Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Monday, November 25, 2013
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Saturday, November 23, 2013
Friday, November 22, 2013
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Monday, November 18, 2013
Way back in September this year, Helmet Stories' Harsh Man Rai was in London for the international launch of the much awaited Continental GT, Royal Enfield's latest offering to the Gods of speed, style and nostalgia. We are headed off for Rider Mania, Goa this week and then for the Indian launch of the Continental GT in an action packed week. Watch this space for photos, updates, news and happenings at both these events in the inimitable Helmet Stories style. Meanwhile, just before the India launch, here's Harsh's London report on the Royal Enfield's emotional bid for your retro-modern heart with the Continental GT. This article first appeared in EVO India magazine in the premiere October 2013 issue.
The Royal Enfield Continental GT has perhaps been the company’s worst kept secret. Ever since the café racer concept was revealed to adoring Enfieldistas, both at home and abroad at the Indian Auto Expo in 2012, whispers around the Internet and numerous sightings had sustained the hype around this motorcycle. We knew it would have a 535cc mill, we knew it wouldn’t have Ohlins doing shock duty, we knew it would feature a twin downtube cradle chassis crafted by Harris Performance, we knew that Royal Enfield had tipped their hat to their past once again and based the design on the 1965 Continental GT 250cc, and we knew it would be red. But, other than a select few, we had no idea how it would ride.
In a cunning masterstroke, Royal Enfield decided to launch of the Continental GT at the legendary Ace Café, the spiritual home of the ton-up rockers on the North Circular Road in northwest London. Early last month on a brisk English morning the forecourt of the Ace was a sea of luscious red and winking chrome where 40 spanking new Continental GTs were laid out for a bloat of international journalists, many among them the bleary-eyed who had flown 30 hours the day before to attend the launch. The nattiest journos were the trim-waisted Japanese in their vintage leathers and pudding bowl helmets, goggles dangling nonchalantly from their hand.
The Continental GT looks like a million dollars and Royal Enfield has nailed the retro racer look perfectly. Liveried in the heritage GT red body paint, the low-and-long fuel tank with knee recesses, clip-on bars, the solo seat complete with a cowl, the chrome engine and upswept exhaust providing a pleasing contrast. The twin-cradle frame is bookended by a conventional 41mm fork and a pair of preload adjustable Paioli gas-charged shocks. The 18-inch Excel aluminum wheels wear Pirelli Sport Demons that have a period-correct look, size 110/90-18 front and 130/70-18 rear. Up front, two-piston Brembo calipers pinch a 300mm floating disc, while at the rear a 240mm disc, single piston floating caliper help to haul down the bike from speed.
There are a few things more mechanically satisfying in this world than kick starting a motorcycle to life (electric start is there, if you must, but remember this is the Ace Cafe) and hearing the snarl of a well-tuned single. First stop on the ride is Brooklands, the first purpose-built banked motor race circuit in the world that opened in 1907 when the speed limit in Britain was subject to a blanket 32 kph speed limit on public roads. The track has fallen into disrepair long ago but is regarded as the birthplace of British motorsport and aviation and the site of many engineering and technological achievements. Today the Brookland Museum displays a wide range of Brooklands-related motoring and aviation exhibits. A few minutes into my 35-km ride, I had already developed a great appreciation for the Continental GT’s air-cooled, 535 engine and with the excellent Keihin-FI injection system nowhere in the rev range did I find a hint of hesitation or sign of a stumble, just precise fueling. The comfortable seat isn’t too high (or too low) for my 30-inch inseam, allowing my boots to be firmly planted at stops. The smallish bar-end mirrors offer an excellent rear view, while the twin clocks provide just the pertinent information via a pair of analog gauges and a small LCD display. The reach to the clip-on bars has my torso fairly upright over the tank but the relaxed yet not-too-lazy slightly sporty rear sets allow me to tuck in my elbows and hunker down at higher speeds. Around town, the GT carries its claimed 185-kg curb weight well, providing agile handling. The power of the front brakes, as well as the feel, is excellent and I felt little need to feather the rear disc even in the stop-and-go London traffic. A few runs on the short useable part of Brooklands banked circuit and we are off to Brighton and are promised 90 km of some twisties and flat-out motorway sections.
