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About: Why in the world would someone, taking two Italian exotics with an appetite for mile-munching, call this as a ‘Damned’ ride? For two reasons, one apparent and one not so apparent. The first reason came about due to the excessive use of the word ‘damn’ which was uttered every time we saw these two beauties parked against the beautiful Maharashtrian landscape. The other reason was simply that the ride revolved around two major Dams in this region and their backwaters.
Country name: India
Capital: New Delhi
Area: 3,287,263 km²
Population: 135.26 Crores
Language: Hindi, English, regional
Currency: Indian Rupee (INR)
Road Length: ~4,320,000 km
Road Details (If any): The Road network of India is the second-largest road network in the World with a total length of around 4,320,000 kilometres. The Indian road network consists of 1000 km -Expressways, 79,243 km -National Highways, 1,31,899 km -State Highways and Other major district and rural roads. Embracing a whopping length of 6,373 km of National Highways and a road network of 150,876 km, Rajasthan, India’s largest state, has the longest road length within India.
Roadtrip name: The Dam(n)ed Ride
Distance: 1,000 km
Route: Ducati Mumbai Showroom, Worli > Pen > Nagothane > Kemburli > Dapoli > Murud (Harnai) > Dapoli – Khed – Mahabaleshwar > Wai – Dhom Dam road one-way road > Balakwadi Dam > Pune > Ghargaon > Rajur > Bhandardhara Backwaters > Ghoti > Bhiwandi > Mumbai
Here‘s the link to the map
Best place to have a quick breakfast: Roadside Dhabas
Ride on: Left side
Metric System: Speed is in KM/H and temperature in Degree Celsius. Fuel or gasoline is measured in litres
Looking for twisties? All through the western ghats!
Best Weather: Post Monsoon!
Machine: Ducati Multistrada : 1198.4cc | 150 bhp | 119 Nm | 220 kg (kerb)
The Multistrada is a unique motorcycle. The Multistrada 1200 was powered by the 1198 Superbike Testastretta engine, with a revised valve overlap angle of 11 degrees (from the original 41 degrees in the superbike engine). This resulted in smoother combustion, improved fuel economy and lower exhaust emissions. The power was compromised in this deal but not much. The 1198.4cc Testastretta produced a massive 150 bhp, which is… a lot!
Thumb the starter and the bike came to life with the characteristic V-Twin throbs and vibes. But not before the white backlit console and its surrounding function indicator lights have put on their show. It looked like a launch sequence of something that doesn’t belong to that era.
The keyless ignition was enabled by a physical key that was embedded in a plastic case housing the transmitter which was constantly scanned by a proximity sensor in the bike. You could even lock the steering without ever taking the key out!
The bike’s gadgetry included the option to change the character of the bike on the fly by simply pressing a button, even while riding. The four modes, listed below, change the Power and torque delivery, suspension settings (in case of the 1200S), and traction control. This is a big deal even today and we’re talking about 2011 here!
The four-bikes-in-one concept used three technologies which interact to instantly change the chassis set-up and character of the Multistrada 1200. Fitted as standard equipment on all versions, the electronic ride-by-wire system administers three different engine mappings to change the character of the engine, while Ducati Traction Control (DTC) uses eight levels of system interaction to enhance control. For the ’S’ version, Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) instantly configures the suspension setup.
Just to understand how advanced the modes are, in comparison, the Suzuki Drive Mode Selector System (S-DMS) of that time had three modes, which the rider can select, but it stops at changing the engine mappings. The Ducati system actually transformed multiple characteristics that helped it achieve different personalities.
Manoeuvring the MTS in heavy Mumbai traffic was easier than expected. The turning radius was surprisingly small compared even to the Monster, especially since the weight on the wrists was minimal. However, riding with a pillion wasn’t comfortable in traffic because of the added weight and the tall saddle height. Even on low beam, the MTS’ light bedazzled many drivers and pedestrians because of the height.
The bike was exceptionally light; the weight does not match its heavy looks. At 189 Kg, it was a technological marvel. In fact, all the electronic gadgetry which controlled the different models and suspension setup added a mere 300 gms to it! The power to weight ratio, plus the stance made you feel in top control of the 150 horses.
We had a splendid time wringing its throttle like a naughty kid’s ears all the while seeing the numbers reach triple digits in mega quick time on the huge console. The Monster’s growl paled in comparison to the loud roar of the Testastretta engine, at mid revs it sounded a lot like its cousin on steroids – 1198.
We thoroughly enjoyed riding it around the corners in all of Western Ghats, it inspired great confidence, and however, the thought of becoming a victim of a low side on such an expensive bike proved to be a major block in really bending it hard!
Roadtrip description: Why in the world would someone, taking two Italian exotics with an appetite for mile-munching, call this as a ‘Damned’ ride? For two reasons, one apparent and one not so apparent. The first reason came about due to the excessive use of the word ‘damn’ which was uttered every time we saw these two beauties parked against the beautiful Maharashtrian landscape. The other reason was simply that the ride revolved around two major Dams in this region and their backwaters.
