A highway cruiser, a sports tourer and a scrambler embark on a journey in search of the perfect motorcycling road.
The biggest problem hard-core biking enthusiasts face in India is finding a smooth stretch of road that’s accessible enough for them to enjoy a nice weekend ride on a regular basis. It’s no shocker that the majority of roads in India are quite unfriendly for motorcyclists. Having visited most of the major cities across the country, I would have to say that Pune is by far the best when it comes to weekend rides. With hills in every direction, and minimal traffic, there are a number of destinations that you can ride to and enjoy the ‘journey’ instead of being focussed on the ‘destination.’ Unfortunately, if you live in Delhi – like I do – you aren’t quite so lucky.
The only good roads we have are long straight highways that lead towards Agra, Jaipur or Chandigarh. But, then, there’s the unruly traffic and the never-ending construction on these roads that plays spoilt sport. Moreover, endless straight roads aren’t much fun for motorcyclists.
Now I admit that I love dirt trails and off-road riding – in fact that’s how I started riding – but if there’s one thing I enjoy more than dirt biking, it’s fulfilling that need for speed. Wide, twisty and smooth tarmac roads are my favourite kind, but they’re rare and can be hard to get to. Fortunately for me, I know exactly where to find them.
I’ve done quite a bit of travelling in the Himalayas, and a couple of years ago I discovered one stretch of road that was perhaps the best I had ever seen in India – from a motorcyclist’s standpoint of course. I’ve been riding here for the last couple of years whenever I get the chance, and have never shared this location out of fear that it might gain too much attention. Even to this day, I dare say that it’s one of the best riding roads in all of India.
During a discussion at work a few months ago, I happened to mention this location to Shivank, who, as it turns out, is from the area and has also ridden on this magnificent stretch of road. Okay, so maybe it’s not the secret that I imagined it to be. We started talking about making a trip up there. Soon enough, Arup joined the discussion and was eager to check out this so-called ‘secret riding road.’ So, it was only natural for us to sort out three motorcycles for ourselves and head for this riding utopia.
The bikes we chose were a diverse set – the Harley Davidson Heritage Softail, the Honda CBR 650F and the Triumph Street Twin Scrambler. These three bikes would be perfect for our ride, because it would allow us to rotate amongst ourselves whenever we wanted a change of riding pace or comfort. The Harley would, of course, be the best bike to cruise on – since, if anyone got tired, he could saddle up on the burly American and munch down miles on the wide-open highway with ease. The CBR was the sportiest, and would be the most exciting to ride once we got to our destination. And then the Street Twin Scrambler would play middleman, since it’s sporty and comfortable enough to handle any road or traffic situation.
Now, about this beautiful stretch of road – a couple of years ago, I had gone on a solo bike trip to Gangotri. But I first decided to visit my family in Landour, which is a small cantonment area above Mussoorie. From Landour, I had to detour through Dhanaulti and then head towards Chamba to get to Gangotri. Fortunately, the roads were breathtaking – and they offered spectacular views. The tarmac was newly laid, and there was absolutely no traffic whatsoever. The 56-kilometre stretch was out of this world, and I had never seen such smooth twisty roads in India that were free of traffic for such long periods. Not many people use this road, which is why it’s so much fun to ride on – and that’s also why I started calling it my secret road.
We left Delhi early in the morning and headed for Landour, where we would rest for the night. Landour is a sleepy little town that’s fast gaining attention as a peaceful retreat from the hordes of tourists in Mussoorie. We had a great dinner at the local market, drank some rum because it was freezing, and went to bed. The next day was beautiful and perfect for riding. I started on the Heritage Softail, Arup saddled up on the Scrambler and Shivank happily swung a leg over the Honda CBR. We headed toward Chamba at an easy pace, soaking in the majestic views and riding in unison along the mountainside. The Harley, with its large floorboards, made it impossible to lean into sharp curves with speed, but Arup, and, especially, Shivank, were taking full advantage of their bikes and hugging the curves all the way to Chamba.
From Chamba, we headed down towards Rishikesh, and this is where the best part of this secret road begins to become every biker’s wet dream. From here on, the roads really widen up and the tarmac is as smooth as butter – with absolutely no bumps, potholes or uneven surfaces. For 65-kilometres, you get your dose of long straights along a river bed, and very wide and smooth flowing twisties that you can take on at very quick pace. I immediately demanded to switch bikes and got on the Street Twin Scrambler. Being remarkably lighter and more aggressive in nature, the Street Twin allowed me to attack the curves and increase my lean angle. My pace quickened tremendously, but the front end of the bike felt too light – and the brakes didn’t bite hard enough, which meant that I still had to be cautious as I entered sharp, tight bends.
The Scrambler certainly livened up my experience, but I still wanted more performance, and I knew that the CBR was the bike to be on if I wanted to get the maximum excitement of riding on this road. I finally got Shivank, or rather threatened him, off the bike and got on the Honda CBR 650F.
I’ve had the privilege of riding on some of the best roads in the world on some of the best bikes, and I must confess that riding the CBR 650F on this amazing road was the equivalent to riding anywhere in Europe or in the US. The CBR 650F is a sports tourer, and it handles beautifully – just like a proper sports bike should – and because it’s not too aggressive in its riding position, it was perfect for me to enjoy the ride comfortably. Now, with much better brakes, a better lean angle, and a firmer front-end with much better road feedback, I was gunning down the short open straights and entering corners at higher speeds – and with much more confidence. As I pushed my shoulders closer to the tarmac when leaning through a curve the bike always felt perfectly balanced and allowed me to throw it from side-to-side very easily. As we got closer to Rishikesh, the road only becomes better with more sweeping corners, chicanes and apexes – it’s the next best thing to riding on a closed circuit and I was pulling into corners and exiting them with the throttle open all the way.
As we got towards the end and entered Rishikesh, it was a rude awakening as the roads became narrower and the traffic multiplied. We were now back in the pit of hell – or what we call our state highways. I’m sure that some of you will claim to know of better roads, or more ‘secret’ locations, or you might even have ridden on this stretch before, but I can say with total confidence that the 100-kilometre stretch from Mussoorie to Rishikesh, via Chamba in Uttarkhand, is one of the best roads to ride on in India. The only trouble is that it takes you about six hours to get there from Delhi, and you have to ride on some pretty bad stretches to reach this spectacular section. But it’s definitely worth the trouble. And it doesn’t matter what bike you take up there, because it’ll certainly be a great experience. Fortunately for us, we had a diverse trio that allowed us to experience the best from America, Britain and Japan – right here in India!