Every ride is too short when the bike is good, right? Well, I can’t complain, because my small taste of the Royal Enfield Continental GT left me with a very positive first impression. Very few bikes have felt as instantly familiar as the GT did after such a short ride and the nostalgic cool is just icing on a very tempting cake. Royal Enfield’s modern take on its original ’65 Continental GT 250 isn’t incredibly fast, terribly sporty or amazingly cutting-edge: the new GT’s a bike you just hop on like you used to do, especially when you’ve got no particular place to go. Nostalgic it might be and a feast for some eyes, but it’s also a super-functional, easy-to-ride motorcycle. The character is there when you’re riding, and you get it without all that character building in the garage. And when all you want to do is go on a ride, what better bike than a fully modern but totally authentic blast from the past? Royal Enfield has delivered. The café racer is back.
Monday, November 11, 2013
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Who are you?
The name's Jay, DR Jay. Not doctor, but Dualsport Rider ;) Born in India but raised in Zambia, I was a nomad from the get go. Home isn't really a place for me but more a state of mind. I came back to India to finish up at a boarding school in the south and then went to the States for engineering.
When did you first get interested in bikes?
I used to vacation at my parents' villages outside Chennai and got hooked on feeling the wind in my face while standing up in front of scooters and then eventually had my first lessons on my uncle's Hero Honda. But it was in the US, at Purdue, where I got really interested. I was part of a college engineering team, Formula SAE, that designed and built a mini race car using a 600cc motorcycle engine to compete against other colleges. Almost everyone on the team had sportbikes and being the test driver for the team over the summer really got me hooked on the power and thrill of high performance machines.
What was your first bike you ever owned?
I had an internship in South Florida and was set on finding an old 600cc Japanese sportbike to learn on. During my search, I came across this red 1995 Ducati 900SS at the back of a shop and asked the owner to fire her up. The ear-gasm that followed made me scrounge up whatever funds I had, doubling my budget for this first bike, and I promptly bought it. But, I was too scared to ride it! I sold it at the end of that summer and bought a more proper first bike, a 1992 Suzuki GS500 and learned how to ride on her around the vast campus of Texas A&M. Then I got a job in Chicago and after repeatedly hitting the redline in every gear on the GS500, I plonked down for a brand new 2004 Suzuki GSX-R600, which eventually racked up 80,000 kms by touring all over the US and taking in a few track days.
|Jay rode the GSX-R for 5 years all over North America racking up almost 50K miles|
What was the first real trip you and your bike took?
My first real motorcycle trip was a four-day ride from Chicago to the backroads of Arkansas. I mapped out a route that connected as many twisting roads as possible and spent a day on the highway getting there, two days in riding bliss on endless twisties and a day on the highway back. I was hooked. Next up was a 10 day trip into eastern Canada.
You spent three years riding from Chicago to New Delhi. How? What? Why?
In March 2010, I had quit my job, sold my house and everything else that wouldn't fit on my Suzuki DR650, named sanDRina, and we left Chicago with the plan of moving back to India. I had a rough idea of the route and the time-frame but there was no concrete plan. In the end, I rode through 33 countries on 5 continents, covering 103,200 kms and cooked 56 chicken curries along the way. The journey took me through Latin America, Europe, Africa and across India. When the road ran out, we took a ship across open waters. It was a slow journey with lots of breaks along the way, including a year in Kenya. There were many reasons for taking this journey. On all my previous trips before this big trip, I felt more at home on the road, traveling on a motorcycle, than at home going to office and running that cycle. I took that as a sign that perhaps I needed to go on a long journey. Other reasons would be that I love spending time in wildernesses and a dualsport bike can take you to some far out places on the planet, like the salt flats in Bolivia, the vastness of Patagonia, the harsh Sahara desert and our sublime Ladakh!
What kind of preparations did you make for a ride like this?
I was planning on living on my motorcycle for three years on the road, so firstly, I had to figure out what kind of bike would that be. I settled on the Suzuki DR650 because it's a dualsport machine, capable of off-road and on-road riding, has simple technology (air-cooled, carbureted, steel chassis) and is cheap to acquire and maintain, compared to the other options on the market. I traveled with a DR650 for three years before I left on my trip, making short trips to Mexico, Alaska and down the Continental Divide of the US. On each trip, I slowly figured out how to pack my panniers, exactly how much clothing was needed (much less than you think!), what kind of camping gear to carry and what kind of tools and spares to take. Also, on each trip, something went wrong. I had an accident in Mexico, engine trouble in Alaska and another injury-inducing accident on the Continental Divide. In each situation, I figured out how to carry on and persevere, which was good training for the big trip for many things did go 'wrong' but in the end provided for great stories. For a detailed setup of the bike setup, check: http://bit.ly/sanDRina
How do you pack for 3 years on the road?
