The Indian East Coast was something that was pending on my “been there” check-list. Somehow it had always evaded me. However this time my engineering classmate figured out a time slot and an itinerary in the early Feb. The plan was a road trip from Bangalore, in his humble Wagon-R.
First stop was Auroville, the calm green roads of the place were indicative of what was to come next in the Auroville Visitor’s centre. This place was more of a modern temple, with twisting walkways passing through trees surrounded by boards / placards depicting the history of Auroville. This was an extreme foreign visitor magnet along with tourists. Most enjoying the cafes, patisseries and ice-cream bars more than the history and the soul of Auroville.
What amazed me more in Auroville and adjoining places, is the abundance of bakeries, cafes and gelato ice-cream bars. Its not that they are one of ” just another bakery”, No, ie I had breakfast at the famous Auroville Bakery, it was awesome, the price was well with reach of locals, rather the Indian food was cheap and other croissants, rolls were well within the bounds of reality.
Pondicherry / Puducherry
Pondi, the affectionate call for Pondicherry or Puducherry has one major attraction – The White town. The southern part of Pondi has a canal running North – South. The west side of the canal (away from the beach) belonged to the native Indians during the French colonial rule while the East part belonged to the French (the “white”). This was the prime area overlooking the beach lashed by turquoise waters of Bay of Bengal. The white town, had a very distinct feel to it. The first thing that hits you is cleanliness and the roads. Very clean, well paved and clearly marked roads. A lot of trees along the roads, trimmed and flowering Bougainvillea. Next noticeable feature of this part, are its bungalows / houses. All of them clean and white-washed with distinct blue or dark-gray bordering. The houses had either a white or a typical yellow colour, more like chrome-yellow. The bungalows on the junctions had a clear blue colored board with white lettering, “Rue Dupuy”, “Rue Romain Rolland” and so on. For a non-french learned like me, what is Rue? My friend mentioned that its “street” in French.
We had our lunch at the “Le Cafe”. Keeping same expectations of Auroville Bakery, we were truly disappointed. The food was average, it was cold and it was pricey. However it seemed the French had a special love for this one and came in by flocks. Complacency?
While we roamed around and along the promenade by the beach, we saw loads of visitors in awe of the place, snapping at any flatly yellow colored building. I wasn’t sure if its just the cleanliness of the area that fascinated people. Across the channel, the Tamil town, was just another busy day with hustle and bustle of vehicles and people alike.
After a lot of procrastination on fixing the cycle post rains, I got it fixed. New spokes, brake shoes, gear and brake liner cables, ball bearings, a tire-tube. The cycle rode like spanking new. I wondered what could be a stretch for the cycle to get going.
I asked a few guys around for some inspiration, but couldn’t get the path or the company. So I resorted to the tried-and-tested Vandri Lake, or rather tested-and-tired. Almost two years back I had done the same route. However this time it was just me and the pedals.
Left early morning by 6.30am, had tea and Parle-G near Vasai and reached the reservoir by 10.00am. 70km done in 3.5hrs. The weather was nice; cloudy so sun was dispersed and there was a hint of chill in the air which was great to push me hard (that’s what I call riding at 20 kmph).
Rested back on the trunk of a tree with its roots hugging me around. Had a breakfast of 6-7 toasts with mayo from my tiffin. Reminded me of picnics in the school, just that there were loads of friends to play around with and no towering task of pedaling back 70km. A dog and its cub came by and I shared the breakfast with it and its pup.
Started by sharp at 11am. Thinking, earlier the better. But as it turned out, it wasn’t early enough. In just 1 hour, it was noon with all its glory sapping away the already dwindling energy. The roads seemed longer, more inclined and to add cherry on the cake, the masked sun came shining through the clouds. The free wheeling slopes on the flyovers that I enjoyed in the morning now seemed a daunting task of climbing first and then somehow the downhill ended abruptly.
