The 18,000km service & maintenance expenses so far

18,000km in 18 months. Even my college-going self would have been proud of such an achievement. Although, I must admit that this is no feat compared to the 17,000km that I did in the first year of owning my humble 110cc Yamaha Libero during my college days.

As a middle-aged mid-life crisis filled person that the world now sees me as, it continues to get very complicated to explain to anyone why I’m burning away money in fuel, rubber, and whatever energy is left of me on this motorcycle. Apparently, that money was better invested in a car or house.

Once in a while, I try to explain how one’s need can be unique and that’s completely fine. After a few failed attempts, I rode on hoping to find like-minded people. In due course, I did meet a lot of like-minded people, some much older than me who found happiness in doing just this. It was reassuring, to say the least. Here are some new friends I’ve made in these 18 months who have made this journey a priceless one in spite of all the expenses.

Ride to Arakku Valley
Birds of a feather flock together

According to the Versys 650 manual, every alternate 6,000km is a minor service and 12,000km a major service. Minor being top-ups of fluids, cleaning, and lubricating the necessary components like drive chain and brake pads. Major meaning changes in fluids and parts as recommended.  Just to be on the safer side, I change the engine oil every 6,000km and it increases my cost by a grand every service. I can live with that and ride in peace knowing it’s the best way to achieve 2,00,000km on my odometer.

It’s surprising how poor maintenance or riding skills of a bigger motorcycle accentuate the wearing out of parts and make the ownership experience expensive. Several stories here but not the one for today.

At 15,000km, I did my most expensive pit stop to change from the “ever-so-slippery” stock Dunlop tires to “always-sticky” stock size Metzeler Sportec M7. I shelled out more than 22K INR on these rubbers hoping to put as many kilometers on them.  Another 9K INR on replacing the brake pads. In retrospect, I could have waited until this service and maybe gone for an aftermarket brake pad set rather than the stock just to experience how much better can these brakes can get.  All this in preparation for a monsoon ride to Arakku & Lambasingi. What a fantastic ride it was!

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The 18,000km was a minor service after all and I was relieved to see a bill of 5K INR including the engine oil change. This was my first proper service center experience after Orange Kawasaki (under IKM) came into operations (both my 12,000km service and 15,000km parts change were done out of their basement) and what a grand experience it was. Every other motorcycle showroom/service center in the city can bite the dust right now!

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What a majestic stance even when it’s opened thread bare

While they did a fantastic job at the regular tasks (oil & oil filter change, coolant change, air filter cleaning, chain adjustment & lubrication, and even the brake cleaning), there were a couple of things they couldn’t do (spark plug change – I wanted the NGK Iridium ones & engine vacuum synchronization) that left me a touch disappointed. Although it was promised to be done soon, I don’t plan to visit them until the next service at 24,000km.

The staff was courteous as alway. Small things like a cup of coffee and being able to stand close to the motorcycle when it’s being serviced make for such a great experience and good use of my Saturday morning.

I have been trying to capture the service costs of owning the Versys and below is a table that shows how expensive/inexpensive it has been depending on how you see it.

KM 6000 12000 15000 18000
Engine Oil ₹2,300 ₹1,750 NA ₹2,200
Oil Filter ₹650 ₹700 NA ₹800
Air Filter NA ₹1,800 NA NA
Brake Pads NA NA ₹9,171 NA
Break Fluids NA NA NA Check
Spark Plugs NA NA NA NA
Tires NA NA ₹22,000 NA
Coolant NA NA NA ₹1,650
Chain Sprocket NA NA NA NA
Service ₹1,145 ₹1,145 ₹1,100 ₹2,160
Shipping NA ₹350 ₹620 NA
Mics (tax) ₹350 ₹520 ₹1,335 NA
Total ₹4,445 ₹6,265 ₹34,226 ₹6,810

Of course, there are the accessories and riding gear related expenses that I’m definitely not going to add  here. Those are personal choices and up to the individual based on their touring needs and personal safety comfort levels.

