The Mojo, when launched, was pegged as an entry-level performance bike. Over time Mahindra realised that the Mojo’s true potential was in its touring capabilities. That commuter-ish riding position, torquey motor and relaxed handling reminded one of what a Royal Enfield could be without being a Royal Enfield. My first tryst with the Royal Enfield was riding a Thunderbird 500 to the Himalayas two years ago. At that time, I felt the Enfield belonged there, it was probably more comfortable than me at higher altitudes. It is one of the reasons every Tom, Dick and Harvinder who buys a Royal Enfield, dreams of going to Ladakh. The Bullet has been the perfect companion to traverse this desolate landscape for the simple reason that its large capacity long stroke motor delivers ample torque to chug along up the steepest of inclines where most high-compression motors would sputter for lack of oxygen. Its mechanical simplicity is another bonus allowing it to be repaired by almost anyone, anywhere. The ‘Bullet to the mountains’ pilgrimage turned out to be so successful that Royal Enfield has been running its own annual expedition there for 13 years, aptly calling it the Himalayan Odyssey.
Mahindra two wheelers now has a capable touring bike in the Mojo, and if this modern motorcycle can prove its mettle in the Himalayas, the brand could benefit immensely and establish itself well enough to steal some thunder from the thumpers. This odyssey on the Mojo we are riding is called the Mojo Trails. It plans to take us to exotic places high up in the mountains with a large part of the ride in the Ladakh region. Moreover, I am curious to know whether the Mojo is cut out for hardcore touring, especially when it comes with those Pirelli Corsa tyres that are more suited for the race track than dirt tracks. More importantly, how does it stack up against the reining entry-level touring champion — the Bullet?
So here I am, on an overcast Sunday morning at the Bikers Cafe in Gurgaon. The cafe is abuzz with activity, mechanics doing final checks and enthusiastic riders checking each other’s kit, all eager to pop their Himalayan cherry. Outside the cafe 25 shiny Mojos wait patiently. Looking around I see a few interesting modifications on some of the bikes. Apart from auxiliary LED lights, a couple of bikes are sporting all-terrain tyres and mounts for luggage racks. It is well executed but unfinished, the kind you see on prototype bikes. Turns out the bike belongs to a factory rider hinting at the possibility of an adventure version of the Mojo or at the very least, touring accessories.
The ride from Gurgaon to Chandigarh is the opposite of the Ladakh section. Smooth, congested highways with smoke and sweltering heat for company. The good thing though, is you can really gauge the touring capabilities of a bike on this 280 kilometre stretch. The Mojo excels at this. The upright seating position keeps fatigue at bay while the 300cc motor allows for relaxed cruising at speeds of 110-120kmph. I did the same ride on the Thunderbird 500 and while performance seemed the same, the Mojo feels more comfortable over longer distances as the Thunderbird has a softer seat which makes your backside numb. The Bullet still trumps it, its old-school springer seat still is the best in the business but the Mojo comes a close second.
The ride up to Manali takes us over the mountains and promises respite from the heat of the previous day. Most of the 310 kilometre route involves winding mountain passes and an early start to beat traffic. Needless to say the ride is a blast. The Mojo is quite fun here, taking the sweeping turns into its stride, the sticky Pirellis inspiring confidence. The brakes are progressive, though could do with ABS as it is quite easy to lock up the, rear wheel.
Next up is Rohtang and it is exactly what it says on the brochure. A pass full of ruts, slush and broken down narrow roads with treacherous drops on one side. The Mojo copes well here also. The gearing allows one to hold on to a gear and power through while the suspension has enough travel to soak in the worst the road can throw at it. I realise the best way to ride the Mojo here is to stand on the pegs and power through. You can shift gears while standing up and, with some practice, you can even turn into corners while on the pegs. However this technique is possible only over shorter distances as the handlebar isn’t tall enough, causing you to hunch a bit. Well, riding the bike sitting down isn’t a bad deal either as the suspension is pliant enough to avoid transferring road judders to your kidneys and spine. The Thunderbird felt stiffer in comparison and I had to reduce speed by quite a lot over some sections.
The Pirelli tyres too coped well with the off-road patches we had to contend with. In fact, at Moreh plains, we took the Mojo off-road and it was a blast. Reaching speeds of 80kmph, the front held well on the dirt with a stable weave that never got out of hand despite the road biased tyres. The Mojo’s handling was always flattered by the Pirelli tyres but up in the mountains with the broken roads, it is comfortable. The Pirelli tyres survived abuse over the last 400 kilometres without slipping up even once. Right when I was thinking that it was all going to smoothly, I missed a rut in the middle of the road and hit it at 80kmph leading to a nasty cut in the sidewall. The service crew was not too far behind and they replaced the rear tyre in a jiffy. On the plus side, the rest of the Mojo Tribe had moved ahead and I had Tanglang La all to myself. Oh joy.
The road past Tanglang La turns into a pristine stretch of tarmac where I push the bike, slowing down only for blind corners. It has a lazy but predictable turn-in and the kicked-out rake makes for a stable front end even when being kicked about over bad roads. Soon enough I catch up with the group at Upshi. From there on it’s a smooth 70 kilometres to Leh.
Leh was the end of the Mojo Trail for me though the Trail went on for another week, across Khardung La to Nubra and Hunder and then to Pangong Tso before returning to Delhi. The bikes themselves didn’t have any mechanical grievances and apart from a routine checkup, performed flawlessly. All it needs is a higher set of bars and on-off road tyres. And a better-styled fairing wouldn’t hurt matters either. It’s not the most obvious bike to take to the Himalayas but after a week with it in Ladakh, I’m surprised by what a capable touring bike Mahindra have made.