Monday, 17 April 2017

MotoTravel : Chanshal Pass

Spring breaks in with opening of high passes around Uttarakhand marking the start of riding season and thus we rode from Dehradun to Himachal this time to Chanshal pass that bridges Uttarakhand and Himachal at 12000+ft ASL. From well laid tarmac to hard grueling torn off roads, from bright hot sweaty sunny days to cold freezing nights, from clear skies to snowstorms and from zero to 600+kms on the ODO we went through all what the venture had to offer. eight riders from Dehradun of every sort of machines went on to embark on this adventure.

Ice walls enroute

Raging storm

So the season opening had to be greeted with a ride to the Himalayas thus a plan to ride to Chanshal as everytime. So the plan all set for Chanshal with three guys we were ready since a week when few other joined in too. Total of eight riders then on the riding day emerged at the gathering point all set to scale Chanshal. With 8 bikes as four Hero Impulse, one Yamaha R15, a Duke 200 and a Duke390 and a Yamaha Rx135 4speed all tanked up to the brim were all set to leave. 

Day I


Route : Dehradun -- Vikasnagar -- Chakrata -- Deoban -- Kanasar -- Tuini -- Rohru

Day 1 was the longest stretch with Rohru for the night stay. From few 20 odd kms long straights to winding roads of 200+kms of the sheer riding took as through all sorts of terrains to Rohru. Dehradun To Vikasnagar is a straight stretch and after that we enter into the hills and till Chakrata we encounter some rough patches thanks to the landslides and a dusty ride beyond Chakrata ends entering into Chir and Deodar forests approaching Deoban thereafter. Chakrata to Deoban was a smooth well laid metalled road for riders with skills enough to scrape their footpegs. Deoban is at a greater height than Chakrata thus receives a lot of snowfall every year. Then descends the road to Kanasar and rough patches start all the way upto 15-20kms shattering the bike and rider loosening up bolts and plastic parts. Boon for an offroader though.

Kanasar then we reach which is a place with conserved Deodars and lots of greenery. Local kids play cricket at the ground and we move along towards Tuini. Roads are good past Kanasar till Tuini. Beautiful tarmac all the way through but single laned enough to stay always on the toes. A tiny blink of an eye and suddenly you are stunned by a goddamn Roadways bus or a pick up truck. We reach Tuini then and its hot. Quickly exiting now into Himachal Pradesh we leave Uttarakhand behind and with few hours riding more we check into a hotel for the night.

Riding along Pabbar river

Mountain Top

Day 2 


With the sun up for the second day and our tanks filled up we were off with our bikes for some real adventure for the day. Roads started loosing its shape one we headed forward into the high lands. To Chirgaon roads are mix of tarmac and offroads with lots of dirt and debris along the patchy road but post Chirgaon to Larot & Chanshal is a nightmare. Hard roads beaten and broken at several places take a good toll on your vehicle and you too. Speeds are low on that climbing terrain to 12000+ft ASL. Best done on Impulse and its fun once you are on the footpegs crouched forward clinged to the bars on a short gear at high rpms charging through the trail. The bike dangles across the heavy deep sand at some patches one might witness post Larot. The climb gets more steeper after larot and roads worsen up even but the landscape becomes more beautiful. The high meadows show up all snow laden. One might witness some snowboarding or ice skiing marks on the snow slopes of Chanshal. 

Further we reach the Chanshal Pass top with awe struck jaws and overwhelming happiness. With some exploring around we went on searching for a campsite to accommodate 8 bikes and 4 tents. Gathering wood for the night fire was another concern given the high altitude and the no trees. Down two bikers descend for few kms to gather wood qhile the other guys pitch up the tent and a lone guy in the corner searching for network. Meanwhile a storm and some raging clouds gather up towards the north-east of the sky engulfing the Himalayas approaching us and it minutes it gets all windy. High speed winds and fear of a snowfall or a windy storm made a fear creep in. Mixed opinions of descending to lower altitude or Larot came up. It was 6:30 by evening and sun was setting in the horizon calling for a firm decision to come up. None it was. With almost all the preparations done for the night camp majority of us decided to stay there itself. 

It rained with snow for few 15-20 minutes and the sky cleared up in an hour so beautifully that no one could spot a cloud up in the sky. Stars came up bright and clear and wood was gathered up to lit the bonfire. Not windy anymore no one could ask for a better cold calm evening by the fire more. With food and a little booze all start to talk. I start to click some night skies. With few hours by and the day full of physical toll eyelids were heavy and one by one guys called it off to their respective tents.

I hate writing to be honest and on this note ill let the reading part finish here and let the pictures do the talking. Not as good they are but a mere attempt to capture the moments as much as I can. So to am up the night was cold and Im not able to sleep well in a sleeping bag so I didn't had a good sleep. Night was windy again with tent flapping and disturbing as I'm not a sound sleeper but alert as a dog. So I got up early too as nature called me into the bushes. The leftover cinders were fiery enough to keep me warm untill the sun came up the next morning. When we gathered all what we had, packed and off back to Dehradun via Hanol & Mori. 