Previous services:

Long awaited & much needed service at 12,000km  (June 2017)

 SFF mess up during the service at 6,000km  (Feb 2017)

First service blues and greens at at 1,000km (Mar 2016)

Reviews:

A year with the Versys 650 (Mar 2017)

My first review of Versys 650 (Sept 2016)

Setu Bandhethu Ramesam – Jyotirlinga 3/12

A small folklore to begin with.

As a kid, every Friday, I’d visit a temple near my home. Not because I was religious, but because it gave me break from weekday evening study, allowed me to practice playing the ‘taal’, and to eat the delicious ‘prasad’ that was distributed after the prayers.

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Siddhi Vinayakar Temple near Aruvankadu

During my college days, I’d frequent the Iscon Temple in Coimbatore. It was beautiful, peaceful, and had something interesting for me to do. There were 108 stones organized in a concentric circle that moved inward towards a stone that had Rama’s footprints carved on it. One had to recite “Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare” as we stepped from one stone to another until we completed all 108 of them. Somehow, at the end of it, I felt lighter and much more happier. Faith, I guess. 

Why talk about Rama when this was all supposed to be about Shiva? Well, the story of Ramayana gets very interesting at Rameshawaram. Both Ravana and Rama were ardent worshippers of Shiva. Shiva had granted boons to both of them at various point after their penance/worship. The lines of who is good and bad blur right there, doesn’t it?

A popular trend these days in Indian fiction is mythological stories told from different protagonist’s point of view (Palace of Illusions started it all) and Asura – tale of the vanquished is one such book that tells Ramayana through Ravana’s eyes. The credit for reviving Indian mythology in fiction category goes to Amish Tripati (Shiva Trilogy & Ramayana Series) and Ashok Banker (Ramayana Series).  From these books, I gathered that Hindu religion preaches the Suryavanshi way of living as good and Chandravanshi way as bad. At the heart of it is the caste system that’s established by Suryavanshi systems  and are broken by  Chandravanshi leaders (Ravana and Suyodhana) who are eventually vanquished by Gods (Rama and Krishna) to set up the caste system again. Sorry if I offended your religious belief there. There is no absolute good or bad  and it’s always a perspective.

This huge prologue was necessary just to share how much Rameshwaram meant to me. It’s a place rich in mythological, spiritual, and religious excerpts almost to the point when once you visit the place it’s hard to believe that Ramayana could have been just a myth. Especially when you traverse towards Dhanushkodi – you almost sense Sri Lanka being a stone’s throw away with the possibilities of Rama and his crew putting together the Rama Sethu. A part of you will want it to be the truth.

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Dhanushkodi – road that leads to the edge of the country. 

It’s said that Rama prayed so ardently and soulfully to Shiva when he was crossing this region (to rescue Sita) that Shiva appeared and offered a boon. Rama seemed to have asked Shiva to continue staying on the Earth and make it a holy place. Shiva granted it by uttering “Evamastu”, meaning “so be it”. And hence the name, Ramaeshwara. A visit to this temple and blessing of the Jyotirlinga promises salvation and possibilities of attaining Nirvana.

This ride was not on my Versys 650 and starting point wasn’t Hyderabad either.  I couldn’t resist when my cousin offered to lend me his friend’s Himalayan and accompany me on this trip with his Himalayan. Roads leading to Rameshwaram were a joy and for that brief moment when you ride on NH44 you get a feeling of what it would be like to do a K2K ( Kanyakumari to Kashmir) ride. Himalayan completed the trip with so much ease. I love ambling in the city in the 3rd & 4th gears and crusing at 100+kmph on the highways in the 5th gear. Nothing much to complain other than the wind blast and lack of power which I’m stating only because I’m used to the Versys 650.

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The one thing that will stun you is the Pamban bridge that leads you into Rameshwaram island. You read that right, it’s an island of some sorts. Also, roads in Tamil Nadu will never let you down and so will their traffic sense.

