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Old 23rd September 2016, 16:32   #1
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Default Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes

I kindly request moderators to move the thread to an appropriate section if this write up does not fit this one.


Boss, I'm waiting at Ramakrishna hospital for you guys.
Coming doc.
This kid is not yet here.


THE INTRODUCTION:
Okay, a little background story warrants here. I was missing out quite a few Tbhp meets since I joined Tbhp. Especially more so after the Coimbatore chapter became quite alive with weekend meets, mini meets in between working hours, micro-mini-just-coffee-samosa-nothing-more-ten-minutes-only-meets and what not. And I was stuck up in Pondicherry with a royal pain in the wrong place in form of my finals. (Full marks for people who thought the pain was in the neck; the not so innocent guesses, come on guys, this is a family show)

So, I was finally glad when the dreaded exams came to an end and I could come back to the sweet embrace of my home town. That feeling lasted for exactly three minutes before boredom took over. You see, Pollachi is a beautiful town, but nothing much goes on, as far as I'm aware of. At least for a guy who has lead an exclusively college student life in places like Mangalore and Pondicherry for the past 14yrs, it doesn't have much in store. So after a quick round of msgs within the Cbe Tbhp chapter, a mini meet was arranged.

The plan:
The agenda was to meet up with our dear bhpians who were available that day, chat up a bit, and move on to the main plan which was to test-ride a few bikes which I was interested in, with bhpian Asta_la_vista in tow.

Me: Boss, I'm waiting at Ramakrishna hospital for you guys.
Batterylow: Coming doc.
This kid is not yet here.


It was another five minutes of waiting in the (not-so) early morning sun before the familiar shade of red from "kid" Asta_la_vista's i20 following the steel grey Figo of bhpian Batterylow turned into view. Pleasantries exchanged, Small change in plan, Batterylow says. We will be picking up bhpian Quicksilver from his apartment before we proceed to the breakfast to meet up with bhpians Graaja, Vdm295, Arun.K.

Quicksilver's apartment is more like the room of requirements at Hogwarts, specifically for petrol heads. The apartment complex itself houses more than 300 flats and we spy a Harley street750 parked casually a few steps away from a deliciously specced white Volvo XC60 with R design alloys. But the main treat in store for us was quicksilver's friend's ride. A blood red, modded, code6-ed Mk1 ökoda Octavia vRS pushing out around 200bhp. Now, I'm the kind of guy who smiles within himself if I catch a glimpse of those naughty spider alloys in traffic, as I already know the best part of that day was seeing a vRS. I've never, ever been in one, so the excitement makes me do a happy jingle inside, but I refrain from showing it out lest quicksilver bans me from the car.

What followed was sheer madness. Despite the fueling being a bit snatchy because of some minor niggles, it was every bit the rabid dog I had imagined it to be. And the exhaust was fettled with too, so with every prod at the accelerator, there was this mash up of the exhaust sound with the sheer pull; all this capped by the dub-step kind of misfiring near the top part of the rev band. For me, despite the fueling issue, it was like a teenager discovering the safe search off option in Google search. This was the best part of the day, not test-riding the big bikes.
Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes-red-mist-descends.jpg
Finally, after Batterylow, Asta_la_vista and myself have had our fill of the turbo appetizers; we decide to head back to the breakfast point. With Asta_la_vista at the wheel and Quicksilver guiding him through the route, Batterylow and myself sitting back and enjoying the exhaust rumbling below our rear seat, joking now and then about how the other commuters must be hating us, sometimes turning into mindless teenagers and clicking some selfies too. But, everyone present that day will remember that car, no doubt.
At the meeting point, we meet the other bhpians, and we waste no time in making a joke of our diet charts, as we eat like this is our last meal and relish some good filter coffee. Then, all of us head down to the basement garage to have a look at the vRS octy ticking away. Graaja, vdm295 and Arun.k have a nice long look at the car and the discussion wanders from projectors to project cars. And our Graaja' affinity for healthy living. This guy is a triathlon competitor, so, I would not challenge him as far as testing stamina goes. Topics crawl in and out of the discussion and a few more jokes and friendly pokes follow. Arun.k has some work to attend to and bids adieu and soon we disband, much to the relief of the back-up driver standing there in the corner.
Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes-mini-meet.jpg

YOU ARE 30+ YRS OLD, WHY BIKE NOW?
Coming to the question which a lot of people have asked me. Some people buy bikes for touring, some buy them for track days, some for commuting. My reason? I just want to get back on two wheels, as simple as that. No specifics, no fixed category of bikes that I was looking at, nothing to start with, really. Some would call me a silly nut with an infatuation for motorcycles, but it is much more than that.

All I had on my side was years of riding my (not-so) trusty Pulsar 200 which I loved to bits, before I upgraded my workhorse to a beautiful black VW Vento TDI (which continues its duties strong even after 1.07Lakh km on the odo), my brief stints with the RC390 (mere hours on the saddle) and RE Classic 500 (maybe around two months). And a set budget not to cross 10L on road (If I cross that, I'd be dangerously close to living out of an overturned garbage bin for a house and rummaging tossed out clothes for dressing; lesser we talk about food, the better).

Why back to two wheels? Simply put, it's the closest you can come to the feeling that a dog has with its head out of the car window. If you have ever seen a dog with its mouth cracked open in a grin near the window, you'd understand what I'm talking about. If I can feel that happy and content, that'd make my mundane work life and the general stress of daily rigmarole worth living through. Yes, the feeling is going to be filtered through layers of carbon fiber Kevlar composite of the helmet and riding gear, but hey, look at the positives again, I do not have to floss out the bugs and the countryside out of my teeth, and I definitely will be better protected from the road which is the eternal spittoon for our pan-chewing-mouth-gargling-curry-belching average Indian road users.

And I have always dreamt of owning a supercar and an awesome bike when I grew up. Who doesn't. As the grey hairs start sprouting and waistline starts bulging, there comes a point when I slowly realize that the lines I wrote in my yearbook when I completed my MBBS would never come true (will be driving the Lambo to work, as the Ferrari has a flat battery - these were the exact cheesy lines). But owning a big motorcycle was possible. Now I do not assume myself to be Keith Code's distant cousin schooled by V.Rossi, but I am also not too shabby and can manage myself right side up on the motorcycle. So the thought came in to go to the next segment; beyond 500cc somewhere within the 600-800cc.

WHICH BIKE?
First rule of bike club - never get a motorcycle without backup. I know the DIY experts in the forum would now look down at me like the seniors at school would look at the kindergarten kids being ushered for their bathroom breaks, but I'd rather trust my bike in the hands of a person who is trained for the job (god I hope so) and is an expert at what they do, and believe me, I'm no expert. I do not want to try my nonexistent DIY skills on something that should be in its peak at every riding moment and not kill me. Me? Maximum DIY that I've done is change the RVMs of my pulsar to the ones of the Apache; they just looked cooler and sturdier.

This also the reason that I have profound respect for the guys in our forum who are so good at DIYs, that they can shame the "experts" that I just mentioned into a sobbing puddle of mess with their knowledge and skills.

So, I wanted to go for the brands which have a presence within Coimbatore with adequate service backup for routine and emergencies. Thus, ruling out triumph (sad to see the striple and bonnie out, sob, sniff) and Ducati. Yes a lot many more brands are not in Coimbatore, but these two I was really sad to see them go.

The narrowed down list for the sake of already bored readers is:
Benelli (600i/899)
Kawasaki (Z800/versys650)
Honda CBR650
Harley (iron 883/forty-eight)

THE TEST RIDES BEGIN:

The story of the helmets and trade secrets:
But first, I need a helmet. Yes, I wanted to buy a helmet for the test rides. Again, judgmental looks from a lot of people, I know. Can't you just borrow one, some may ask? My cousin who we met on the way was like "are you out of your mind? You are going to spend 2K on a helmet for a free test ride around the block?"

The helmet which I had with my pulsar was more than 7yrs old and has not been used in the past 3 years. Last time I checked, it was the home for a bunch of unidentifiable insects and some mosquitoes living in peace, with some mold in the inner lining for company. Also it stank like a wet homeless dog. With a fungal infection. And moldy, did I mention it?

