A day with the 2018 Honda Africa Twin DCT

Ever encountered an off-roader without a foot shifter? Or one without a clutch lever?

The foot shifter is not present on the DCT version of the 2018 Honda Africa Twin, but an optional accessory!!

With the Africa Twin DCT-version, Honda has ventured into new territory, challenging the dogma of an off-roader. While the concept of riding an automatic motorcycle sounds boring, there is enough juice (89ps) and loads of brilliant electronics that engage the rider making it fun to putter around traffic, tarmac and hit the trails with gusto.

2018 Honda Africa Twin DCT Riding Experience in India

2018 Honda Africa Twin – DCT version – best experienced without the front screen!!

How does it feel to ride a DCT?

DCT stands for Dual Clutch Transmission, an automatic transmission technology that Honda first introduced in the 2009 VFR1200F, that has now tricked down to a variety of Honda motorcycles such as NC700/750 series, VFR1200 series, CTX700 series followed by the CRF1000L aka the Africa Twin.

On the Africa Twin, power from the engine to the final chain drive is transmitted via Drive (D) and 3 Sports (S) modes. There is a switch on the right-side switch gear to bring the motorcycle into Neutral (N).

City Riding:

In our congested cities, the DCT in D-mode is a bliss to ride akin to an automatic scooter, shifting is smooth and the transmission showed no signs of jerky/sloppy starts even upon riding all day along.

The gear choice in D-mode isn’t what I’d go with, but obviously the motorcycle never reaches the point of stalling with a too high gear or lurch by going too low. The Sports mode does the trick for spirited riding and tackling corners – allowing to hold the revs long enough.

Tackling the pothole laden city roads never seemed so much fun 😀

Off-Roading:

This is where the Africa Twin has been projected to shine – and it does with flair!! courtesy a controlled chassis pitch (a clever electronics system that controls chassis pitch upon closing the throttle by injecting a small/calculated amount of fuel into the cylinders to offset compression braking) and a beautifully tuned stock suspension.

The tank is narrow, so the bike feels thin, comfortable & inspires confidence to ride when sitting down or standing up.

Standing up & riding is simplified on the DCT with the gear-shift buttons, instead of hunting for the shift lever [eliminates the accidental down-shifts while standing up :D] and other body position shenanigans!!

The normal motorcyclist in me was constantly reaching out for the clutch-lever, which is actually a parking-brake lever 😛 [used to hold the bike on an incline].

Joy of off roading on a 2018 Honda Africa Twin DCT in India

Yeah I can go here as well 😀

Proud Owner of 2018 Honda Africa Twin DCT in India

NFS – proud owner of the AT and always happy to pose 🙂

Final Verdict:

Oodles of mid-range power, a healthy tank range of 350 kms, plush suspension to tackle all terrains, acres of space to tie luggage coupled with a DCT, a refreshing feature that – once you get used to, makes riding a bit more – simple, allows you to soak up the scenery and focus on the road.

While purists would disagree & may call this being lazy – I strongly urge them to ride the DCT-version of the Africa Twin to understand.

Riding a 2018 Honda Africa Twin DCT, 2016 Triumph Thruxton R and 2017 Ducati Multistrada Enduro in India

Great bunch of guys to ride with and their delicious steeds 🙂

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Awesome places around Bengaluru to shoot motorcycles

Bengaluru is blessed with beautiful terrains that make the perfect backdrop to shoot a motorcycle. Here are my favorite set of places around Bengaluru to take awesome motorcycle photographs:

1) Nelligudde kere
Orientation: Bidadi – Ganakallu Road [Google Maps Link]
Distance from Bengaluru: 25 kms
Where to eat: Renukamba Thatte Idly Bidadi

Bidadi Ganakallu Road - At Nelligudde kere Karnataka

Bidadi Ganakallu Road – At Nelligudde kere

2) Harohalli
Orientation: off pyramid valley international centre, Kanakapura Road [Google Maps Link]
Distance from Bengaluru: 37 kms
Where to eat: Vasu Hotel, Kanakapura

Kawasaki Versys 650 basking in morning glory - Pyramid Valley International Harohalli Kanakapura Road

