Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd (HMSI) organized a group ride to Barog for their Superbike owners from New Delhi on the 28th and 29th of September. Honda provided a platform to Honda super bike owners to experience the exhilarating performance of their machines and this roadtrip also gave an opportunity for all of the 12 Superbike riders to interact and network with the fellow owners.
This was a last minute invite and I rushed home in anticipation to complete work and get some sleep before this ride. It had been a couple of weeks that I had been off my motorcycle and I was itching for a long ride ever since. Barog is a small hill station surrounded by green valleys in the Solan District of the state of Himachal Pradesh. Being around like minded motorcyclists, couple of whom I knew personally and had accompanied on weekend rides around New Delhi, I couldn’t wait to saddle up and ride to the hills.
Day 1 – New Delhi – Chandigarh – Solan
The day, Saturday transitioned over from Friday quite smoothly as I managed just 1.5 hrs of sleep before the alarm went off. My mind was buzzing with the thought of going on a road trip. I’m generally very excited about traveling, especially on motorcycles and despite being allocated the quarter-liter CBR250R I looked forward to a memorable journey. But the motorcycling god was on my favour and the journo riding the VFR1200F didn’t show up and hence I saw myself riding the V4 beast to Barog while occasionally swapping it for the CB1000R.
The ride started around 6.15 am from the Honda Wing World Showroom at Naraina after a quick briefing about the road trip. The team from HMSI who were accompanying us had done a great job planning the route, the pitstops along the way and the major hospitals enroute for any emergencies. They were even prepared for any breakdowns on this road trip and their presentation gave majority of the riders who were not accustomed to long distance riding to level up their confidence and enjoy the ride. The ride was flagged off by Mr. Y.S. Guleria, Vice President, Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India.
The riders geared up and I was quickly briefed about the motorcycle but since the group were taking off I saddled up, took it off its centre-stand and then I was off. A slight turn of the wrist and the VFR1200F would surge ahead, the showroom disappeared quickly in my rear-view mirrors as I looked far out into the horizon watching out for any obstacle and within a minute I re-joined the group.
The VFR1200F is indeed a big motorcycle, it can overshadow a compact supersports motorcycle such as their very own CBR1000RR. Sizing aspects aside this sports tourer is just as powerful as any litre class sportsbike. It pumps out 170 Bhp at 10,000 rpm and produces 129 Nm of twisting force (that’s more torque than what you will find on the CBR1000RR) from its 1,237cc V4 fire breathing engine. The automatic Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT) ensured I only needed to twist my wrist and it would do all the work of shifting gears by itself. It is simple and effective and does what it is supposed it effortlessly.
You can switch between Manual and Auto-modes on the fly. You can also switch between D (Drive) and S (Sport) modes on the fly –here the DCT does all the gear changing for you. In Manual mode you change gears by using the controls on the left handlebar. You can shift up with your index finger and downshift with your thumb. There is no clutch lever and you see yourself trying to grab at one quite so often. VFR1200F is a versatile machine and has a comfortable riding position and the windscreen does a fantastic job of keeping the windblast away from your chest and face.
A white Goldwing ridden by Jaspreet Singh and Raju was leading our group and I stuck out at the back trying to sweep the group. The initial pace was slow as we had to battle it out with the traffic that was already piling up as we tried our best to get out of Delhi quickly. Once out on the highway the pace picked up and we were cruising comfortably in triple-digits. The effective braking from the C-ABS system on the VFR1200F ensured that I had excellent traction slowing down quickly as the entire group came to a near halt and suddenly as a commuter nearly crossed paths with the lead motorcycle. The C-ABS system is one of the great safety aspects of the VFR1200F.
Enroute to the first pitstop at the Savoy Green, Karnal I noticed that one of the riders had a puncture in his rear tyre. It was almost flat and I signalled him to stop. The group slowed down and we got the tyre repaired quickly while everyone enjoyed a short break before proceeding forward. After a light breakfast we had a small group photo session before we left towards Panchkula. The only downside to the VFR1200F that I was astride was the hard seat and slightly firm suspension. While the suspension did a great job for ensuring maximum stability at speed, the firm seat left me with dull ache in my lower back by the time we reached Karnal. It was time to swap my ride for the CB1000R and I was excited like a toddler getting his candy treat.
The CB1000R is one of the best litre class motorcycles I have ridden and certainly a great choice for our roads. With 125 Bhp of power and 100 Nm of Torque It brings with it excellent fuelling and the neutral handling which makes it easy to flick in traffic and a smooth ride even in stop and go traffic situations. It has excellent power delivery but unlike the VFR it is also slightly less vicious when you roll on and roll off throttle in the lower gears. It has great punch when you need it for those highway blasts. Lack of a windscreen does ensure you face the wind as the helmet tries to rip your face off with the windblast but the comfortable seat and riding stance makes sure you don’t feel like getting off this motorcycle.