I'm the kind of the person who wouldn't think twice, if you ask me to sleep with my helmet on, Iíd just put it on, jump into my groaning bed and snore off in a minute; I'm that comfortable with it. So, buying a helmet was not a necessary evil as some would see it. And I see this helmet as something that I can guiltlessly throw into the boot of my car without having to worry about the jopasu duster handle scratching the graphics or the paint. A third or even a fourth helmet maybe, in the picking order once I have my riding gear sorted.

So, Asta_la_vista and myself head into the shopping area for a good quality, but an inexpensive helmet, nothing above 2k. The first shop we go to, start displaying their professional acumen in helmet knowledge the minute I mention my head size is 58cm or L.

Salesman of the year: "First try on the helmet sir, if it doesn't fit you, I'll get another one."
Me: "Boss, that's why I'm making the work easier for you, just show me the ones which are my size."
SOTY: "First try on.."

I begin to realize at this point the dude doesn't know squat about head circumference. I might as well ask him for the cranial nerve names. So I just try on a studds one he is waving about, for his satisfaction, and more so to just shut him up from repeating his stupid recital. It's snug. A bit too snug. I pull it off to check the size only to realize that there is no mention of the size anywhere, just an ISI mark. No wonder the SOTY was clueless. I look around and spot a matte finish steelbird air with some graphics of my liking, and check it out to see that's it's a tad bigger than my size. Ask him if he has a smaller size, and am immediately answered with "every design only one size they make sir, no two sizes in one design" with a crooked smile as if he is divulging sensitive inside information to the outside world.

Stunned by this trade secret revelation that none of us knew about till now, I just try it on, and I have a small light bulb moment that maybe my chubby cheeks do increase the snugness and this 60cm helmet fits perfectly. I try yanking it off sideways and up and down and it stays snug, not moving an inch. Yes, the pressure points near my ear lobes and jaw do start protesting, but I guess maybe after some mileage on them, they'd mould a bit. Ask him for the price, was unsatisfied. We leave the shop and go to the next one; I find the same design in gloss finish. Ask him for the price and he quotes a slightly lower rate, with the hook-line-sinker 10% discount. I fold and buy it. Asta_la_vista is already bored, with a "get it over with already!" look.

Finally, after me setting out at 6am for a day of test rides, here we are, with helmet in hand, yet to step into any showroom at 12:30pm. But, we will eventually get there. So, next stop, DSK benelli.

A hint of sun bouncing off the chrome star somewhere and suddenly both of us are like "HEY, LOOK A CLA AMG!" (Puddles of collective drool from both of us).

THE STORY OF THE PURRING KITTENS - BENELLI 600i AND 600GT:
Utter the word Benelli and almost always people say "Made in China". But for me, their Chinese manufactured kits never bothered me. Come on; take apart your iPhone or android and I'm sure you'd find that more than 80% of it is from China. Heck, if I wasn't a medico, I would have concluded that some parts of our body are from China. Even our authentic Indian restaurants will have chicken Manchurian or a schezwan gobi hidden inside the menu. They are that common. I don't see people shunning away from Volvo cars because it's owned by Geely. And they make some absolutely drool-worthy cars.

Back in 2013, my folks went on a trip to China. When they came back, I expected to see them in pics with the Great Wall and the Forbidden City and always surrounded by structures made in China ready to collapse into a pile of rubble and sand dust. But I was surprised to see them surrounded by ultra-modern buildings and cars and clean roads and eateries. The taxis were BMWs and the buses were Mercedes. Their casual pics even had Ferraris and Lamborghinis in them, rubbing fenders with the taxis and two wheelers. They also had the Great Wall pics. But, this changed my perception of China and Chinese products. Seriously, the Chinese are underrated. Now that I was impressed by the Chinese and that, there is no escaping the fact that the Chinese secretly rule the whole world with their Manchurians and Schezwans, I did not have any reason not to look at Benelli.

The Benelli 600i: This always had my interest after I read about its lustful exhaust note and their impractical but sexy exhaust pipes underneath the pillion seat. Also that it was an inline 4. Also that it was the cheapest pick. But I really was bitten by it after the evil temptress lured me in form of Powerdrift videos with Sagar Sheldekar scrapping his isle of Mann knee sliders and the accompanying exhaust note.

So we walk in to the showroom and ask for our friendly neighborhood sales guy who I spoke with over the phone. It also helps that one of the other guys in the showroom was my close friend's brother. After the initial drool the size of the 600i's rear tyre size and its red frame, customary forms are filled and a little chatting done, a test drive for the 600i and the 600GT are arranged. Sadly the 899 is in the service bay for some checks and no test drives were available. Better that way, as my budget would not allow 899 to fit in.

You know how we listen to our favorite songs on the phone a million times and still when we go to a live concert of Hariharan or Shankar Mahadevan, we still feel that warm rush of happiness inside us when we first heard the song, amplified? Yeah, the Benelli's exhaust just felt like that. The bassy yet silky note of the inline4 made me grin like a kid at a carnival. I ask Asta_la_vista to take the first ride but he politely nods me on. Helmet on (what better way to inaugurate the helmet's maiden ride than an inline4), basic controls familiarized, slot it into gear and release the clutch.

Every review mentioned how heavy (231kg) it was for a 600cc motorcycle, but it felt docile and flickable in traffic. Again, these are all my own perceptions, coming from a guy who has ridden nothing above the classic 500 in terms of weight or engine cc, so my view is strictly my own view. Since there were no restrictions imposed on the TD, and no showroom guy on the pillion, I took my own route which would take me thru dense traffic, roundabouts and straight stretches.

I did deliberately go thru a few potholes and speed breakers, but the bike never scraped its belly. Maybe that was because it never has a low underbelly exhaust to scrape against, in the first place (The RC390 which I'd ridden used to scrape against every speed breaker like a college guy who sneaked into a girls-only discotheque). Filtering thru the city buses and other two wheelers, I never find the weight or the power intimidating. I see a straight stretch of road I was patiently waiting for, drop a gear and give it a go.

The front wheel lifts up quite a bit, unintentionally (my first power wheelie, yay) and the purring note of the exhaust hardens into a climax in each gear, with the lovely power shove, never over the limit. There is some snatchiness in the power delivery at lower revs, but as the needle rises, it gets smoother. The road ends a bit too soon, at a traffic light. But the stop isn't long enough to gauge the engine heat. At the green, it leads to a long sweeping right hander and I lean as much as I can dare to, which isn't much, ready to wring the life out of the throttle. But the mind starts playing loop after loop of tankslappers and highsiders, so I give up rather than give it some throttle. Road straightens out, drop gear, repeat. People turn and crane around searching for the source of this lovely exhaust. See, this bike hides in plain sight very well. It's headlamp cluster, though looks like a cross between the face of sonny from irobot and bumblebee from transformers, it is a size small to look like any real threat, hence people tend to not notice it's face. Once you overtake the curious bystanders, they have a look at the chunky rear 180 tyre with the under seat double barrel exhaust, and the curiosity is replaced with plain leering. From the rear the 600i is a proper big bike.

I return to the showroom via by lanes with the dogs chasing me thanks to the sound again, and park it. Click a few pics to see who wins the ginormous looks contest, I win hands down. Next is the 600GT which is wheeled out for the TD.

Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes-benelli-600i.jpg

Likes:
- Smooth, buzz-free inline4 engine, the torque which is not completely hidden at the top of the rev zone.
- Lovely exhaust note, even the stock. Can only imagine how that IXIL 55 would sound like (the IXIL aftermarket exhaust is approved by Benelli but they don't give you the exhaust warranty, rest of the parts including engine and all other important expensive components retain their warranty).
-Completely tractable motor, never was there one scary moment with it.
-ABS is a big boon for this bike, with the twin 320mm discs, which I experienced firsthand with the above mentioned dog trying to run into the bike's path.
-Suspension on the softer side, with the jolts of the road being smoothened out. I know the RC390 would run rings around it in the handling dept., but I also suspect many guys who may end up buying the bike may not be hard core track freaks, hence this may be a positive point.

