So close yet so far

One dream
SS1600K – a long awaited IBA ride I wanted to do. Having spend a couple of years discussing and planning about it, as another year was coming to an end, I decided that I have to attempt it before the year ends.

Initial plans were to do the ride on my Bullet but after my last ride to Goa, bike showed signs of needing some attention. During this time I got to ride Unicorn, thanks to Dilip Bam. Riding the bike for a few days I knew that it is a good alternative to Bullet for such a ride, though the seat was not so comfortable nor light so bright, but it was the best I was having as a choice.

After Arpan and Alok returned back from their Bangalore ride I got an update on the road condition of NH4 between Pune and Bangalore. The 200 odd km long stretch between Hubli and Chitradurga is still under construction with lots of diversions, crossing through towns via the old NH4 and some stretches of broken roads.

Christmas weekend was chosen for the ride. Got the bike inspected for the ride. As I was about to start the ride, I fell sick and had to postpone the ride. Now with only the New Year weekend left, that was the last chance for me. Luckily for me I recovered enough for the ride by the New Year weekend. By now Arnob has also done the same route for his Bum Burner ride (another IBA certified ride) and he advised me not to take the route due to the bad stretch which I’ll have to cross twice, wasting a lot of time. Still I decided to do it on the same route.

Ride preparation
On Friday collected some spare parts (Spare tube, Fuse, Spark Plug, Head light bulb, Chain link), replaced the fused tail light bulb, replaced the rear 3.00×18 Zapper with 90/90×18 Zapper Q and packed the required tools. Cleaned the visor and decided to carry the brand new spare visor along to replace during the night time. Went to sleep early on Fri, 29 Dec, the ride was planned to start as soon as I get up next day.
Ride day – Pune to Bangalore

At 7am I got up fresh to start the ride. Took bath with warm water and started to prepare myself for the 24hr long ride. I decided to wear four layers of clothes on top (T shirt, Thermal, T shirt and leather jacket) and two layer at bottom (Thermal and jeans). By 8am I was down in parking warming up the bike and fixing the small luggage with the help of bungee chord. I quickly set off towards RTO gas station as my start point. All the way was trying to hear for some unwanted noise coming from the bike which might trouble me during the ride.

At 8:30am I reached RTO gas station and started to call my friends as start point witness. Sadly no one was able to come and the attendants at the gas station were not too convinced to become the start point witness. As I was thinking of what to do, I meet with an old time friend at the gas station who readily agreed to be my witness. I quickly tanked up and took the fuel bill. It was 9am with odometer showing 9410.5 on the bike.

Coming out of city was not too difficult and soon I was on the bypass. Slowly I started to pick up speed and decided to keep the tachometer needle between 7k to 7.5k rpm (with Unicorn speedometer having too big of an error, it was not good to get carried away with the false sense of high speed).

Thanks to the newly opened Katraj Bypass I was able to avoid the pathetic Katraj ghat and soon was riding through small towns outside Pune. The traffic was not too much with majority of traffic being of fast moving cars and crawling busses. Till Shirval there were some slow sections but after that it is 4 lanes all the way.

Bike was feeling nice and happy cruising easily at around 7k rpm. As I started to climb up Khambatki ghat I came across a bunch of egoistic car drivers who were not willing to give way to a faster vehicle. They couldn’t digest the fact that a bike which they just creamed on the straight road is asking them for side in the twisty. It was tough passing each of those car divers with over inflated ego. As I crossed the turn off point to Mahabaleshwar, I knew I’ll not meet with the weekend travelers on road for some time now.

With every passing km I was enjoying my ride on the highway after long time. My first aim was to see how much time I take till Satara. At 10:45am with odometer showing 9534, I rode through the town of Satara, on schedule. There was not too much of trouble passing through Satara, thanks to the bypass.

Now next was a very fast stretch of road to Karad. In this section I upped the pace a little bit. At 11:20am with odometer showing 9583 I was passing through the town of Karad. After crossing the town of Karad I was heading towards Kolhapur, munching mile like a runaway from Somalia. This section of NH4 is also great to do some high speeds. With sun starting to warm the environment, I kept on with the hot pace as I have to do these good sections in day time as fast as possible. At 12:10pm with odometer showing 9653, I was passing through Kolhapur. There was a bit of traffic so I dropped the pace to safe limits.

As I crossed Kolhapur it started to get a bit hot and the route become monotonous. I was now heading towards the Maharashtra border. The road at many places is too straight to make even the fastest of bikes feel slow. Fighting with the boredom I reached Belgaum at 13:25pm with odometer showing 9753km.

Right after crossing Belgaum I took my first stop to click a picture of the highway distance board, on which the distance to both Pune and Bangalore was shown. After a small 5min picture break, I resumed my ride. There were a few diversions in this section. Soon the bike hit reserve as I was closing on Dharwad. At 18min past 14hrs, on reaching the Reliance gas station just before Dharwad I decided to tank up.