Lunch was planned at Joshi Honda, Panchkula and HMSI had good refreshments for everyone. Mr. Deepak Soni, former Divisional Manager of Honda and owner of the Honda showroom at Solan joined us on our ride to Barog. I sat pillion with Mr. Deepak for about 35 kms and had a great view of the nature abound on the Parwanoo Bypass –a 4 lane expressway in the midst of the mountains.
After a long break in the air conditioned hall the owners felt very relaxed as the sun was shining at its best. A very hot ride to Chandigarh had left everyone dehydrated and few owners who had never ventured out so far felt a little exhausted but they couldn’t wait to get back on their bikes and ride the twisties to Barog. We reached Barog in time for lunch and rode up to the Pinewood Resort. I had swapped the bikes in between and was back on the naked motorcycle.
Post lunch Kshitij, another auto-journalist and I took the bikes out scouting for locations to shoot as the day light was fading fast. His POS camera had trouble keeping up with the fading light and I did not have my trusty DSLR with me. Nevertheless I managed to capture a beautiful picture of the CB1000R with the VFR1200F and this will remain as one of the most memorable moments of my life. The sun setting behind the hills, cool air blowing over the region and a desire to come back to this location riding a large capacity motorcycle fulfilled, I was truly in bliss!
But the day was far from over as the HMSI team threw a fantastic party for the owners and us unexpecting journos. It was a great evening together and there is no better discussion than over the topic of motorcycles with like minded aficionados. With day full of memories and a full stomach I slept early with plans to wake up for an early morning shoot.
Day 2 – Solan – Ambala – New Delhi
The day began early as I kept my alarms to wake me up at 5.30AM. I wanted to go out and shoot a little bit. A few shots down I returned to the hotel as Kshitij managed to get hold a DSLR but the sun was already up and we could manage just a few shots. After a couple of hours we returned back but only a few customers had woken up and the breakfast had just begun. A heavy breakfast and a short shut eye and I was raring to go.
The ride started late in the morning and after a few group riding shots for the accompanying camera crew we were on our way. I was astride the CB1000R and had a great time on the twisties. Dr. Saif a skilled rider astride on the CBR1000RR with a pillion was great company as we battled the twisties on our litre class machines.
Parwanoo bypass showcased the agility and capability of the CB1000R at high speeds. It is a machine of great character and it would lean in and out of the curve with precision. The tyres provided excellent levels of grip allowing me to gun it coming out of the corners. It was unlike the VFR1200F which was heavy and fighting to turn in (our test machine had an issue) around corners.
My thoughts were translated to the machine at almost telepathic speed and this ensured the ride through the hills onto the plains of Chandigarh a thoroughly rewarding and engaging experience for a passionate motorcyclist such as myself.
We proceeded towards Ambala at a quicker pace than the previous day. The group was split up into riders who were comfortable riding at their own pace and we all regrouped 15 kms before Ambala city. Here the lunch destination was at Hot Millions restaurant which served some very delicious chicken sandwiches which we gorged upon quickly. The ride resumed towards Savoy Green, Karnal after a long break and we reached there in the evening. Another long break ensured and everyone tanked up on precious liquids.
I was on the VFR1200F and the sun had set. The ride continued towards Delhi and I was in reserve. The 18.5 liter tank capacity gave a good range and we quickly found a fuel pump to tank up on petrol once again. The VFR1200F has very good lighting from its headlamp. With a clear visor you can easily tour on our roads comfortably at night. The CB1000R was the comfortable one in traffic as it was easy to flick and nimble to ride. The return leg of the journey is usually fast and everyone wanted to get back to New Delhi.
HMSI did a great job with organizing this ride brilliantly. It showcased their customer-first, service-first attitude if I may put it that way. They brought extra riding gears with them for riders/pillions who wanted helmet, jacket, knee guards and gloves. They also had a backup vehicle with necessary tool kits and basic spares. They were prepared for tyre punctures. Before, during and post ride they checked every motorcycle for any necessary repairs or punctures. They also checked the tyre pressures on Day 2 before starting from Solan.
When the key of a CBR1000R bent during fuel-up and broke due to a tension crack, they quickly organized a duplicate in Ambala and managed to get the bike down to Delhi within minutes of the rest of the group reaching the destination. This showcased their capability to smartly handle contingencies in a journey such as this one and in the middle of nowhere. Being able to provide such a service in case of emergencies requires effectives in planning and execution. The team comprising of Mr. Ashok, Mr. Aashish, Mr. Anand, Mr. Atin and Ms. Vibhuti from HMSI displayed this capability perfectly. Other manufacturers who focus only on the selling aspect could take a cue from Honda for after-sales-service. Every superbike owner from New Delhi on this trip that I spoke to, held the service aspect of this Japanese motorcycle giant in high regard and respect considering nearly everyone of them had owned superbikes from other manufacturers before settling with Honda.
Once we reached the showroom at Naraina everyone parted ways after a short briefing, group photo and filling the feedback forms. For me, this was a journey that packed a bit of adventure, a great learning experience over 670 kms and truck loads of fun on two of the best motorcycles money can buy today.