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Thread: Winter is Here | Delhi - Manali - Jana | Benelli 302R

  1. #1
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    Dec 2014
    New Delhi
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    Default Winter is Here | Delhi - Manali - Jana | Benelli 302R

    " If life gives you a sports tourer, you still should go to the hills "

    - Anonymous

    Phrases and quotes are a holy thing for motorcycle freaks. So with this fabulous quote as a guiding light, I randomly decided on 25th January that I am indeed going to Manali and unknown ahead with the half-year old 302R. Boy, it was nuts! Here is the know-how.

    Day 0 : Rant

    Okay, let's just say that a pulmonologist and a hard winter can never be friends. Work is hardest hitting, the emergency room always overflowing with patients. No sleep, occasional biscuits and equally heavy OPD the next morning with a toothbrush break of 10 minutes in between. Repeat this for eight weeks, Sundays inclusive, and you get what may be referred to as a burnt-out burnout. No matter however much I love this line of work, some moments come where you just feel like not being in control anymore. You long for a hot shower, a decent meal and a long ride. 26th jan was coming, and I was ready to take on the roads. Touring is stressful, expensive and where I stood at that point, my colleagues would just have boarded a plane to Maldives and chilled the bejesus out in the sand. I couldn't. I like the bug juice on my helmet better than molten cheese.

    I was still working till 25th night. I had not packed a single thing. I managed to ride to Decathlon just before they could throw me out and bought meself some winter gear. BTwin undergloves, a fleece jacket as an add-on to the thermal liner and some noise reduction earplugs. I wanted to buy scuba flippers too, but anyway. XD

    Grabbed a few protein bars and fuel on the way back. Had the hottest shower I could possibly have. Stuffed the tailbag as badly as I could, and succumbed to a deep sleep. I had an unrealistic goal of waking up at 3:30am, leaving at 4am and reaching by 4pm.

    Day 1 : Black fog and snowy mountains.

    I got up cursing myself, at 5:30am. It is okay, I said. Give yourself a break, brother. No sleep deprived human being can really hear those alarms. At one point, I just felt like easing back into the soft cushy blanket and let the world go on about its business while I savor the rare, sweet sleep. Like blue cheese.

    Yet again, I got up decidedly. Rummaged through the luggage one last time, and geared up. One glitch. The camera. How do I store the camera. I don't have a tankbag. I want the camera to be handy. So, I stuffed the camera, protein bars, street gloves and power bank in the Lenovo backpack which everyone has. Geared up. Walked up to the bike, praying that it could have some pointers to help me tie the ends. I carefully studied the anatomy, and secured the straps in the air exit vents on the side fairings. I have the bike wrapped in 3M PPF so tank scratch disease is something I do not give much mind to.

    I started. It was cold and cloudy and basically gloomy. It was so weird, with the smog. Plus it had drizzled on the last night. So the humidity was next level. This in toto, led me fogging up the visor much too soon. I don't have a pinlock ready helmet. (Note to self: Upgrade ASAP). Crack open the visor a bit, and the cold air bit into the flesh of the face as if a whole school of sting-rays performed a ballet on it. With this dual war going, I hardly could manage 80kmph average till I reached Murthal.

    I saw an empty highway. I had a capable bike. I had about 600km more to cover, half of which is basically offroading. I tucked myself in behind the windscreen, latched onto the tall tank and the knee grips. The pegs are forward set, which really spares the wrists. I love how forward biased the Benelli 302R is. You can feel the whole meatloaf right in your hands. So much that you could lift it with a gigantic fork if you had one.

    I picked up the revs from 5.5k to 8k and the unmistakable Benelli grunt was alive. This motorcycle is so characterless below 5.5k that it is not even funny. It'll roar as much as an Apache 200 and keep itself in check. Climb over that figure, and you have a blast!

    Oh SHIT! I remembered, it was the Republic Day! That means not so far away is the time, when the horde of flagged warriors enter the scene, with red tail flashers and bar end flashers and LEDs enough to give epileptic attacks to a whale. You overtake them, and it becomes a matter of pride. Now all 20 of them will be on your ass. The lights and the loud noise are not optional either. I am so done with this over the years. Now I just need my little lane and solitude.

