing thing it ever did in India. Almost with no notice, in spite of their 1000cc not doing well, they launched the Versys 650. Every damn review on the internet was so good, that it didn’t take me too long after they announced the price to book it!
No, it’s not my mid-life crisis. Yes, there can’t be a better time to launch/buy an adventure touring motorcycle in India. It’s need of the hour for our constantly improving road qualities and a mandate for comfortable touring to overcome the compromises we’ve had to make all these years.
This one’s for the highway alright. But, it picks up crazier than my Duke. It leans almost as well as my R15. It commutes reasonably well from home to office. Munches miles as quickly as my car. It’s quiet and buzz free. Doesn’t trouble people around or warrant unwanted attention (like those Harleys). It is an absolute delight as it cruises for hours at 95km/hour effortlessly.
Note to self: Get over the frustrations of buffeting. Get a earplug.