Basking in the Morning Glory 🙂

[Image Credit – Nishanth N – Follow his Versys Adventures on Insta]

3) NICE Road – clover leaf
Orientation: look for an uphill road near the clover leaf [Google Maps Link]
Distance from Bengaluru: 20 kms
Where to eat: Cafe down the alley, Dwarka Nagar ( off the nice road toll booth)

2014 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R - Long Term Review

Off NICE Road – Clover Leaf [Shot during the sunset]

4) Bangalore – Hassan highway
Orientation: Yadiyur [Google Maps Link]
Distance from Bengaluru: 105 kms
Where to eat: Shark Food Court, Kannasandra

NH75 - Bangalore to Hassan Highway on a KTM Duke 390

An otherwise boring offers beautiful skies [shot during a sunrise]

5) Manchanabele dam
Orientation: reach Manchanabele via Ganakallu [Google Maps Link]
Distance from Bengaluru: 40 kms
Where to eat: Renukamba Thatte Idly Bidadi

Yamaha YZF-R3 at Manchanabele Dam Karnataka

Manchanabele Dam – beautiful all along 🙂

6) Ragihalli
Orientation: Ragihalli forest near Bannerghatta [Google Maps Link]
Distance from Bengaluru: 50 kms
Where to eat: Hotel Prasanna Kaggalipura

Exploring Ragihalli Forest near Bannerghatta Bangalore

Brilliant Forest Road !!

What are your favorite places to shoot motorcycle pics ?

Feel free to comment 🙂

A day with the 2016 Triumph Thruxton R

Being a super-sport enthusiast, a retro styled cafe racer was always a treat to the eyes, but never to ride – the Triumph Thruxton R shattered such opinions and how!!

Blessed with the goodies to rival performance nakeds, the Triumph Thruxton R boasts of fully adjustable Showa Big Piston Fork at the front and Ohlins at the rear , Pirelli’s diablo corsa tyres, ride-by-wire tech, 3 riding modes ( Road, Rain and Sport), Traction control, ABS (which can be turned off at the rear wheel) and not to forget a lighter crank 96 bhp engine based on the Bonneville T120.

Living with a 2016 Triumph Thruxton R in India

Such a looker!!

City commute: 
The delicious scoop of torque at the low-to-mid RPMs mated makes this a confortable motorcycle to putter around town.

Touring:
With a tank-range of 200-230 kms and a not-so aggressive riding position, the Thruxton R’s touring abilities shine on good and broken Tarmac. But, can handle bad roads courtesy the fully adjustable suspension.

Where the Thruxton R lacks is the ability to carry luggage , being a single seater.

2016 Triumph Thruxton R - Long term review in India

Neat Blend of Style and Performance

Things I love about the Thruxton R:

  • Suspension: Our varied road conditions and the notion of ‘one motorcycle that should do everything from touring to commuting to corner-carving etc’ can only be justified with fully adjustable suspension that can handle all !! The Showa and Ohlins combo do a fabulous job at fostering traction to the wheels at all times
  • Seat: the suede-seat is super comfortable without compromising the looks
  • Handling: being a retro-styled cafe racer, I didn’t expect corner-carving abilities, but the suspension and chassis come together beautifully to handle any inputs to change the direction
  • Looks: From the beautiful Monza-styled fuel tank cap to fuel injectors designed to look-like the old Amal carbs – this is the motorcycle to impress your tinder date !!
Monza styled fuel tank for 2016 Triumph Thruxton R

Gorgeous fuel tank with the Monza styled fuel cap 

2016 Triumph Thruxton R

All the right bells & whistles!!

Things I didn’t like:

  • Side stand: getting that side stand on/off with a street riding boot is an absolute pain – not much leverage 😦
  • Bar-end Mirrors: look stylish but offer nil visibility
  • Wind blast: very evident at speeds above 100kmph

The Triumph Thruxton R is a very relaxed and lovely motorcycle to ride – offering an incredible blend of style with performance and  built to turn heads on the road.

