Lavasa – After Amby Valley, another dream city coming up near Pune, for those who have overflowing supply and reserve of green bucks, so what do it has for us? Well Richie rich’s do not travel on bad roads and hence along with exceptional houses, they also get great roads to reach there. Where in city, tax payers travel on roads providing them a free experience of traveling on lunar surface, just outside city we have some great roads for villagers to enjoy.
In past I missed a few chances to ride to the gate of Lavasa city, so when on 25th Oct 2006 evening a plan was made, I decided not to miss this chance and just simply ride. This was a ride to Lavasa where people from a News channel wanted to do a small program between the 150cc four stroke bikes from the current generation. Members of a local stunt group were riding the bikes to be featured in the program. I decided to explore the unknown territory on my trustworthy Fiero.
26th Oct 2006
News channel crew was coming from Bombay and hence the start of ride was delayed. After meeting up with the crew members and members of the bikers group, we headed towards Lavasa from Chandani Chowk.
From Chandani Chowk we took the road towards Mulshi. The surface of this road is a total contrast of what we have in Pune. In Pune where the tax payers are punished by giving them lunar surface, Villagers living on the road to Mulshi are rewarded with exceptionally great road surface.
Enjoying the ride, soon we reached at the start of Pirangut Ghat. There are two routes to reach Lavasa from here, you can either take a narrow road going to the left side from the start of Pirangut Ghat or you can rip down the Ghat at lightning pace, boosted by help from gravity and then take a left turn after Pirangut city.
We took the left road which is also short in distance. The road is wide enough for a car and a two wheeler to go side by side but the scenery and the winding road makes you forget the narrowness of the road. Few kilometers later we come out on a wide road which goes to Lavasa. This is the same road which comes from Pirangut city.
As we come out on the wide road, we start the climb to Mutha Ghat. The surface is great, road is well marked and very little bit of traffic. Possibly one of the best Ghat near Pune. A small halt was taken just after the climb of Mutha ghat for some shooting.
After spending some time, we resumed the ride towards Lavasa. Right after we come down Mutha ghat, road changes to wide, winding, unmarked road, still good enough to enjoy the ride.
As we reached the end of this section of road, we were greeted by a huge dam, under construction. There is a road going towards left which will take you to Lavasa city. As we take this road, the surface again becomes great, with proper markings and almost nil traffic.
As we took this road, lots of surprises awaited. As expected curves were all over the place but as I went a bit more ahead, hairpin bends greeted me. Having taken hairpin bends in past, I was well prepared but these hair pin bends were different. As we are in the middle of the turn and try to accelerate out of it, road suddenly vanishes in front of you and head towards sky.
While I was enjoying the ride, I made one basic mistake. Since I was following couple of riders, I mistakenly, instead of concentrating on the road, looked at the rider in front of me, who happen to miss the turn somehow and started to go straight, I followed him, perfect example of “target fixation”. Thankfully, as the road was going upwards, the speed was not too much and hence we both got enough time to correct the basic mistake made by us.
After we finish the hairpin turns, we have climbed to some height, which can be noticed by the slight drop in mercury. Soon the road was flat with twisties, as I was taking one curve I got a glimpse of a rider going off the road (enough run off area to park a few planes). Having just learned from the mistake made, I continued to concentrate on the line until I was out of the curvy section. Looked back, the rider was back on road after a small off-roading session. Hugging some more curves we reached the gate of Lavasa city being guarded by a bunch of security guards. While the media guys started to get back to work, I decided to sharpen my photography skills.
After spending some time there, we headed back as it was well past lunch time of normal human beings. On the way back media crew stopped at one more location to click some quick shots. In the mean time I once again got busy with camera.
As we were coming down there was a board asking us to check our brakes as a steep down hill section was about to begin. Coming down at high speed without good brakes is a adventurous way to take a nice dive into the Lavasa dam’s water.
With hunger has hit almost everyone, the speed was increased with the single aim to reach some hotel in quick time. The nearest hotel was at Pirangut. Around 4pm we reach the hotel for lunch and then called it end of day.
Since the shooting was not complete, people were going to come back next day as well. This presented me with a great chance to visit the great roads once again, under 24 hours.
27th Oct 2006
It was decided to start the day a bit early so that things can be wrapped up quickly. Once again we all grouped at Chandani chowk. While I was waiting for people, sun came out to give me company.
Once everyone came, we all headed towards Lavasa. Today with couple of big bikes giving us company, I had decided to take the CBZ on the ride.
Though I was doing similar speed as compared to previous day but the sporty riding position and the exhaust sound was giving the ride sporty feeling. As I enter the winding roads, CBZ was in its element. Where Fiero, the previous day, was keeping me on the edge all the time, today riding the CBZ was a bit lazy, in the sense that not much feedback was required to be given to bike to get through the curves.
For today the shooting area was planned closer to the dam, preventing us from climbing all the way to the gates of Lavasa city.
While the camera crew was setting up the equipment, some of us decided to pay a visit to the Lavasa gates. Better handling of CBZ combined with the experience of the road ride was mistake free and enjoyable. Soon we reached the Lavasa city gates. Me having some important appointment, started back soon. Riding down hill the better braking of CBZ’s disc brake was noticed. Where the disc on Fiero was feeling a bit spongy, CBZ disc was feeling strong.
By the time I finished my work in city, TV crew has finished their work so instead of returning back to Lavasa, I called it end of day and headed back to home.