    The anxiety added to my enthusiasm even more, and I kept on orbiting around 120kmph with the needle jolting and jumping at 9000rpm. The black smog at the speed liquefied on the visor, into droplets and showed itself out. So beautiful to see those little bastards creeping away. No more sting rays.

    It was so meditative, riding into nothingness at the highest level of concentration. I rode like this till about Ambala Cantonment. I stopped to check the map, and went ahead towards Roopnagar road which finally could get me to Kiratpur Sahib.

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    I was so happy riding once again after a gap of eight weeks, I didn't feel like dismounting even once. Then hunger pangs made a duty call and I stopped at a nondescript Dhaba. A Punjabi dhaba in Punjab. That was something off my checklist as a prompt Maharashtrian.

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    The hands were frozen despite the best gloves AND liners. The lips were cracked and swollen. How cheerful it is to reconnect with the feeling of being alive by physical sufferings. I felt like a monk doing hardships. :P Before my unreal narcissism took over, I entered the Dhaba.

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    This is my mugshot, with the black tinted visor, no thanks to the smog.

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    I had a healthy dose of a multitude of butter smothered paranthas and chai. The patrons started their usual interview with the bike and of course the price of the bike. Followed by the mandatory negative shaking of the head in despair and walking away murmuring : ITNEY MEIN TOH CAR AA JAATA

    I always enjoy that one. Paying no more heed to the flock, I dug my way through the paranthas. Stretched my legs a bit, and off I went.

    Loving how warm was the chai to hold in the hands, I obviously made a sad face while leaving the dhaba premises.

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    Now I was stuffed with warm food, the fuel was still good. What else does one need? I mounted up, and ventured through the rest of the way. The Sun came up, and the state of Himachal Pradesh too, came up.

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    I rode all the way without a real break till Kullu. I did not feel like coming off the saddle because I feared it would break the chain of my thoughts. On my way uphill I stopped for a quick fuel-up. I saw some metallic riders fwith PB plates riding uphill in a group. They were too much enthusiastic about riding ahead me on blind corners and show me who is the boss. So I fed their ego without leading to anyone's death. I slipped down to the fourth, and enjoyed the twisties with a natural pace. Half an hour later, I saw my metallic friends engaged in a group selfie session at some waterfall location.

    I saw the opportunity. "You better hold on tight now!" I yelled at the metzelers. They were like "Sure, whatever, bring it on". Then I tackled the ever narrowing curvy roads with great enthusiasm. The pegs scraped peacefully and at one point the claw bag cover suffered a bruise. I then took it lightly as I was far away from a track. I was rather far close to a death trap with the generous Beas ready to engulf me owing to a single miscalculation.

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    I could not help but stop at a twist where the huge mountain I could not take my eyes off it. It was sheer intimidation, though my camera could not do justice to it. Everything in Himachal is like that. You feel like stomping your camera with your feet and walk away, because everything is so so so huge and magnanimous, it is lame to even try and capture it with a camera.

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    Riding fast on twisties is fun only if you manage to stay alive. I call myself a 'tourer sports' rather than a sports tourer. While you excuse me for the lame pun, we move on.

    Mandi it was at about 4:00pm. I had made good time, thanks to the nonexistent Delhi traffic and our selfie loving metallic friends. I wanted to rest my butt and wash my face with warm water. So I googled for an upscale restaurant. Big mistake like I thought. I went to a crap hotel with the only USP of a secured parking.

    Once I knew that I had absolutely no hurry now, (since hills are to be enjoyed and not rushed through) I took my own sweet time exploring the various services the hotel could give me in return to the crap food and rude attendants.

    I used every facility in the restroom, played on the swing in the garden, used hot water to wash my face and eyes for times too many, and left with a swagger. Screw 'em.

    Now that I had my own time to be, I reached Manali singing songs loudly. I encountered some traffic at the diversion where the Naggar road separates. No worries. I slowly reached the town of old manali by 6pm.

    My body was aching but my head was aching more. I needed caffeine, so I searched for coffeeshops in Manali. Nearby me, nothing was eye catching. So I roamed around aimlessly, through traffic and bridges. I then spotted a little joint on my left where the words "coffee" were written.

