The year 2017 has been overly generous aligning public holidays with weekends, allowing people to plan an off-site recreation programme (this may have made it sound dull). But, what when 2018 does not pan out the same way? Dear calendar, you're spoiling our habit of a five/six-day work week. Anyhow, we're not complaining, keep it coming. So, India's 71st Independence Day fell on a Tuesday and hence thousands of people had the same idea - take Monday off and set out on a road trip. Or for some, it may have been a visit to grandparents', which may be fun too. The roads were lined with holiday makers, packed in their cars - owned or rented. This is also one of the reasons I like a motorcycle - there's less fuss, it is personal, it takes less space on the road and well, it's way quicker. For the generous four days a break the year gave to me, I had the opportunity of taking a Yamaha FZ25 on a trip, something I'd been wanting to do ever since I rode it in Goa in March this year. It'd impressed me back then, but how good was it if the kilometres to be clocked were too many? Turns out, the FZ25 is quite a charm.
The plan was to leave at three in the morning in order to beat the heavy traffic since most of the road trippers would leave by five or six. So, what happened was that most of the night was obviously wasted since there is just no end to faffing about, now is there? Hence, the ETD was involuntarily shifted to 6:30. But with some luck on our side, there was a large canopy of grey and fluffy clouds over most of the route we took.
Having breathed a sigh of relief not finding much maddening traffic at Kashmere Gate, which it is infamous for, it was smooth sailing on the Karnal highway. But not before a mandatory stop for some breakfast. On regular days I find it immensely difficult to have timely breakfast, but I somehow find breakfasts while on the road so much more satisfying.
This highway was where the FZ25 could be maxed out and it did a top speed of 137 kph with ease and the grunt on lower revs means overtaking manoeuvres were cake walk for it and it was pretty smooth slaloming through traffic as well. Turns out the quarter-litre Yamaha is also thrifty in consuming fuel. It did a distance of over 1100 km with merely two fuel stops, along with half a tank to spare at the end of the trip, delivering well over 30 km pl.
Post 200 km towards the destination, the fluffy clouds we were earlier thankful to came down to their usual business – rain. On straight highways, you tend to go fast and the rain drops turn into arrows piercing through the jacket if it happens to be a textile one, which mine was. And if you choose not to wear one at all, good Lord may help you.
The roads are pretty good up till Nangal, which houses the fabled Bhakra Nangal dam, but once you've crossed the city, the road starts climbing, but that was not the problem. The problem was that the roads ahead of Nangal were, well, not exactly roads. Grit and gravel and muddy slush and ditches are what welcomed us on a section of road that was supposed to make the bike go lean happy but proved otherwise.
After this trip, my perspective on the FZ25 evolved in my mind. I already liked it, but after having ridden it for long, I am convinced that there isn't much that this motorcycle will not do properly. Standing on the footpegs, I slipped and slid too but not once did it feel like it was out of its comfort zone. The built quality is rather good too, it never felt like the motorcycle would fall apart because of the tough terrain.
Extended weekends are great, except for one thing – the crowds. I happen to be inherently and explicitly a self-proclaimed allergic to large noisy crowds. McLeodgunj town had so many people, you had to look before you take a step or end up stomping someone's foot. And considering that most of the people were under the influence of alcohol or well, other 'stuff', maintaining a safe distance would be advisable.
So, this trip wasn't about the destination, proof of which is that I and my travel partner wondered at the end of it: 'Man, we didn't really do anything other than ride!' Yes sir, even to pass time during the two days we had in Himachal Pradesh, we just rode about on our motorcycles. And this is not a complaint. It was joyous being on the FZ25. Although at night, especially because mountain roads happen to have no lights on them, I felt there is scope for a big improvement on the motorcycle's headlamp. Besides this one little discomfort, the FZ25 earned itself a character in these three days. It started out as a machine, but by the end, it was a companion.