Camps for the night

and the morning bliss

Watch out for the complete album here

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Dual Sport Dream

The idle wondering times of the day pass by gazing out of the window, sometimes flipping through old pictures distracting me just enough momentarily from the longing of going on a next excursion. Sitting idle and daydreaming has been the job lately. Spring brakes in this month marking the advent of summers and thawing of snow and the clearing of roads, luring they call. Bored, I now drop pins over the maps and curbs on the expenses eyeing to the high roads, passes and the mecca of travel Ladakh.


Less driven this winters and the past season my motorcycle has been strolling itself through some engine and chassis malfunctions. The steering races has been a pain in the ass and the engine`s out of its order. Already into 45000kms on the ODO the mill needs an overhaul and the chassis some reconditioning. With the month gone by in struggling through the steering races, though all ending in vain, engine is up for a complete overhaul.
Eyeing forward to the high passes and long trips I long to get off the armchair and hop on the bike. Ride through the plains of Morey at Pang and the loops of Gata, gather some more landscapes from the saddle and more adventures on my dirt bike.

Well not a dirt bike per se but a dual sport motorcycle. Not a dual sport in fact either. Well that’s what the ambiguity is, I think, of the sole dirt/dual-sport bike India has, the Hero Impulse. The sole motorcycle launched back in 2012 and discontinued in the same year. The adventure purpose built bike was in turn an adventure for the guys at HeroMotorCorp getting some rise in their sale figures, unlikely to happen the bike was phased out leaving the dual sport enthusiast deserted with a spark of hope in the name of Impulse. Less applauded by the consumers and the biking crowd Impulse still has less recognition and thus a handful of owners. Thus is the sad state of the dual sport motorcycles in India. Yet to comprehend and contemplated by the biking enthusiasts, the dual sports will take a long time from now to seep in to the biking culture of today. Meanwhile we ride the sole off roader manufactured in India (thus making us potent to own it). Also the RE Himalayan.

Coming to RE (Royal Enfield), the “desi kata” of the Indian biking culture which to my liking and comprehension is a 200kg worth of iron which I love to ride to over smooth tarmac roads with a thumpy feel at the saddle. The torquey engine thumps itself to high speeds with less rpms on the tacho and vibes at the bars which I love riding on RE. This very emotion rooted deep has made RE what it is today, synonymous with long distance riding and adventure tours apparently. Hard as it always has been for me to understand the RE with adventure riding I take a slight inclination towards the Himalayan. The Himalayan launched last year with name “Himalayan” portrays the travelling/touring gesture of the travelling culture that’s hard wired between the biking enthusiasts and RE. Launched targeting the motorcycle tourers of India, and their very emotion of the same as a prey, Himalayan was looked upon and still is as a potent adventure bike which RE has built to go through all what the tourers may face while travelling in India and that’s true.

Apart from Impulse the Himalayan as a dual sport bike is a boon momentarily once offroads are concerned.  Himalayan is a great machine potent enough to get one through bad roads and river crossings and almost all high passes and Ladakh easily making it desirable and with a small price tag a great bang for buck but not to my liking though. To me it’s a soft tourer that’s it. What I think is, RE couldn’t just let go off its genes plonking a thumpy, long stroke, under-squared engine on, what they claim, an adventure bike. Loaded with off road goodies like the 21inch front and 17 rear, spiked foot pegs and less weight (only comparing to other Enfields) it surely gives a more practical off road feel to the machine. But nowhere close to what adventure bikes are, it aint even the same ballpark. Impulse with dirt oriented ergonomics and even on less power accommodated by less weight is more likely to be driven with ease and better maneuverability over long stretches of broken roads and adventure riding. But the whole discussion over the scenario of the only two dual sport bikes we have and what`s close to being a dual sport bike or a purpose built off roader or a terrain tamer is futile.

I admire dual sport machines like the Honda CRF 250, the Kawasaki KLRs, the Yamaha Tenere, Tigers and 1290Adventure.  Driven by travellers over long distances crossing countries and borders on a saddle that was every ounce of worth it. A dual sport dream of travelling across the Latin America through Bolivia Chile and Argentina is yet to be accomplished someday meanwhile I drool over the pictures of those who do. I too eye forward for a dual sport machine manufactured in India thus easy on my pocket. The emotion meanwhile satisfied with mighty Hero Impulse which is under a lot of changes and up for Ladakh this year but in a whole another way. I can`t just wait to hit the roads after Manali to Pang and then the roads of Korzok where I shall charge through the long gravel road on the foot pegs and the water crossings and the famous Paagal Nala where the high ground clearance will get me through ease pass the boulders and rocks and the corners at dirt will be scraped fish-tailing the bike all possible and best done on a dual-sport machine.

But for the meanwhile bike gets reconditioned, I think of the roads and my last bitter experience of Ladakh. Anyways …for now the weather outside is dull and so is summers when not ridden, counting hours I flip through the old pictures still gazing out of the window with in mind a dual sport dream.