Words by Varad More
There’s nothing like a nice monsoon ride, but get a big bike in the mix and things get interesting. I was planning a little escapade to the Konkan and checked with Triumph on the motorcycles available in the media fleet. With new 2016 models on the anvil, there were limited 2015 models in Triumph India’s kitty for us to have some fun with. Besides the iconic Bonnevilles and the race-spec Daytona, my options were limited. It was right then that the brand-new, litre-class Speed Triple in white made its appearance. With 127 horses and 105Nm of torque on tap, I immediately decided that this is going to be my weapon of choice. There’s no better lure for a motorcycle than high horsepower.
I must admit that it wasn’t a very rational decision. Away from the wide smoothness of the NH17 Mumbai-Goa highway as I ventured into the deeper sections of the Western Ghats, an early realisation occurred – all that horsepower and torque of the Speed was more than a handful on the tiny coastal roads. It wasn’t exactly pleasurable either, navigating the 186kg beast over bumpy, broken sections of tarmac, and sometimes no tarmac at all. But at the end of the day, those extra horses and plentiful torque enriched the experience like no other bike could have. After all, you don’t complain about excess cheese in your fondue, do you?
The lavishly gorgeous Fern Samali resort in Dapoli was the perfect place to park ourselves for a night’s stay. We’d had a hard day’s ride as there was little rain, which meant we were more active on the gas and as a result quite tired at the end of the day. The next day was a long ride to Ambolgad, probably the longest distance we would cover in a day within Maharashtra. And, doing that on a coastal road filled with undulations and broken patches astride this British biggie, wasn’t going to be easy. I might have indulged in way too many wheelies out of every corner overlooking the seashore, but I knew this would happen the minute I picked up the Speed Triple a couple of days earlier. It was tiring as a result.
Heading towards the Dabhol Jetty, we lost some time at the ferry as the local administration there apparently had a special entry list, which clearly didn’t feature us. But at least I wasn’t stopped at the gate for being a stag! From there on, we decided to halt as little as possible, but couldn’t resist the sights on the coastal route overlooking Ganapatipule beach. We could not have missed the picturesque setting of the white Triumph Speed Triple 1050 against the grainy sand and frothy white waves of the beach.
A few photography stops and we were on our way towards our night halt – Ambolgad. So far, throughout our ride, the sea and the hills never left our side as the whistling whine of the Speed Triple echoed through the mountain roads, with the undertail twin exhaust occasionally letting out a mighty roar that only a litre-class naked can deliver. This is an emotion often experienced riding past the massive bridges that cross over the wide creeks found aplenty on the coastal route. It was a surreal experience, every time.
The night’s stay at Ambolgad was at the Samindar Resort, the only place of its kind in the locality. As we reached there after sundown, we could barely see the surroundings. We quickly changed and headed for dinner, which included some of the best Malvani fried pomfret and seer fish I have ever had. While I was still reminiscing over the delicious seafood from dinner, the morning greeted us with a gorgeous coastline. A desolate beach and a crystal-clear view of the sea, marked by a few shipping vessels on the horizon, I really wanted to stay put for a few more days. But, we had to move on, promising ourselves to return with more time in hand.
From there, we rode straight for our favourite riding spot – North Goa. Taking over the cliff-edged mountain roads with hairpin bends and sharp corners riding from Devgad, Kunkeshwar and then down towards the coast to Malvan, the landscape changes from long strewn golden hay lit up by the sun to the shimmering ocean that makes an appearance between the cliffs and edges from time to time. Occasional overcast skies teased us with gentle rain that didn’t last long before opening up the cloud cover for sunrays to light up the road ahead for us. Truly magical.
We crossed the Maharashtra border into Goa and rode through Arambol, Ashwem and Morjim. Our final stop was at Vagator where we parked our bikes at our crib for the day – The Jungle by The Hostel Crowd, a backpacker’s hideout. We then went for a quick bite and sip at my all-time favourite biker bar in North Goa – The Mango Tree. Made some new friends there, who were more than enamoured by our ride and even more excited to know we were heading further south to Mangalore.
Crossing picturesque south Goa and entering the Karnataka border, we were greeted by the rain gods rather too enthusiastically the next day. Even as it poured down, with no more than five feet of visibility, the roads were an absolute delight to ride on despite the unnerving weather. What calmed our nerves were the super grippy Metzeler tyres on the Speed Triple that simply would not give up on traction even in the heavy rains.
Honestly, I was dying to let myself go berserk on the twisty roads but the rains just wouldn’t let us. Finally, after crossing Karwar, overlooking the majestic Karwar Naval Base, we got some respite from the heavy downpour and I started to really exploit the 127 horses on the Triumph Speed Triple. Helped by the pliant suspension taking over the minor road undulations with ease and allowing me to keep the rhythm on, the Speed Triple was in its element at that point. Together, we danced on the wide and winding roads of Karnataka for the first time since I’d left Pune.
We made such quick progress that we could enjoy the sunset at the Kudle beach resort. After a full day of soggy riding, we sat down under the canopy overlooking the ocean and checking out the day’s photos, sipped on a hot cup of tea and discussed what a fulfilling day it had been. Soon, it was dinner time and after some scintillating Mangalorean-style seafood curry and rice, we hit the bed as the next day was going to be our longest day of this epic ride.
As we headed towards Mangalore in the morning, a frantic phone call told me I was needed back in Pune. We had planned to stay in Mangalore at the end of the ride, but the emergency back home meant we had to cut it short, and that meant we were going to have the longest day in the saddle. Since we were going to ride to Mangalore according to the original plan, I decided that we ride anyway, but without a night’s halt. Instead, we’d get to the Mangalore border and immediately head back towards NH4.
Post brunch at Mangalore, we began our climb back via Shimoga and joined the NH4 at Devangere. From there, it was a straight highway haul back to Pune via the NH4. A place where the Triumph Speed Triple was once again in its element, munching down miles effortlessly at triple digit speeds. Sitting upright, comfortably lodged in the spacious and cushy saddle of the motorcycle, I had little to worry about. A gentle twist of the throttle would haul the Speed Triple past the big lorry and a little enthusiastic right wrist would result in unintentional wheelies. I swear, all those were unintentional. All the way through. I mean, who pops wheelies in the middle of the national highway intentionally?
After a few food and fuel stops at Hubli, Belgaum and Nipani, we crossed the Maharashtra border and made our usual stop at McDonalds near Kolhapur. The Triumph Speed Triple gathered a lot of eyeballs here. By then, darkness was closing in and without any further delay, we continued our journey towards Pune. Covering over 900km in 12 hours comfortably, the Triumph Speed had been a mighty good companion, bringing me back home safely on the final day.
The week-long ride had seen the Triumph’s flagship naked endure almost everything that it wasn’t built for, and much that it was. Rocky, pothole-ridden stretches in the Konkan, countless slow-paced hairpins (a big task for bulky machines I tell ya!), traffic-packed Goan streets and long sweeping corners in the interiors of Karnataka under pouring rain. And then, a whole day’s non-stop highway ride back to Pune.
Maybe a compact, lightweight machine like the Triumph Street Triple or any other middleweight 600 would have made this a faster journey and would have certainly been easier on the body. But then, it wouldn’t have been such a rewarding and mind-blowing experience for an enthusiast motorcyclist like yours truly. I didn’t bring a knife to a gun fight, I brought along Excalibur.
Elite, sharp, and powerful.