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The experience within the Ramanathaswamy temple is one of a kind. You are supposed to get up early and walk through a predetermined path within the temple that passes by several wells, each of which is supposed to cleanse you of some sin or the other. Once that’s done, you need to clean up, wear dry clothes (or pay the guard 100 INR to walk in wet) and go to the sanctum sanctorum (aka garbhagriha) where the Dhyanalinga can been seen. You can’t stand next to it for long but you can sit a little far away and still get to see the Linga for as long as you wish. You can sense a powerful energy in this space when you just sit there. 

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Some questions continue to linger in my mind. Myth or reality? Rama or Ravana? Good or bad? Duality or Singularity? I walked out of the temple with more questions in my mind about life than I have ever had.

I will go back to Rameshawaram again. I have to ride there on my Versys and hopefully return with more answers than questions… 

Sutamraparni jalarashi yoga, nibadhya setum vishkhairasankhyaih. Sri Rama Chandrena samarpitam tarn Rameshwarakhyan niratam namami. 

Dakinyam Bheema Shankaram – Jyotirlinga 2/12

Those who visit the Jyotirlinga are said to receive holy blessings of Lord Shiva and return home happy & peaceful. Doesn’t that resonate with what most of us want in our lives? However, they say it depends on one’s devotion and experience too.  Terms & conditions, I guess. 

While my devotion is still questionable, I can claim that my ability to experience and sense flow of energy has been honed by years of yoga practice. So, in a quest to experience the high energy of another Jyotirlinga, I set out to Bhimashankar, near Pune.  It was the first time I was planning a multi-day ride on my Versys 650. Four days of which the first couple of days were for onward journey and a couple of days to return.

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The shrine of Bhimashankar is pretty much at the heart of Bhimashankar forest which is also from where river Bhima originates (surprised?). Taking a dip in this river is equated to holy dip in the Ganga-Bhagirathi itself! The interesting part is that the name Bhima is actually associated with a demon who lived there who was eventually slayed by none other than Shankara (a form of Shiva, I’m guessing) himself and decided to stay there in the incarnation of Bhimashankar Jyotirlinga.

The roads leading to Bhimashankar temple aren’t easy and riding in the monsoon has its benefits (everything around is lush green) and issues (riding in non-stop rains and slippery roads) alike.
– Day 1 was easy and smooth.
– Day 2 wasn’t that great thanks to treacherous State Highways.

The visit to the Jyotirlinga happened that evening – probably the most beautiful time to visit since it was not crowded and covered with just the right amount of mist. It was such a non-commercial temple and we were allowed to sit next to the Jyotirlinga for as much time as we liked and even touch it. How it felt and what it meant to me are going to be difficult to explain with my limited vocabulary but one thing I knew was that moment would be etched in my mind forever. Even if I close my eyes now, I can see everything in that temple as if I’m experiencing it right now!

– Day 3 was a rain soaked ride with us passing through Pune
– Day 4 was the ride back home.

It was great until we made a mistake of taking the Sholapur-Hyderabad highway that has been under construction for ages. Bad roads at the last stretch of the ride are the worst possible thing but hey, I was riding a Versys with its long-travel suspension. Worked like charm and the roads didn’t feel that bad at all. Also, it’s only on the 4th day that I realized why people want to buy big & comfortable motorcycles

 

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With the second Jyotirlinga visit/ride successfully completed, I must admit, that I felt happy and peaceful.

2 done. 10 more to go…

Panjara Bhimarathyacha Krishnaveni Brihannadi Malapaharinee Yotra sata loka Vishruta.

 

 

 

Two & half-months of touring madness

After finishing my recent ride to Ellora caves (stunning Kailasa temple and my 4th Jyotirlinga temple) a couple of weeks ago, I realized my Versys’s odometer was already at 18,000km35372b68f01c155d5a255a74829953db-smiley-faces-smileys

I stood shocked. I had covered 6000km on my Versys 650 in a little over 2 months time. Four 1000+ km rides (to Bengaluru, Nagpur, Vaizag & Arakku, and Ellora & Lonar Lake) along usual weekend rides (Pocharam Dam, Hill Park, Ananthagiri Hills and more), meant that I’ve spent a lot more time on the roads than I ever have.