Dislikes:
-The stupid, silly, downright, el-cheapo instrument cluster. I've seen better ones on Indian bikes, even the mojo's cluster looks way nicer than this one. This will not win any hearts even if this cluster was put on a bike manufactured in the hoodibaba (Bajaj Caliber) age.
-The snatchy power delivery in the lower revs, which spoils the driveability within traffic when you want to pull off a quick overtake. It will overtake for sure, but be prepared for some jerks on the way.
-The exhaust under the pillion seat did not heat up much on the short TD, but definitely would become a hot mass ready to singe the skin and flesh off the thighs and derriŤre off the pillion in longer rides on hotter days.
-The headlamp cluster could be a size bigger? The 899 looks much better in comparison.
-Lot of reviewers have complained about the fit and finish on this motorcycle, but my stint was too short to check it out.

Meanwhile, some squids on a KTM duke 200 and a pulsar 220 turn up in front of the showroom and start stunting, to impress a few girls and to prove their inferior "superiority" with absolutely no regard for safety at all. Apparently blond, highlighted hair spikes and duplicate Ray-Bans make them feel invincible, hence no bare minimum helmet or safety whatsoever. It makes them look more like idiots trying to compensate for their deficit in some other area. Everyone around gets visibly disturbed by their presence and I catch myself wishing they just crash into one another and be done with it. Hey, I'm a human being, I'm flawed. Asta_la_vista gets onto the 600i and starts it, but this just ruffles the brainless imbeciles and they start coming perilously close to him. Our Asta starts off with these losers chasing him trying to goad him into a race, but Asta keeps his cool. Thankfully they get bored and just go away. Idiots like these squids give the proper bikers a bad name. The world would be much better off without them.

The Benelli 600GT: I never had any plans for test riding this one, but hey, I'm never the one to turn down an offer to ride a bike. I just took a short sprint around the block, and the main thing I realized was this was definitely concentrated toward touring. Softer suspension than 600i, a larger fuel tank (27litres), a more upright sitting posture, windscreen, slightly dumbed down acceleration, and the thing I missed the most, the exhaust note. It was quieter in comparison to its naked twin and also has an underbelly exhaust. Did not take up much of time on this one and I came back soon. Asta_la_vista mirrored the feeling for both the bikes.

On an interesting side note, I spot the 899 in the service bay and request to start it. Permission given, the engine roars into life, and my god, within the enclosed space of the service bay, it was really ear shatteringly loud. The sound was nowhere as smooth as a purr of the inline4 but the sheer mechanical clinking and clanking and explosions just blew my mind. It looks exactly like a proper Superbike should, beautiful and mean. No test rides though, but just sitting on it gave me an idea of how sport oriented the position is, with head down near the console, bottom up in the air feeling.

THE STORY OF THE BIGGER CATS - THE KAWASKI Z800 AND THE VERSYS 1000:
We wind up some work within town and head to Kawasaki showroom at a leisurely 4:00pm. Mr. Surya at the showroom knows we are coming. Heck, he knows I'd turn up at his showroom someday as I've been pestering him with calls and messages regarding the Z800 since the last month or so. He wouldn't have had so many texts and calls even from his wife I think, God, i ate the guy's head.

My love affair with the Z800 started way back even before this "need-ecstasy-on-two-wheels" madness started. Fell in love with the Z800 while reading through our dear bhpians Djay99, celestial, V12 and sojogator ownership threads. Once my madness went into full tilt, while I was preparing for my exams, I even made my wife and mom with my 4yr old son in tow go to the showroom and check it out, with a hopeless hope that they might be smitten by it and understand the logic behind my bike madness. Of course Mr. Surya bore the brunt and had to deal with them. Only my son seemed impressed with it (kept saying "zzzvoommm zzzvoommm over the phone) and my wife said it looked like an alien with some tumor masses sprouting all over it. My mom being the ever loving one, never to hurt her son's feelings, said we will get it someday with a tone reminiscent of the one she uses when her grandson asks for the moon. Anyway, that was sometime back and I was at the showroom for test-ride of my love.

Again, for, signing formalities out of the way, Surya tells me that they have a new addition to the inventory, a Versys 1000, and they have a TD bike ready. He tells me that they deal with the bikes with 800cc and above, but he will get a Versys 650 if I'm interested in it after the test ride. With an all-knowing smile of a guy who has dealt with these questions a number of times in the past and very well knowing that after the Versys 1000 and the Z800, there was no way one would go back to a 650.

The motorcycles are rolled out onto the road and since there are two TD bikes, Versys 1000 and Z800, both Asta_la_vista and myself head out simultaneously. The route for the TD was specified by Surya and it contains a bit of outer city traffic and a six lane highway for a good 5 km before turning back. Again, it's a solo ride, no pillion.

The Z800: If the Benelli's exhaust was lustful, the Z800's exhaust just gives me goosebumps when I start it. The engine is so smooth, that I have images of a breadknife spreading warm butter onto a hot piece of toast, and I just stand there with both my feet flat on the ground, astride the bike, enjoying the exhaust and the small blips I give it to warm it up. I fail to notice that Asta has already taken off on the Versys and I hurriedly adjust my mirrors, noticing that my shoulders are quite bulky and that's all that I can see in the mirrors, and slot the gear. I expect a smooth slot in, but maybe this was a test bike which could have been abused for over 5000km on its odo, the gearshift felt notchy and hard. I set off and the initial few meters are just me feeling scared to twist the throttle. 113PS is no joke and if I don't actually get it right, this might end up in me flipping the bike onto myself in a horrendously embarrassing way in front of the showroom folk. Also not to mention the damage control payment after that.

Gingerly I give it small inputs and there is immediate, equal pull. The torque band is so wide, that within the city limits its quite easy to manoeuvre across lanes and the school buses, as long as I remember its weight and the turning radius. Soon, I am comfortable enough with it to downshift and throttle a bit more wider with every signal stop, catching up with Asta_la_vista before we get in the highway. Also, to be mentioned is that the heating never bothered me; again, it could be due to the small TD. Then we hit the six lane and after a moment of trepidation, I whack the throttle open in second.

Now I know how Flash would feel when he is running really fast, with the rest of the world is slow motion; it's almost hilarious. I'm grinning to myself and then realize that the Helmet is making such a din, I'd soon go deaf. I wonder if there are some extra set of holes drilled into it that I did not notice. Also, the visor is in direct contact with my nose and forehead. SHOOT! I should be crouching at this speed, silly me. I hunker down as much I can with my swollen belly hitting the tank and I'm already more comfortable, gripping the tank with my legs. I pass Asta on the Versys and he catches up. Before we could do anything stupid, thankfully the designated U-turn at the underpass comes up and we turn off the service road to go under the highway. At the underpass, blipping the throttle sounds bloody aqwesome. The exhaust note within the underpass just consumes the whole space, truckers look at me with half irritation/half awe, people walking just stop in their tracks. This sound made me understand why tunnel-hunting is such an awesome sport for people with supercars.

As we head back, I notice that the final gearing in sixth isn't that long and I constantly am shifting to a nonexistent higher gear. Never does the bike feel stressed, but you do wish for a longer sixth gear which could help during longer rides. Then we come to a proper sharp U-turn just before the showroom and am made aware of its heft and bulk as my thighs cry in protest while standing still with a little tilt into the turn, waiting for the traffic to clear. Despite the Z800 having the same weight as the benelli 600i, I never felt this heft astride the benelli. Maybe because I never took a U-turn on that. Back in the showroom, we swap bikes, with Asta in the Z800 and am on the Versys 1000.
Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes-z800-completely-overshadowed-its-big-brother.jpg

Likes:
-The buttery smooth engine, tractability - no knocking even in 50kmph in 6th gear.
-The broad torque band.
-The exhaust note, lovely with just enough volume. Swapping the exhaust with an aftermarket one would void all the warranty on mechanical parts, though the sugomi version abroad comes with factory fitted akrapovičs. When asked about this, all I got was some shoulder shrugging.
-The raw sensation of pure speed, no holds barred, makes it addictive. You'd be laughing like Santa on Prozac once you wring that throttle.
-Just the right size for a guy above 6ft. Anyone shorter than 5ft8inches may feel too stretched on this motorcycle.

