Those of you who have been following me on YouTube or social media may know that I just finished my Himachal-Ladakh ride. It was a proper 35-day ride spent exploring the rustic beauty of the mountains. Before I left for this ride, I had come across #xBhpJKSmartRides project on social media. It piqued my interest and I filled out the form, sharing my upcoming ride plans with them.
As soon as I was back from Ladakh, I got an email from xBhp informing me that I had been selected and I could go forward with the plan I had shared with them. But… what was the plan? Well, it was about exploring Kashmir but not the usual places like Srinagar or Sonmarg or the sorts. I wanted to explore the innards of Kashmir, places that have not been explored by a lot of people, which is why I christened this ride as ‘The other side of Kashmir’.
While I was still warm from my long ride and ready for another one, my motorcycle needed some TLC. My KTM 390 Adventure that I call Charlie, had been through a lot. So I decided to get it serviced and also, get a new pair of Smart Tyres from JK Tyre. Yes, Smart Tyres. So after I got Charlie serviced, my next stop was JK Tyre Steel Wheels for getting my Smart Tyres installed.
Ankit Lamba, also known as Dream Chhaser by his viewers, is a simple guy who loves to ride and capture the moments he lives. In terms of experience, he has got some serious rides under his belt including Zanskar, Ladakh, Spiti, Arunachal, Nepal and many more. He was also a part of the #roadTripUnited2021 and you can know more about him on his channel linked here.
In simple terms, the Smart Tyre technology from JK Tyre consists of a sensor that is wrapped around your wheel with an adhesive and a belt of sorts. Once that is done, the tyre is installed. How to put it to use and why is it Smart? Simple, once you have the sensor installed, you just follow the instructions on the box. Download the Treelcare App, register, scan the QR on the box for the sensor and voila. Now you can monitor the vitals of your tyres in real-time on your smartphone.
From tyre pressure to temperature, it gives you all the readouts and also alerts in case the tyre pressure is too low or if they are losing pressure rapidly. I love this technology because I believe it not only makes your ride safer, it also ensures that you can maintain optimum pressure in your tyres at all times to ensure that you get better mileage, grip and tyre life as well. Smart not in just the name but the game as well.
Finally, about the actual rubber, I got a JK Tyre BLAZE BF32 for the front and JK TYRE BLAZE RYDR BR41 on the rear. The front tyre size has been downsized to 90/90-19 and the rear has been upsized to 140/70 – 17. Now that we have everything ready, let us head out and explore Kashmir like the heaven on earth it is touted to be.
If you are a passionate long-distance two-wheeler rider who loves to take pictures and videos, then we have created this platform called #xBhpJKSmartRides in association with JK Tyre just for you where we will provide you with the necessary support, including cash sponsorship and a set of #SmartTyres from JK Tyre, to enable you to go on your dream ride, while also testing and reviewing the new set of tyres and creating engaging motorcycling content to showcase it to the world. Know more about how you can be a #xBhpJKSmartRider by clicking here.
I have a habit of starting early whenever I go on a ride and this time was no different. I was on the road at 5 AM from Delhi and on my way to Kashmir. I had planned to reach Kashmir on the same day covering more than 800 km. In a bid to do that, I kept the breaks at the minimum with a brief halt at Ludhiana for lunch.
Since I started early, I did not encounter a lot of traffic and after hitting the highway, it was not a problem at all. While traffic was not an issue, the hot and humid weather sure seemed to be. But being on the highway, the open roads and the accompanying wind helped and it never got to a point where it became a serious concern for me.
I reached Jammu and Kashmir border around 3 PM so you can tell that I was moving at a decent clip. The fact that I had broken in the tyres before the ride started, meant that I had a lot of confidence in pushing right from the get-go. I loved how steady the JK Tyre Blaze RYDRs felt on the highway. From hard acceleration to hard braking, I had all the grip I needed to already fall in love with the tyres. The icing on the cake was the comprehensive tyre health updates that I now had thanks to the Smart Tyre technology.
Upon reaching the border, I had to undergo a mandatory antigen test which took about an hour. While this was a sort of a setback, I was still able to reach Udhampur by 6 PM as the weather too had improved considerably and it was quite pleasant. But then, there was a twist in the tale. It started raining and my destination- Patnitop, was still a fair bit away. I still made it there by around 7 PM but the last 10-12 km to Patnitop, the weather was really foggy. Post this, I retired to my hotel room to be well-rested for the next day’s exploration.
