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 very 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 soke 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! 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

Coming to terms with Showa’s SFF

SFF = Separate Function Fork. One of the biggest reasons why the tag of being a ‘versatile machine’ actually makes sense for the Versys.

The stock set up: It’s true that Kawasaki has got the suspension setting spot on for the Versys 650 in India. When I went out for my first few rides, I was thrilled about how planted and supple it felt on the good and bad roads. My confidence in the suspension grew so much that I stopped caring about small pot holes and sometimes even the smaller speed breakers. The true joy of long-travel suspension and an insane stock set up. This is easily what makes Versys a special experience.  

Service time: When I gave my motorcycle for its second service (6000km), there were some issues as to whether Kawasaki or KTM should do it and finally KTM service center did it. I was 100% sure that it was the first time the mechanic was servicing a Versy 650 but wasn’t left with much choice. I had to ride to Bengaluru that weekend. Plus, what can one really mess up if it’s just about washing and topping up the lubricants?

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Apparently, it can be messed up. For some reason, the mechanic had adjusted with the front and rear suspension. (God knows for what reason as it’s not a part of the service requirements). He didn’t bother to let me know. During my ride to Bengaluru something started to feel off-color.

The not so comfortable ride: It was my second ride to Bengaluru and this one seemed to hurt my shoulders and the bike wasn’t taking the bad roads too well. In fact, it was reminding me of how I felt when I was riding my R15 on the same roads a few years ago (except, that these seats were really comfortable).   On my way back, it became very obvious to me that something was wrong with the suspension. Dammit! It just killed the joy of that entire trip. Only reprieve being this beautiful picture my friend took when I was there.

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Understanding the adjustable suspension: It became very apparent that I had to fix the suspension. That meant asking someone for help or trying to fix it by myself. I decided to go to Louis (the only guy at Hyderabad KTM service I trust these days) and we started going through the service manual together to figure out how to get it back to stock set up that I loved so much. What we immediately identified was that the fork spring preload  & rebound damper (tension) were set to the hardest.

After hunting around the service manual, we put it back to stock setting. It felt much better but it was still nowhere close to how it felt when I first rode it. Emotions that followed were disappointment, frustration, and finally helplessness. What seemed to be the biggest comfort had become my biggest grudge. With every passing day, the resentment kept increasing.

What I didn’t realize at that time was that I didn’t read the instructions as carefully as I should have. The rebound count is from fully clockwise position but the preload was actually from fully counterclockwise position. In my frustration or maybe excitement in getting it fixed, I counted both from clockwise position. Stupid me!

Still the same bad feeling: No amount of reading or asking around got me there. The only good thing that came out of it was that I was forced to work on the suspension even if I didn’t want to. I tried again and again but no progress whatsoever. Some days, the bike was jumping off every speed breaker and other days, it didn’t even respond to them. Sadly, the feeling of riding an exotic bike wasn’t there anymore.

A friend indeed: All this continued until a dear friend from US gave me surprise visit and was kind enough to teach me how to adjust suspensions. The same friend who once took me to Moto Guild, the place where he fixes and rebuilds his own motorcycles.

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2 hours later, my friend confirmed that the suspension is closest to it’s base setting. The most amazing thing was that he was able to set it up for my weight and riding style even without riding the motorcycle. He even guessed it was a little stiff and I should play with it after every ride until I feel the suspension it just about perfect.

Riding after the manual set up:  Two weeks and several 5-10km rides and a couple of long rides later, it is almost close to the best set up it’s been and I don’t even know how many clicks/rotations in or out it was at. However, on my next long trip (about 300km), I realized that both the front and rear where just too stiff and I was still continuing to wear out faster than usual. I had learned how preload and dampening worked and what turning left or right really did to the motorcycle. But, I still wan’t getting to the same feeling as the stock no matter how many times I tried.

A day full of researching: One fine day, after reading as many articles as I could about Versys 650 suspensions including a stunning post called “The science & black magic of suspension setup“, I decided it was time to play around and this time start from the stock set up all over again.

Eureka: Then just like that, the Eureka moment. As I read the stock set up on the service manual again,  I realized the clockwise and counterclockwise blunder I had done. By now, with the number of settings I had tried, I was a pro at turning in or out. I did exactly what the manual said:

Rebound: 2 1/2 turns out from the fully clockwise position.