Dislikes:
-The weight of the bike. There is no escaping the fact that this is a heavy kid. But once on the roll, all is forgotten.
-The gearbox on this particular test vehicle was not up to the mark, but all other reports suggest that this gearbox is superb.
-The exhaust. I personally love the level of volume, no complaints at all, but I am sure a lot of the buyers in this segment would like it a wee bit louder.
-Short final gearing. It can become a bit irritating if it is being used for long distance touring, as it makes the rider falsely think that the engine being a bit stressed out.
-No gear shift indicator. I do not see this as an essential component, but I found myself unnecessarily second guessing if I was in 5th or 6th all the time, on the Z800.
-Seriously, just one base colour with two different sticker colours? I think Darth Vader's mind would be more colourful in comparison to this black-all-the-way-we-couldn't-care-less-about-the-colour-palette idea of yours, Kawasaki.
-Slipper clutch is missing. This would have been an ideal addition, given the street naked mid-weight sports category this bike is aiming at. Even RC390 has it.
-Non-adjustable clutch lever. The brake is adjustable for reach but no the clutch.
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Old 23rd September 2016, 16:41   #2
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Default re: Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes

The Versys 1000: The first thing I notice on this tourer is the height. For someone who is above 6ft tall, I still could not place both my feet flat on the ground. And it is heavy at 250kg. Again, enjoying the inline4 1043cc thrum, I push off. The past fears of high-siding and tank slapping are now replaced by new ones. Of me falling off the bike like I used to fall off my bicycle when the training wheels were taken off. You are sat higher than any other two wheeler on road, almost commanding over them. All my fears are swiped aside once on the move.

The motorcycle is really comfortable, with a soft wide seat, well-spaced handlebars, and an upright posture. No longer do I feel the need to crush the tank between my legs to be comfortable at the wrists. This is almost like sitting at your desk, in your most comfortable chair, with just a bit of tilt forward. Do not mistake the riding position for a cruiser type, as it is not.
The engine pulls along beautifully, and I never fiddle with the traction control and power delivery modes (Versys 1000 gets power modes in two stage levels - low or full; 75% of power or 100% of the 120PS, and a three stage traction control). Asta_la_vista has pulled away on the Z800 and I can see his taillights with the trademark Z pattern glowing in the distance. He has already hit the start of the highway and is crawling along waiting for me. Once he sees the Versys's headlamps, I hear the bassy tune of Z800 and its fast disappearing tail lamps. I follow tune, forgetting the fact that I have an extra 200cc between my legs.

Ever been in a speedboat? When we gun the speedboat's engine, the bow of the boat rises so high that for a moment, only thing visible for the seated occupant is the sky. Same feeling with the Versys, the soft suspension coupled with the tall windscreen and the high mounted handlebars make you feel like you just gunned the twin outboard motors on a really powerful boat. A wheelie feeling without the front wheel even lifting off the ground. After the initial surge, it settles into a steady thrust, the windscreen negating any of the wind blast, and you feel so comfortable that you do not notice the highly illegal speeds you have stepped into. The Versys reels in the Z800 and leaves it in its wake, with Asta fighting the wind blast on the Z800. Meanwhile I'm on board the Versys discovering a new irritating factor: the buffeting and the crosswinds.

On the Z800, past a certain speed, the wind blast is so much that it grabs all your attention and pins it to it. On the Versys, with the windscreen, yes, the helmet visor is no more in contact with the sweaty forehead, but you tend to notice the crosswind and the buffeting more than you ever would care on the Z. This really put me off. But definitely this is the more comfortable bike for both the pillion and the rider if the call of the day is touring, one can cross continents with this motorcycle, it is that comfortable. The Versys also sails through some of the rough patches of road near the underpass unflustered.

We head back to the showroom and again take the customary "I-win-the-bulk-contest" pictures, only to find that the Versys actually matches my size. Hmm, maybe if I had an extra 5 lakh rupees lying around.
Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes-versys-makes-my-size-look-bit-normal.jpg

Likes:
-Commanding view, you just Lord over every other biker on the road. And feel like a king on his double foam cushion chair while at it.
-Supple ride, it sails through anything and any type of road you throw at it. In the hands of the right person, you can take on highways, blast across desert sand, cut through Amazonian jungles , ford rivers, and be back home in time with the milk packets, bread and curry leaves that you actually set out to get. Your mom/wife might be wild that you missed breakfast, lunch and coffee, but you would get beaten up by them with your heart content and full from the day's riding.
-All the techno wizardry such as traction control and power modes to make sure we do get back home safe, even if we are a bit of a child somewhere along the way.
-Exhaust on this does not disappoint like the Benelli GT did. This one's exhaust note is as good as it comfortably gets for a tourer. Beautifully sublime. Bassy enough to rumble the sand near the motorcycle when given the beans.

Dislikes:
-The weight, of course. It is what that makes it so stable on highways and crosswinds, but it is what makes your legs hate you. Especially if you go on that grocery run to the bhaiya whose shop is within lanes so narrow that you'd have to sidestep if someone walks in the opposite direction towards you.
-It is an freaking attention magnet. I was joking; you cannot take it for the grocery runs. It's like a white elephant. It stands out head and shoulders above the rest of the vehicles. I know some people might see this as an asset, but I prefer my rides to stay as inconspicuous as possible. With this, You'd come back to see kids climbing all over it, fiddling with the expensive to replace electricals and buttons; adults sitting on it, sipping chai, because it's so damn comfortable, better than the rickety old bench at the stall; hot blooded teenagers leaning on it, sitting on it and posing for pictures that they'd update later on Insta and Fb and snapchat with a "YOLO!" hashtag. And there is nothing we can do about it, other than towing along a paid bodyguard to follow us like certain #RSM does. That defeats the purpose of a motorcycle. It's supposed to liberate us, not shackle us with the fear of someone fiddling with it and pushing it over. So, yeah, no grocery runs. For that the activa will have to do.
-Where there are electronic nannies, there are bound to be electronic failures. Now, I do know the Japanese make some damn good bullet-proof bikes, but when they run in India, they are exposed to all sorts of destructive element of the nature which even the Mars lander probe would not encounter. And the electronics are bound to fail; it's just a question of when and not if. And when they do, it's going to cost a bomb to replace.
-There is this lovely creamish grey color and one complete black color. No more choices. But you did ask if it comes in black, didnít you, Mr. Wayne?
-Did I mention the price? It is 14.5 lakh rupees on road in Cbe. If I was to even utter a word to my family about this bike with the price tag greater than the combined second hand value of all five of our cars put together, they'd just take me to the psychiatrist and get me a lobotomy, not a bike.

At the end of the ride, though the Versys appeals to the mind with its versatile behavior, tall GC and superb driveability; the price tag and the difficulty of managing and extracting the best out of this litre class tourer clearly said it wasn't for me, not yet. And after this explosive power duo, I wasn't sure how the Versys 650 would stack up, so maybe I made a mistake in giving up on it, maybe not, only time will tell. The Z800 still holds the number one in my heart. So why did I even bother to look into the other two brands, the Harley and the Honda, the double H's?

I wanted to try out all the brands available to me, so that later after a purchase, I shouldn't repent that maybe I should've got that one or maybe I made a mistake buying this one and such. Since family work beckoned, I said my byes to Asta_la_vista, thanking him for accompanying me for the TDs and that I would meet him the next day for the double H's. Oh, by the way, Asta fell hard for the Versys 1000, wanting to just ride away into the sunset with it, if only someone had gave him a credit card with no ceiling limit, he'd have done just that. More on Day 2.

