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Chasing Monsoon through South India with JK Tyres

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  • Chasing Monsoon through South India with JK Tyres

    It all started with a missed call. A regular day on which I casually checked my phone and saw a missed call on WhatsApp. Upon checking the profile picture, I got to know that it was from Sunil from xBhp. This led to a conversation in which I was told that they were looking for someone to take up a ride and test a set of motorcycle tyres from JK Tyres; the Blaze series of tyres to be precise. The agenda was simple, go for a long ride, test the tyres and let them know how they worked. And all needed to do was to choose a destination and chalk out the route.

    Text & Photos: John Kurian

    Monsoon had just arrived in Kerala and the road conditions were a bit of a concern. My first thought was Munnar because there’s a not a lot out there better than Munnar, for a bike trip. But it was a single day’s affair. Where’s the fun in that? So, I decided to push it a bit and after a lot of thought, I finally settled on the following route:

    Kochi – Munnar – Ooty – Coorg – Kochi

    All of this had to be done in 4 days. So, I got the leaves sorted, Thursday to Monday, and waited for the tyres to be arranged. It was going to be a long weekend.

    Day 1: 11th of July, Thursday

    I got the tyres sorted first thing in the morning. I got the contact details of the main dealer of JK Tyres in Kochi and called them up to confirm the details. I went over and picked up the tyres after the paperwork. So, I had the tyres, got them fitted on my bike, and we were ready to go. I ride a CBR 250R and the tyres that I got were the same size as the stock tyres on CBR, so the fitment was an easy enough process.

    Front: Blaze BF33 – 110/70-17

    Rear: Blaze RYDR BR 41 – 140/70-17

    Looking at the tyres, I really liked the tread pattern on the front and I discerned that it will have a good enough grip. The rear though ‘seemed’ like a hard compound and I was a bit skeptical about it. But in the end, it turned out to be pretty good. After this, I headed home and as soon as I started, it started to rain. Since the tyres were new and not broken-in, I took it slow initially. Despite that, the tyres managed to hold their own even in the heavy rain and seriously wet roads. I have found myself in some hairy situations with the stock tyres in these kinds of conditions. So this was a welcome change.

    As soon as I got home, I started packing and getting the bike ready for the next day. Also as I was about to hit the bed, a friend who owns an RR 310, called me up and asked about the pictures of the new tyres that I posted on Instagram. What’s important is that after a rather long banter, the conversation ended with, “The more the merrier.” What it means is that he also wanted to tag along for the trip.

    Day 2: 12th of July, Friday

    The next day, we woke up early and were raring to go. We decided that we’d first head to Athirapally and from there, we’ll go to Ooty via Valparai. The route was scenic and the roads are some of the best you can find in the southern part of India. What better place to test out my CBR’s new shoes than the curvy roads of Athirapally and the hairpins of Valparai.

    We had about 40 kms of highway before we reached Vazachal checkpost, which is the main entry point. The short sprint on the highway gave me enough time to run-in the tyres and get them prepped up for the twisties that awaited us. We reached the Vazachal checkpost and took a quick break for some breakfast. We wanted to be over with it because, after Vazachal, we had almost 2 hours of riding through the forest before hitting the next town.

    At the checkpost, we had to write a letter to the forest department as proof of saying that we ourselves would be responsible if anything happens to us through the route. We found it to be a bit annoying, but then we were not aware of what awaited us up ahead.

    Once we got the letter done and got our entry slips, we headed to the forest ranges of Vazachal. I was visiting this place after one full year. We reached there early, and since it was a working day, there was almost zero traffic. We rode slowly, in the beginning, to let the tyres warm up a bit. The rain gods were also kind to us as we could see clear skies ahead of us. After we rode for about 15 kms, we arrived at a bend and as soon as we exited it, we were welcomed by a herd of 5 female elephants crossing the road. In all my riding years, I have never seen elephants at Vazachal. It was an awe-inspiring moment and to be honest, a little scary too. We stopped at a distance but kept the engine running. Once we made sure they were at a distance, we continued forward towards Malakapara checkpost, the exit point of Vazachal forest and the starting point of the road to Valparai.

    Once the tyres were warm enough, they started to instill more confidence and I started to push them a bit along the curvy forest roads. And the tyres did not disappoint. After a non-stop ride through the forest, we reached the Malakapara checkpost and after signing the entry slip, we took a small chai break at the next tea stall that we saw. It was a much-needed break for both, the riders and the motorcycles.