    I walked into this place named KILTA Cafe. I don't yet know what it means, but a sweet lady welcomed me backed up by a strong middle ages blonde-tanned man. They absolutely were foreigners, running a coffee joint. I ordered a double shot americano and a hot dog. They were great people, and bikers. Robert and Grace. Amazing duo. We talked about bikes and coffee and food and what not! I devoured the freshly made hotdogs and coffee.

    Accomodation, I had not paid much mind to it. I asked Robert and Grace about some easy to go accomodation. They suggested me a few places. I told them I'll explore first and if nothung catches my fancy, I shall contact the people they refered me to.

    Then I came around a backpacker hostel named The Lost Tribe on a booking app. It was about 2km from Robert's joint. It looked rad AF. The prices were rock bottom and most importantly, it was off the hustle bustle of the main city. I called up the guy, and he told me to take a narrow lane off the main road to reach the hostel.

    I reached the hostel location. Took a photo of the trip meter. 619 km. Ray Mysterio. Enough said.

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    Like a fool, I took my bike all the way down to the hostel.

    It was cold, but the pleasant kind of cold.

    The guys were awesome. They offered me a lots of things, which I politely refused. I got my bunk bed. Had a shower, a protein bar, plenty of hot water. Off to sleep. Let's worry about the next day when it comes. A solid day on the saddle.

    Day 2 : Snow and Smiles

    I got up late, at 9am. Why stress yourself, I said. The world is beautiful and I'd rather take it as it pleases me.
    I saw the Sun had been out and shining. The air was clear. I took a walk around the campus while brushing my teeth. Mesmerizing view. I waled up to my beloved, and unveiled her. I could see the snowy mountains up ahead. Let's go there,I decided. But first, more coffee.

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    I geared up and rode straight to my new friends, Robert and Grace. They had just opened the shop, and had baked some fresh puddings already. When I opened the door, they were whipping mayonnaise. We talked while they worked, and then I grazed my way through coffee and murder-it-with-mayo sausages. Finished up with cookies. I asked them where to go,but they told me "you go wherever you want to, everything is worth visiting"

    I told them I may go towards solang valley and road to Rohtang. Then I greeted them and left.

    I first went towards Solang as my buddies from the hostel had already started for it. I started going to the place, and damn. It was full of traffic. Kilometeres of traffic over the roads. People were fanatically trying to scrape whatever little snow there was on the roadside. I don't get the obsession with snow,but maybe it is a personal thing. I like snow mysef but not to the point of scraping roadside bits of it.

    While paving my way through an unending number of tourist buses, private cars and cabs, I reached what they call the end point of Solang road. The BRO has closed the road further ahead for works. I asked with puppy eyes if I could go. I received a stern decline. I wanted to tell him "but I will behave, please lemme go" but I restrained myself.

    The valley looked beautiful even ignoring the litter and the cacophony and the crowd. The mountains are too big to be overpowered by human presence. You can bring a thousand people more, and it will still be amazeballs. I wanted to stay and explore, but the sheer number of tourists forced me to get the hell out of there. "Maybe I shall come tomorrow early morning" is what I said before leaving. I knew that was a fuzzy lie.

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    Returning, I met a Father-Son duo from Pune who were riding in these parts on a stock RE classic 350. I felt so much good for them, together they were having fun. We chatted for a bit, then they took off. I guess they too were irritated with the solang crowd.

    After wandering for a bit afar, I found a perfect spot without the infestation of flocks. It was utterly a breathtaking scene, everything really. The blue clear sky, the mountains, the snow and the Sun. It felt like I am walking inside a Louis Armstrong song. Few pictures here and there.

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    I asked around, and went towards the road to Rohtang. Stopped over at Palchan for an ATM withdrawl.

    Then I had a nice ride till the frozen roads and slush on uphill couldn't just avail the motorcycle to go up. People were here too, but much nicer and less in number. I could have managed a steep or two, I did. Later I realized that it is not worth trying to slip and slide a CKD twin with metzelers into the slush and then to the valley. If I had a Duke with knobbies and a bicycle chain, maybe. Not right now. Let's walk.