DAY 2:
THE POTATO RUMBLE - THE HARLEY IRON 883 AND THE FORTY-EIGHT:
Day two of our test drive story saw both Asta_la_vista and myself again meeting up in front of the Harley Davidson showroom. We walk in to an apparently deserted showroom. With all the sparkling bikes under the spot lamps, but no one to tend to us, we look around, almost blinded by the sea of chrome and metal. We spot a flower decoration on the floor and we realize its Onam. "God, don't do this, don't tell me it's a holiday!" I think to myself as Asta somehow manages to find a timid girl behind the reception desk.

She must have been not taller than the desk itself and the sight of two 6ft guys walking in thru the doors must have shrunk her a bit more, maybe that's why we did not spot her in the first place. We ask the first obvious question and she replies that the showroom is indeed open and test rides are offered but, all the staff are upstairs celebrating the 100th Harley Street 750 delivery for the showroom. As if on cue, like the laughter track in a comedy sitcom, we hear a round of applause and merry laughter from the hidden first floor conference hall.

Right then, so we have time to kill, till the cake stuffed, Sprite filled sales personnel come down after the celebrations (being a Harley Davidson showroom I thought they'd be celebrating more in the lines of barbecue, beer and bonfire, but apparently not; a bakery cake and a soft drink is all it takes to make them happy. Now, who would have thought, huh).
Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes-harley-showroom.jpg
The reason I never looked into Harleys too close was that, after they stopped my all-time favorite super-cool-chrome-done-right-low-done-right Superlow, my attraction for Harleys dwindled off. If the Superlow was on sale today, this whole test ride story spanning over two days wouldn't have happened. And you readers wouldn't have been subjected to this torture. I'd have just walked right in and booked the Superlow. Almost did a few years ago, but that's a story for another time. Yes, I can still get one in the used market, but it never is going to be like a new one. Of course I did my fair share of drool donation for the fat boys, soft tails and the Indian cousins out there, but the next Harley to set my pulse bounding was the night-rod. And if I mention a 25 lakh rupees bike in my household, then forget the psychiatrist and Lobotomy, they'd straight send me with a one way ticket to shutter island.

So, here we are, and since I had my kid with me that day, I was explaining to a clueless 4 year old the differences between a belt drive, shaft drive and a chain drive and the various parts of the bike and engine. Well, at least he started saying "haaalee" and "shishi baar" at the end of the day. So all wasn't futile. Asta and myself discuss and decide I'm going to try the iron 883 and 1200 custom, while he wants to sample the street 750.
The celebratory commotion upstairs is replaced by chairs scrapping across the floor and low pitched drone of people burping after the cake and Sprite. Ah, it has ended. Soon we are joined by a Mr. Navin. I tell him straight up that I'm looking to get back in a bike after quite some time and I'd like to have a go at the iron 883 and the 1200 custom. Full marks for him for not waxing eloquent about Harley being an ideal bike for someone like me and not trying to push the street750 down my throat. He politely tells me that the 1200 custom isn't available for a test ride, but the forty-eight has the same engine and I can have a go at it. Asta_la_vista's request for a street750 is readily approved. Again customary form signatures and DL copies made, we are ushered into the service entrance for the bikes.

Navin lines up the street750, forty-eight and the iron 883 at the exit. All of us are equipped with Harley mesh riding jackets with armors at the crucial bony points, and Navin explains the slightly confusing turn indicators and puts in a word of caution about the weight and the turning radius. Test route is fixed by him, a very short one with straight roads up and down, with two U-turns and two stop signals. Solo rides, he would take the forty-eight till the first U-turn I'd switch places with him on the iron 883 (some silly rule in Harley he said, you can't take more than one motorcycle test ride at a time for one customer, he said. Donít know how much of it is actually in ink and paper). So, all of us astride the machines and we thumb the starter.

Zeus is the God of thunder, and if he were to choose a motorcycle to ride, going about his daily business, he'd definitely choose a Harley with screaming eagles and the works. God, that thing is loud. Now imagine three of the Harley engines with screaming eagles, in a symphonic cacophony. And imagine it inside an enclosed service exit. Even though I did say Harleys fell out of flavor for me; at that moment, a bit of me died, grew long hair, got inked and flew up to the heaven playing an electric guitar, floating up in a cloud which had bikini bike washes. It was that good.

The Harley iron 883: The other two (Navin and Asta_la _vista) are in gear, ready to roll out. And here I am, checking out my reflection in the chrome fuel filler cap, and having goosebumps with the engine vibes. I engage the first gear, with a proper thunk, that feels like someone hit me in the base of my spine with a cushioned hammer. And let of the properly thick clutch lever. Man, this thing can pull, huh.

Immediately we hit the first signal before I can even cross second gear. Three Harleys with the headlamps on, everyone maintains some distance. We patiently wait, countdown shows 90secs, and to kill time, Asta takes a pic of me at the signal. I just rev the Harley a bit, and Navin follows suit, much to the glee of the kid inside the car next to us. Ah, a nice feeling, meeting petrol heads, even at such young age. Soon, it's green. We roll. The iron 883 may be a sub-litre class engine, but it pulls like a locomotive unhinged. Sorry for the age old simile. Even the sitting posture is comfortable. I give it some throttle and in no time we are filtering through noon traffic. The pull with each gear change almost yanks my clutch arm off the handle as I work the clutch.
Then, all of sudden I hear a buzz of a motorcycle twin engine, which is not a Harley. Before we know it, a red Ducati 1299 Panigale flys past us, making our pace look like a bicycle's in comparison. Damn, that is some serious cash right there.

We come to the exchange point U-turn and I turn in, again worried about dropping the anchor-heavy bike in middle of traffic. Since its short, it's easier to just put the legs down and crab along in first gear.
Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes-harley-iron-883.jpg

Likes:
-Comfortable riding position. Some may not agree, but this was definitely more comfortable compared to the other Harley I rode, the Forty-eight.
-Superb pull. Any gear, any revs, any inclination, just poke this animal and watch it go. If you have walked your dog and tried to reel it in while it runs behind another start dog, you'd know what I'm ranting on about.
-The optional speedo this one had, displayed fuel, revs, speed, clock and some more things I did not understand. So, if anyone gets a Harley, this speedo is a must. It costs 60K though, hard pill, but let's just swallow it and be done with it. It's useful.
-The exhaust is a typical Harley, especially with the screaming eagle exhaust and other SE kit, you'd have all the dogs in neighbourhood hating you.
-The mechanical gear feel. Some may hate it, but I loved it. Who doesn't love a good response to your gear foot's input.
-Other than this the TD was short, so I'm sure I've overlooked a lot of other good stuff.
-The clutch and the front brake lever are classy, beefy and really look like they'd survive a tank running over them. Such thick, much like.
-Beautiful options to add airbrushing details of your choice. You can match your motorcycle to your personality; skull and bones or unicorns and pink, fluffy bunny slippers, it's up to you. This is possible across the entire Harley range so, this isn't exclusive plus for the iron 883 alone.

Dislikes:
-Accessories. No I'm not talking about the quality. Quality is top-notch. I'm talking about the cost. I think everything with the Harley insignia is priced much, much higher than it may cost to make, ship, and sell. I suspect if you sneezed inside the showroom and asked for a tissue to wipe the bogey off the nose, they'd charge you for the tissue too, and at a price which would get you a nice custom fit Tom ford suit outside.
-The heat. Yes, shouldn't be complaining about that, on a Harley, but it is definitely felt. Once the initial exhilaration of riding a Harley weans off, you will get more and more uncomfortable inside the town and ultimately will end up lining your riding pants with aluminium foil and a layer of thermal insulation.
-Weight. But hey, for a motorcycle that is built like a train engine, it's only fair it weighs as much.
-Short TD again made me not notice anything else.


The Harley Forty-eight: As soon as I get on the Forty-eight, I realize the riding position is proper cruiser, with the legs kicked out in front, arms stretched wide apart and the gear and rear brake lever hard to work with. I should have just switched back to the iron 883 because I never like this position. Harley aficionados, get your pitchforks ready, because I'm about to say something which might make your blood boil. It felt like a Bajaj Avenger with a bust suspension to sit on.