Preload: 6 1/2 turns in from the fully counterclockwise position.

Rear preload: 1 click from fully counterclockwise position

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3000km later: I finally felt light headed and cheerful on my most recent trip. So much for an adjustable suspension. So much for well trained mechanics. So much for owning an expensive motorcycle and not having peace of mind. Sigh!

Versys rider’s take on RE Himalayan

First up, I’m staying away from the word ‘purpose’.

Come on, who are we fooling? We Indians can do just about anything with the motorcycle we own, can’t we? I’ve seen photos of RC390 with luggage in Khardung La and I’ve also seen TVS Victor leaning into the curve unlike any other at Kari Motor Speedway. So then, do we need to specifically call out what our motorcycles are capable of and not capable of?

All of us want to believe that the motorcycles we own are the ones that accelerate the fastest, can be flicked crazily from one corner to another, and can take us anywhere we want to go with any hassles. We want it all, we want it in one, and we want it cheap but we want it to last.

Truth is, I’m not a big fan of RE motorcycles and neither do I attach any sort of value to which region in the world a motorcycle is made in. I absolutely abhor vibes and loud exhaust notes. While it’s true that a design & engine being around for a long time helps in more mechanics being available in far corners of the country to fix it, that’s not enough for me to compromise on so many things when I head out on a long ride. Having seen a few of my friends riding the Classics, I’d be paranoid to take one on the highway wondering when something may just fall off the RE due to its vibrations – once saw a friend’s gear level come off. Nonchalantly, he picked it up, fixed it back and started riding again. I can never be so forgiving of my motorcycles.

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I’ve ridden Classic 500 around for a bit to know that it’s slightly uncomfortable in the city and I start yawning incessantly 60km into the ride no matter what time of the day I’m on the highway. I also can’t come to terms with the fact that the engine heat screwed up more some good formal & track pants of mine. Such a bummer!

When RE Himalayan spy shots came out, I was in the market for a good tourer and there was enough hype about how much research had gone into building this motorcycle. All I wanted was a mid-sized tourer that could take me comfortably to few really good places around the country. ‘Comfortably’ being the key term since I’m well past my heyday when my body could take anything I threw at it.  With all the hype around, it was too hard to completely ignore the Himalayan.

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Test ride: I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t like this motorcycle when I did the test ride. In fact, it was so good (except for the way it started & the below par brakes) that had I not owned a Versys,  I would have probably booked the Himalayan. I would even go ahead and say that it felt so good, that you could pretty much remove the RE badge on it and put something like Hero or TVS on it and it would still sell like hot cakes. It didn’t feel like a typical RE but it was still very much the RE I expected it to be. Truth is, the build quality felt phenomenal & it fit in snug!

First ride: After my cousin bought a Himalayan, I had the chance to take it for a spin. Mind you, by then I had done over 4000km on my Versys and was super comfortable with riding tall & heavy motorcycles including Triumph Tiger 800. When I rode the Himalayan, it felt like like it had the perfect height & weight for riding. I felt so comfortable doing whatever I wanted to-standing and riding, slow speed riding, and the brilliant balance when turning the motorcycle. Again, it felt like the motorcycle was extremely well built.

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Real ride: I had to do it. Spent a couple of days using and abusing the motorcycle. Riding over potholes and speed breakers without slowing down, just because I could. Revving really hard uphill with a pillion. Leaning a little on the blind curves and then going hard on the brakes to see if it can stop. The Himalayan did it all and didn’t seem to flinch even a bit. I swear, if I didn’t buy a Versys, I would have been really happy with a motorcycle like Himalayan.

Worth the ride? Now that I’m used to the luxuries of ABS, better wind protection, far more comfortable seats and riding more miles per hour, the Himalayan seems to be a slightly inferior ride. Versys as a benchmark is something I can’t take out of my mind. But, for anyone who hasn’t had such a comforting ride, Himalayan is the benchmark for comfort based on which the upcoming tourers/adv motorcycles (Kawasaki Versys-X 300, BMW G 310GS, & Suzuke Vstrom 250) will be judged on.