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    I parked my bike and packed everything in the backpack including the helmet in a helmet fleece. I started my uphill walk, towards Gulaba. I met some interesting walkers on my way. We exchanged jokes, small talk and snowballs. I absolutely loved the weather. It was sunny and still subzero. It had snowed a night before, so the snow was cute and happy, without dirt. I walked and hummed. All I needed was right here, a clear mind. A thought-free mind. Some fresh air. Absolute silence. Tress. Snow. What else? It was relaxing. No amount of yoga classes, high end spas and bubble baths could bring it to me. The soothing of nerves. Whoa!

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    Nonchalantly as it may be, I reached the Gulaba point. Few 4x4s were hunting for weary walkers to get the downstairs. For me, I picked up a spot far away from the people and just sat there.

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    Soon enough, I fell asleep. I mean, how often do you sleep like that? I must have been knocked out for about an hour. Then, I started my walk back and this time foolishly walking into difficult places in knee deep snow and emerging from it. Such a 5 year old thing to do, well, I did it.

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    Upon my return, it was about 5pm. I felt nauseated with the thought of all the traffic over at the mall road. I instead spotted a nice, isolated hair salon near palchan. I asked the dude to give me a nice trim while I recollect all my happy moments. He was a swift gentleman. He went through the clutter like sheep through grass. I spent about an hour cozied in his shop. Then I saw a momo shop on the roadside. I treated myself with a platter of momos.

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    Back to the hostel. Spent good time having thoughtful exchange of ideas among the squad with entirely new folks. Retired to my bunk with a book. Fell asleep while halfway on page 1.

    Day 3 : Unexpected!

    This day was left aside for some aimless wandering. Plans never got me anywhere, so I figures what wrong it could do.

    I gulped on some chai and started my journey downhill, because I felt like it. I figured that the way everyone was crazy for the snow, I would rather get lost in the wilderness.

    I rode till Naggar, where unfortunately the zipper of my jacket burst. Gushes of cold wind made their way in. I looked around, it was a fine morning, with little kids playing around.

    I spotted a shop with a few jackets on display. I walked up there and entered the shop. Big mistake, I walked in with my helmet on. The lady at the counter got spooked. I quickly removed the crown and apologized. I showed her my zipper. YKK had failed me after 4 years. Not so bad.

    She told me that she has no cure for this particular ailment. She ran a ladies garments store and she did not have monstrous runners in stock.

    After repeated begging, she emerged with a pair of pliers and got working on my zipper. She did it with absolute concentration and gave me a smirk when I thanked her and walked out.

    I liked where the road was going vaguely towards some hills, and since the universe was in my favor, I chose to ride the tide. I started uphill on the same road.

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    The road was twisty and surrounded by thick tall trees both the sides. I had to stop and click a few photos, but the ISO needed to be bumped up to 800 to get some visibility. It was THAT dark. No vehicles, no tourists, absolute silence. Only people I saw were two elderly villagers carrying firewood in the baskets on their bags.

    As I continued, the road became un-road and then became off road. I managed to drive through the gravel and dust. I went ahead like this for about 15 kilometers.

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    Soon, I discovered a habitation. It was named Jana. A very small group of houses on a slope. I tried to ride further ahead with caution on the slushy frozen roads. I spotted a waterfall like site. Only two cars were present on the scene with a hotel-esque establishment serving snacks. Tourists, ugh! I felt nauseated.

    The restaurant guy was encouraging me to park at a spot and have food at his place and enjoy the waterfall. Not bad, I thought. But I wanted to go even further ahead as the couple of cars were poking into my eyes. I told him I will go ahead, roam around and join back for the food. He was persistent about the frozen roads. He was like "it is impossible to ride ahead, this is the last point".

    From where I stood, I saw nothing impossible. Okay, it was a lot of snow on the road but I could have managed. I rode further ahead. After a few turns, the road got really inclined and messed up to hold a grip. I contained my enthusiasm.

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    On my left, there was a small bridge and a waterfall. Zero tourists here. Surprise, Surprise! Here was a home next to the waterfall. The chimney was emitting smoke. I asked inside, a dude of my age came out. I asked him for further directions. He told me you can try, but it really isn't possible.