By the time I reached Mumbai’s borders it was 1.15pm. Dust, bad roads, traffic all welcomed me ensuring that I don’t feel left out. Around Aarey colony, I felt so zapped that given an option to put my cycle in a car, I’d happily accept it. The home door bells rang by 3.00pm where I entered, pulled the shoes out and laid flat on the back right next to the shoe-rack.
मला सर्बत दे आई
During the shower I manged to have a quick nap while sitting on the bathroom floor, only to be woken up by my mom who was knocking on the door.
The last Vandri cycle ride lasted for around 11 hours, this one I had done in 7. The effects were showing in my dazed gait and reactions 😀
I had got my dream toy, a BMW GS (the only affordable one) – G310 GS – a day before my birthday. Post that I’ve ridden it on almost all kind of roads. From the well paved cities of Mumbai (really !?) to the monsoon beaten NH17 closing to the boundaries of off-roading. More than a month has passed after my first service which was bang on 1000km. I was hoping to give a gist of how it feels owning one and having it under your thighs in roads high and low. I thought a 1200 no. would be a great homage to the Papa GS (R1200 GS), so here is my finding (a review of sorts) after a month+ and more than 1200km on the ODO with the first-service details.
Looks and Presence
One thing is for sure, whether you like it or not. This one turns heads. Come young or old, small or tall. Everyone is attracted to its bulky muscular look. Specially the adventure tourer look with a beak that is not common on the streets. For an average rider like me its worth mentioning guys in their long Jaguars and BMWs pulling up next to me and asking about the bike.
Handling and Riding
The bike is tall for my frame, I just about manage to touch my both feet on ground. I’ve found an easier way to ride in traffic conditions, till arse to the right and I manage to keep me right foot flat on the ground by giving the bike a little tilt.
The bike is extremely comfortable, I’ve got this comments from shorter and tall riders. I was initially wondering if I should get a 2″ bar riser, but now I’m comfortable with it. The suspension too is supple to take in the bad roads. I did a ride recently to Velneshwar and I felt I didn’t do justice to the bike with just 300km+ in one direction.
I generally tend to shift gear somewhere between 4k – 5k rpms which is probably the most comfortable zone of the bike. During bad roads trudging, its best to keep the bike in 2nd gear and RPMs 2k+.
On Mumbai-Pune highway, it’s very easy to touch 100kmph mark on 5th gear itself, however I kept jumping up to ensure engine stays in easy mode atleast before the first service. The mid-range torque and power is good and can help you zoom past cars riding at 100kmph. I haven’t really tested out 6000rpm+ yet
Bumper to bumper traffic
I agree to my mom’s comments when she looked at the bike for the first time.
इतकी मोठी !! (this big !)
It’s not very easy to ride in our close-combat streets of Mumbai, you have to be extremely cautious about the width. Plus with my limited reach of my legs to the ground it’s even more precarious when there are 2 auto-rickshaws trying to narrow you down. This one probably takes 1.5x width of a normal commuter bike, keep that in mind and things would be fine.
For my first day on the bike in B2B traffic, I had worn a full-face MT helmet. It was probably my worst 30 mins of riding any bike. 2 things were new to me,
bike – new ergos, no flat-footing
full face helmet – reduced ability to see mirrors (more on that later)
The very next day I shifted to my old half-face Studds helmet and I 10 times more comfortable riding the GS even in the traffic.
I’d been riding a Honda Unicorn for all my biking life before I got the GS baby. The Unicorn has a peach of an engine, smoothest of the 150cc class. The bike too was most comfortable I’ve ridden till now. I’ve done over 72,000 kms on it with a 800km+ ride in a single day. I’ve still got to figure how well GS compares for such long distance touring.
GS is NO match for the smoothness of the Unicorn, period. The vibrations are OK till 4000 RPM, but post that the buzz starts coming through. It feels that you’ve kept a big mobile phone that is on a vibration under you. Vibrations are not like that of an Enfield, but it’s no twin-cylinder motor buzz either.