Living with a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R

Among other things, the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R has the distinction of being the first Japanese super-sport to boast of 200ps power output. The 2014 Ninja ZX-10R is blessed with a fair share of WSBK pedigree such as race-spec titanium headers ( thus eliminating the need to buy a full system exhaust), Showa Big Piston Forks (BPF), adjustable rear sets, re-positioned crank with lighter valves, race-derived S-KTRC (Sport Kawasaki Traction Control) system etc

All these translate into the real world by thrusting supreme confidence while riding the motorcycle even for a noob.
As much as litre-class motorcycles are built for a specific purpose , the 2014 edition can don multiple hats of a racetrack hooligan to a tarmac tourer to even a commuter.

2014 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R - Long Term Review

Mean in a beautiful way !!

The review will mainly touch upon the ‘much-proven non-racetrack abilities’ of the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.

City Commute:
Despite the wheelbase and it’s weight, the Ninja feels very easy to maneuver in traffic and certainly the coolest running litre-class motorcycle I have ever piloted in Indian traffic – the fact that no part of the aluminium frame is in contact with your inner thigh helps too.
An added factor being the 3 riding modes ( Full, Medium and Low) that aid easier throttle management in traffic or wet conditions.

Touring:
As long as the roads are well-paved, the ZX-10R is beautiful to pace all day at 20-25% of the rev range and the riding ergonomics makes it one of the least tiring super-sport to chug kilometers.
Options to mount luggage (Kriega US-series) or any other tail-packs – do not exist !!
Also the ZX-10R thrives on 95-octane+ fuel – which is hard to find once out of the city.

2014 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R in Bangalore

Hello Beauty!!

Things I love about the ZX-10R:

  • Engine: Beautifully balanced, smooth inline 4 engine tuned for optimal power for street or track riding. An additional secondary balancer shaft ensures smooth and linear power delivery across the rev range
  • LED Rev Counter on the Dash: Such a delight to see those LEDs light up as the Revs pick up and then Turing red upon reaching the redline – goosebumps!!
  • Adjustable Rear sets: The stock motorcycle comes with a 2-position adjustable rear sets which can alter the position of the rider foot pegs
  • On-the-go Mode Change: such a convenience to change either the power modes ( full medium and low) or the KTRC traction control while riding – no need to stop or adhere to procedures to toggle them
  • Suspension: For a full on sports-bike, the ZX-10R feels almost plush. Normal roads are dealt with graciously and low speed ride is sporty but excellent.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Power band: As with any litre-class through-bred which is expected to perform on a race track – all the power is stacked way higher up in the rev range, curtailing the low and mid range power.
  • Hazard Indicators: No 4-way/hazard indicators
  • Mirrors and Pillion Comfort: Are a lost cause!! except the functionality of embedded turn signal into the mirror they don’t serve any purpose
  • Mounting Luggage: courtesy the sharp slots on the top of the fuel tank , mounting a tank bag is not possible. Similar story about a tail bag too – no hooks to bungee or loop them around the rear seat.
Riding a 2014 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R - Long Termer

An intoxicating motorcycle, happy to rev higher and higher..

The Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R is a very well-rounded package offering a sweet spot between outright aggression for the racetrack and poise, ease to putter around in traffic and the occasional touring.

Weekend Ride Getaways from Bengaluru: Dam and Reservoirs

Weekend rides out of Bengaluru allows us to experience diverse terrains such as lush forests, functional or abandoned quarries, majestic hill forts, grand waterfalls, tranquil lakes, brilliant hill roads to ride and serene dam reservoirs.

Although Manchanabele dam, Thippagondanahalli Reservoir aka T G Halli Dam, Kanva Reservoir top the popularity charts – here are some serene, less-known dams and reservoirs around Bengaluru that make an ideal weekend one-day ride or drive destination.

Gundal Dam, Kollegal:
Located about 17kms from Kollegal town, the roads to this serene dam is brilliant all along except the last 5kms to the dam entrance – easily the biggest dam in the list, one can ride all the way on top of the dam and explore the backwaters.