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    He was looking after the food joint till his father returned.

    A casual conversation gradually paced up. I have a knack of chatting people up. Ravi was a shy person at first but as soon as I invaded his barriers with a few puns and witty remarks, he opened up. Then we took over the wooden cabin and started with preparation of some cinnamon chai. He was anxious of his father coming and ridiculing him, but I told him that I shall talk to him like a proper tourist. He was sad that the food joint owners downhill discouraged people to visit this part. He was at a loss of business because of that.

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    After the chai, his father arrived with stern glances. He was suspicious of his son indulging in some good for nothing behavior with outsiders. Turns out it was just me who thought like that. He was super welcoming and he even offered his seat near the fireplace as a gesture of respect once he learned I am a doctor. The wooden seat was worn out in the shape of an ass after years of sitting. I felt embarrassed to sit at a place where a man has his full authority. I politely refused and at this moment I gave a visual cue to Ravi. He requested his father if he could look after the joint while he shows me around.

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    Ravi and I started our walk uphill. It was a totally wild, where wild bears inhabit. He told me about a pilgrimage trek they do every 12 years where every person from a household joins. They trek for seven days through forests to reach the deity. He had an in-depth knowledge of flora and fauna of the area.

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    We hiked upwards in the mountains and crossed numerous snowy plateaus, bear footprints and frozen waterfalls. At the top of a hill, where there was absolute nothingness ahead, we sat at the edge. My camera battery had died. I felt good about it. Screw the camera. This is so humongous to even try and look at it with these two petty eyes.

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    Sitting there in sheer silence. No awareness of dimensions, time and person. Completely altered. The Sun set at its leisure. We didn't speak. Soon it started getting duskier, with a very reluctant vibe I got up and started walking downhill. I still can not forego of the vast landscape and the absolute silence.

    We returned and we were hungry. The father hurried away as soon as he spotted us. We was bored AF sitting in there it seems. Ravi cooked up some local delicacies. Brown rice, soyabean mash, ghee from sheep milk, pickle of some local root and siddu.

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    I never saw a plate going empty so fast even at barbeque nation. Munch munch munch! Hunger had completely taken over!

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    After doing away with the dinner, it was time for saying goodbye. I had to leave for Delhi coming morning. Had I known this hidden place, I would have arrived here. Sigh. I offered him money but he was so reluctant and hostile. He kept on refusing. So when he turned his back, I placed some cash under the pot on the table

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    I gave him a ride till the village of Jana, he even showed me his house and two spare rooms he had. He invited me for a stay. I saw his father on the way, he did a most graceful Namaste and we had a small talk. It was too dark now, so I slowly rode to Manali. I met Robert and Grace for a while. Then I rode up to Mall Road with a meh face. I spotted a medical store to buy my contact lens solution.

    Let's do one last touristy thing, I said. So I searched for the highest rated restaurant, the Johnson's Cafe. The vibe felt alright. I sat in a corner, near a fireplace. I ordered the most revered dish, Trout in almond sauce. It came.
    Yet, I felt out of place.

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    I felt like I do not belong in this climate controlled shithole, with this fake food in my front. It was too dichotomous with the state of mind I was de-escalating from. At a point, I packed the half eaten food. I stuffed it in my makeshift tankbag and once again started riding towards Solang road.

    It was about 11pm. The chill was too strong. I stopped the bike. On my left there was river Beas. Roaring relentless. I could see the grayish water currents in the faint moonlight. I could feel the water current on the move, it was so close. I took out the food and started eating. Now it felt good to eat. The road had an occasional car passing. They slowed it down to see if the motorcycle guy is here to jump in the river or what.

    I finished my food with frozen fingers and a warm heart. So much love for this place. Yet it was time to leave.

    As slowly as possible, I stumbled back to the hostel, imbibing every little detail I could.

    I remembered that I had to lube my chain. I had totally gone off my mind! Ugh.
    I got the swingarm jack, chain brush but the chain lube canister was not dispensing properly. So at 11:30 pm I woke people up and found a couple of gear oil sachets. I loaded them up in a stray syringe which was an accidental finding in my backpack. I cleaned the chain with diesel and lubed it up carefully with the syringe.