After a small 5 minute break to fill fuel and have water with some chocolates I resumed my ride. I was feeling a bit hungry now but didn’t want to waste too much time in having food on a road side dhaba, so decided to keep on going till the next A1 restaurant. Soon I crossed Dharwad and headed towards Hubli. This section was a bit windy with some road repair work going at a few places. By the time I reached Hubli, I was very hungry and couldn’t wait to reach the A1 plaza. As I reached Hubli, signs of bad stretch started to show, with the main junction missing and have to search for the road towards Bangalore.

Road now is full of diversions and single side of the 4 lane in operation. Getting used to the changed road condition I saw the A1 Plaza in some distance and couldn’t stop myself from pulling into it. It was well past 3pm. I opted for Idli for lunch and bought a water bottle. It was a small 15min break and I was back on road. The road, whatever is made, is really good but since only a single lane is operational, I got a bit worried on the thought of riding here in night. Thankfully the traffic was not much and hence I was still able to maintain a good speed. On the way I happen to cross a couple of railway crossings while the bridge is still under construction. Now I was riding on the old NH4, on which I have ridden in 2003 on my Fiero. The diversions were so bad at places that I missed one diversion (thinking it’s a broken road) and carried on the old NH4 which started to take me towards a town. Luckily I found an old NH4 bypass section this was the same place where I took a small nap during my ride on Fiero. Soon I was back on the under construction road which has now gotten really bad. With lots of stretches of stones, gravel and dust there to ride through.

Sun has started to come down and I was probably now on the near completed section of road just before Chitradurga. Negotiating the last few km’s of the bad stretch I entered the limits of Chitradurga city at 18:15. By the time I crossed the city limits and approached the A1 Plaza, it has started to get dark. So I pulled into the A1 plaza for a small break. I was feeling a bit tired and hungry. I ordered dosa and coffee as evening snacks and got freshen up in rest room, as well as cleaned up the visor. Didn’t expected the break to stretch to over 30minutes but it was well taken break.

Now it was complete dark and as I came out of the plaza on road, traffic was unexpectedly low. This section is well made 4 lanes so I was able to cruise at over 6k when I decided to stick to the back of a jeep. Unfortunately the driver pulled into the next town, leaving me to ride on the almost empty road, which I didn’t find too difficult to do. Maintaining close to 7k I was hurrying towards Tumkur, was hoping to make it to Bangalore in around 12hrs. As I approached Tumkur, one last section of bad road was waiting for me. It was already past 9pm and couldn’t do much now to make time till Bangalore. After crossing Tumkur the traffic has increased but thankfully it was all fast moving one. Soon I was passing the toll plaza just before Nelamangla. Right after crossing the toll plaza I got stuck in a slow moving traffic where one flat out going truck at 40km/hr was trying to overtake all the trucks moving in the left lane, in one attempt. Result was a crawling progress for couple of km’s. After the distance marker showed me 23km to Bangalore I took the next ‘U’ turn and headed towards the Reliance gas station which was right next to that 23km mark. It was almost 10pm now.

Return Leg – Bangalore to Pune
Filled up fuel quickly and collected the printed fuel receipt. Asked the attendant to click a few pictures and gulped some water along with chocolates. After a 10min break I was now heading back towards Pune, feeling a bit strange. Luckily the traffic was not much as I rode out of gas station. It was a slow progress till Tumkur due to little bit of traffic and then further slowed down due to the bad stretch at Tumkur. Once crossed Tumkur, I started to increase the pace with vehicle count reducing with every km I was going away from Tumkur. I was now riding almost alone on the road with occasional tuck, Volvo or a rare car to be seen. Probably the loneliness got to me and I started to feel tired. So I pulled over to road side to freshen up, washed face with water and resumed the ride after a 5min break. Since I resumed the ride I was feeling that the rear tyre is wobbling a little bit. Got scared on the thought of a puncture. But since that feeling was coming while going over uneven road surface, I decided to play it safe and fill in some air at Chitradurga.

Though it was closing on mid night, still I was not feeling much of cold probably thermals were doing their job well. At around 30 past mid night I reached Chitradurga and pulled into a gas station to get the air pressure checked. To my surprise the rear tyre pressure was 28 (instead of 32) and front was 23 (instead of 25), I inspected tyres for any nail but found none. After a 5min break I was back on road feeling more confident with scare of a puncture gone away. Now I was accompanied by slow moving occasional trucks making it difficult to ride with them and riding alone was a bit scary in middle of night. Soon I was passed by a jeep and I didn’t waste any time in following him. With almost no traffic on road even the bad stretches were easy to ride but at slower speed due to night time. As I crossed the first 100km I realized that it has taken me over 2hrs to do that and hence I’m running a bit behind schedule. To help me a couple of Volvos caught up with me and I parted away with the jeep and started to ride along with Volvos. Sadly soon we were brought to halt at a closed railway crossing but thankfully it didn’t last for more than couple of minutes. As we started few km’s later we were again stopped by the second railway crossing, resulting in wasting few more minutes there. Once crossing it I was escorted by two Volvos towards Hubli, though I was faster than Volvos but decided to stick with them till Hubli, after all I was in no mood to miss a diversion due to 35W headlight and then go for a offroading session in the middle of night.

