If you have been reading this blog, you will know that I’ve been making mods to Ratchet with the aim of converting him from a naked street bike to an adventure motorcycle. I recently replaced the stock Metzeler tyres with Pirelli MT 60’s and it was time to test them out. So when my good friend Altaf Khalifa invited me to go tail riding with him and some friends I agreed. While I’m a newbie to trail riding, Altaf has been riding trails in and around Goa for quite some time now and it felt good to be led by someone who knew what he was doing.
This morning Altaf, Denzil Nunes, Stig Pereira and I met at the Greenpark bus stand at Guirim and started riding towards Dodamarg. The plan was to ride the trail that led up to the Pargadh fort. There is a proper tarmac road from Dodamarg to Pargadh, but we were going to take the trail that people used to trek up the hill. Altaf said that this was one of the more difficult trails he had ridden. Denzil, also a newbie, looked at me and we exchanged a look that said, “We’re screwed!”
We got off the state highway somewhere at Dodamarg and started riding on a wide dirt track passing through a village. We ended up at a temple which was where the trail started. The initial part of a trail was narrow, but the path was quite firm and I started thinking “OK, this is not as bad as it sounded“. Then Altaf stopped ahead of us to set up his helmet mounted camera and smiled back at Denzil and me. I knew it wasn’t a “good morning” smile. There was something more sinister to it.
As I suspected the trail took a turn for the worse. I mean literally. The trail turned and it became worse. Very steep with hair pin bends of dirt and large stones. At one hairpin bend, Denzil dropped his bike and came rolling down the trail path ahead of it. I was behind him. Altaf helped Denzil straighten his bike. I couldn’t help as I was on the steep hairpin and there was no place to stand Ratchet.
We rested for a while and started riding again uphill. After a while the trail became less steep and got better. We hit the tarmac road which led us to the peak. And what a view awaited us. Absolutely breathtaking.
From the top we could see part of the trail that led us up here.
We took some pictures and then proceeded to ride a little further up to the village to find a place that served tea.
There was a small provisions store, but they didn’t serve tea. The owner pointed us to a house down the road.
The owner put out chairs for us to sit in his garden and served us tea. We exchanged riding stories for a while and then decided to head back down the same way we came, completely ignoring the fact that there was a proper tarmac road that could take us down safely to the state highway.
The way down was interesting and Ratchet’s ABS helped a lot. The Perelli MT 60’s were fabulous on the way up and worked well with the ABS to stop me from sliding down the hill. Being a newbie I decided not to turn the ABS off on this ride. On subsequent rides I intend to experiment with the ABS and figure out under what conditions I should leave it on and when I should turn it off.
Going up the hill I had gravity working against me and the engine working for me. It was relatively easy to play one against the other and keep the bike in control without needing to use my feet. But riding down was a totally different ball game. Gravity had to be controlled by the motorcycle’s brakes and a novice like me had to resort to using my feet every now and then. While negotiating the steep hairpin bends holding back the bike I realized that my decision to buy a Duke 390 as opposed to a tall and heavy adventure bike was a good decision. There was no way I could see myself holding back a heavy bike on this particular trail going downwards. The weight would be one problem and the height would be another. I’m six feet tall. But I don’t think that would be enough to factor the terrain of this trail, particularly its wretched hairpin bends.
The only incident we had on our way down was Denzil losing his rear brake, which was a big problem because that is one thing he needed the most to make it down safely. He someone managed to stop his Enfield using the front brake. Altaf is a wizard when it comes to motorcycles and he figured out that the brake piston had seized. He used a metal tool to give the piston housing a few whacks and waited for it to cool down.
After a while, the piston came loose and the rear brake started functioning normally once again. We rode the rest of the way down, past the temple and started riding back through the village to meet the state highway.
On the way we stopped at a stream to take a few pictures.
I always wanted to do a water immersion test on Ratchet. So I rode him into the stream until his exhaust was submerged.
Then started him while in the water and he passed the test with flying colors. We continued riding back to Goa and parted ways at Guirim.
It was a nice first proper trail ride for me. On the way back home I had a wide grin pasted across my face and I said aloud to Ratchet, “KTM can take their 390 Adventure and stick it where the sun don’t shine. I’ve built one myself.”
Here is a video captured by my helmet mounted GoPro camera of us climbing up the trail.
And here is a video of us riding down the trail