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What’s really nice is that these rides came after I had already done over 10,000km. So, I just can’t say it was the excitement of a new motorcycle. Ease of riding the Versys 650 and some amazing company on these rides meant that I don’t seem to get bored or wear out of touring at all.

There were those “moments of joy” in each one of these rides when I couldn’t stop that big grin within my helmet knowing how much those near perfect moments on the roads meant to me and my soul (or even the bloody ego!).

While I was covering some serious miles on the Versys in India, I kicked Mae Hong Son Loop in Thailand (another of the ~1000km ride) off my bucket list – on a Honda CB500X. A very conscious decision not to ride the Versys 650 there.

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There are so many things I could say about each one of these rides but at the moment I’m just amazed at how many miles I’ve managed to ride, done it all so comfortably and still wanted to plan more rides immediately after coming back from one ride. At random points during the day/night, I find myself suddenly opening Google Maps and start planning a road trip.

Somewhere in between these rides, I’ve become organized and picked up some planning skills. Even tried my hands at some video recording and editing too. Most importantly, I’ve become a safer and little more experienced rider. Satiating the need for knowing more and to get better at something I do.

Time to get back to cricket as yet another season begins…

My perfect picture yet

“Don’t buy it in black”, said one of my photographer friend. I would have gone for either the green or white this time, but the odds were against me for sure. 2015 Versys 650 came only in black in India.

Black color makes it difficult to capture photos and it literally disappears on the road for sure. But, has its benefit too. It doesn’t stand out in the crowd and very easy to miss. That has become my most important needs these days.

While I loved all the attention when the motorcycle was new and maybe a little disappointed with the parallel twin’s sound (or lack of thereof), these days I’m glad that my Versys goes unnoticed. Even KTM Duke and RE Himalayan seem to get noticed more.

On several occasions, I’ve tried to get a photo that looks better than an amateur clicking away on his phone. So when another photographer friend of mine took a session on basics of photography, I listened with full attention hoping to learn a few rules that will help me get there.

When we discussed this photo during the session, the realization dawned that I got lucky with this photo because of the location and time. Obviously, it’s a sunset at Goa!

A few weeks after the session, I end up in a place like this with photos that looks like these! After applying the lessons on framing, the rule of thirds, innumerable number of clicks, and some basic editing, it looked like this…

And this is probably the best I’ve taken so far. Perfect picture yet.

Third ride to Bengaluru. Third!

When you live in Hyderabad, one inevitable road trip you’ll end up doing is to Bengaluru. Not because you like the city but because the roads leading to it are too good to miss out on. Plus, it’s quicker than taking a train and sometimes even the a flight.

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Ah, that fantastic stretch of NH7. I’ve done several trips on this road in the decade that I’ve lived here. Some good ones, some forgettable, and some that I was wondering why I even decided to go on. I thought it would be interesting to capture how the it felt across these 3 trips, each of which was the first 1000+ ride after each of my serviced.

The first ride: There was definitely some excitement but my mind was preoccupied with trying not to put the motorcycle down and reach Bengaluru in one piece. It took me about 200km to gain some sort of confidence and after that it was pretty much a cruise to the city.  Oh, there were some rains too. But the biggest feeling I had at the end of the ride was sigh of relief.

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Ride 1: All about getting used to the height & weight of the Versys

The second ride: The infamous ride where the service center had messed up with the suspension and the entire ride back from Bengaluru was all about regretting why I even went to that service center and fuming about the lack of skilled mechanics for big motorcycles. The frustration led me to spend the next 3 months understanding the suspension and other aspect of the motorcycle better.

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Ride 2: Getting to know the bike and it’s nuances better.

