Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rohtang pass: conquered on the RE

Here I was with a vehicle that I would avoid buying since it’s brochure does not score high on any of: Max power, 0-100 sprint time, mileage. However, motorcycling is more about spirituality and less about practicality. And this is where the Bullet makes a mark. It took me 6000 metres to figure out why the Royal Enfield commands such respect. To date, I more or less considered it as a machine bought by people who are trying too hard to project themselves as macho males (which is to some extent still  true). Bullet enthusiasts can curse me for my narrow mindedness, but while you are at it: I’d like you to blast those very brainless idiots who keep driving Bullets without a purpose (and hence lead to wrong perceptions about the machine amongst people like me).
It took a while to get used to. Though I’ve test ridden a lot of REs before, this was the first time I was using it for a proper drive. We had chosen a worn out aged Electra (this was one of the very first piece rolling out of the factory) with a custom tank. The weight takes a while to get used to. Of course, starting is a problem in the cold and so was parking, idling and turning at slow speeds. Nothing good till now, it just seemed a bit.. errr.. different.

As altitude rose, the roads deteriorated and the snow cover increased as did the majesticity of the Himalayas. It was a fierce climb and no matter what gear I put the Electra into, the needle just did not budge beyond 50 kmph at full throttle. The street smart bikes from Honda, Bajaj, Yamaha or TVS could’ve managed higher speed beyond doubt.
So since those street machines put down power more scientifically and efficiently, they ought to be faster here right??

Allow me elaborate. On the Electra, we managed to negotiate those treacherous turns at speeds upwards of 40 kmph. On a R15 or an Apache, I would have had to reduce speed to a fraction to stay within safety limits. The sluggish manner of power delivery also meant that I never had to bother about traction for the rear wheel while accelerating. I have horrid memories of the rear wheel of my 200 Pulsar giving away on a climb when I opened the throttle moderately in gear 2. Thought of a similar instance on this kind of terrain makes my spine shiver. For here, it is not just a fall; it is The END.  Finally, the very obvious advantage of the RE is its impeccable balance. The heavy machine challenges you to bend at high speeds, drive through loose gravel and rocky surface all the while enticing you to push it more.

I have always been fascinated by the Himalayas and have been fortunate enough to have witnessed them a couple of times: courtesy my travel& drive-happy parents.. But it is this time that the reality, the enormity and the magnificence of the Himalayas sank in like never before.

Never before had I witnessed all this. There cannot be a whiter white, bluer sky, higher heights, purer air and chillier chill than that day.. The snow, the sky and the mountains made for a pilgrimage together. There was no human habitation visible for miles & miles, just pure white behemoths surrounding us. There was little left of the road as the melting snow was gobbling it up continuously. We navigated cautiously through the last miles until where the road was open. We had long forgotten as to when we had seen another vehicle and the reason was obvious. The road we were moving on was theoretically closed. It was impossible for a four wheeler to reach this place and even for a bike, it was too adventurous.
Then, the road reduced to a thin black path contrasting the snow all around it. Going on was too risky and I was not sure if our bodies could withstand more. The road was so narrow that turning the bike around was going to be a challenge too. The sun was disappearing fast as well. I felt there were several less painful ways of committing suicide than driving on this road at night.

I conveyed this to Prasad and told him it was just impossible to drive on. Prasad was visibly disappointed. From what I could figure: his relationship with nature is a romantic one. But he too realized that this was not the time and neither were we aptly equipped for this adventure. Our limbs were devoid of any kind of sensation for there seemed to be a disconnect between the brain and other body parts. We could sense our brain sending orders to the hands but our eyes confirmed that the hands never reacted the way they were expected to. How Prasad managed to click photos or I managed the throttle, clutch and gear is still a mystery.

Hence with a heart that had been bashed up by the logical part of the brain, I turned back. The picturesque mountains of the return journey did lift up our spirits again.
Special thanks to Prasad for the pics, being a wonderful conversationalist and most importantly: being hell bent on going on..

Words are too shallow for the Royal Enfield motorcycle. You have to experience it yourself to know what purpose it works for. I started as a skeptic and returned a believer of the Royal Thunder..

However, this remains an unfinished business. Rohtang pass eventually leads to Leh-Ladakh. That 400 Km drive is the ultimate lakshya.. The toughest road beckons.

The discovery that their offspring is upto things that have no remote correlation with the nation’s GDP or betterment of the society is great disappointment for my parents. Though they love their child, they do not think very highly of his intelligence. Yet the brat perceives such trips as highly productive. For this experience liberates your soul, humbles you in front of the mighty Himalayas.


  1. Wow man!! this is really something. you didn't take the guided tour did you? :-) you just went ahead of..... well all civilation!! beautiful snaps by Prasad. and I love the ending. hahaha.

  2. And trips like this are ALWAYS important - regardless of what anyone might think. Keep biking dost :-)

  3. Practical applications of my bullet:
    1. Used corners to file the base of the bike stand (with sparks).
    2. Jumped speed breakers at 70 without feeling the need for a helmet.
    3. Unlimited slides (flat and curved) whenever it rained.
    4. Evaded Kullu with a flat front tyre (after rear ending a Karizma).
    5. Was always the last bike to be impounded. (because of weight)
    6. Made a mock rape trick ("ye shortcut hai") much more believable as the headlamp was fused.
    7. No flat tyre in 4 years.
    8. Indicators also indicated last night's rainfall level (accumulated water).
    9. Made me and some of my friends realize the importance of life without taking it away (Seriously, the bike cannot go turtle, believe me, i tried).

  4. Shubham Prakash. That is precisely why I want to buy a bullet. And buy one I shall.. Very soon :)

  5. respect for changing ur stance. cheers re!

  6. Nice informative and adventurous post on Rohtang pass. Its a very dangerous pass between Kullu Valley and the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys. Due to heavy snow and landslides, it remains closed hence the visitors should check the Rohtang Pass open status before planning a visit there.