For this day, I had Srinagar as my destination as my stay was planned at a friend’s place. I started from Patnitop around 10 AM and reached Srinagar by 2:30 PM. I was able to ride at a decent pace since the roads were in pristine condition even more so, in the newly inaugurated Gazikung tunnel which is about 8.5 km long. Upon reaching my friend’s place, I rested for a bit and then spent some time at Dal Lake and Lal Chowk before returning to call it a day.
The friend I stayed with decided to join my ride for a few days and for this day, I had plans to explore Dawar, the biggest town in the Gurez Valley and an important archaeological site of the region. We started around 10 AM and on our way, we crossed the Razdan Pass which is situated at 11,600 ft! The route was scenic and the weather was pleasant- riding in Kashmir when the weather treats you right is an absolute sensory delight!
On our way to Dawar and before we crossed the Razdan Pass, we stopped at Taarbal for lunch and had some amazing biryani. We also interacted with the local people and we found them to be very warm-hearted and welcoming. Another stop for us en route to Dawar was Khopri, a small village. There, a kind shop owner got talking to us and after some chit-chat, he showed us the POK mountain and a Pakistan Army post which was visible from his shop.
It was already 5 PM when we left Khopri for Dawar which was still around 6 km away. We covered that distance quickly but just before Dawar, we came across a beautiful camping spot close to the KishanGanga River. We spent about an hour there and headed to our destination. But by the time we reached, all the hotels there were booked because of the weekend and some VIP movement. Finally, we were somehow able to rent a small room where we stayed for the night.
Day 4’s destination was Tulail valley and we started our ride around 9 AM. Our first stop was Habba Khatoon, a mountain named after Habba Khatoon who was known as the Nightingale Of Kashmir. We also indulged ourselves in some trekking and went some 500m before turning back and getting back to our ride to Tulail Valley. Our plan was to reach Baduap, a small village in the valley.
Upon reaching there, I was awestruck. I had never seen a place as beautiful as this valley. It was like Switzerland with houses made of wood and greenery all around. Some locals told us that in winters, this place receives around 10-15 ft of snowfall because of which most of the roads are closed down. One of the most beautiful villages that I saw was Sheikhpura where we stayed for around 3 hours.
Post that we resumed our ride to Baduap but we encountered a checkpoint and we were not allowed to go any further. There is no movement allowed in the valley after 8 PM and since it was 7:45 PM already, we were out of luck. But we somehow managed to convince the soldiers who introduced us to Major Akhilesh who was posted there.
He seemed to be a real gentleman. He politely asked our reason to visit and as we told him, we found out that he was from Noida, not too far from Delhi. After our brief conversation, he called someone and told them that two bikers were coming through and then allowed us to go further but asked us to exercise caution.
It was already dark by the time we reached Baduap and we encountered another checkpoint. There, we were told that no stay was allowed in the village without permission. After some talking, they took us to an army camp and verified our IDs. Then they called Major Rana who again enquired our reason for visiting. After listening to us, he was convinced and impressed. He went even further by asking the officers there to take care of our dinner. Post that, he booked us a homestay where we spent the night.
This day was a hectic one. We planned to reach Chakwali, the last point where civilians are allowed to go. Before we started in the morning, we got a call from the Army Camp and were told that Major Rana wanted to have breakfast with us. So we obliged and had breakfast with him. I also showed him videos from our previous rides which he really liked.
We then requested him to let us ride to Kabul Gali which is a further 15 km from Chakwali. He told us that no civilians were allowed to go there unless granted special permission. Upon further requests, he permitted us and, in turn, helped us become the first-ever bikers to visit Kabul Gali which is very close to POK and leads to Drass.
We first went to Chakwali where some locals helped us explore the village and by the time we got done there, it was already 1 PM. Post that, we started our ride for Kabul Gali. Let me tell you that this route is not for the faint-hearted. It was the toughest stretch of the ride and that is saying something. It was full of uphill off-roading but I am glad that I went with the Blaze RYDR tyres from JK Tyre. They held their own and somehow, we made it to Kabul Gali.
There was another checkpoint there but the officers already knew that we were coming so they welcomed us with some lunch. After that, one of the officers sat pillion with me and took us to visit the Draupadi Kund, an unexplored lake. After spending some time there, the officer took us back to the checkpoint and we were on our way to Baduap. We reached there around 7 PM, thanked Major Rana for all his help and kindness and then stayed in Sheikhpura.
Day 6 and 7
From Sheikhpura, we made our way to Srinagar via Dawar. Post Dawar we took a little detour and rode via Bagtore and Taarbal. After some exploring, we made our way to Srinagar via Razdan Pass.
