It’s eight in the morning. It’s drizzling. And there’s a hint of excitement and anticipation in the air. We are heading to the Slope of Hell. We have just been briefed about riding in a group because that’s something we must do before hitting the celebrated trail. And by we I mean some 20 odd KTM Adventure motorcycle owners who I have joined for the Trail riding program.
We are riding from Vashi in Mumbai to Kamshet, which is almost half way to Pune. We then make a right at Kamshet, and just before we hit the trail - like on any well organised group ride - it’s time to stop for some chai. Naturally, conversations ensue more about our motorcycles than our helmet hair or odd mask choices.
Now, we get into our first briefing of the day. Varad More - an ex journalist and a dear friend - is KTM’s Master Trainer on this ride. He tells us three things we must do that are simple but crucial when it comes to riding off-road. And thankfully, standing up and riding is not one of them. I just don’t have the fitness to pull that off for long durations.
So, the first thing we must do, is look up and not what’s right in front of the front wheel. It’s to ensure we don’t target-fix and go for the rock, the rut, and the broken branch we want to avoid. But, it’s easier said than done. Next up, Varad urges us to keep our arms loose and grip the bike with our lower body. This is done so that the front wheel is free to move about, track along the rut, and centre itself to keep the bike upright when it hits that rock and broken branch. And finally, we must keep the throttle open even when the most sane part of our brain screams roll-off and bail!
Armed with these offloading tips, we hit the trail which is ominously called Slope of Hell. It’s narrow, gravelly, pot holed, and even though it isn’t raining (thankfully), it is still slippery at places. It has loose rocks and broken branches. And it is pretty steep at places too. Couple that with the loose rocks, and gravel, and the slippery moss and grass, and not surprisingly, a few of us take some low speed tumbles. Those who are looking ahead, and keeping their arms loose and the throttle open, well, they seem to be doing quite alright. As for the fallen, Varad gives us a quick lesson on the correct and smart way to pick up the motorcycle.
Finally, we make to the top.
The greenery is refreshing. The view, outstanding. And it’s almost like riding in the clouds. But, it’s the view of the magnificent Mumbai-Pune Expressway that really takes my breath away. It’s like seeing it from an aircraft on its approach to landing. But, instead of seeing it through a small oval window with the smell and feel of conditioned air around you, I have an unrestricted, 360 degree view. And it’s coupled with the smell of wet soil, and fresh grass. And enjoying this view with me are the 20 odd other KTM Adventure owners and riders. We made it. And though it was challenging at places, I must say it was both involving and fun.