January saw the launch of the long awaited Apache with a bigger heart – the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V. Old Fox reviewed the motorcycle at TVS’ Hosur Test Track, but we were longing for a longer ride! And MaxBhp was the perfect excuse for that ride. And TVS gave us not one, not two, but three spanking new Apache RTR 200 4Vs for the ride to Shillong. Deepak Kamath rode from Chennai, Gourab Das aka MG started his trip from Bangalore, while I started from Saddi Dilli. Together we would clock a total of 10000km on our respective machines! The summer heat be damned, it was time to hit the melting black tarmac, hopefully not literally!
MaxBhp is a motorcycling festival organised by the xBhp Meghalaya Chapter and was made possible with the support of TVS Apache and Motul. Pran Frooto India, Polaris Northeast India, BEADS, Peitngor Cable News and Northeast Today also threw their collective weight behind the event. The event was held at the Umiam Lakeside in Mawlyndep Village, Meghalaya.
This is the journey of DEEPAK KAMATH as he clocked over 3200km in total on his TVS Apache RTR 200 4V:
It’s not always you get notifications on xBhp offering a fully sponsored ride on a new bike! So, when I came across this notification from none other than Sundeep Gajjar, or more popularly known as Sunny, I did not hesitate to connect with him at about 10 at night of that lucky evening! We exchanged a few notes and I was able to convince him that I wanted to ride! By 11:30 that same night, it was announced on xBhp and I was thrilled to ride to the MaxBhp Festival of the Northeast, the first of its kind biking festival in that region by xBhp.
And thus began the last mile coordination with the team. Sunil Gupta to book my tickets to Chennai, where I would get the new bike, the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V. I calculated the distance that I needed to ride and told Sunny that I would take 3 days to ride from Chennai to Shillong and hence will start by the morning of 18th April. The other 2 who were riding for this festival would start earlier by a few days!
18th Morning: I was up by 2 AM to catch an Airport Bus to board my flight to Chennai, scheduled at 06:30. As I reached the airport, I realized that not only does Bangalore have traffic snarls, but also the airport area. With traffic pile up outside, I did not imagine the kind of rush at the check in. The security clearance was a NIGHTMARE! It took me more than an hour and a half to pass through this ordeal. I wasn’t too happy with the way the security personnel were frisking at snail’s pace. Nonetheless, my flight took off on time and I reached Chennai as scheduled. From the airport to the dealership took me an hour and by 10:00 am we were all set to ride!
A small pooja and coconut breaking ritual later at SBM TVS, I was on the road. Here, I am thankful to the Yezdi boys of Chennai, Srinivasan Kashyap and Ajay Srinivas to have waited for me at the dealership and escorted me out of the city. I am still an old timer and GPS guidance is still questionable! Many friends had warned me about the temperatures along this route, so the boiling temperatures did not come as a surprise. I have always allowed my mind to work over my body, so it was thoughts of all the cool things in the world, trust me, it works!
Day 1 ride ended at Rajamundry, about 700 km from Chennai. Please note, I was handed over a BRAND new bike which had run for only 18 km on the odometer and I was advised to retain a sped not exceeding 50/60 kmph. Friends joked that I might need a constant alarm to wake me up during the ride. But, here’s where the experience of having ridden over the years comes to play. Run-in is like an ECH graph, you hit a high, slow down to a low, hit high, higher and slow down and possibly stop after a while. Now, whether I wanted to stop or not, I definitely wanted to stop for refuelling, since this bike had a tank capacity of only 12 litres, which I felt a let down on long travels. In this case, it was a boon, so that I could allow the bike to cool down. Since the bike needed oil change, I connected with Mr Pradeep of TVS and he in-turn connected with the TVS Dealer in Rajamundhry, Gopal TVS who at 1130 at night were waiting for me at the service centre and readily acknowledged the required attention and the bike, while I hit the bed. Once the required was done, they dropped off the bike to the hotel, wishing me luck!
Day 2: Rajamundhry to beyond Kolkata: From that day I chased Sunrises and Sunsets. Many of my friends go for “Breakfast Rides”, this was targeting them! It is not about eating breakfast after a 40 km ride, can you go the extra distance, catch a mesmerizing Sunrise and eat anywhere other than pre-designated places? Likewise with Sunsets! In-between these two natural phenomena was the ride that took me through various interesting landscaped terrain. The pictures speak for themselves and I hope to communicate through my pictures! That was 1100 km done, IMPRESSIVE for a 200cc pocket rocket!