Gearing and stalling
What has stalling got to do with gearing ? perhaps lot, perhaps not. But either case, this GS has one specific problem – Low gear stalls (typically 1st gear start). I’ve read about this on number of online forums to confirm this is the case not specific to my riding or machine. Even the service guy acknowledged it.
During the start of the bike, low commuter ones, are lazy not to raise throttle enough and let go of the clutch slowly, so do car drivers. They only tend to raise the throttle when they want to accelerate and not
“crawl” as they say. However this engine-gearbox is not greatly tuned for the “low-end crawling”. Everytime you release the clutch without going in the “accelerate” mode on the throttle, it’ll stall. I’ve found, the engine RPM as it catches up with gearbox, starts to drop and once it goes below 1200-1500, the engine kinda “knocks” and stalls. If you re-engage the clutch again (sensing the stall), the engine which is getting more fuel from the fuel pump to avoid the stall suddenly finds it easy and the engine then revs past 2000 RPM. This for a new rider on GS, experienced or not will need time to settle. There were times I used to keep targets of max 2 stalls per journey, thankfully that is over. Yet if you find stopping on an uphill, I’ve got to be extra cautious.
I’ve felt some false shifts, and these are very specific ones.
Coming down from 3 to 2
Coming up from 1 to 2 – It feels the gear hasn’t moved and u try to pull it, but its hard, only to release the clutch and see the Gear indicator is actually showing “2”, which you thought hasn’t even shifted from “1”.
These are the typical speeds at which I change the gear
45- 50 kmph
A special mention for the mirrors, after 4500 RPMs, the mirrors buzz so much that the image is all fuzzy. I remember in Unicorn it used to happen when I was all out on 5th gear going 80kmph+. But here, even at 60kmph if ur in lower gear, say 3rd, you’ll end up watching a fuzzy image.
Also, if I’m riding with a full face helmet, the helmet’s jaw hinders the visibility of the mirrors, they’re kind of low placed. Everytime you need to see in it, you have to actually duck your head down, to get to its view. A 5cm + height raise could improve hi-speed highway riding by a large margin.
The only thing that I dreaded while upsizing my 150cc bike was the engine heat. I had ruled out a Duke just for the very reason. Thankfully, the GS is a very easy on heat output. I’ve seen the radiator fan kick in only in bumper to bumper traffic, that too while waiting for long periods of one-two in the traffic, and even after that the heat is not as bad as a Duke 390. I can easily ride this one in my shorts.
Form and function
Ergonomically I’ve already stated it’s a great bike to ride. Yet there are certain things that could improve.
Mirrors – I’ve already mentioned about that in detail
Rear tire hugger – this GS doesn’t come with it. However, ENSURE you add one atleast for the rains, there is no way on earth a rider and a pillion will stay clean in rains without the tire hugger. The service guy mentioned that Apache 310’s tire hugger shall fit, however I haven’t tried it. I have till the next rains to come in.
Front tire guard – This one is of adequate length, however another 3cm extender like found in Duke 250 will ensure even lesser dust on to the radiator.
Radiator – First, I was weary of the radiator, it’s way high up, quite close to the seat height and it’ll deflect a lot of hot air. The tall placed radiator gets lesser muck than a low slung one.
Handle height – I haven’t saddled yet, however while trying to goof around on bad roads, I felt the hands are way below shoulders. Also this makes your entire body tilt forward a little, something like I do for my stoppies on my bicycle. Would’ve loved if the hands were slightly ahead while standing.
Plastic bash plate / sump guard – This one is of adequate form and thickness for normal touring needs and one of Leh routes, however if your plan is to continuously be on bad roads and offroads, it might not harm to get a firm steel one fixed.
Stands – The side stand is long enough, never I’ve felt the need to adjust my bike to adjust the stand. But how I would’ve loved to have a center stand, probably at a cost of top-rack.