Gundal Dam - Touring on the Triumph Daytona 675R and Yamaha R3

Gundal Dam

Useful Information on Gundal Dam:

  • Distance from Bengaluru: 158 kms
  • Location: Gundal Dam Google Maps link
  • What to See: Ask the locals for the partially submerged temple at Gundal dam (entry to the temple is governed by BRT Wildlife Forest Guards
  • No shade at the reservoir (recommend to carry shades, drinking-water and a hat)
  • Carry food/munchies to eat (please do not litter the place and carry back the waste)
  • Where to eat: Chowmein, Soupy Noodles & Momos at Dhondeling Monastery at Bailur, Kollegal
Chowmein and Soupy Noodles at Dhondenling Tibetan settlement kollegal

Chowmein and Soupy Noodles at Dhondenling Tibetan settlement

Harobele or Arakavathy Dam, Kunuru
Located near Kunuru (on the Kanakapura-Sangama road SH92), Harobele or Arakavathy dam is fed by the Arkavathy river is flocked by school kids on field-trips on weekdays and desolated on weekends.

Arai Quantum 2 helmet at Arakavathi or Harobele dam Karnataka India

Peace is its own Reward!! – At Harobele Dam

Useful Information on Arakavathy Dam:

  • Distance from Bengaluru: 80 kms
  • Location: Arakavathy Dam Google Maps link
  • What to See: How a dam works? (Wish teachers take students here for a demo instead of pictures )
  • No shade at the reservoir (recommend to carry shades, drinking-water and a hat)
  • Carry food/munchies to eat (please do not litter the place and carry back the waste)
  • Where to eat: Biryani at Sumukh Restaurant, Kanakapura town
Biryani At Sumukh Restaurant MG Road - Kanakapura town

Biryani At Sumukh Restaurant MG Road – Kanakapura town

Dandiganahalli Dam, Dandiganahalli, Gauribidanur
Located near Gauribidanur, Dandiganahalli is only frequented by the locals for fishing or that occasional theppa (coracle) boat-rides. The place is absolutely serene and the cool breeze makes a wonderful excuse for quick-nap

Dandiganahalli Dam near GauriBidanur Chikkaballapur

Dandiganahalli Dam

Useful Information on Dandiganahalli Dam:

  • Distance from Bengaluru: 90 kms
  • Location: Dandiganahalli Google Maps link
  • What to See: Its just a beautiful spot to spend time!!
  • No shade at the reservoir (recommend to carry shades, drinking-water and a hat)
  • Carry food/munchies to eat (please do not litter the place and carry back the waste)
  • Don’t be deceived by the huge water-body one would see before reaching Dandiganahalli
  • Where to eat: Masala Dosa & Filter Coffee at Nani Hotel, Vijayapura
Masala Dosa at Nani Hotel Vijayapura

Masala Dosa at Nani Hotel Vijayapura

Mavathur Reservoir, Kanakapura Road
Known by locals as Mavathur kere, this is a large man-made reservoir with levee on one side. Access to Mavathur kere is via a narrow-dirt road (you will do just fine on a motorcycle though!) and frequented by shepherds and their herd, this is a beautiful place to spend cool mornings or evenings!!

Mavathur Lake Kanakapura - weekend ride destinations from Bengaluru

Mavathur Reservoir – Peaceful!!

Useful Information on Mavathur Reservoir:

  • Distance from Bengaluru: 64 kms
  • Location: Google Maps link [Look for the left-turn after the Kalyani motors Maruti showroom (before Kanakapura town)]
  • What to See: Relish the water and the green fields around
  • No shade at the reservoir (recommend to carry shades, drinking-water and a hat)
  • Carry food/munchies to eat (please do not litter the place and carry back the waste)
  • Do not visit this place in a hurry, we wanted to spend an hour, but ended spending more than three
  • Where to eat: Masala Dosa, Kesari bath and Filter Coffee at Vasu Hotel, Kanakapura town
Masala Dosa at Vasu Hotel KNS Circle Kanakpura Karnataka

Masala Dosa at Vasu Hotel

Vani Vilas Sagara Dam, Chitradurga
One of the most scenic dams in Karnataka, Vani Vilas Sagara boasts of picture-perfect beauty with blue-water, windmills and hills as a backdrop and ignore the runaway-type highway to reach the dam.

