This one’s for the highway…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

A Ninja at the heart

The Versys hasn’t arrived yet. I was pretty excited and couldn’t resist the temptation to visit the Kawasaki/KTM showroom. So what if the Versys wasn’t there yet, a quick glance at the Ninja should hopefully help quench some of the thirst.

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It definitely did! Thing is, I’ve never bothered looking closely at a Ninja 650 before and it’s a fantastic motorcycle for sure. The green on this one is definitely the best green ever on a Ninja. It’s a sports tourer and didn’t feel heavy at all. Start the engine, and it’s a very low grunt although I did wish it was a little more refined.

Honestly, I loved the grunt when I test rode the Benelli  600GT – oh boy, the in-line four cylinder engines are always a music to the ears. The lack of ABS, weight, and of course the bulkiness held me back from considering this one. However, the build quality, fit and finish really surprised me.

A year ago, I came to the conclusion that 500-600cc engine would be ideal for Indian road conditions and after my first experience on a tourer (Suzuki V-Strom), any other motorcycle type was going to be a compromise.

Back to Kawasaki – the 650cc platform has 3 motorcycles – the Street ER-6n (a sore to the eyes from certain angles), the sporty Ninja 650 (a beauty with no ABS), and now the tourer Versys 650 (with ABS).

So, what do we have here then? A Ninja at it’s heart for the corners but a tourer in it’s mind for munching miles with utmost comfort. What an exciting prospect!

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It’s a pity then that it doesn’t come in green…

 

The end of Yamaha love affair

Ever since I saw, rather heard, the Yamaha RX100 as a kid, owning a motorcycle was one of the biggest reason for my existence. Owning a motorcycle meant owning a Yamaha. I’d still want to own one of this in my garage just for nostalgia’s sake – but it’s a 2-stroke engine that hurts our environment much faster than the current 4-strokes. So, I’ll let this one pass.

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The love for Yamaha continued over years in spite of them making really sad 4-stroke motorcycles through my school and college days. I eventually settled down for a Yamaha Libero (no, not the ugly eye) that served me well for half a lakh kilometers. It just felt like another run-of-the-mill machine after a year or so. But I got to say, even after 11 years, starting it is a single kick away.

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However, the ‘real’ Yamaha experience happened when I bought the Yamaha YZF R15 2.0 – what a beauty. There are many ways to describe a motorcycle, but the only way to describe the R15 is that it becomes an extension of you. It makes you want to lean. It makes you want to ride faster. It wants you to push your limits every time you ride it. Once in a while, it makes you feel like Valentino Rossi!

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A few months ago, my dream of wanting to ride the Yamaha R6 came came true and it deserves a post of it’s own. It was completely worth the 12 years I had to wait to finally get my hands on the pristine beauty – a story I’ll hold back for another day.

With every year, you learn to understand yourself better and as you expand your horizon of understanding motorcycles, you yearn for more. Along came the Kawasaki Versys 650 bringing an end to my love for Yamaha.

Or is there a twist in this love story? Read on…