Racks and stays – Top rack is B I G. Twice I’ve hurt my knee while unmounting. It could’ve been a tad smaller perhaps, but then it would’ve made the bike look another commuter one 😛
Seat – This is one soft, comfortable piece of design. The pillion too is always happy.
Lights – I haven’t got a chance to ride in dark, so can’t really comment on that front, but the jumpy / vibey headlights – I can 😀 At times it feels I’m giving a passing up-down beam to the oncomer due to the headlight’s vibration, and they tend to up their lights as well. I would’ve loved a smaller KTM like (or papa GS) LED turn indicators. The rear ones are well protected by the rack, but front ones are vulnerable.
Coming to the juicy part of the cost of maintaining a GS. I reached BMW Service, Andheri on the dot of 1000km (almost a month in). The “garage” was full with 7-8 310s and few 1200 GSs.
My bike had tipped on the stand in wet soil on Velneshwar, and the handle had tilted slightly inwards on the left. I was apprehensive that the bill is gonna sky-rocket! 🙁 The guy estimated around ₹5200. I told him about the handle, he acknowledged that its slightly bent inwards.
I got a call from him saying the handle is bent slightly on left and we can replace it to fix it which would cost around ₹3k ( not sure how much these handles really cost), I said OK. But then he called me back after sometimes saying they don’t have it in stock. So I said just adjust it in a wrench or something..
I went in the late afternoon to see he had adjusted the handle and was in better shape, only ’cause I knew there was a problem I could figure it out. He dished out the final bill which was ₹5252, as estimated.
For a ₹300 chain cleaning wasn’t VERY expensive the amount of effort we guys spent on cleaning and lubing our chains in Velneshwar. Also a ₹100 is the typical going rate for cleaning, this one is 300. Expensive ? yes.
I inquired about the handle bar, he said its fine now, he has re-adjusted the handle mounts. But, yet if required he can place an order for it if I wanted it. I decided to try it for sometime before taking that decision. I was expecting some extra labour, thankfully wasn’t listed in the bill ( the base labour itself is pretty steep )
The guy confirmed next servicing is due in a year or a whopping 10,000 kms. However he did give me a word of advice
Fedora 29 has released, It had been since the Fedora-Core 2 days that I had used Fedora (rather it was my first foray in linux). We used to wait for computer magazines to deliver free OS CDs. Back then it was a Windows + Fedora. Everytime I had an issue with Fedora I had to switch back to Windows, see what is right / wrong how to go about it and fix it. We didn’t have the comfort of using Smart phones and tablets back then around 2004. Setting up eth0 was still an effort for a newbie like me.
As years moved, Fedora improved and its ability to replace my desktop’s default OS. However still we had to tweak around to make it comfortable. Codecs, font rendering, etc. However it has been one of the most comfortable environments for developers, most of the things available as rpm packages.
With Fedora 29, a whole lot has improved, first and foremost, which is on everyone’s mind is GNOME 3.30. This is by far one of the most important GNOME 3x releases. WHY? Install it and you’ll see the amount of RAM that it hogs is way lesser than the earlier versions. Now my 9 yrs old laptop can effectively run GNOME, the modern RAM eating browsers and still leave me room. The new GNOME is lovely and modern yet for the nostalgia the Bluecurve theme deserves a special mention. For years as long GTK2 / GNOME2 ran on my PC, it was the de-facto choice.
The font rendering too has improved off-the-box, Now there is no need to install the freetype-freeworld package, make changes to the ~/.fonts/fonts.conf or .Xresources. I’m not sure what has really changed, whether the patent expiry has come through and we get it as-is without the patent issues.
Hope this Fedora legacy carries on for long. And finally kudos to Redhat, Fedora Team,GNOME and endless other teams for putting in effort for us to consume this beautiful lovely OS which is free!
After a really long time this song came back on my ears, stuck for a long time and I had to get something beautiful for my guitar. So here it is, Manjha by Amit Trivedi from Kai Po Che. The song is in the key of D.
