There is something about the mountains, isn’t there? They have been an integral part of a motorcyclists staple diet. But is there anything more extreme than that? We think there is. Forget about the mountains. There is nothing quite like the vast alluring openness of the desert. An empty canvas to paint anything, a canvas where you’re only limited by your imagination.
As alluring as it may be, a desert is also unforgiving and ruthless. Arid climate, extremely hot days, bitterly cold nights, and gusts of wind laden with sand- it really is unforgiving. But the fact that even places like that are inhabited is what makes humans such an intriguing species. They are known to adapt to the harshest of environments and still thrive.
But can we say something similar about the machines built by man? Probably. But the majority of the machines that concern us are motorcycles. So, can we say something similar about motorcycles? This question is what gave rise to the xBhpUltimateDesertChallenge. The deserts are calling… and we have to go!
For this little test of mettle for both man and machine, our playground was the Thar Desert. About the motorcycle, well, how about one named after the fastest creature on the planet? How about the Falcon’s namesake- the third-generation Suzuki Hayabusa? And since the desert is a lonely place, we needed a companion for the Hayabusa. How about the world’s fastest street-legal production motorcycle- the Ninja H2?
In a place like the Thar desert and with machines like these two, stakes are high. Both of these motorcycles are pinnacles of engineering but even so, there is nothing that can trump nature. The climate and the terrain that we were challenging could have easily played spoilsport here. So we needed the best in order to bring out the best of these two. And we had the best in the form of Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE.
The Ninja H2’s sophisticated supercharger tech ensures that there is power, incredible power available at the twist of a wrist. But there is a reason why forced induction is not commonplace in motorcycles. The amount of heat they add to an already hot and compact engine setup is insane. But our Ninja H2 has always relied on Castrol POWER1 to keep those troubles at bay and this time was no different.
Coming to our Suzuki Hayabusa, within a couple of days of getting it, we converted it to #HayabusaBlack Mirror Edition. When the time was nigh for the first service, we went with Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE for obvious reasons. This made us step it up a little bit further and convert it to BlackMirrorULTIMATE Edition. Now, it was time to put these machines and Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE to test. Now… it was time to ride!
Upon reaching Jaisalmer, we were greeted by the mighty expanse of the Thar desert. Covering an area of 2,00,000 sq. km, it is beautiful, for sure, but the unrelenting heat of the sun and the dry gusts of wind quickly made us realize that this place commands respect. Much like the machines we had brought here.
The nights in the desert are cold but as soon as the sun rises, the temperature starts to rise dramatically. The famed Golden Hour which is a visual delight is made of piercing sun rays that almost seem like they’re burning through everything they touch. The desert is the only place where you get to witness this devastating form of something that is the source of all life on God’s green earth.
As we got started, the empty roads and the vast nothingness of the desert seemed to tempt us to let the Ninja H2 have a crack at the Hayabusa and make prey out of the predator. But we are civil people and so, we limited ourselves to just seeing how much heat these machines could take. As the temperature soared and the wind picked up, we made our way to our first destination- Kuldhara.
The fabled Kuldhara village is said to be haunted and that seems like a fitting description once you get to see the 400 abandoned building ruins. Its former residents cursed the village to never be inhabited again. It wasn’t and it is even forbidden to go there after sunset. The two missiles we were riding wanted to just pass through the village without creating a ruckus. One thing that we can say though is that Kuldhara was beautiful, hauntingly beautiful.
During this time, we realized that the new Hayabusa’s aerodynamics have been worked on further. It now has one of the best drag coefficients of any street-legal motorcycle in the world. The Ninja H2 was already designed to cut through the air like a hot knife through butter. But even with that, the liquid-cooling system was working overtime along with Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE to keep things cool.
As the day progressed and the temperature rose, we made our way to another abandoned village named Khabha. The village overlooks the Khabha Fort and was said to be inhabited by Paliwal Brahmins in the 13th century. It is said they suddenly left it overnight leaving the village empty. Jaisalmer has many such villages that are beautiful to ride through especially in the golden hour.
But we did tell you that the golden hours come with their own set of problems. Being in Jaisalmer in summer is not for the faint of heart. After all, not a lot of people would dare to challenge the mighty Thar desert when summer is at its peak. This is a place where both man and machine need to be careful.
Another thing that we got a taste of during our ride is the super-ambitious Bharat Mala Project. It aims to build 83,000 km of new highways connecting states like Maharashtra and Rajasthan in the west through the Himalayan states of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand and all the way to the Indo-Myanmar border in Manipur and Mizoram.