Day 3: Durgapur to Siliguri: This day was the most horrendous (read as the BEST!) ride day! How do people survive? West Bengal roads were disappointing; they seem to be a decade behind many other states when it comes to road conditions. The stretch from Moregram – Farakka – Malda – Dhalkola can test any good rider’s patience and perseverance. And to have crossed this stretch at temperatures over 47 degrees during the peak afternoon, guess, I owe this to myself!
Reached Siliguri by 6 pm with warning of extreme weather conditions flooding my messenger and Whatsapp from friends who were closely following my ride. I was warmly greeted by Santanu Banerjee and his xKmph Team and after checking the weather status towards Guwahati, I decided to stay over in Siliguri and face nature’s wrath the next morning in daylight.
Day 4: Siliguri to Guwahati: After bidding adieu to Santanu at 5 in the morning, I started off on my favourite stretch of NH 31 C. I love this stretch from my previous travels and this road continues to awe me. Go on ride there yourself; you will feel one with nature here! If you have seen the movie Independence Day, then the clouds that welcomed me as I neared Bongaigaon were just that! Well, I was all geared up so did not stop and kept the pace at 100 kmph. As I reached Bongaigaon, I could see the clouds divert to a different direction and hence by 12:30PM when I reached Guwahati, it was bright and sunny!
A distance of close to 3000 km from Chennai to Shillong was done in practically 3 riding days and my fellow riders, Gourab Das form Bangalore and Avinash Noronha from Delhi were still reaching Siliguri when I had reached Guwahati!
Well, it is definitely not about speed, but a longer saddle time that interested me for my rides. The bike just obeyed the throttle and was perfect to take me between destinations. Finally, on 22nd April, the 3 of us got to meet each other! The three Musketeers! Gourab who completed 3200 km from Bangalore to Guwahati, Avinash who completed 2000 km from New Delhi to Guwahati and myself.
22nd and 23rd April was the MaxBhp Festival of the North East and we were warmly welcomed by the organizers. What an event, there are SO MANY passionate bikers in this region! And to have them all meet up at the Umiam Lake, just a few kilometres before Shillong was a treat to the eyes.
Since it was always about chasing Sunrises, Avinash and me decided to head out to Dawki River along with Himajit Dutta and his friend, on the 23rd morning. At Umiam it was sunny, I decided to leave behind the rain gear and little did I know that this would be a wrong decision for the day! The distance was just about 100 km, but through some of the MOST beautiful landscapes in the North East. This was by far the MOST beautiful ride during those days on the Apache! The fog was so thick that visibility was reduced to a few meters, less than 10 meters, and then came the rain! Was it rain? In no time, I was drenched to the bone, but still decided to brave on and head towards Dawki. There was the MOST memorable bump in.
I am sure many know HV Kumar, fondly known as the Human GPS of India. Ever since he got to know of my travel of yesteryears, (having circumnavigated the world in 47 days of riding and 119 days in all), he included me into his forum, which has over 20000 followers. I was member # 19000! Of all places, just as we reached the Dawki River, I almost ran into the MH xx xx 5084. A battered Scorpio! I knew it instantly, but Kumar did not as he knows me to ride a Benelli and not the TVS. This moment of our reunion has been most beautifully captured and this is cherished for life. From there we threw a leg across the India-Bangladesh Border and then returned to Umiam, again through the thick of rains.
The concluding ceremony of the MaxBhp festival was an out of this world stunt show by Aras, a multi time free stunt ride champion from Lithuania. This was the start attraction! Amongst so many other events that MaxBhp had organized. Vintage vehicle show, live band, tattoo artistry, stunts from local riders and many more! As we neared the end of this 2 day mega event, it was time to bid adieu with a promise to make it even bigger the next year!
Flew back to Bangalore on the 24 April to the most warm (read as HOT!) climate of Bangalore.
This was a beautiful opportunity that xBhp gave me and also gave me a taste of events that they are involved in. I look forward to more such associations with this team. Till we meet again!