The kit I carried can be sorted into these categories: riding gear, off-bike gear, camping gear, trip documenting gear and bike tools and spares. My riding gear consists of my Motoport Kevlar Air Mesh suit and thin base layers that go underneath. I had some thermals for layering in the cold and rain protection gear. Off-bike gear consisted of one pair of cargo pants that zipped-off into shorts and about four synthetic mesh shirts. My footwear, besides my Oxtar TCX motocross boots, was a pair of Keen sandals that look like a cross between a shoe and a sandal. Camping gear consisted of a one-man tent, mini air mattress, sleeping gear, petrol camping stove and a small cooking pot set. Trip documenting gear consisted of my laptop, SLR camera, GoPro, hard drives and iPods. I probably carried way too many bike tools and spares but I needed them at some point or the other and wouldn't leave anything behind if I were to do it again. My most important tool was my Leathermen Wave multi-tool; it's like a Swiss army knife on steroids. Here's a full list of everything I carried: http://bit.ly/jay-rtw-stuff
|Jays Kit consisted of Riding gear, off-bike gear, camping gear, trip documenting gear, tools and spares.|
Most importantly what bank did you hold up to pay for the ride?
The bank that held my savings! I did this trip on a minimal budget and even spent less than I expected as I stayed with local hosts all along the journey using networks like CouchSurfing.org and contacting local motorcycle clubs. It's strange, but there's an old adage among long-term travellers - the slower you go, the cheaper it gets. It might cost you nearly the same amount to do a 2 month trip through South America compared to a 6 month trip. If you haven't gone on a long journey, it'll be hard to understand how this works but trust me, it does. The message is to travel slowly and you'll go far on a modest budget.
What was the best and the worst stretches of road that you encountered in three years on the road?
There were so many best roads! And I captured them all on my GoPro. If I had to highlight a few, they would be riding anywhere in Bolivia, the Cloud Forest Route in northern Peru, the TransAmazonica across the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, the road across the Simien Mountains in northern Ethiopia, the Turkana Route in Kenya, off-roading in northern Mozambique and of course, the Manali-Leh Highway. The worst stretches would be anywhere I encountered deep mud since that isn't ever fun. Sand, corrugations, rocks all can be fun if you have the bike set up properly but mud is never fun. I encountered such mud in Bolivia and Ethiopia. You see, my favorite countries also habour the worst stretches, so it's not an easy question!
The Arbol de Piedra (Tree of Stone) at 15,000 ft in the Bolivian Andes.
|Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa, looking towards India.|
|Rohtang La just the way it should be.|
|Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world, Bolivia.|
|Chasing wild zebras along the dry shore of Lake Turkana, Kenya.|
|Bike resting in northern Kenya.|
|Lots of mud to ride through in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda|
|The Road of Death - Not somewhere you want to loose your keys|
Now what is your dream ride?
I'm dreaming about a ride that takes me from India, through Pakistan on the Karakoram Highway into China and then from Kashgar along the Pamir Highway of the 'Stans into the Wakhan Corridor of northeast Afghanistan, which is safe from all the troubles there since it's really hard to get to. And then I'd like to continue on into Mongolia and the Road of Bones in Siberia!
Whats parked in your garage right now?
There's still only sanDRina, my trusty Suzuki DR650 but a friend has let me borrow their Royal Enfield Thunderbird, which I'm thoroughly enjoying.
Where are you riding to next?
At the moment I'm exploring Delhi and its surroundings and I'll be heading to India Bike Week in Goa and Rider Mania in Chennai.
Do you have any advice for all those aspiring motorcycle nomads?
I'd like to think I'm an ambassador for Slow Travel. Take it slow. If you have only a few days off, don't think you have to cover huge distances, but go somewhere that is different to your place and let the pace of the journey reveal some adventures to you. And remember that you can have an adventure halfway around the world or just in your backyard. It's all about your perspective.
|Camping in northwest Argentina|
|Setting up camp at Spitzkoppe in the Namib Desert|
I am sure there are many more stories and pictures that are coming our way. Where can we find them?
Check out my website at http://JamminGlobal.com for detailed photojournals of my entire journey. I'm still finishing it up but there's tonnes of photos and a few videos to take you along on the journey.
|New Delhi the last stop on the 3 year journey.|