Well, the plan was to ride from Kanyakumari to Kashmir but due to the changing weather and political scenario in Kashmir we (Ratty and me) decided to postpone it for some other season. But we had to do a road trip together. I’d already invested heavily on the bike (A 1984 Royal Enfield Standard 350cc) bringing it up to running condition and also I had to calm my nerves. I couldn’t let another opportunity go by. It had been a while since I had done anything adventurous. So I told Ratty let’s do the coasts of South India. Ride from Bangalore to Chennai then head south to the southernmost tip to Kanyakumari and ride up again the west coast to Goa. Then head back to Bangalore cutting right through the Western Ghats. Another friend, Sandeep suggested I find some adventure sports along the way. That would make a more interesting film. Google maps said it’d come somewhere close to 3000kms. Now that’s a lot of distance to be covered. The maximum I had ever done was somewhere close to 400kms. This was a whole new ball game that too on an old bike. Would the bike perform or would we have to ship it back somewhere in between the journey? But mostly, would I be able to ride so much? Day in day out. Then I told myself “Well, I’ll know only if I try!”
Thus began our journey. Ratty landed in Bangalore two days prior to our journey and we took those two days for the final preparations. 0700hrs, 25th September 2016, I kickstarted the bike and pulled it out of the parking. Optimistic but with a hint of doubt about the trip, we thumped towards our first destination, Chennai.
Half way on the Electronic City Flyover the bike started coughing and jerking. It would cough and then become alright and cough again after some time. Hoping it would pass we continued on. A few kilometers after the flyover the intensity of the coughing just increased. Time for some differential diagnostics here.
We narrowed the problem to either the air fuel ratio or spark plug. Since the spark plug was new, it was ruled out. I pulled out a screwdriver and started adjusting the air fuel ratio in the carburetor. Now the ratio has two different components, the air screw and the fuel screw. All we needed to do was find the sweet spot. Adjust the ratio, ride for a while and see if the problem was solved. Adjust>Ride> Cough. Adjust>Ride>Cough. This went on for a little more than half an hr.
the bike had been giving me problems here and there for the past few years, but now it was more than I could handle. We stopped the bike, got out of it, tried calming my nerves with a cigarette but it didn’t help. I had almost lost it. That’s when I told Ratty, “Bro, there’s around 20liters of fuel in the bike, let’s just take it to the field and burn it or, find a lake and just dump it in there. “ We both looked at each other and started laughing. That’s when I realistically suggested we take the bike back home and take the bus instead. But he was pretty adamant to fix the bike. After some Googling and adjusting it to a lean (less fuel and less air) mixture the bike started to sing. After a few hiccups here and there, it smoothened out over time. I decided that this trip, the bike will not go over 70-75kms per hour and I kept my speed at a steady 60kmph. It was pretty frustrating in the beginning but later I got used to it. I wanted the bike to take us through the whole journey and not try to break a land speed record and risk the bike giving up even before we reach Chennai irrespective of how tempting the tarmac looked.
Now let me tell you, the seats on the bike weren’t that comfortable. Especially the pillion seat which was comparatively smaller than the riders seat and I pitied Ratty’s condition. So after unanimous voting we decided to take something that we called ‘Ass Breaks’. Ass breaks were break required after sitting on the bike for so long that it got ‘uncomfortably numb. Such breaks were normally scheduled after 50-60kms or 1 hour, whichever came earlier.
Around 160kms later, we reached a town in Tamil Nadu called Ambur. Now for a couple of years I always wanted to go to Ambur. What was so special about Ambur? Around 2010-2012 the Ambur biryani revolution had taken over Bangalore and almost every area in Bangalore had an Ambur Biryani joint. Those biryanis were pretty different than what I had ever tasted earlier and were the cheapest in town. So, I had to taste the biryani in its original place. As we thumped into Ambur it was a little early for lunch time. But hey, who said one could eat biryani only at specific times? So around 11-11:30 am we stopped at a restaurant called Star Biryani and mind you every other restaurant in town was called Star Biryani. So, if you are hoping to get some recommendation from me, I’m sorry I cannot be of any help! The biryani obviously tasted very similar to what was available in Bangalore but a little more polished and refined.
Hoping I wouldn’t feel sleepy in the hot weather during the ride, I chugged down some caffeine and rode towards Chennai. The road towards Chennai was smooth. No potholes, no traffic and best of all, being a two wheeler, no paying toll tax. Finally after riding around 350kms we thumped into Chennai around mid afternoon where an old childhood friend, Murgi gladly welcomed us to his home. In the evening we chilled around in the beach and called it a night. I was just glad to have reached with the bike still in one piece.