The third ride: Perhaps one of the most boring and yet fulfilling ride. Boring because I knew exactly what to expect from the Versys and that very familiar highway. Yeah, I was yawning for most part of the ride. Fulfilling because I’ve understood the motorcycle really well, it’s riding better than it ever has, the servicing concerns seem to be sorted, and that feeling of having mastered it all.

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Ride 3: As good as new. Maybe even better.  I can hear it plead to me about going on other roads.

Honestly, I don’t want to ride to Bengaluru anymore. It served as a good training ground for me to now start exploring all the other NH and SH roads across the country.

Hyderabad’s new Kawasaki showroom!

Let me break the news! The IKM’s own dealer network in Hyderabad will be run by Orange Auto that has experience in running Honda & Chevy sales/service operations.

What has been concerning is that all over India, the limited set of IKM showrooms & service centers are fully operational but in Hyderabad even the building isn’t ready 2 months after the announcement.  It’s been very frustrating.

After following up several times to service my Versys 650 and to help book a Z650 for a friend, I finally got invited to the existing Orange Chevy showroom on Banjara Hills Road #12. Much to my surprise, the 2017 fleet of Kawasaki motorcycles were up for display. I couldn’t take my eyes off the 2017 Versys 650 for a while and then convinced myself that black is better because it goes unnoticed.

Kawasaki Versys 650 2017 India Hyderabad
It’s as comfortable as a car for sure. Similar mileage.

There was a motorcycle that eventually made me take my eyes off the Versys. The World SBK champion, ZX-10R. Too bad it’s only available in the KRT color. The winter testing color would have blown my senses away.

Kawasaki ZX-10R India Hyderabad

Then suddenly:

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I noticed that some of these were test ride motorcycles. Can you imagine test riding a Kwacker? Hell, I didn’t even see my Versys 650 until a day before the delivery. Oh my god! They are actually giving test rides. Test rides baby!

I remember coming off a Triumph showroom/test ride experience that wow’ed me so much that if I could have afforded any of their motorcycles, I would have bought them that moment. Heck, even the the Benelli showroom/test ride experience was impressive. Then, there was Kawasaki (run by Bajaj at that time), that wouldn’t even have display motorcycles.  I was told that I may have to go to Pune for a test ride!

The only reason I bought a Kwacker was because of its reputation for building high quality and flawless motorcycles. Imagine, getting the opportunity to test ride these machines before buying – best thing to come out of IKM’s decision.

Kawasaki Z650 2017 Hyderabad India

In fact, I test rode the Z650 and was completely floored by it. The reduced weight, the silky smooth gearbox (compared to my Versys 650) and the refined sound, make for a complete city & highway adrenaline rush machine. 

However, the biggest surprise was in the basement.  The Z900! #holycow

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I got a quick tour of the upcoming showroom and service center. Can’t wait to see it fully operational with the huge space and great infrastructure. It doesn’t hurt that the new Kawasaki showroom is on the same road as the Triump showroom. Grapevine has it that the Ducati showroom could open nearby soon. Wonder what impact they will have on each other.

Hoping to see a lot of green goblins coloring the roads in Hyderabad. Let’s make the pink city a little green, shall we? Good luck, Orange Kawasaki!

Couple of more pictures from my recent visit:

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Long awaited & much needed service!

I’ll hold off talking about Kawasaki’s sales and after-sale services, but for now, the most important thing is that I get to “officially” service my Versys 650 under IKM. It took me 2 months of waiting – almost as much time it took for them to deliver my bike after I had booked it.

I’ll hold off talking about Orange Kawasaki and my ongoing conversations with them over the last few weeks. That’s a story of its own.  Anyway, they finally agreed to service my motorcycle and I didn’t mind one bit that it would be done in a cellar!

The Versys 650 manual recommends to top up the fluids every 6000kms and service the motorcycle completely every 12,000km. The fact that it can be ridden 12,000km without almost no maintenance for a year is a joy!

The Indian weather and road conditions are demanding and it’s better to consider every 6000km as major service rather than a top up.