Ducati India agreed to give xBhp their prized flagship touring model – the 2010 Multistrada 1200 and to complement that we had an able companion in the Monster 796. And so, we set out for Mumbai from Delhi. Both megapolis’ but with a difference of almost 20 plus degrees centigrade in winter temperatures, Delhi, of course, being the ‘freeze’ companion.
We had just finished the India ride on eight Ducati Monsters, and yet, the eagerness to swing a leg over spanking new red Multistrada in front of us at the Ducati Mumbai showroom was uncontrollable!
The MTS looked beautiful, glossy red, with precise lines the way an Italian is destined to be, the simple white Ducati insignia on the tank making all the difference. The front was sleek and moving a little to the side one could see the sharp dual intake nose merging into a superbike-esque symmetric headlight assembly giving way to a beautifully sculpted tank with the eyes following the lines all the way back to the plush looking step-up seat and the pointy rear.
Then, almost immediately, the two vertically stacked flanked & stubby stylized aluminium exhausts catch one’s eye. This combined with the spoked rear wheel shod with a healthy 190-section tyre, the whole assembly being held by a single side swing-arm, added to the sophistication of the whole deal.
Next up, the eye wanted to explore stuff buried a little deeper into the bike. The console hits one next, looking big and fantastic. The skewed hexagon LCD was supplemented by a smaller circular display on the right. This almost looked like a Ducati Edition PSP gaming gadget with that entire screen’s real estate. But then, it was quite apparent that it was actually going to be like a real-life video game with all the gadgetry and power that the bike was drenched in.
Talking about the route, the target for day 1 was Murud. We started from the Ducati Mumbai Showroom in Worli. We then proceeded to Pen followed by Nagothane and Kemburli. During this stretch, we chose SH96 to SH100 and then SH104 instead of NH17 because the former was a serene traffic-free ghat stretch. From Kemburli, we made our way to Murud via Dapoli for a total of 300 km on day 1.
Day 2 saw us go back to Murud and then head to Mahabaleshwar via Khed. The day consisted of 122 km of riding and a whole lot of photos and riding fun because the route was a scenic ghat route and, more or less, traffic-free.
Day 3 was the longest riding day and it was a mixed bag with some excellent places for photos and then some really bad traffic. From Mahabaleshwar, we headed to Dhom Dam road via Wai. The next stop was Balakwadi Dam, a beautiful place both in terms of riding experience and photo opportunities. From there, we head to Pune and then to Ghargaon. This stretch was a bit difficult because of the undivided road and a lot of traffic. From Ghargaon, we made our way to Bhandardara backwaters via Rajur. A total of 340 km were covered on this day.
Bhandardara was, again, a beautiful place with a traffic-free run to Ghoti from where we headed to Bhiwandi via the fantastic, divided, and 4-lane NH4. The final jaunt was to Mumbai which was… full of traffic… predictable. Day 4 saw us cover 150 km.
As much as we wanted to head out directly to our first destination, fate had other plans. It took us a decent 5 hours straight to figure out how to carry 6 days’ worth of luggage on the two bikes plus getting the new MTS ready with number plates et al. Since the one we got was not the touring variant, it did not have hard panniers.
After a lot of running around, we decided to just shove what we could in our backpacks and head out. The step-up seat of the Multistrada 1200 offered some support for the backpack… unfortunately, the Monster did not have any provisions of the sort… tough luck.
Day 1: The Beach
The first day saw us ride from Vashi (where we stayed overnight to avoid the mad Mumbai traffic) to Murud, a beach near the town of Dapoli, down south.
We were surprised to see Vashi and surroundings being engulfed in very dense fog. It was quite chilly too, unlike what you would expect from a year-round hot and humid place like Mumbai. We weren’t sure what to expect from the roads in Maharashtra, but we were raring to go since we were starting to get comfortable with the bikes.
The fog subsided a few kays into the ride down south. Soon we hit a divided highway, but not for long. The road from Pen to Kemburli via Nagothane was just a namesake National Highway 17. It was the 25th of December, the worst time we could have hit this single-lane undivided highway. There were hundreds of families in cars heading for some beach or the other and we were the unfortunate souls stuck on these kind bikes.
However, good times awaited us. The moment we veered off the NH17 at Kemburli and to SH96, things started to get a lot better. The road though narrow had very little traffic and the scenery was pretty. This continued till Chinchghar Dasturi whereon we joined SH104. Traffic eased out as we approached the town of Dapoli, from where the 10 odd kms of ghats gave us some excellent tarmac to throw around the two Italians.