29th Oct 2006
During a meeting with Dilip Bam previous day, while I gave the CBZ for servicing and took Unicorn from him, another plan to ride to Lavasa was made. The plan coincided with a ride plan of RDDreams members.
The ride started early morning, once again from Chandani chowk. We were four of us on RD350, ZMA, Unicorn and Apache. It was a bit cold as we headed towards Lavasa.
Riding Unicorn on open and winding roads was a totally different experience as compared to Fiero and CBZ. For me the mono shock worked exceptionally well, giving me a comfortable riding experience. The slight increase in torque and bhp also showed its difference. So do the Honda chassis. If you can go fast on CBZ, on Unicorn you can go even faster. Handling of Unicorn has moved the bar to a level higher than where CBZ has put the bar to, this was noticed right from the climb to Mutha ghat and all the way through the hairpin bends to the gate of Lavasa city.
While we were taking those hair pin bends, call it luck or someone taking my exam. Rider in front of me, missed the same turn where I also ran wide on the first day, while following another rider. This time I retained my concentration on the line and as I came out of the turn, didn’t have to look back to see my co-rider as the roar of his RD closing on me signaled that he is back on the road.
By the time we all reached the gate of Lavasa city I had fallen in love with the handling and engine of Unicorn. Felt like riding up down Lavasa till bike runs out of fuel.
While we all were chatting at the top of Lavasa, I tried one more time to get a ride on Apache. Asked Dilip if I can ride down on Apache, after initial hesitation he agreed to swap the rides. Few minutes later we were riding back. The low sitting position (as compared to Unicorn) and slightly different riding position of Apache took me couple of turns to get used to. Once I got a hang of the slightly different riding position, I was spellbound by what happened next.
While I was going into a turn at 80+, I was about to ease on the throttle just before entering the turn when I got some sort of feedback from the bike and I just pointed the bike into turn at the same speed. As I was going in the turn and coming out of it, I was shell shocked by what happen. Have never ridden a bike taking turns like this. With every turn the confidence was climbing to a new height. The bike was taking the turns in a completely different but well behaved manner as compared to CBZ and Unicorn (two of the best handling).
What spoiled the fun was the spongy feel from the brakes while coming down the slopes. Missed the braking of CBZ/Unicorn. In couple of downhill turns when I carried too much of speed, as I shifted down, the rear TVS tyre showed their symptoms by sliding a little bit, few years back I would have loved this feeling but I’m getting old now. After crossing the hairpin bends, stopped to control my excitement.
Here when I told Dilip about the rear sliding during changing gears while the bike was leaned. I was pointed at another mistake, of not changing gear or applying brakes while bike is leaned into a corner.
Once we crossed Lavasa dam and headed towards Mutha ghat, there were plenty of ‘S’ bends and Apache has by now redefined the laws of riding on winding roads. Have not ridden a bike going through ‘S’ curves like Apache. I wish one day I could ride this bike on a race track.
Have not ridden through twisties at such a hot pace for quite some time now. One more place where Apache disappointed was lack of top end grunt, as compared to Unicorn.
After a lip smacking ride back, we headed towards Mulshi to stop at Dilip’s favorite place to have Missal-pav. After food, I was in no mood to hand back the keys of Apache to Dilip, so I got to keep the bike during the ride back to town as well. Normally my ride back home is slow and lazy but today with Apache for my company we rode back with the same excitement as if we are just starting a ride.
By the time I reached Chandani chowk, I was always waiting for the moment when I will be able to ride Apache for a longer duration.
So in past 4 days I have ridden to Lavasa thrice on 4 different bikes. So a quick summary about the experience on bikes.
First Fiero, though its fun to ride in twisties, the same rider will go faster on any of the other three bikes. Once the smoothest engine of Fiero now has to share that crown with Honda. In short, the newer bikes have improved to an extent that it will take better riding skills or dare devil acts to match the other bikes on Fiero.
Next is CBZ, the performance king of the 150cc segment. Bike which redefined the rules of handling, the crown bike owned for so long. Now has to share the crown with the two new kids on block (Unicorn and Apache). Engine really shows signs of age and need some upgrade to match the slightly more powerful new kids. Still this is the bike with the best riding position one can get for sporty/spirited riding.
Unicorn – The first bike from Honda in India. Mono shock, which does the job very well. Chassis and engine showing what Honda stands for. Over all an excellent bike to ride. Be it the twisties or be it the lunar surface. Only disappointment is the thin rear tyre, making it a bit scary to ride over gravel and loose surfaces.
Apache – I wish TVS came out with this bike instead of Fiero or at least F2. Though it’s no more the smoothest engine (Unicorn has grabbed the crown with both hands), it’s more fun to ride (Crown taken away from CBZ). The suspension is not as comfortable as that of Unicorn, over bumpy roads, slightly on stiffer side. But a bike, I’ll take any day to ride in twisties all day long.
Dilip asked me to make a decision which bike today I would like to own out of these four. Well there is no single bike I can buy. Back in 2000, I was in a similar confusion, my heart said CBZ but mind said Fiero and today, heart is saying Apache but the mind is saying Unicorn. This just shows one thing, though I have gotten old, my heart has remained young.
Disclaimer: The comments about bikes are based on my personal experience of riding them in twisties. Except for handling, braking and perfromance none other factors are considered.