    Remember that I said that I was skeptical about the rear tyre? Well, by this point, all of those thoughts had been brushed aside and I was left quite impressed with its performance. And because of that, I was even more eager to put the tyres to test in the hairpins of Valparai!

    We started our ride towards Valparai through the green-tea-carpeted hills of Valparai. Once the hairpins started, it was climb down to Polachi. It was so much fun to ride down with almost zero traffic. The tyres handled really well but they need to be warmed up to make full use of the profile and the compound used. And of course, regular roads are not meant for dragging your knees so one should not try that.

    We reached Coimbatore by lunchtime and so we stopped for Masala Dosa at food-spot along the highway. We found a parking lot that had some shade so as to give the bikes some time to cool down. We checked maps and decided that it would a bad decision to head to Ooty via Coimbatore town as we would be bogged down by traffic. In order to avoid that, we found an alternative route which was a bit longer, but it was a route full of corners and almost zero traffic.

    Then we reached the climb towards Ooty and we decided to take the Kotagiri route. The climb had narrow winding roads and amazing tarmac. The road conditions were really good and it is one of the best things a biker could ask for. As soon as we entered Kotagiri town, we were welcomed by heavy rain. So, we decided to take it slow from there. Now that the tyres were run-in, they provided even better grip than the day before in wet conditions. But the water splattering was a bit of a problem for my friend who was tailing me. And so we entered Ooty with rain, fog and cold weather. As we were completely drenched, we decided to retire to our stay for the night.

    Day 3: 13th of July, Saturday

    We woke up late because of the fatigue and we wanted to get proper rest. After a warm bath, we decided to go to Wayanad and take the Masinagudi road for that. We headed out but it was crowded so we rode slowly. Once we were out of that place, we headed towards Masinagudi. The route starts with the 38 of the steepest hairpin bends I have ever ridden on. Since it was a descent, we made sure that we do not go too fast or push ourselves too much.

    After those rather difficult bends, the road through the Masingudi Forest Range was straight and we enjoyed every bit of it. The sky was clear too and so it was a great day of just enjoying the ride. Afterwards, we were headed towards Madhumalai Tiger Reserve and this was a bit of difficult stretch and it was hard to maintain speed because there were speedbumps after about every 2 kilometres.

    But after that small stretch, we picked up speed and made good use of the clear weather and made up a lot of lost ground. By noon, we were in Wayanad. We stopped there for lunch and decided to head to Kozhikode for the night. But before we started to move, we decided to roam around a little in Wayanad. Heading towards Sulthabathery, we got to ride on some freshly tarred road. In this regard, we were really lucky all throughout the ride as we did not encounter a lot of stretches with bad roads.

    After a stopover at the famous ‘Thamarsherry Churam’ and then headed over to Kozhikode just to be greeted by the weekend traffic. The two hours that it took us to reach Kozhikode seemed rather long. But as soon as we reached, we headed straight to the beach, had chai and called it a day.

    Day 4: 15th of July, Sunday

    The next morning, we woke up to the wrath of rain gods. It was raining cats and dogs. We knew that we had a long day of riding ahead of us. Fortunately, it was a straight highway from there and though it got boring at a point, considering the weather, it was a blessing. Also, this ride gave me the opportunity to test the tyres for stability and grip in the wet. And again, the tyres did not leave anything to be desired. When we were around Thrissur, the rain mellowed down a bit and around 50 km from home, Kochi, we were treated by a sunny sky… that was some welcome, wasn’t it?

    About the tyres

    After an 827 km roadtrip and another 100 some km of the daily commute during the last week, here’s what I feel about the tyres.

    Front: Blaze BF33 – 110/70-17

    The front tyre was really impressive and it performed as per the expectations and even more in some departments. Be it the straight-line stability, hairpins or wet roads, the tyres maintained consistent performance. Also, I am very sure of the life of this tyre and expect to ride a whole lot of miles before demanding it to be changed. After a warm-up, it can even give some of the relatively pricier tyres a run for their money.

    Rear: Blaze RYDR BR 41 – 140/70-17

    This one really left me surprised because, in the beginning, I didn’t think and expect much of it. But it performed really well even on bad patches of road. When warmed up, it can hold its own on fast windy roads with lots of corners. Just like the front, the wet grip is exceptional and the tread does its job of channelling the water really well. It exceeded my expectations by a substantial margin. I won’t hesitate to recommend these tyres to anyone who’s looking to get new shoes for their motorcycle.

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    Last edited by xBhp; 07-19-2019, 04:51 PM.