Then again, first version in a model in RE will have it’s flaws. I’ve heard a few including oil leaking from engine. Give it an upgrade with ABS (even a brake that works better) and a little more power (oh! please) for me to consider it as my second motorcycle. Until then, there is only one thing I’m clear about. If I ever go on a road trip around the Himalayas, it will be on the Himalayan; not on a Versys or any other Royal Enfield.

A Versys owner’s take on Ninja 650

It was imminent – both riding and writing how I felt riding a Ninja 650.

The odds are clearly stacked against the Ninja considering I already own a Versys 650. Fact is, Ninja doesn’t have ABS or Showa separate function fork, both of which makes for a really safe and comfortable ride regardless of the road condition. It also falls short by 5 liters on fuel capacity.

But, I got to say, it did have a few things going for it. Especially the dual tone color that I sorely miss on my Versys. Ninja 650 is a stunning looking motorcycle and my Versys looks like an ugly twin that wants to disappear into the darkness to avoid any comparisons. Ninja is all about pleasing the eye and everyone around knows it’s a sportsbike even without a second look. Give me that green shade on my Versys, please?

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The moment I sit on this Kawasaki, I breath a sigh of relief. I can plant both my legs and
there is absolutely no fear of putting the bike down because of it’s the height or weight.
Instinctively, I know I would have taken this motorcycle into the urban jungle more than the number of times I would have even contemplated taking the Versys.  It’s just far more easier and simpler to manage because of the lower seat height.  Never thought 4cm would make such a huge difference.

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Sitting on the Ninja, a few things become very obvious. It cries of sportiness – hard seats that will help you move from side to side when cornering, comfortable but forward leaning stance, and yeah, ball crusher alert! It all reminds me of some of the tough times I’ve had trying to ride my R15 on the highway. But hey, that’s not what it’s made for. Take it into the city. Take it to the track. Take it on a Saturday morning breakfast ride and you’ll never be short of a grin.

As I ride the Ninja for the first time, I wonder why I never considered purchasing this motorcycle. Just a few minutes into the ride, it all seem to make so much sense. The super sensitive and powerful throttling almost surprised me. Too hard to believe it was the same engine. I loved how the Ninja picks up speed but I couldn’t stop thinking how my Versys keeps cursing even after I stop accelerating. Clearly, Ninja lives in a two dimensional world of acceleration or deceleration. But my Versys, it has a third dimension called cruising and that’s exactly what makes mile munching a joy!

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As I ride more, it becomes clearer why these two motorcycle exist. One for the highway and one for the corners – no questions about it. Versys seems like a slightly more competent vehicle, but let’s get ABS and a slightly more sophisticated suspension in the Ninja, and you’ll have nothing but your riding requirements to fall upon to decide which motorcycle you’d buy.

As I ride faster and it wasn’t buffeting that was on my mind. I was wondering what to do with the wind blast that was wearing me out so fast. To me, this is the only disappointing thing about the Ninja knowing that I’ll be tired much earlier and there is only so many miles I can do riding in a racer-like position. Unfortunately, I had to slow down for every speed breaker and pot hole too. That’s so passe…

Let’s throw a curveball at it though.  The 2017 Ninja 650 (let’s hope it launches with ABS in India) has a ZX-10R inspired look that makes it look even more stunning.  There was also a half-hearted effort by Kawasaki designers to make the 2017 Versys look slightly less duller. Who’s the winner? The riders of course. Kawasaki seems to have make the consumers decisions making pretty easy.

For looks and performance, it’s always going to be the Ninja. For comfort and touring, it’s going to be hard to match the Versys. Choose wisely, my dear friend.

As I rode back to return the rented Ninja 650, I was comfortable pushing the motorcycle hard and couldn’t believe how quickly I’d gained confidence in riding the Ninja compared to the 3000km it took for me to feel half as confident on the Versys. Ninja is definitely the friendlier motorcycle of the two but it’s more of an adrenaline junkie who wants to go to a party every other evening.

I’ve never liked parties and it’s hard for me to stay awake long into the night. I’d rather travel a bit through the day without it feeling like a penance, find a quiet place and meditate a bit as the sun sets. Versys it is!