We reached Murud by 4 PM and stumbled upon a beach resort called Silver Sands which only had a single room available. The room was very basic and not very clean, but it did the trick for us. Murud had an acceptable number of tourists despite it being Christmas time. It was also quite clean which makes one wonder why people flock to Goa…
We explored a little bit of Murud and its surroundings. Harnai beach, 3 kms from Murud, was a fish-market, pun intended – a fishing village thronged by thousands of tourists, who knows why, when there were miles of serene sand beaches just in the neighbourhood. We’d choose a few moments of peace with nature over the hullabaloo any day…
Day 2: The Hill Station
Next morning we took the Multistrada out on the Murud beachfront where the sand was surprisingly hard enough to ride on. The red of the MTS looked stunning with a beautiful white horse as they paced across the camera, a moment to remember. From there we headed out towards Mahabaleshwar, a 120 kms journey cutting across ghats and into the hills where the weather progressively turned from cool to cold.
Along the way, we took a diversion along a small winding path leading to a dead-end high up on a hill. There was no one but us and the Italians for company. It was here we sat and soaked in the serenity of the place. The cool wind blew in our faces, the sun shone bright but not harsh, the rustic golden tall and dry grass rustled master symphonies that touched our hearts rejuvenating us. India still has a lot of magical places left…
We checked into Hotel Aaram in Mahabaleshwar, a cheap (INR 3000 at that time) but clean and quiet accommodation option. Later towards the evening, we had a delicious Strawberry cream shake with fresh strawberries at Saba Garden in Old Mahabaleshwar.
Day 3: The first Damn!
Today we headed out at 6.30, in the morning cold, to witness the sunrise at Wilson Point. It was worth it. The sun came out piercing the darkness and bathed us in golden morning glory, but failed to give us any respite from the biting cold.
After witnessing a fantastic sunrise, we headed off to Dhom Dam via Wai. The ride around Dhom and Balakwadi Dam was a revelation. Within just 2 kms of leaving Wai and riding towards Balakwadi, the whole world changed.
There were far fewer people, the scenery got prettier, the sky bluer and everything just quieter. This is one circuit I would recommend to anyone if they are riding to Mahabaleshwar. It is just fantastic! Don’t forget to take your bike alongside the Balakwadi Dam and enjoy the blue waters under a blue sky on a sunny day.
We also befriended some villagers who were, well, actually making hay while the sun was shining. The cowbells were tinkling as milky white cows grazed lazily. The only intruders were us with alien machines but even then, we were spoken to like long time friends… with warmth. Such richness of character and compassion abounds in rural India, which, sadly, the urban Indian totally lacks.
We got out of this dream run and headed towards Pune on the four-lane NH4 which gave way to a super crowded undivided NH50 until Ghagaon from where we headed inwards on SH21. It was around 6.30 PM and pitch dark. The roads got narrower, people lesser, night chillier and we still had at least two hours of riding left. We didn’t even have a hotel room booked and were ready to chance our luck in the hill station of Bhandardara.
We kept on riding on curvy roads with no one in sight for miles. The lights of the two Italians kept gobbling up the darkness ahead as we progressed towards our destination which was starting to move farther from us… at least it seemed like that because of the cold.
Upon entering Bhandardara, we chanced upon a water crossing on the road and grass peeking out from either side of it. It was perplexing but we thought it was the dam water overflowing onto the road, but the actual status would only be revealed to us the following morning.
By some stroke of luck, the second time in succession, mind you, we just walked into a major tourist destination resort, asked for a room and got the keys to the ‘last room available. This time it was at the MTDC resort and we had to pay just INR 800 (at that time) for it. After a sumptuous meal in a noisy canteen full of holidaymakers, we hit the sack for the ride back to Mumbai tomorrow…
Talking about Bhandardara, it is one of the lesser-explored holiday villages in close proximity to Mumbai. It is a village near Igatpuri, in the western ghats. The village sits on the shores of the Pravara River. And we think it is a beautiful place to ride to or visit because of the natural beauty of the place… especially, the Wilson Dam, Arthur Lake, and the Randha falls.
Day 4: Back to Base…
On our last day of this trip, we woke up early and got rolling to witness our second sunrise in a row. But this time, it was over the backwaters. Not a lot of things come close to a sunrise like that. After letting the beautiful sight sink in, we went to the same waterlogged road that we had chanced upon the previous night.
At night, it was a bit difficult to make out what it was. Actually, the water was just a tad bit over the dam level and it was flowing across the road and onto the other side over the cliff. It formed a waterfall of sorts and it is sights like these that justify our insatiable hunger to keep riding and exploring.
We sure had fun splashing the water high in the air with the two Italians and then, headed out towards Mumbai. The road after Ghoti was excellent until Bhiwandi whereon the metropolitan traffic started.
For someone living in Mumbai or surrounding areas and looking for a short weekend ride or a 3-4 day excursion, Bhandardara is an excellent choice. One of the major reasons is that it is less than 200 km from Mumbai. But more importantly, it provides one with the serenity they seek while trying to get away from the hustle and bustle of the urban jungle… If we get another chance, we’d choose it over Mahabaleshwar (without taking anything away from it) any day… honest!