I had waited for BMW 310 GS (the baby) for over a year. Yet, even after 18th July 2018 launch, the test ride schedule stalled, thanks to the heavy rains of mid July in Mumbai. But finally yesterday, 25th July, the moment arrived and I was at the showroom for the test drive. Me and few more colleagues eager to get into a BMW showroom rode to the Andheri showroom. I rode a colleague’s Hornet and another Duke 250 followed. We gawked and drooled at the massive vehicles.
On the first look, the bike does look big. It kind of reminded me of KTM 390 Duke 2017 edition when I saw it first in the showroom, however this still felt bigger. The front fairing around the tank is very GS-resembling, very typical of the Adventure bike segment with the trademark design of its beak. The Big BMW badge on the fairing is a pleasant decoration 🙂 The seat was wide enough and soft followed by a H U G E rear top-box rack, big enough for a kid to sit as a 2nd pillion (please don’t do that). The engine area houses the famous reverse-inclined 313cc cylinder, in the front it has a massive radiator and its mounted high. The switch gear was impressive, felt like it could stand an apocalypse. Big, chunky, strong plastic buttons. They weren’t the usual glossy ones, but rather a toned down matt-finished. ones. The windscreen / deflector seemed small very atypical of its segment, ie. I had test-ridden the Versys 650, which has a big one. The golden upside-down forks too look they could take any beating as opposed to typical commuter bikes. Tires are massive, specially my first encounter with that 19′ front.
The test vehicle was on a ride and we had to wait. Till then we roamed staring at the machines costing well over ₹20 lacs. One of the colleagues asked about that big box that came out of the R NineT Scrambler.
ह्याच्या वर काय पाय ठेवू ?
We laughed and I whispered in his ears, “it’s the boxer engine. If you continue with these silly questions, we’ll be pushed out of the showroom and my booking amount too would be returned.”
निकलो !!! कहां कहां से आ जाते है BMW लेने !
Thankfully that didn’t happen and we checked the Papa GS, 1200 GS and were amazed by its size. The tallest (5’11”) and strongest (85kg+) of our lads, DevD too looked small in front of it. Goofing around continued…
.. till luckily for the showroom owners, the test bike arrived and we headed out of the showroom.
First Hop and the ride
The bike was parked on the footpath, yes, this is INDIA! In the front buses, cars, motorbikes, cycles plied along with the divider for metro construction. Total chaos.
The test ride was the one that I had booked, Red one, officially – Racing Red. A guy handed me the keys and I put those in and hopped over.
I skipped a heartbeat as I hopped over. The bike was parked on a slight incline. And after hopping my legs barely reached the ground (I’m 5’7″), and with my inertia, the bike too moved sideways on the right and I thought I was gonna drop it! Luckily, the bike wasn’t a 200kg behemoth but no humming-bird either. Somehow I manged to strangle the drop. First lesson…
DON’T EXPECT TO RIDE A Hornet or Unicorn!
DevD too was taking a test ride with G 310 R, the showroom guy took the Duke 250 to ride along with us or rather to keep a watchful eye. The clutch was light enough, didn’t really expect it to be as soft as the Japanese commuters. I pushed the Start switch and nothing happened, I checked the key, its position was fine, tried again… Nothing.. I was about to call the showroom guy before मेरी इज़्जत was saved. I gave a look at the starter switch and observed the Ignition kill switch, which was in OFF state, duh! Again, it’s not a commuter Honda bike with no kill switch. 3rd time… and bbrrummm…..
I revved the engine and it was happy to cross over 6K RPM with one twist of the wrist, the sound was stronger from the engine compartment, from the riding position I could barely listen to the exhaust note. I was probably expecting a bassy note like 4-cylinder, but…
इतने पैसे में इतना ही मिलेगा !
