Chakrata Loner


Unbridled on a fast horse, The all new Apache 180 RTR.
Trip  date – 17/Jan/2010

Dilemma

Past few weeks have been busy and I wanted to get out the hub dub of life and decided to do something exciting today however the Sunday morning was foggy and it being particularly chilly left me in a dilemma over the trip, best thing now was to keep busy change your thoughts away from trip. Powering on my laptop, I went on to finish some work I had managed to drag from the past week. After about an hour later I felt hungry though it was not the time for breakfast still I left for the kitchen to prepare grilled sandwiches, the stuffing for which was readied last night in anticipation of the trip ;).

Sitting at the breakfast table I noticed a stack of answer sheets and a red plastic pen screaming, “What about us?” Ignoring them I continued munching sandwiches. As is the case with some of us primates, when our belly is full we think of something destructive to do and it became clear to me that now I want to do a lone trip to Chakrata. Checking answer sheets on Sunday, god forbid!

To be an Apache

Apache 180 white - TVS MotorsUnlike Avenger, which has a low rung stance, RTR’s riding felt like as if I was hanging on to the front handlebars. This forward tilt stance was a little too discomforting leaving me wondering why anyone would want to aggravate butt pain sitting like this on a bike. It was however an excusable point since this bike is targeted at youngsters, who love speed, me being a tourer kind wrestled for a while to figure out comfortable posture, where I could rest my butts nicely!

I had crossed Premnagar and was well tuned to driving this bike now and frankly for the first time understood the concept of sports bike and could associate the love my few biking friends (nomads) share with Bajaj’s Pulsar.

It’s amazing that how much nicer and planted on the road this bike feels compared to the heavy and low Avenger. Unlike my bike, RTR took the turns with a lot more confidence but just, though the bike is easy to manipulate, but it does have the flair of uncertainty in its straights especially at high speeds.

Shockers were absolutely fantastic, I never felt so pampered on a bike before. Sparse dents felt smooth, bigger potholes were absorbed nicely, rear shock’s nitrous dampeners worked flawlessly.

Engine & Breaking

The engine is rev-happy and silky smooth up till 65 kph, after which vibrations crept into the handle bar and the rear-view mirrors. Rear view mirrors were a complete let down because 1.) They are difficult to adjust, and 2.) When they vibrate they become completely useless. Avenger has better control over mirror vibrations. One seriously questions the wisdom of engineers who designed such a mess. The gear ratio was tailor-made for a highway drive, ‘throttle response’ is the keyword which means overtaking those nasty, fast and mean trucks is very easy. I did overtake a few time at +80 kph, still the engine was ready for more. Unfortunately, that also means that the bike is not suited for negotiating in the crawling city traffic, often making you depend on the clutch.

Speeding up is only half the part! Breaking is the other, and here the Apache does not disappoint. The 180 RTR has petal disc brakes on both the tyres, also ith the light kerb weight (137kg), the bike stops like a charm. But disc brakes are both boon and bane at the same time – while ‘breaking hard’ in a straight line the bike does not necessarily follow a straight stop, reason being that the rider’s weight shifts toward the front, changing the ‘centre of gravity’ and destabilizing the bike in the process.

The disc brakes at back provide good bite but not very right and is a bit too powerful for the skinny tyres it wields. I had a few scares earlier so as a rider I would have appreciated the availability of ABS at least as an optional accessory.

Drive

After Dakpathar, the cold started to seep into my clothes as I started shivering. Around 9:40am I entered Vikasnagar and made a stop at my cousin’s home. After a cup of tea and chat with the family, I was on my way to Kalsi. By now the sun was out, thinning the fog and reducing the cold.

The road till Kalsi is wide and accompanied with farmlands and jungles. But from Kalsi the roads shed width and climb till Chakrata. Like most of the roads in Uttrakhand, this road surface was also new.

Riding uphill bike worked its charm sometimes a little too much as it was too eager around the corners, because of the design or not, had difficulty keeping the handlebar straight in line. The worst part of this drive was not the narrow road or the loose rocks but the local drivers. These local taxis/jeeps are often overloaded with passengers with arms and legs jutting out of almost every part of the vehicle! Habituated to the road they manage to turn fast even on tight corners.

Dehradun - Chakrata route
Dehradun-Chakrata route map.

A long time back this route used to be a one-way drive. Gate pass system was used to regulate the traffic, wherein traffic was opened from one side at a time and the gates for the opposing traffic were closed till the last vehicle crossed the reaching gate. That was good then, but the local drivers seem to continue that trend on driving a supposedly vacant road or ‘gate pass’ era.

Presently I was nearing a small town which just opened up over a small bridge, lots of people in small groups randomly over it, only a few of them bothered to make way for the occasional vehicle that passed. Others simply stood around, chatting blissfully unaware of the fact that they were blocking traffic. I guess chatting on the bridge was a favourite pastime of the locals.

From here on it was a solitary drive on a warmed up hill being close to 11 am. I have reached a patch of the road which appeared to be darker than usual – the road was actually wet. It reminded me of my last misadventure. I slowed down and was struck by a gust of chilly air, this stretch being under the shade all day was colder, I could confirm it by noticing thin ice crystals along the road on the pale grass.

High birds

A soaring Eagle (Indian) near ChakrataAfter reaching a high hill far off places were visible a valley on one side and a part of town up on another side was visible, which I understood to be Chakrata, judging by the growth of deodar trees.

I noticed a big bird flying just over the ridge of the mountain on which the road was. Initially I couldn’t figure out the species, its size suggested a large eagle but the head was not a fit. Turned out it was a vulture instead and not the majestic bird I wanted to capture. By now more of them had appeared over the valley, gliding over some invisible ‘hot air current’ given the static posture of their wide-spread wings.

Shiv Mandir near ChakarataI had driven for not more than 10 minutes and had just crossed a temple when I saw a stout looking man, clean-shaven, and in his late thirties probably wearing heavy boots. He signaled for lift. Stopping near I asked him whether he was in army to which he replied in affirmative and requested me to drop him at Chakrata which was about 6kms away. It was not difficult to guess where he was headed. After dropping him off I went ahead towards the city of Chakrata and finding nothing of interest, went in to a Dhabha which serves tasty momo’s, ordered a plate and enjoyed it along with a cup of hot tea.

It was a slow day today as my watch ticked 12:30pm – just 3 hours have passed since I left home. I wanted to go to Mussorie which was about 80kms from here. Considering that it would take about 3-4 hrs on this slow stretch of road I dropped the idea and started to head back the route I came from.

Ergonomics

I clocked about an hour to reach down to Vikasnagar (about 40-45 Kms) with few rests in between. The bike which was comfortable up till now began to show is ugly side. Driving on the descent I experienced butt of all difficulties, ‘uncomfortable seating’ that was probably from the same reason the bent on tank posture, which requires you to move your upper body forward to reach handle bars properly as sitting straight means the handle bar is slightly out of reach.

This was the only really annoying thing the bike threw at me the whole day. I now have to think of a better plan if I ever want to take this bike for a long trip, which I plan to do in plenty in coming season. I was back at home by 3pm ready to look at answer sheets for the whole day leftover day :(.

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