Right, now that I have been fried in a vat of motor oil, let's get back to my view. We start off, and immediately the extra shove from the bigger engine is felt. It's rather lovely but I was constantly fearful that I'd go sliding back and off the motorcycle like the Harley fail videos I see on YouTube. Damn you, YouTube. I never really push this vehicle, and I arrive at the last U-turn. While Asta and myself are gingerly crabbing across the turn, Navin deftly take a U-turn on the iron 883 that would embarrass even a SBK rider. It was so smooth, and the lean was unbelievable, with the foot peg and the rear brake lever just millimeters away from the Tarmac, you'd have to see it to believe it. After the gawping, we slowly crab out of the turn and reach the showroom.

Likes/dislikes:
-The bigger the engine, the bigger the fun we have. Loved it.
-Was searching for the rear view mirrors for quite some time till I realized they were handlebar end mirrors, below the level of the wrist. But credit to them, they do their job well.
-The price was actually good for the motorcycle you get. But again, once you add on the "mandatory" accessories, it shoots up beyond reach.
-The numerous color options available. The paint and the glimmer on the Harleys are so well mixed, under the right light, it looks like it has pixie dust in it, and it is magical. Add to this wow factor, multiple choices of color options, and you would be spending more time deciding the paint color than the time you took to decide your kid's name.
-Riding posture, have said enough about it.
-Lack of back support. Maybe it was my bulky bottom overriding the natural upslope or maybe the seat did not have any support under acceleration, but I was sliding backward with every throttle input. A back support of some kind is a must for this bike. Unless you want to look like you are clinging to the roadrunner's ears under full bore runs, with your whole body flapping in the wind like a semi-flaccid windsock.
-The laughably small fuel tank (7L). It will see you taking more fuel breaks than leak breaks while on long rides. It's so small, I guess you fill up the tank, ride out of the exit and ride right back in again for the next fill up. I spotted a few options for bigger tanks online, but again it's just going to cost more money.

Once the test rides are over we park the motorcycles back inside the service area. There is a fat boy and a street Bob which we start and enjoy the sound. Asta_la_vista later tells me that the street 750's riding posture wasn't comfortable at all. Next stop, Honda showroom for the CBR 650F.

The story of the winged buzz - Honda CBR 650F:
I was secretly hoping inside me that the Honda was underrated in reviews and it would blow my mind when I ride it. Part of this secret wish was because of the humble Honda unicorn 150. I remember vividly taking my cousin's unicorn for ride and thinking, "So this is what it feels like to have a vibe-free, super smooth engine". After my edgy pulsar 200's vibes on the handle bars, this felt like it's internals were lubricated with maple syrup and the actual components were made of pancake batter, both working perfectly in tune to give me the riding equivalent of eating the fluffiest pancakes ever. And the quality of the paint on the fuel tank was so good, that I'd secretly wipe the tank clean with my microfiber cloth just to see the gleam, while my cousin slept in the early mornings (don't judge me, I've admitted I'm already a bit of a nut).

So, we park our cars outside the showroom, which itself is camouflaged quite well behind a row of trees and we almost miss it, if not for the big tent outside peddling their activas and dios and Navis. The Indian army should take some tips on camouflage from them. We walk in, and since I've already spoken to one of the sales guys, we immediately locate him and complete the formalities. He tells me it's going to take 5 minutes to get the bike ready and leaves us standing next to the CBR 650F display bike.

Both of us take in the bike's size, which is definitely bigger than how it looks like on brochures, computer screens and pictures. The fat 180 section rear tyre somehow looks larger on this motorcycle than it did on the Z800 or the Benelli. I instantly like the alloy design, reminds me of a whirlwind. And mentally am thinking up of the different colors of wrap that'd go with the bike, If I end up buying one.

The sales guy fuels up the bike and brings it to the front, ready for the test-ride. Funny, how I never heard it coming up the service ramp just beside us. And the ad on the website says "The wild doesn't always scream". Hmm. Either they were being brutally honest about this inline4's exhaust or I just did not hear it coming up, in the commotion of the showroom and the busy road. Asta_la_vista meanwhile decides to sit this on out and doesn't want to take a test-ride, owing to a sudden rush of adrenaline after a small argument with the adjacent shop owner regarding parking space for his Casper (i20).

I get on, and suddenly I spot another sales guy putting on a helmet too. Say whaa? You going to sit behind me? And hold me right across my tummy for extra grip, you say? Yeah, I know there are no grab bars for the pillion, but my 38inch waist with the carefully nurtured love handles is not one either. I'm suddenly in two minds now. I certainly do not want an adult, unknown male, breathing down my neck, holding onto me in a way only my wife would; he certainly is nowhere as angry as my wife to qualify for that spot. Did I say angry? I meant beautiful, sorry, damn Siri, you see.

I also want to see where this CBR fits in my mental list of bikes I want to have. It's going to be a quick ride and I'll be done with it, I decide, drowning the sensation of a human-hand-seat-belt around my tummy with the glorious experience of yet another sexy inline4. And I have never been so wrong (feel free insert appropriate meme/hashtag here).

Before we start my test ride impression, I want to say there was no cuddling to the extent I expected, because the guy must have felt it's easier to just hold onto some imaginary grab bars on the tank, than get his hands around my XXL waist. It was quite a funny scene. Me sitting somewhere between a slouch and a straight up position and this thin dude stuck to my back like a lizard, looking like he is warming his hands on the fuel tank. I spot Asta grinning at this scene as I start it up. Next thing I know, the whole sensation of my hands is replaced with a buzzy feeling. I rev it to see if it disappears, but other than an increase in the frequency of the vibes, there is no tangible difference in the exhaust note or the buzz.

All of you must be familiar with the "never meet your heroes" saying. The CBR 650F experience was like I just met the Hero's doppelgšnger's third cousin's roommate's friend and it was so underwhelming. The buzz is present throughout the rev range and all my impressions of the pancake feeling of the other Honda in my brain's hard drive was being replaced by this Honda's buzz and some more buzz, culminating to a numbness. It was like someone took my pancake memory and fed it to the wood chipper. I think I'll finish the test ride and start indicating for a turn, when, suddenly, the sales guy pokes my back, asks me to take some more time, and push the bike a bit. "You will love its surge" he says. Right, indicator cancelled, I drop back into second gear and go.

You know how I went on and on about the exhausts of the other inline4 engines here? Well, this was as silent as a church mouse. The only way I knew the engine was revving through the rev band was by looking at the tachometer and the buzz, of course. Felt like a Volvo bus driver right at that point. And the tachometer reminded me of the first gen Karizma's fuel level indicator for some twisted reason only my mind could know. The speedo climbs, but not with the urgency of an 85bhp two wheeled motorcycle. I am putting it down to the extra weight of the sales pillion. Actually he would have hardly weighed more than a pen, if I'd removed my wallet and the mobile phone in my pocket, his weight would have been negated. But for the sake of 85bhp, let's assume it was the pillion. Also, this is supposed to be tourer friendly, so I shouldn't be comparing it to the other naked ones I rode earlier.

I just want to head back at this point and I brake for the turn. The Honda shines here. Lovely brake bite and it's super easy to modulate the pressure on the lever and get adequate response. The best braking out of all the bikes that I've ridden those two days. So, at last I have something nice to say about the Honda. Well, also, the riding position is definitely better than the Z800 or the Benelli, but this was expected of course. I head back and get done with the test ride.
Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes-winged-honda.jpg

Likes:
-Brakes. This has 320mm twin discs with ABS and the braking is better than anything I've ridden in the past two days. The rear brakes do their job well too, but if I'm going to entirely rely on them to get this 215kg bike to a dead stop, I'm an idiot.
-The riding posture is comfortable with the seats broad and supportive, even the pillion seat was broad enough to keep them happy. Not mine, though. My pillion was trying to warm his hands on the tank and this screwed up the ride comfort for me, as I had to constantly squirm around to deal with his helmet digging into my shoulder blades.
-Maybe without the pillion, this would make a nice punch with the throttle input, I never know.
-The beautiful alloys. Sigh, I still sometimes think about them when I roll around sleeplessly in my bed at night.
-18-ish L fuel tank. This, coupled with the 650 motor should give a decent mileage, ideal for touring. Lesser fuel stops should definitely help the rider and his wallet.
-H.I.S.S. No it's not Mallika Sherwat who has come for you. It's the Honda ignition security system, which acts an engine immobilizer and inbuilt into the bike. I am not aware of the other bikes if they have this or not, but definitely a useful tool especially in cities.

