Shivank goes Multistrada-ing yet again with the Ducati Dream Tour – this time to the Land-of-the-Kings.
For a motorcycle nut, who loves travelling and has been following MotoGP for virtually half his life, the dream of having an exotic motorcycle, riding it through exotic locations and meeting MotoGP legends comes as naturally as music came to Beethoven. But that’s not the interesting part. What if this dream becomes a reality, even if for a couple of days? I’d say it would be nothing less than a miracle.
Well, miracles do happen, and that’s precisely what happened to me during the Ducati Dream Tour of Rajasthan. Not only did I get to ride a kickass Ducati through some exquisite locations, but also had an amazing conversation with a current MotoGP rider and spent over four days with like-minded and passionate motorcyclists. If this is not a dream come true, then what is?
Now, this wasn’t my first ‘Dream Tour’ with Ducati. Another of my dreams had come true last year – what can I say? I have many – when I tagged along with them for their maiden Leh-Ladakh ride. I had the time of my life on that trip, and it was an adventure of epic proportions. So, naturally, when Ducati India invited us for the Royal Rajasthan expedition, I jumped at the opportunity before any of my colleagues could even think about having a go at it.
Once my participation was confirmed, the good folks at Ducati India even gave me the option to choose between two bikes for the ride – the Scrambler 1100 and the utterly bonkers Multistrada Pikes Peak. The decision was an easy one to make – the mighty Multi, of course.
With my ride sorted, the next thing to do was to check the itinerary of the tour. It was a 5-day ride that covered some of the best backroads and glorious highways in the desert across Mandawa, Bikaner, Khimsar and Samode. The whole tour was curated by EagleRider India, and from what I’ve heard, they’re experts at organising such tours. In fact, the opening line of the travel itinerary said that since the participants were headed to the Land-of-the-Kings, ‘this ride will ensure that they’re treated like royalty.’
So, did it turn out that way? Not on day 1, for sure! Well, because Francesco Milicia – Vice President Global Sales & Aftersales for Ducati – was in town, and he wanted to ride the Pikes Peak. Specifically, the bike that was allotted to me! Okay, so what about the Scrambler 1100? That was being ridden by Karel Abraham, I was told. Wait, I thought to myself, Karel Abraham, the MotoGP rider? Yup, it was him! And suddenly, all my worries regarding the ride vanished like good luck, and the idea of getting hold of Karel and talking about MotoGP like a nerd became my only agenda for the day. And I did get hold of him, and we talked – it began with an awkward ‘Hello,’ followed by a lengthy chat about motorcycles and MotoGP (check his interview in the motorsports section of this issue). When talking to a MotoGP racer, you can’t help but admire the passion they have for motorcycles and racing. Talking to him was simply amazing.
I continued the remaining part of the journey in a cab till we reached Mandawa in the evening. Over dinner, at a pretty cool spot in the dunes, I continued hounding Karel with more motorcycle-related stuff.
Day 2 began with a quick breakfast, where I explained to Karel the difference between masala and plain omelette before bidding him goodbye, as he was heading back to Delhi. Finally, I was on the Ducati. However, there was another twist in the tale. The Pikes Peak had caught the attention of another gentleman – none other than Ducati’s India MD, Sergi Canovas, who was also on this trip for the entire duration. As desperate as I was to ride that motorcycle, it wasn’t a sensible idea to pick a bone with the bossman, you know. Plus, in exchange, he was kind enough to give me the keys of his Multistrada 1260 S – which is mechanically identical but doesn’t feature extravagant bits and bobs of the Pikes Peak.
Once I hit the arrow-straight road to Bikaner, it became immediately evident that the 1260 S is no less of a beast. For starters, it’s stupendously fast! In fact, compared to its predecessor – the 1200 S – the 1260 S delivers the goods in a less violent, and actually in a more intoxicating, way. The torque from the L-Twin motor pours in thick and the acceleration is relentless. And it’s good for all kinds of road conditions. What I love the most about the 1260 S are its electronic aids. They work so sophistically in the background that you’re fooled into believing that you’re some sort of a hero. I just loved it!
Back on the road, the distance between Mandawa and Bikaner is around 200 kilometres. The road was mostly empty, and the asphalt was butter smooth – it took us less than 6 hours to complete the journey. In Bikaner, our night stay was at the spectacular Gajner Palace. Back in the day when the British ruled the country, this place was used as a hunting resort. However, it has since been turned into a heritage hotel. Amongst the things not to be missed here are its restaurant with huge turning tables, scrumptious local delicacies and the evening cultural event, featuring local folklore.
On day 3, our convoy of Ducatis headed towards the dunes of Khimsar. The roads were even straighter and smoother than the day before, which made us enjoy the ride even more as we left behind the traces of humanity in the desert. Upon reaching Khimsar, we straightaway headed to the famous Khimsar Fort. Like Gajner Palace, it too has now become a heritage hotel, but there’s something more majestic about it, which gives it a sense of grandeur. However, to have a more immersive experience in the Thar Desert, we were to stay in luxury huts at Khimsar Dunes Village. It was hands-down the best location for me. Well, there was the desert, a couple of circular thatched rustic huts – which are immaculately luxurious inside – some trees, even a lake and, then, the surreal sight of the sun setting amidst the golden dunes, which you happen to enjoy while sitting on a camel cart.
The next morning, we reluctantly left Khimsar for the final destination on the itinerary – Samode. It was a long ride, as we had to cover over 350 kilometres. However, there was a fun element en route – we had to cross the Sambhar Salt Lake. Going flat out on the salt bed was loads of fun, especially on the Multistrada. Losing traction without losing control, at triple-digit speeds and on two wheels – it’s a different kind of high, really! In fact, we were so engrossed in the experience itself that we lost track of time. And, by the time we reached Samode Palace, it was the dead of the night.
Now, the darkness did not deter us from realising that this place was pretty extraordinary. It was built in the 16th century in a fortress-like setting by the Rajputs. And, in the 19th century, the Mughals gave it cultural as well as an architectural makeover.
As cliché as it sounds, I did actually feel like royalty during the trip. You see, I spent a few days in different palaces, relished delectable Rajasthani cuisine and met some influential people from across the world, all the while blasting away on some of most scenic roads in the desert on my royal chariot – the Multistrada. After such an experience, it’s definitely going to take a long time – and not a pleasant one – to come back to reality. The only thing I can do now is to have another dream – who knows when it may come true?
We really did feel like royalty during this trip, as we went from one palace to another, relished some delectable Rajasthani cuisine and met some influential people from across the world.