The 12,000km service requires some parts to be changed and a lot of checks. The changes include engine oil, air filter, oil filter, & spark plugs. The checks include suspensions, drive chain, brake and clutch operations, tires, and battery. Then there is something called Engine Vacuum Sync.

Versys 650: Ready for the 12,000km service

Prelude: I’ve been troubling the service head (Phani) ever since the number has been up on the Kawasaki India website. He’s always picked up my calls and responded to my messages to keep me posted on the progress (or lack of it).  When he finally offered to service my Versys 650 so I could do a 1000+ ride, I was thrilled.

Interlude: To me, there is nothing more joyful than to watch an expert mechanic work on a motorcycle. The new Orange Kawasaki technicians looked very professional and completed the service in a few hours. Everyone was courteous and worked with sincerity.

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Must admit, after the very crass experience at the KTM/Pro-biking service, this sort of  royal treatment feels good. I’m looking forward to experiencing the fully operational service center soon.  I feel pretty confident that this is first step in the right direction for IKM. 

Spares & Cost: I had to procure HiFlo air-filter and oil-filter since the OEM stocks weren’t available yet. The prices were very similar to stock. The engine oil had to be Motul 7100 4T 10W50 as recommended by Kawasaki (2 liters). Couldn’t get the spark plugs changed though. Including  service charges of ₹1,145, the total expense was ₹6,265. My first service at 6000km cost ₹4,445 (engine oil & oil filter were changed).

Postlude: I did yet another of those 1000+ km rides immediately after the service. Just like I did the last time around. This time though, I came back happy and the performance improvement was so obvious that I’ve started enjoying the crazy acceleration and was riding at much higher speeds.

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Lord Shiva, Jyotirlingas, Versys 650 and me

I love practicing yoga as much as I love riding my motorcycles. It’s also true that I love playing cricket as much as I love riding motorcycles. Of course, I occasionally ride to my practice sessions but that’s never enough, isn’t it. Also, carrying a heavy kit bag doesn’t make it a pleasurable experience.

The better option would be to ride to places of spiritual significance. That being said, it’s important to also find something so mythologically significant it will add to the spiritual experience.

Shiva and yoga are inseparable. Just like Shivalinga (the perfect ellipsoid shape Linga) and science of energies. I’ve been doing yoga for a few years now and can safely say that my experiences have made me believe that there are some high energy places and some places that are devoid of it completely. These days I am far more aware of these energy experiences and long for more of it.

Surprisingly one of the most intense energy spaces I’ve been to was the 9/11 memorial in NY and one of the places I walked out most disappointed was the  Murudeshwar Shiva temple in Mangalore. What an irony!

I have to be honest: Immortals of Meluha gave the much needed fresh lease of life for Shiva. Probably the only way that our generation would find it appealing. To see Shiva as a human being and imagine him as I wanted to brought him that much closer to my heart as my yoga practices and other stories of Shiva did.

I wish to see how Shiva is revered across this fascinating country and what better way than choosing to traverse the country to visit the Jyotirlingas. 12 Jyotrilingas that are located at certain geographically and astronomically significant points. And when my guru puts it across this way, it’s even more tempting to visit them and experience the energy in these spaces.

“These temples were consecrated according to the science of energizing forms. This is the science of using life energies to enhance human life in a phenomenal way”

So, I made a small promise to myself when I bought my Versys 650.  To visit all these 12 Jyotirlingas on it. Ambitious? Nay, it’s exactly the kind of adventure this motorcycle is made for.  Would it be too much to think or believe that somewhere on one of these rides I may discover the purpose of my life or that my life has no purpose at all?

Needless to say that the first road trip I did was to Srisailam to see the shrine of Lord Mallikarjuna. I was still coming to terms with the motorcycle and it wasn’t even registered. Goes to show how serious I am about this idea of riding to the 12 Jyotirlingas. 

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After conquering the Nallamalai Hills to visit the first of the 12 Jyotirlingas (Mallikarjuna temple)

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?

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Goa conquered!