Now, this is the incredible tarmac that we referred to earlier and this is where motorcycles like the Hayabusa and Ninja H2 belong. And with roads like these, it is hard to not let loose. But in the desert, everything is not as it seems. The seemingly empty roads have quite a few surprises in store. From camels on the road to unseen crosswinds that can yank you off the road like a withered leaf. Then there’s sand that makes its way to the roads as the dunes shift in harsh summer winds.
Away from the hustle-bustle of the city, we were able to really test these machines out. About the Suzuki Hayabusa, well, the third generation is not only a visual masterpiece but a technical marvel too. Even the older engine was a beauty but the new one is even better. More tractable, more approachable, and more usable than ever with the incredible array of electronics it has now. It is now easier than ever to take it to the limit. But on the road, the machine has infinite potential and you are the one that has to be the limiting factor for your well-being and that of the others.
We have ridden the Ninja H2 extensively- 20,000 km in Australia and 10,000 km around India. There is a reason why it gained a cult status comparable to that of the Hayabusa in a much lesser time. The supercharger is of course the centrepiece but making it work as it does in this motorcycle is the real deal. The Ninja H2 is a remarkable machine and with the new Suzuki Hayabusa, they make for a formidable pair. And both of them being powered by Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE is the icing on the cake.
The beauty of these two machines warrants attention and appreciation even under the harsh sun of the desert. These motorcycles are like an oasis in the desert- two legends standing out amidst a plethora of machines that may be equally well-engineered but can only dream of achieving the fabled status of this duo. Add to that the rustic charm of Jaisalmer and its colourful people and we have perhaps the most intense projects we have undertaken.
Onwards to the most important part- the results of the test. The #xBhpUltimateDesertChallenge was meant to tell how these machines handle the extreme environment of the Thar Desert. Along with it, it was meant to find out how capable Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE is in helping these two mammoths keep their wits about themselves. In short, both of them passed with flying colours.
In the desert, the biggest enemy for us and our motorcycles was of course the heat. Both of these motorcycles feature liquid cooling which had to work overtime to keep the bikes running. But when the temperature reaches close to 50-degrees Centigrade, you need more. Despite the engine configuration for both the machines being inline-4, they both come with their own set of challenges.
In the case of the Ninja H2, it is a bit worse because of the significant heat being added to the system by the supercharger. In the case of the Hayabusa as well, its now-sharper fairing houses a lot of complexity in the form of its 1,340cc inline-4. All of that results in a lot of residual heat. The liquid-cooling system is the only active-cooling solution these motorcycles feature but quite a few components do not have that luxury.
It is so because in general, these parts do not require to be actively cooled. But when the ambient temperature is sitting at a searing 47-degrees centigrade, they sure can use it. That is where Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE comes in. Keeping the engine cool is one of 5 aspects that it works on to improve with its 5-in-1 Formula.
But the job isn’t easy even for the engine oil. Extreme conditions like those when combined with the extremity of the machines can spell disaster even for the best of engine oils. Thankfully, and predictably, Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE not only kept up but worked wonders in keeping the engines of the Hayabusa and the H2 protected.
Quite a bit of it comes from Castrol POWER1’s know-how gained from MotoGP- the pinnacle of motorcycle racing. The motorcycles racing in the series are prototypes that produce around 300 bhp of power, rev up to 16,000 rpm, and race at the limit for tens of laps covering more than 100 kilometres. Now helping machines like those hold it together even on sultry tracks like Sepang- that’s liquid engineering.
So Castrol’s idea of liquid engineering, their years of experience, and rigours in motorsports led to the development of Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE. A fully synthetic engine oil designed for a broad application that covers small capacity single-cylinder engines to high-capacity multi-cylinder configurations.
Ultimate is a strong word but we can attest to the fact that in the case of Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE, it is apt. While in the #xBhpUltimateDesertChallenge, its capabilities in dealing with extreme heat and the extremities that come with it were proven, it has a lot more than that on offer.
The much-talked-about 5-in-1 Formula, in addition to keeping the engine cool, works on 4 other key aspects- acceleration, protection, endurance and smoothness. So you can expect noticeable improvements in all those areas and get to experience the ULTIMATE performance of the 5-in-1 Full-Synthetic technology at an affordable price.
With the conclusion of this challenge, we can ascertain that not only man, but the machines he builds can also take on harsh environments with the right kind of support. The kind of support that Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE lent to our Hayabusa and Ninja H2. But this test also reminded us how small we are in front of nature regardless of how far we’ve come. And we can also tell that the desert can be a lonely and desolate place- but with the right company… it is just as beautiful.