Vani Vilasa Sagara Dam Chitradurga

Vani Vilasa Sagara Dam

Useful Information on Vani Vilas Sagara Dam:

  • Distance from Bengaluru: 181 kms
  • Location: Google Maps link
  • What to See: stunning views from the dam & brilliant roads!!
  • No shade at the reservoir (recommend to carry shades, drinking-water and a hat)
  • Carry food/munchies to eat (please do not litter the place and carry back the waste)
  • Carry a wide-angle lens and an SLR !! (Pano-mode on phone doesn’t justify to capture this beauty!!)
  • Where to eat: Thatte Idly with Vada and butter at Pavithra Idli Hotel, Kyathasandra OR Khali Dosa with Ghee at Sri Laxmi Bhavan Tiffen Centre, Chitradurga town
Khali Dosa at Sri Laxmi Bhavan Tiffin Room Chitradurga

Khali Dosa – Sri Laxmi Bhavan Tiffin Room

Thatte Idli and Vada at Pavithra Idli Hotel Kyathasandra

Thatte Idli and Vada at Pavithra Idli Hotel

A day with the Kawasaki Ninja H2

Some weekends are surreal!! Never did I dream of riding a full-fledged production motorcycle with a supercharger – the last motorcycle with forced induction to roll-out off a production line was in the 1980s.

Launched in 2015, the Kawasaki Ninja H2 is the world’s only supercharged production hyper-sport street-bike.  Held together in an electric green trellis frame, with the gorgeous star wheels and a brilliant silver mirror paint, the Kawasaki Ninja H2 looks like it appeared out of a worm-hole from another galaxy – imagine Silver Surfer meets a motorcycle!!

Kawasaki Ninja H2 Review in Bangalore

Kawasaki Ninja H2 – Best Relished on a Expressway!!

How does it feel to ride the Kawasaki Ninja H2 ?

It’s built for one and only one purpose “outright speed”.  Hammering this thing off the line is the only way to ride!!

Beyond 4000 rpm with all the electronics – its an absolute effort to keep the front wheel on the ground (even in 6th gear)

However, around a slow corner, the engine throws tantrums with abrupt throttle response, gas-on and everything is back to its best behavior 😀

The Ninja H2 is so mindbogglingly fast – 200 kmph is a joke and it’s just getting warmed up for more!! It commands absolute attention while riding and razor-sharp reactions of an experienced rider.

I have never experienced this kind of urgency and violence in a motorcycle to go so overwhelmingly fast.

Kawasaki Ninja H2 India Review

Stealth Bomber on Wheels !!

Kawasaki Ninja H2 in India - top view

Made to go fast, very fast!!

Some interesting facts about the Kawasaki Ninja H2:

  • The Compression Ratio on a Ninja H2 is a mere 8.5:1 which is the same as Royal Enfield Classic 500 (pun intended :D)
  • The Kawasaki Ninja H2 is the most commercially successful forced induction production motorcycle in the history
  • The logo/emblem on the front of the motorcycle is known as the ‘Kawasaki River Mark’. The River Mark is a long-time Kawasaki symbol that dates back to the 1870s created by Shozo Kawasaki, founder of Kawasaki. Since then the symbol has been adopted by KHI Group (Kawasaki Heavy Industries) to express the company’s technology, originality and innovation.
  • There is NO Start button, but a Ignition ON/OFF Slider on the handle to crank the motorcycle
  • The stunning paint job on the Kawasaki H2 boasts of using pure silver to create the mirrored effect !!
  • Attention to Aerodynamics:
    • The chin spoiler on the upper front cowl (below the headlight) is function disguised in form,  that contributes to generating more down-force
    • There is a slot to tuck the bum of the rider into the seat for more aerodynamic position and also as serves as an anchor during the had acceleration

Hold on, no review of the Kawasaki Ninja H2 is complete without mentioning the ‘Orgasmic rasp of the supercharged engine’. Blip the throttle and the supercharger whirs and whistles – sheer music to a motorcyclist!!

Living with a Kawasaki Ninja H2 in Bangalore - India Review

A Hoot to Ride + the intoxicating music from the supercharger!!

It sounds like nothing else on the road and feels like nothing else too!!