Kandya, another colleague sat as a pillion behind me, DevD on the 310 R for his test ride. I shifted to the first gear released the clutch and… brrrpppp.. ! Stalled ! Again… stalled ! Me and Kandya gave out a big laugh, he asked…
डबे टाकून झालं का !! ? (done shitting !?)
OK… this is not a bike that’ll move with just the clutch release, it’ll need some throttle input, Low RPM (~1500) almost negligible torque perhaps ?
I got the knack of getting the 310 in motion and just few meters and I had to stop it again, thanks to the traffic. The showroom fellow was ahead, I screamed asked him how does BMW compare to the Duke? He put the bike on the side-stand, switched off the engine, pulled the key and walked to me and started blabbering… (THUG LIFE ! 😎)
I was in KTM first, I prefer the handle of the BMW, I love Duke 390, it has better power compared to the 250 (duh!)…
I kept worrying about the traffic, what if it moved, but that didn’t happen for the next few mins, and every passing minute made me realize again, its not a commuter. Remember the high-mounted radiator I spoke about, the heat was blasting. After a minute in the traffic, Kandya my pillion said, he thought only he got the hot draft. The heat was probably on par with a KTM Duke. I had test ridden Versys 650, which I felt was much better at heat management. But then I rode it only in the showroom complex, not in the real life with buses and cars around to bounce off the heat.
We took a U-turn and the bike just zipped passed the rickshaws, the cars and the Activas. The gear box seemed OK. The vibrations weren’t huge, but probably along the lines of Duke 390. Definitely not the smoothie like my Honda Unicorn. The roar of the engine, though subtle, did make some clearing for us on the road. The traffic caught up with us and an uncle got speaking with the 310R rider about its price, probably ubiquitous कितना देती है. I couldn’t see the USD Forks work, but my bum did feel that the forks with the cushy seat did a wonderful job at the office. The yank of the throttle wasn’t panic creating as it’s in a Duke 390, much easier over here.
The ride finished off with almost 15mins on the road but 5min+ staying put in the traffic. The U-turn was light enough didn’t feel any weight of the bike, yes, it did feel big though. Cautiously, I treaded on the footpath to park the bike (sorry!) and almost hopped to get off it. I’ll probably get better at Kung-fu kicks with mounting and unmounting on this one. I sat on the 310R which was definitely lower and probably easier to maneuver. DevD who test rode it mentioned that when he took turns on it, the bike stayed tilted unlike the Duke which kinda resisted to stay down but wanted to sit upright, perhaps a lower GC was working its physics on the R.
On my way back, the Hornet’s wide handle and stance felt puny, but the easier on the legs heat was a welcome relief. The 310GS is definitely a bike to take on long open country roads or without. It has a character and swagger that would have eyeballs transfixed.
Summary (Score out of 5)
Looks – 5
Heat Management – 3
Road manners – 5
Aspirational value – 5.5 🙂
Build Quality – 4
Cost – 3.5 (would’ve loved if 310GS was ₹3L Ex-showroom)
A wet Saturday in July and an itch to roam around the Vaitarna, picking small water bodies and navigating through slushy dirt roads on foot and car both. Me and my old riding partner Manas trudged.
First up was Lohape Talao / lake close to the Vajereshwari town, we had made a similar trip exactly a year back. This time we thought we’ll check smaller lakes and dams around that area.
Next up was a lake / dam called “Shelte Water Lake” as labelled by Google maps, this one was right below Kohoj fort. We stopped our car next to the highway and continued our offroading on the foot, through muck, slush, water, you name it. The rain came in hard, our foot got stuck in the soil, T-shirts sprayed and splashed with dirt. Almost 15-20 mins into the trail, but we couldn’t find it. All that we could see was lush green earth and farmers toiling on the paddy fields below a towering mountain behind half hidden above the low rain clouds. We decided to head back without having a peek of the Lake.
Amidst discussions of post-retirement life, bikes and cars we head home. The whole trip without even a single song played on the stereo!