March 15, 2020
अरे कशाला जायचं अश्या जागी बईक ने ? रस्ता आहे ना ? चालवा न तिकडे !
Kanade’s words echoed…
Just the earlier Sunday I had been to Kamshet’s Slope of Hell with 3 others. What we ended up doing there was dragging our motorbikes through the rocky steep incline and when our bikes got stuck pushed with help of each other. We managed to scale less than half of the road with our bikes, rest we ended up trekking all the way to the top. By the time we reached down, 3 bikes and 4 lads were tired. It was my 2nd trip to Slope of Hell and the first offroad encounter for others. It was then Kanade had uttered the words of wisdom.
Rewind a few more weeks back… I had got a call from BMW Sales about holding a GS Trophy specifically for 310GS owners. I wasn’t quite sure about it as I couldn’t really find a relaxing weekend for few months AND I had no experience in such competitions! I dilly-dallied till Devendra said, do its just ₹2k, or else u’ll rue the missed chance for your whole life. I managed to book a ticket just few days earlier and I woke up at 5am on 15th for the 7am reporting time at Royal Palms, Aarey Colony, Goregaon, Mumbai.
The road to the place was quite an offroad section. Event was held in an adventure park that was specifically created for offroad activities for ATVs, motocross, etc. As I reached there a lot of the 310s were already there, with the enduro-ready clan with their high ankle boots, heavily armoured body gear, high-visibility pants and shirts were enjoying the morning with tea, biscuits and samosas. I on the other hand had managed to borrow everything except for my 310 and the helmet. In a simple pair of worn out denims and a blue round-neck T-shirt I looked more like an event-helper than a participant.
Parked my bike, registered and had a stroll around looking at the place. With my last weekend’s outing, I had high hopes of myself doing exceptionally well in this event, but as I looked at the route… I was having difficulty gulping down. It consisted of a long parallel logs, an elevated narrow concrete path, a tall hill climb and a few more I wasn’t quite sure what they were.
The trail / track
In few minutes Shahnawaz Karaim, the BMW Motorrad instructor called us for the briefing. A tall fairly well built guy with a strong voice and command over the crowd did show the confidence he had as an instructor and with the bikes. He took us through the list of obstacles / exercises that we had to perform on which we’d be judged and rated.
Then he called us on the track, where he took us on the track walk. Essentially making us walk through the track and explaining the problems of the specific exercises and skills required to perform them. First up was enduro steering, a set of cones kept in a line through which you’ve got to zig-zag. The fist tricky one was parallel logs, where there were 2 big pipes kept parallel with just a wheel’s width to go between. If the bike turns incorrectly, Its bound to fall. The trick was to look way ahead and not down at the logs to scare yourself and simply go in a straight line. Next up was the incline with no wheel-spin and decline without brakes. A 3 hills with 2 crests and 1 trough about height of a 1m. I had never done this but it looked OK (I realized later, I had over simplified it). Then was the Board riding, with a concrete elevated road of width of just 3/4 foot and elevation of 1/2 foot. With some tires as obstacles on the course to disrupt the smooth path. Again if your looking down on the path, you’re bound to fall, look up straight ahead knowing where the path moves, and you should be OK.
Then was the sand, you go in it hesitantly and you’ll endup pulling a lot of sand underneath your rear tire. The skill required here was to go steady, saddle and weight on the rear tire as much as possible to improve traction. Then was a long simple straight followed by another short hill. This hill actually comes as a surprise, with bikes moving fast, it tends to throw you off the air, need is to be steady so that both wheels are planted or if u’ve got the guts go up in the air with all glory and land perfectly before another small hill. That followed by donuts where we need to do 3 circles around a cone. One might think what is difficult in it ? Its not if ur calm enough its fine, its just that it messes up with your orientation before the most difficult exercise (according to me) the high dirt hill climb as we walked along with the pack, I wondered “Why did I register for this event ?!”