The next day, I decided to get Charlie serviced where I also got its chain-set replaced. Apart from that, I simply explored Srinagar including its nightlife and the famed houseboat stay.
Day 8 and Day 9
My plan to explore Kashmir further came to a screeching halt due to a curfew that had me stuck in my houseboat for two days. So Day 8 and Day 9 were spent waiting for the restrictions to be lifted so that I could resume my ride.
After the curfews, my riding time throughout the day was considerably shortened. On Day 10 of my ride, I got a call from a friend in Gulmarg which was not too far from Srinagar. I started at around 3 PM and reached around 5 PM. After that and some dinner, I decided to enjoy some camping in Gulmarg with my friends.
For the next day, I had planned to explore Lolab Valley which is around 100 km from Gulmarg but because of the mountainous roads, it takes around 4 hours. It took me 6 hours which included quite a few photo breaks as the route was so scenic. But that was nothing compared to what Lolab Valley had in store for me. I had heard a lot about it but in reality, it was something else entirely. Greenery all around you and mountains in the backdrop. This was definitely one of the higher points, if not the highest, of this ride. As I got ready to call it a day, someone told me that I must not miss visiting the Kalaroos Cave. Since I had time, I added it to my agenda for the next day.
The Kalaroos cave is about 15 km from Lolab Valley and with the help of some local kids, we decided to explore it. It is said that the cave starts from Kashmir and ends in Russia. We were not able to find out because, after about 100m or so, it was too scary and dark for us to continue. So we abandoned the mission and made our way to Lolab Valley from where we headed to Kupwara, our destination for the day.
This was a special day because I had planned to visit a village on the LOC- Teetwal. Now, the route to the place and roads are absolutely amazing but the process to reach and explore is as difficult as possible. First, we had to take permission from Kupwara Police Headquarters which took about 5 hours! At one point, I thought of abandoning the plan but then, Teetwal and Sadhna Pass (10,200 ft) were on the top of my list so I decided to go ahead.
As we made our way towards Teetwal, we had to halt at Tangdhar Police Station for the final step of verification and obtaining the permit to visit Teetwal. All of that for a place where there was no stay allowed. But let me tell you that it was all worth it, be it the weather or the roads. After some time spent exploring the village, I made my way back to Srinagar.
The rest of the day was mostly spent resting and exploring Srinagar as it rained almost throughout the day. The notable places I was able to visit included the Floating Market and the downtown area.
Day 15 and Day 16
The rain didn’t let up the next day either but it was a bit milder than the previous day, so I decided to head to Pahalgam where I had some breakfast. Then I explored Betab Valley where I indulged in some horse riding. But then the rain intensified and I had to halt my plans to explore further to reach Aru Valley. Riding in the rain was a bit tricky due to poor visibility. So I took it slow and put my faith in the Blaze RYDR tyres to keep me and my motorcycle shiny side up! The rain was even worse the next day so I was stuck in my room all day.
Day 17 and Day 18
Since the weather Gods were not being too kind, I decided to head back to Patnitop and head home the next day. Getting to hear about snowfall further up also helped me make up my mind.
If I am being honest, I did expect all these hurdles. The weather, the checkpoints, the time spent for permits and all that. I also knew that I may not be able to explore all the places that I planned to. But then again, in all honesty, I did not expect to go as far as I did and for that, I have to thank my friends, Major Akhilesh, Major Rana, all the locals and of course, xBhp and JK Tyre for enabling me to go on this epic roadtrip. I explored a lot yet again but there’s a lot more so, till next time…
I travelled a lot so I have a lot of talk about the tyres as well. Right off the bat, this is one fantastic pair of tyres. Considering the adventure touring credentials of my KTM 390 Adventure, the Blaze RYDR tyres proved to be the perfect match for it. The set I had was for sports touring and mild off-roading. Starting with the tarmac performance, the stability and the grip of the tyres is simply amazing. Whether you are on the highways or riding the curves in the mountains at a leisurely pace, the Blaze RYDR tyres can keep with whatever you throw at them. The best part though was the wet grip. In fact, with the amount of rain I encountered in a few instances, I was surprised at how good these tyres are at channelling water and maintaining grip. Finally, these tyres perform well off the tarmac too,l if you have a steady right wrist. During my ride to Kabul Gali, I witnessed them in action off-road and considering their road performance, they left a deeply positive impression on me. The best part, with these being Smart Tyres, was that I could monitor the vitals of my tyres such as pressure and temperature in real-time which added another dimension to the whole experience.