Off Road Riding Experience at Big Rock Motopark – What to Expect

For an average Indian motorcyclist who thrives on commuting and touring, avenues to experience dirt riding on a proper off-road motorcycle or a dirt bike didn’t exist, until a certain C.S Santosh opened Big Rock Motopark in 2013.

Big Rock Motopark is a one of a kind off-road riding training facility at Shapur near Kolar – that is spread across a 45-acre operational farm with a mini-forest, a poultry-farm, vast spaces of dirt trails and a proper off road track.

Off Road Training Programs:

Although they coach professional off-road riders to compete in Indian and International off-road races, their Moto Day programs are aimed to cater the dirt-dreams of enthusiasts. Beginners/Enthusiasts can choose from either a half-day (4-hour) or a full-day (8-hour) training program.

The half-day program has 2 slots to choose from:

  • 8 am to 12 pm (breakfast will be provided)
  • 1 pm to 5 pm (lunch will be provided).
Navigating a Mogul on the Off-road Track at Big Rock Motopark Shapur Karnataka

Joshua , our instructor – Navigating a Mogul!!

Useful Information on Big Rock Motopark:

  • How to book:
    • Contact Information: Reach out to Mr. Nilesh (+919945011116) or Mr. Joshua (+919945205508) to book a slot for the off road program [PS: Don’t reach out to the number on Google – it’s an incorrect number]
    • Expect to follow-up a couple of times, since these guys are full-time professional riders & not available throughout to attend phone calls to take a booking – so be patient!
    • Advance Booking of 1 week is sufficient
  • When to do:
    • Avoid taking up the program during summer – way too hot to ride!
    • The Motopark may close during rains – feel free to call Nilesh/Joshua to check the availability
  • A minimum of 3 persons are required to book a batch and maximum of 6 per batch (since they only have 6 motorcycles)
  • Motorcycles they provide for the training: Honda CRF 230 dirt bikes
  • Cost per rider: INR 6,000 (for half day) and INR 10,000 (for full day)
  • Fees to be paid in Cash at the venue or via online transfer – no card payment or PayTM payment is accepted
  • Complete Riding Gear such as helmet, riding gloves, riding armor (upper & lower), riding overalls (upper & lower), riding boots and dirt googles would be provided by Big Rock Motopark [people with waist size > 36, better to get a pair of jeans upon which the knee armor can be worn]
  • Carry hydrating drink/powder with essential salts (electoral, Gatorade etc.)
  • Location: Shapur, Karnataka Google Maps Link
Approaching a ramp on the Off-road Track at Big Rock Motopark Shapur Karnataka

Off-road Track: Approaching a ramp for a take off!!

Course Structure for Beginner/Enthusiast for the Off Road Riding Program:

The course has three main components:

  • Safety Briefing & Theory: Introduction to Dirt Bikes, Basics & Rider Body Posture, Motorcycle geometry – how this affects the way they need to be ridden etc.
  • Off Road Track Laps: They have a proper off road track with obstacles such as jumps, ramps, berms, moguls etc – the intent is to get used to riding a dirt bike by standing-up, arms position, torque of the motorcycle, rear-wheel slides, loading the front suspension during a turn, gear changing with off-road boots etc.

   Each track sessions lasts for about 15 excruciating minutes followed by a break and back to the track for more sessions

  • Dirt Trails: This involves riding the forest trails within and outside the farm to tackle real-life obstacles such as downhill dirt roads, boulders, sand-bed, small-to-medium rocks etc. Dirt Trails last anywhere between 2 to 3 hrs (I was absolutely knackered and drained after this.)
Dirt Riding Forest Trails at Big Rock Motopark Shapur Karnataka

Forest Trail – Dirt Riding!!

Personally, in spite the horrifying realization of how unfit I am to ride a dirt bike and the immense amount of fitness and training these guys invest – I had an absolute blast with the best of my mates and thoroughly enjoyed the day at Big Rock Motopark – can’t wait to go again!!

Here is a preview of what to expect at Big Rock Motopark – Ride On!!

Video & Image Credits: Nishanth N (Follow him on YouTube and Instagram)