At the top, there were 2 tires kept over each other, we had to remember which tire was above, the front or the rear. Then long down hill, easier incline than the climb but yet scary, If you apply even a slightest amount of front brake here, you’ll be sliding down along with your bikes on your butt. Go slow and in 1st gear with only rear brakes. As we came down we looked at the off camber, which was something I never had seen in any videos till date, or atleast never noticed. It was 3 foot tall hill built along a turn like a big bank . What was so difficult, everything ? It seemed to have an angle of 45 deg. and was a turn. It also had 3 cones placed along the curve dividing the banked incline in 2 pieces, We had to travel above the cones without touching them. My eyes were out completely, It reminded me Wall of death. The engineer in me came out with solution, centrifugal force, etc.. “ya ya … but it all looks fine when somebody else is doing it !”. It was followed by another enduro steering and then to a halt.
Back to briefing center, and we had to be ready according to our tag number. Mine was 128, it started with 101. So 17 guys before me thankfully. I could learn from them. And, they started, the first one went slowly and steadily through the parallel logs, up and down the short inclines then just about over the elevated concrete path (board riding) and getting stuck in sand, with some push from others headed further.. and on the dirt hill climb, got stuck midway in between. Again a help from others moved up came down slowly but didn’t go through the off-camber and he was done. More guys followed.. some smoothly and some jittery. One guy started in haste and fell badly on the parallel logs, with his bark-busters going bust. He didn’t cede his arrogance of going fast, he almost fell again on the elevated concrete, got badly stuck in the sand, went up the air on the hills after the sand and on donut turns dabbed a few times and on the hill climb fell twice, I thought he might just give up… but he didn’t, kept up to it, pushed his bike over the hill came down and took the off-camber in a stride. A little too much speed on it without control and he with his machine went over the otherside. That was it!
अरे कशाला जायचं अश्या जागी बईक ने ? रस्ता आहे ना ? चालवा न तिकडे !
Kanade’s words echoed… After almost 10-15 bikes, my turn was coming up fast. I got ready in the queue, headed up to Shahnawaz and asked him for tips. Then came the wise words…
Go smooth and steady, always look up and straight ahead not down on your dashboard or where your wheels are. On the hill, go steady DO NOT apply the clutch on the hill !
Alrite, the time was up. I geared up, showed the license, and started. First up were the enduro steering was fine and then I headed into parallel logs. Look straight up and not down. I managed first half of it fine, but my gaze went down slightly and backup, I felt my wheels / bike sliding along the steel pipes kept as the logs. But.. I was through without any hiccup. A U-turn and I headed into the climb-up-down, which I initially thought was simple enough, however with all the focus and raised blood pressure, nothing is. Went over the first hill fine, came down without braking (atleast I thought I did) and on the immediate hill, I bumped my chin of the helmet on the tank. A little panic, high revved the engine, went up.. and managed to finish it without any incident. Another straight-sight board-riding. I was nervous but surprisingly it seemed to be the easiest of all. In the sand, I got slightly stuck but moved ahead slowly without anybody’s help. The donut came up post hills, which were ok. Steady and no clutch application for the hill climb. I headed straight up picking a path from the right side, ended up almost 75% to the top till I couldn’t move, with the rear wheel spinning with no traction.. I had to stop and let my bike sleep. With some help I headed back down in reverse and re-attempted. This time 90% to the top and my wheel kept spinning till it dug a hole in the dirt. I required a push from guys to get to the top. The descent on the hill was OK, some rear wheel sliding with my bike in first gear. I made a conscious attempt to not use the front brake. Down without any event headed for the off-camber. I took the bank like a normal turn (forgetting how difficult it was), Done! I was so spooked that I that completed the off-camber so easily, I looked back to see if I had hit any cones, none were. with the last of enduro steering, I finished it with no major event.
Phew! I headed back to Shahnawaz asking him how did I fair. You did well, But I got stuck on the hill ! No, you should’ve just looked ahead to the top instead of looking at the path down. After a few more remaining participant’s efforts, we headed for the certificate distribution and back to home.
My first such outing with guys all prepped for dirt schooling and tangoing with their bikes. The guys were all pumped up to jump, fall of the bikes not caring, while I was still traditionally skeptic of the route, or enough skill I possessed to finish the course. By the end of it, I was more optimistic of myself with me completing the course without any scratches and managing my bike well, or was it the beginners’ luck ?