It was just over 4am when we reached Hubli I pulled over to get fresh while Volvos were stuck at the toll booth but they got free before I expected and vanished into darkness leaving me getting ready to jump on bike. Now it was for me to see if Volvos were really slow or not. As expected halfway down the road to Dharwad I caught up with the Volvos, ripping on the empty dark road. This time I decided not to be slowed down by them and went ahead of them. I was really running late and hence have to make as much time as I can. In the process of that I decided to tank up just after Dharwad so that I can do a flat out run in an attempt to make it in time.

After I resumed from Dharwad it was already close to 5am and now I was felling a little bit of cold. The revs were almost close to 9k while I was zipping on the empty, dark and cold stretch of NH4. Don’t remember for how long I rode but soon I felt a bit tired and sleepy, not wasting any time I pulled over to a road side tea stall I saw (probably was close to Belgaum). As I removed my gloves and helmet, could feel the cold air in hands and face. Gulped down a couple of cup of hot tea and took a small cat nap. After a 10min break I was fresh again for the rest of ride.

There was almost no traffic on road still which was helping me in doing the pace I wanted, I knew I might not be able to make it in time but didn’t want to give up so early after putting in so much of efforts. Around 6:30am it started to get a bit bright and suddenly I felt as if mercury has gone for a bungee jump. It went cold all of a sudden and I was shivering due to it. Then I realized some water droplets on the fuel tank – early morning dew. As I was closing towards Pune I forgot about everything except that I need to try and reach Pune as early as possible. Sometime during this crazy rush to reach destination I crossed Kolhapur as if it didn’t exist, thanks to early morning time and no traffic on road.

It was around Satara when I realized that I’ll miss the mark by a very small margin as I was close to 9am when I crossed Satara with still 100+km’s to be covered to complete. Now I dropped the pace as it was humanly impossible to complete the needed distance in available time. As clock showed 9am I had just crossed the town of Surul and heading towards Pune. Suddenly I was feeling a bit tired and went into slow cruising mode. Around 9:45am I was crossing Katraj ghat thinking about nothing but my bed. Soon after bike hit reserve and I decide to head back home while filling up fuel.

At 10:45 I entered my home, looking and feeling tired with brain ready to hit the switch off button any instance. End of a ride I will not forget for a long time to come and a ride which showed me its really fun riding all along in the middle on a winter night. So till next time its sleeping time :-)

Some numbers to munch ;-)

  • Pune (09:00, 9410) – Start Point.
  • Satara (10:45, 9534) – 124km, 1hr 45min, 70.86km/hr.
  • Karad (11:20, 9583) – 49km, 35min, 84km/hr.
  • Kolhapur (12:10, 9653) – 70km, 50min, 84km/hr.
  • Belgaum (13:25, 9753) – 100km, 1hr 15min, 80km/hr.
  • Post Belgaum, picture break (13:35, 9763) – 10km, 10min, 5min break.
  • Bike hit reserve at 9,793km.
  • Pre Dharwad at Reliance gas station (14:18, 9815) – 52km, 38min, 82.11km/hr. 5min break.
  • Post Hubli – At A1 Plaza for Lunch (15:10, 9869) – 54km, 47min, 68.94km/hr. 15min break. Food (Idli Sambar and Aquafina) for Rs 24.00.
  • Chitradurga (18:15, 10058) – 189km, 2hrs 50min, 66.71km/hr.
  • Post Chitradurga – At A1 Plaza, Food and Fuel Stop (18:25, 10064) – 6km, 10min, 36.00km/hr. 40min break. Food (Dosa and Coffee) for Rs 22.00.
  • Post Nelamangla – At Reliance Gas Station, Fuel Stop and Turn off Point (21:40, 10233) – 169km, 2hrs 35min, 65.42km/hr. 10min break.
  • First Leg Summary
    • Time Taken 12hrs 40min.
    • Distance Covered 823km.
    • Avg Speed 64.97km/hr.
    • Time in breaks 1hr 5min
  • Post Tumkur – Face wash and pee break (23:00, 10300) – 67km, 1hr 10min, 57.43km/hr. 5min break.
  • Chitradurga – Air Pressure Check (0:35, 10405) – 105km, 1hr 30min, 70km/hr, 5min break.
  • Hubli – Refreshing break (4:15, 10615) – 210km, 3hrs, 35min, 58.60km/hr, 5min break.
  • Post Dharwad – Fuel Stop (4:40, 10640) – 25km, 20min, 75km/hr, 5min break.
  • Pre Belgaum – Sleep and Tea break (5:20, 10686) – 46km, 35min, 78.86km/hr, 10min break. Tea for Rs 6.
  • Post Surul (9:00, 10981) – 295km, 3hrs 30min, 84.29km/hr.
  • Final Leg
    • Time Taken 11hrs 20min.
    • Distance Covered 748km.
    • Avg Speed 66.00km/hr.
    • Time in breaks 40min.
  • Trip Stats
    • Time Taken 24hrs.
    • Distance Covered 1,571km.
    • Avg Speed 65.46km/hr.
    • Time in breaks 1h 45min.
    • Fuel Consumed 50.68lt.
    • Fuel Cost Rs 2,700.
    • Mileage 32.08km/lt.
    • Food Cost Rs 52.