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    Packed my bags and with great despair, went to sleep.

    Day 4 : Whatever.

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    So in a nutshell, I started my return journey at a lazy 7:30am. I rode pretty much nonstop till Kiratpur Sahib. Near Bhuntar my hands and feet were close to being amputated with a cold so I literally paid a guy to light a fire in his tea stall so that I could warm my boots and hands. All the hiking im the snow last evening has soaked up in the boots. Such a hard time!

    At Kiratpur Sahib I found a Dhaba in solace and I had my sweet time there.

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    Then, I zoomed fast til Murthal from where the traffic became hellish. I spent four hours fighting the traffic and reached home at around 10pm.

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    So much fatigue. It is true they say urbanity wears you out fast. Yes I am too a victim of that. But you chase around urbanity away with a motorcycle and a free mind, like you chase away a rabid dog with a stone in your hand. You accept your sad life, you embrace it and you try to make little good out of it. A dose of good ol' motorcycling and some me-time ought to get you that much. This is what I have gathered from my ventures so far, and thus motorcycling will always remain an irreplaceable part of who I am.

  2. #2
    Moderator The Monk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Winter is Here | Delhi - Manali - Jana | Benelli 302R

    Travelogue Approved

    Another lovely one!
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    Biking is not about what you have between your legs, its all about how well you use it!!!!!!!

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    Default Re: Winter is Here | Delhi - Manali - Jana | Benelli 302R

    Nice one Doctor sahib!

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    Rookie saurabhgupta710's Avatar
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    Default Re: Winter is Here | Delhi - Manali - Jana | Benelli 302R

    a superb narration and pics...

    i loved every bit of it! especially sitting till the sun set and the dozing off in the snow
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    Default Re: Winter is Here | Delhi - Manali - Jana | Benelli 302R

    Nice story telling
    DocOnTwoWheels likes this.
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    Default Re: Winter is Here | Delhi - Manali - Jana | Benelli 302R

    Nice narration doc. Just one feedback, could you please include how 302R performed during your journey. Thanks!

    Looking forward for more!
    DocOnTwoWheels likes this.

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    Default Re: Winter is Here | Delhi - Manali - Jana | Benelli 302R

    Quote Originally Posted by saurabhgupta710 View Post
    a superb narration and pics...

    i loved every bit of it! especially sitting till the sun set and the dozing off in the snow
    Thanks, mate! The dozing off comes naturally to me :P

    Safe miles!

    ----consecutive posts auto-merged-----

    Quote Originally Posted by drive_angry View Post
    Nice narration doc. Just one feedback, could you please include how 302R performed during your journey. Thanks!

    Looking forward for more!
    The bike performed exceptionally well. The bottom did not scrape even once on the hardest terrain. The only time I scraped it was on a tall speed bump in my hospital campus.
    I clocked 620 kilometres in about 11 hours with ample breaks in between. On freeways I could reach 155kmph with a little juice left on the tacho. No vibes. The motorcycle is rev happy and all that bulk gives a planted feel at high speeds. It doesn't have mad acceleration once again because of the weight. Yet, once it crosses 60kmph, it climbs to 130 in a blink. Midrange is strong and predictable.
    Overall, a good sports touring package. With a LOT of comfort.

    Thanks for the kind words. Cheers!

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    Default Re: Winter is Here | Delhi - Manali - Jana | Benelli 302R

    Did I forget to mention that you have a way with words, Doc? 😉

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    Default Re: Winter is Here | Delhi - Manali - Jana | Benelli 302R

    Nice travelog doc ,enjoyed reading it .
    DocOnTwoWheels likes this.
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    Default Re: Winter is Here | Delhi - Manali - Jana | Benelli 302R

    Quote Originally Posted by aakash_01 View Post
    Did I forget to mention that you have a way with words, Doc? 😉
    I think you did, mate! Much appreciated ✌️
    Keep clocking them miles safely

    ----consecutive posts auto-merged-----

    Quote Originally Posted by bharatheshk View Post
    Nice travelog doc ,enjoyed reading it .
    Thanks! I see you own the R3. If Yamaha had their senses switched on in July, this travelogue would have been featuring one.

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