Dislikes:
-The omnipresent buzz. I donít know if it's this bike which displayed this peculiarity or if all 650F bikes have it, but if it's anywhere like this, one long ride and you'd be wondering why you can't feel your fingers anymore.
-The front end and the instrument console remind me of the 1st gen Karizma again. Maybe it's my brain trying to get me to like this one, because the said Karizma was a really comfortable long distance bike and I loved it.
-Just one freaking color! Really Honda? Even my jockeys come in at least four different colors that I know of, apart from white. When some underwear manufacturer could take the effort to include colors for something which one would rarely, if ever, show it in public, why can't you really get us some more options. Maybe someone should forward the Jockey's styling department phone number to Honda.
-The price. At 8.26 lakh rupees on road, it's dangerously close to stepping on the Z800's toes (and that is pegged at 8.6 lakh rupees), which is a lot more powerful and looks more unique. Also, if I wanted a motorcycle with around 85bhp and around the 600cc category, the Benelli 600i, except for its Chinese link, would appeal to a lot of buyers. It's cheaper by almost 1.5 lakh rupees. Imagine the amount of riding gear we can get with that money. Or fuel. It just doesn't add up for Honda. Some may say, it's a different category, but the Benelli 600GT with its 27L tank squarely calls its bluff again. Incidentally, that is cheaper by 1.26lakh rupees. Even the 7.25 lakh option Benelli 600GTS with its side panniers big enough to fit a small elephant seems to be a practical choice. I could go on about the Versys 650 and some more bikes, but I guess everyone gets how expensive this bike is, for this level. It's punching way above its weight is all I'm saying.

THE CONCLUSION:
Yeah, first I'd like to thank everyone who read on till here. This was just me ranting my head off about the different test ride experiences over the past couple of days. The views of each and every bike is solely mine, and I request anyone who is looking for bikes in the market like me, to take test-rides, ponder over it and decide. Also, make sure you turn up at the showroom with D/L, denim, helmet, and shoes. I can only say that, after actually test riding all the bikes, I'm more confused than ever.

I never put myself to own a Harley after the Superlow and the unattainable night rod, but surprise surprise, the Harley iron 883 did show me a lovely time when I was on it. Price is just right, I can accessorize it quite decently without blowing through my 10Lakh limit, and it does suit my size. Plus, my wife thinks Harley has heritage, something which I can hand over to my son when he starts riding, which is at least another 14years away (I'm sure he'd immediately sell it off or scrap it and get himself something which every 18 year old kid is riding/driving/flying at that time). If I was looking for something to pass on to my son, I'd just search and buy a RD350 and restore it. Simple. All the other brands she says are too routine, local. Except Benelli, this apparently reminds my mom of Bruce Lee. No point arguing with a woman, either we lose or we end up losing. So I stop the discussion with at that.

The Benelli 600i is really the most straightforward choice in terms of pricing and service; also ticks almost all the boxes. It sounds bloody good and goes well too. But I can never look at that instrument cluster and go used to it. Rather, I'd just rip it out and stare at the naked wires beneath it or I'll apply masking tape all over and ask my son to draw something interesting. And the jerks at lower revs, maybe it can be worked around, maybe not. And the day I take my dear wife on it, she is just going to come back and silently slide a hot stove beneath my seat so that I'd know how burnt she was, due to the under seat exhaust.

The Z800 is still my love and if not for a few shortcomings as mentioned above, I'd just go ahead and book it immediately. The pillion seat again is going to be a problem, with its contact patch smaller than a cat's paw. Yes, I could get the SHAD gel seats and it would counter the pillion problem, but again, extra expenses. And I want to change the RVM to the ones on the Z1000. Donít know if that's possible and how much it would cost. The Versys 1000 is plainly beyond my reach at this point, like a cookie jar on the top shelf for a kid. I leave it for a later time, when I can actually reach it.

The only thing I realized after a day and a half of sampling every available dish is that, Honda is out of the race, at least for me. I apologize if I've offended any of the 650F owners out there, it is a nice motorcycle, but it's just not for me. I only wish you happy miles with it, riding it harder than ever.

The decision making time would be next month, after I join my new job and get my finances in order, so I really hope to book a motorcycle by the end of this year. Till then, I'm going to keep re-living these two days in my mind trying to come to a conclusion which one I'd take home with.

Regards,
Doc_nikhil.

P.S: All the events and experiences were my own, and never was my intention to target or malign any manufacturers or their vehicles. If I have offended any of you readers with my opinions, I would like to state that it was totally unintentional and never aimed to hurt.
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Old 23rd September 2016, 17:14   #3
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Default re: Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes

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Old 23rd September 2016, 19:41   #4
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Default re: Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes

Fun to read writeup Doc_nikhil. Window shopping for bikes (read TD) has to be a petrolhead's favourite indulgence (ofcourse second to buying a new machine).
My suggestion, beyond the ride experience off the test rides, also take feedback from several owners (both in and outside your city) on the service quality and after-sales experience of each machine.

For all the shortcomings you have mentioned on the machines, there are aftermarket parts which shall come to your rescue for most of them.

Oh and a helmet alone is like bringing a knife to a Gun fight. Once you have your dream machine, get yourself some good riding apparel (jacket, pants, gloves) and boots. You owe it to the family mate.

Looking forward to the phase 2 of the blog. Happy buying !
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Old 23rd September 2016, 22:01   #5
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Wow Nikhil,
Now thats some real quality time spent on the write up. I am sure you will soon have your own thread on TBHP.

Though i may not be an active participant in our "KOVAI PISTON HEADS " whatsapp group, i follow all your guys discussions and meets. Will definitely try to join you guys one of these days.

Good luck on your 'bike hunt ' !
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Old 23rd September 2016, 23:48   #6
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Fun writeup. If you want to buy a mid range superbike, do check out Triumph Street Triple as well. Doesn't have that highest power output but is the most thrilling to ride.

Also, do take a test ride of the 390 Duke. It's the most fun to ride bike out there. There's a saying, "it's better to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow." The KTM 390 is the biggest example of that (though in no way is it slow).

If you still want a superbike out of these contenders, Z800 is the way to go. (Weight is overrated unless you take it to a track. You shouldn't ride these bikes in traffic anyway)

Good luck!
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Old 24th September 2016, 00:19   #7
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Great write-up Doc!!! A Shakespeare in our midst!!!

That was truly an unforgettable day!!! Happy to share the test-ride spree with you!!! And don't forget!!

The green goblin is the one that suits you!!! Kawasaki Z800, we only live once!!!!!

Cheers

Prasanth Krishnan
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Old 24th September 2016, 07:33   #8
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Awesome write-up Doc! Hope to catch up sometime real soon and hope you get your "current" dream bike soon too!
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Old 24th September 2016, 10:29   #9
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Congrats in your Z800 Doc! It was really interesting to read your experience in test riding all the other alternatives. I would agree with a lot (in fact most) of the points you noted about the Z especially the ones below :
The torque engine and the exhaust note and the smooth gearbox
Regarding the gear shifts - I have experience the first gear being a bit notchy only during cold starts or first starts. After the engine gets warm - it gets smooth and doesn't shift with a clunk.
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Old 24th September 2016, 13:39   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by narula123 View Post
Fun to read writeup Doc_nikhil. Window shopping for bikes (read TD) has to be a petrolhead's favourite indulgence (ofcourse second to buying a new machine).
...Oh and a helmet alone is like bringing a knife to a Gun fight. Once you have your dream machine, get yourself some good riding apparel (jacket, pants, gloves) and boots. You owe it to the family mate.
Looking forward to the phase 2 of the blog. Happy buying !
Narula bhai, first, my belated wishes on your acquisition of the shredder. Thatís one mean machine!

