Now this one’s going to be quite a long post. The reason? Well, this was my last ride in my Classic 500, also my first solo ride across states, my first REunion and also the ride that cleared my dilemma and made me buy an Interceptor. A couple of months after this ride, I sold my 500 and got the Incy and a year after this ride, here I am, stuck in quarantine thanks to COVID-19 and penning down my final post as a rider of the beautiful Squadron Blue Classic 500.
As you can see in the map, it’s evident that I didn’t plan on getting to Coorg directly. With ample time in hand, I decided to touch Kerala with a stop in Bangalore for a night before I head to Coorg to attend the REunion of 2019. I started on 13th of March 2019, reached Bangalore in about four hours, met a couple of my friends and crashed there for the night. The next day, the 14th, I started at around 6:30 am and reached Wayanad by 12, right in time for lunch. Then after a night at Wayanad, I started on 15th to Coorg at 11 because the weather was brilliant and Coorg is just a few hours from Wayanad. I was at Coorg by 1:30 pm. The event went on till 16th late night, following which I started back to Bangalore around 9:30 pm with two of my friends and reached Bangalore around 4:30 the next day morning. After a deep slumber and brunch we left to Chennai on 17th and reached home a few hours post-sunset.
I started off from Chennai at around 27,536 (clicked the picture about 20 kms from home in the highway) and when I got back, my odometer read 29,015. The total distance I covered in this ride was approximately 1500 kms.
By then, I had gotten all the basics covered as far as accessories for the bike or gears for me are concerned. Considering the nature of this ride, I decided on investing in a hydration pack. I went with the suggestion of fellow riders and bought the BTwin 700 Hydration Pack from Decathlon.
The Hydration Pack is easily one of the best investments I’ve made. Not only does it store a couple of litres of water in the pouch inside. it also doubles as a backpack that has enough space to carry the necessary bike documents and small objects such as chargers.
I also bought a backpack cover from Decathlon for my Royal Enfield backpack. They have three sizes if I am right and though the Rs 499 large cover was a little big for the backpack, it did the job pretty well with bungee cords on them.
What actually happened
Oh boy, here we go! Riding through different states on my own had been a plan for a long time and when Coorg was selected as Royal Enfield’s REunion South 2019’s destination, something in me said this is the trip I had to do. Ironically, unlike most of my other rides, I didn’t plan much for this trip. Armed with a huge covered backpack, a tank bag and the Hydration Pack, I, as usual, overpacked and started the trip.
Until coming face to face with Bangalore’s traffic, it was quite a pleasant ride. Stopped by a temple for a tender coconut break and enjoyed the company of monkeys that were basking in the temple. Once in Bangalore, I was too lazy for heading out to dine and went with Swiggy for lunch. After a quick nap, I met a friend who took me out for dinner. Post that, I hit the bed and got up around 5:30 am. By 6:30 am, I was back on the road, heading to Wayanad via Mysore.
The ride towards Wayanad was fun too until I had to cross the Nagarhole National Park and Tiger Reserve. For starters, the navigation system collapsed thanks to the lack of connectivity. The park was absolutely devoid of any human activity minus the occasional jeep that crossed me on the opposite side. I couldn’t even zip past the stretch because at every 500 odd meters or so, the roads were laced with unmarked speed-breakers. I ended up jumping a little off the saddle whenever I couldn’t spot one as early as I wanted. During the entire time, I did not even see a single two-wheeler which, to be honest, kinda terrified me – so much that I started speaking to my bike requesting her to not have any issues till we cross this park. I entered Kerala while still being inside the park and while that gave a sense of confidence, I was stopped by a team of Kerala cops who were stopping every vehicle that was crossing that road. I had all the necessary documents including a Pollution certificate that’s often necessary while driving through this side of the country. From the way they conversed, it was apparent that they were just trying to make a quick buck off of tourists. After pissing them off for carrying everything, I reached Wayanad.
After unpacking everything in my modest hotel that’s perfect for a single person, I enjoyed some brilliant beef curry and appam – coz, Kerala. Later in the evening, I indulged myself in a bit of sight-seeing. The evening involved a few view-points, a park and a tea break at a shop that served saffron tea. Post another good night’s sleep, I started quite late towards Coorg which was merely a few hours away from Wayanad – which also meant I was exiting Kerala and stepping into Karnataka once again.
Once in Coorg, it wasn’t tough to find the property where the event was happening – all the Royal Enfield bikes were going towards it! After parking and getting my room, I ventured out to find fellow rider friends who had come in earlier straight from Chennai. Two of them had recently bought the Interceptor and I got to ride them. I had previously had my shot when I rode both the new 650s when it was launched in Goa in early 2019 where, as a journalist, I had the opportunity to spend quality time and a couple of hundred kilometres with them. This time, I got to try bikes which are a few thousand kms old which gave a clear perspective on how good the bike was. As far as my Classic 500 was concerned, I was getting vibrations from the clamp that held the pair of lights which I had mentioned earlier in one of my previous ride posts. So thanks to friends, I was able to venture out of the property to get that sorted out too in a nearby mechanic shop.
The event per se, despite not being as huge as Rider Mania or as happening as BOBMC, was still a decent one with a good turnout of people. The competitions were fun too and like in every ride based event, we got to meet and discuss with riders from different corners of the country. While I was planning to start back on 17th morning and reach Chennai in one shot, my friends who wanted me to join them made an impromptu plan to leave on 16th night itself. And post a heavy dinner with aims of sleeping tight, I was informed of the decision and in the next 30 minutes, I was waving goodbyes to some friends and was out of the hotel towards Bangalore. Talk about surprises!
If riding at night, on roads that we aren’t used to and in an area where roads are almost non-existent at certain sections, weren’t enough, we had to cross another national park in this darkness. The Classic 500 was obviously no match for the Interceptor’s power and braking capabilities and one of my friend had also installed a powerful headlight on his bike that was very helpful. I made him the lead, the other friend with another Interceptor as my sweep and I sandwiched myself between them thanks to my lesser-powered vehicle. Apart from the headlight in my bike and the light from the bike ahead, the park region was completely dark. While cruising through it at triple-digit speeds, I saw a huge grey figure that was surrounded by the blackness of the dark. Only when I was extremely close to it, I realised that a huge elephant was trying to cross the road and he/she was already halfway on the road. My senses went into overdrive immediately and I was able to steer-away at the nick of time. When we crossed the park and stopped at a tea shop, we literally had goosebumps because of whatever we saw.
We reached Bangalore in the wee hours of the morning and hit the bed straight. The next day, post a decent brunch, we headed to Chennai. The welding of the clamp couldn’t tolerate the vibrations my bike is known for and both the lights dangled from the bike thanks to the bolts falling off somewhere. Somewhere on the road, I was able to find some nylon ropes which I used to tie down the lights and with it, we successfully reached our destination by evening.
This ride is, by far, the best I have been on. Apart from the fact that I had never been on a bike for so long alone, the change in terrains, language, food and people makes it a memorable ride. Ironically, it was also my last in that brilliant Classic 500 which I then sold and bought a Baker Express Interceptor 650. Though I had taken the new bike for rides such as Yelagiri and Pondicherry, I am yet to experience super-long rides on the Incy which I am hoping to do soon and make posts on. How does a tour of Kerala after this lockdown sound like?