Yes, on your point of the riding gear, most definitely, a proper set of riding essentials is the priority in my shopping list too. In fact, once my family gives the go ahead, and after Iíve lost some of the fat insulation around the waist, I am planning to get different sets of riding gear (two piece riding leathers, riding boots, gloves, a proper helmet or two). The riding gear should be present in my wardrobe before the bike gets delivered, thatís my plan. The main obstacle in the whole plan is my family saying yes to my craziness.

Also, a general question, how helpful is the neck brace? I was looking at the Leatt street neck brace, and I feel maybe it is useful too. I have been following your thread and noticed that you seem to have some experience on and off track. Maybe you can shed some light on how helpful it can be.

Phase two of the blog should happen as soon as I book the bike. Cheers!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Drkannant View Post
Wow Nikhil,
Now thats some real quality time spent on the write up. I am sure you will soon have your own thread on TBHPÖGood luck on your 'bike hunt ' !
Thanks Kannan sir! Yeah, we need to meet up soon. Iíll msg you over the phone regarding my plans, looks like my place of work might be on the same road as your place of work is. And thanks for the wishes sir; hopefully I get to go through the booking process soon.

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Brutailer View Post
Fun writeup. If you want to buy a mid range superbike, do check out Triumph Street Triple as well..Also, do take a test ride of the 390 Duke..If you still want a superbike out of these contenders, Z800 is the way to go.Good luck!
Thanks Brutailer, yes, the street triple would definitely have fulfilled all my needs, but sadly, they havenít set up shop in Coimbatore till date. There was a test ride weekend organized last Sunday, but I wasnít in town for that. And, Without a service backup locally, itís going to be difficult in my line of work to travel minimum 180km for a routine service. That was the main reason I did not include it in my TDs. Otherwise I am sure it would have claimed the top spot.

I had ridden the RC sometime and somehow the exhaust note did not grow on me that much (I know my dear friend, whose bike I borrowed would be extremely angry and fuming with this comment; he loves his RC so much that, I would not be surprised if he takes it with him to bed every night, whispering sweet nothings into its RVMs). The Duke being of the same lineage wouldnít hold my gaze for long; once the initial fizz of the new bike wears off. It is an awesome VFM motorcycle, with spares costing in hundreds rather than thousands and though Iíd love to own a bike which is as pocket-friendly as the Duke is, I think Iíd end up selling it sooner than I want if I get it.

Yeah, I think the Z800 would be the one. Hope the family says yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Asta_la_vista View Post
Great write-up Doc!!! That was truly an unforgettable day!!! Happy to share the test-ride spree with you!!! And don't forget!! The green goblin is the one that suits you!!! Kawasaki Z800, we only live once!! Cheers, Prasanth Krishnan
Hahaha, Elite ji, you come up with some of the best comedy bits. Comparing Shakespeare and me is like comparing a Kawasaki ZX-10R with a Luna. Just because it has two wheels, it is not the same as the other.

As we discussed, I have a lot of flab to lose, before I can actually look like Iím riding this bike, and not look like a circus elephant sitting on a small stool. So, while my heart says Z800, my waistline needs to reduce a lot for that. Iím as curious as you are to see how my diet is going to pan out. Fingers crossed that I get to ride with you onto the Ooty hill-roads with my Z800 sooner or later. Cheers to that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by krishsreedharan View Post
Awesome write-up Doc! Hope to catch up sometime real soon and hope you get your "current" dream bike soon too!
Yes, Krish ji, thanks for the compliment, lets meet up soon!

Quote:
Originally Posted by v12 View Post
Congrats in your Z800 Doc! It was really interesting to read your experience in test riding all the other alternatives. I would agree with a lot (in fact most) of the points you noted about the Z especially the ones below :
The torque engine and the exhaust note and the smooth gearbox
Regarding the gear shifts - I have experience the first gear being a bit notchy only during cold starts or first starts. After the engine gets warm - it gets smooth and doesn't shift with a clunk.
Thanks V12! Yes, the Z800 seems to be an all-rounder and as Brutailer pointed out, the weight is just overrated in most of the comparisons. Loved the smooth engine and its exhaust. The gearshifts on the test ride definitely was below par, even after warming up. Seems to be an one off problem with that bike alone then.

Hopefully I get the necessary clearance and blessings from the family when the time comes to sign the dotted line. Otherwise, Iíll have to look into the other alternatives, with a heavy heart. I wish it doesnít come to that.

Cheers.
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Old 24th September 2016, 15:07   #11
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Hi Doc, lovely write-up !!

Just thought of sharing my 2 cents to this wonderful thread. The Z800 is definitely the best you can get in your budget. Powerful, menacing, japanese reliability, inline-4 magic and that oomph - everything is in check.

Other good contenders would be Yamaha MT09 and Ducati Monster 821 but I understand either of them are above your budget plus Ducati has not set foot in Coimbatore and it is unlikely that they will do so atleast in the next 1-2 years approximately.

However, one motorcycle I would recommend you (from my limited riding experience with the big bikes) is the Street Triple. I know you have mentioned that the nearest Triumph dealership would be probably in either Bangalore or Kochi and it is important to have a service backup right near you. I echo the same thought. But with 13 dealerships already (Triumph opened a new dealership in Vijayawada recently), its just a matter of fact that they will be in Coimbatore. That is, if you prepare to wait a few more months. The Street Triple is due for a replacement and if you can wait, then you can get the latest toy from the Triumph stable.

And did I mention how much fun to ride the Striple is?

I know it has stalling issues, I know it has been detuned, I know there are ground clearance issues, but what a motorcycle !!

It is a motorcycle which is more than just the numbers on paper. The handling is on a different level altogether. It is light weight, flickable, nimble and that handling will only give you wide grins everytime you twist your wrist.

If you plan to ride to Ooty, Yercaud, Valparai, Wayanad then no other bike will give you more pleasure than the Striple. The Z800 is incredible, but so much weight around the twisties will not provide you the same amount of pleasure that a Striple can.

So if you can wait, then do wait for the new Street Triple. The dealership in Coimbatore will happen soon I am sure.

If you can't wait, then pick up the Z800. No contest !
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Old 24th September 2016, 17:01   #12
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Hey Doc, I am going to go against the tide and ask you to TD the Iron 883 for a longer time. We aren't getting any younger and something tells me the Iron will treat your back very gently(the 2016 version rides better I hear), as compared to the rest of them. Hook up the SE's and you have your own version of the potato orchestra, sure its not the in-line banshee scream but hey, you cant have it all.

Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes-1439983616347.jpg

Plus the 883 in this wicked shade of olive gold looks rad!

Last edited by batterylow : 24th September 2016 at 17:10. Reason: Additional data
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Old 24th September 2016, 21:26   #13
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^^ air cooled 883cc? Won't it get unbearably hot?
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Old 24th September 2016, 21:47   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doc_nikhil View Post
Narula bhai, first, my belated wishes on your acquisition of the shredder. Thatís one mean machine!

Also, a general question, how helpful is the neck brace? I was looking at the Leatt street neck brace, and I feel maybe it is useful too. I have been following your thread and noticed that you seem to have some experience on and off track. Maybe you can shed some light on how helpful it can be.
Thanks doc.

Honestly I have never used a neck brace or seen anyone using it so have no idea of how useful or comfortable (very important) it is. More armour is never a bad thing so you can always pick it up if it catches your fancy but do try it on before buying. I feel any riding gear has to be comfortable along with being certified on safety. If it isnt comfy, you will find reasons to avoid wearing it and it will be on your mind while you are riding which is never a good thing. Gear needs to be invisible to your mind while you are on the bike
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Old 25th September 2016, 00:26   #15
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Default re: Cure for insomnia: My story of meets, helmets & affordable big bikes

Hey Doc, you have very nicely penned down your experience of the test drive taken by you & eliteji. Though I don't have much idea about bikes but with Batterylow in this regard. You just looked killer on that 833.

Last edited by vdm295 : 25th September 2016 at 00:52.
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