Driven by IMAGE DRIVERS (India)

Motoring

Sport Tourer for the Soul!

Kawasaki, Ducati, BMW, MV Agusta, Benelli, Triumph and even Royal Enfield have upped their motorcycle game in India (or have had too!).

We’re the next big market for motorcycle makers in the world. We’ve got the money and we’ve got the trails too! Most of all, we’re buying new motorcycles like there’s no tomorrow! The markets have been going crazy over the past year, so much so that the Motorcycle we’re bringing to you today already has a refreshed version out there!

So, which motorcycle should you get if you want to see the country on two wheels?

Let’s say you’re a practical rider, someone who’s not stingy but you’re one who likes to be smart about your passionate decisions too, what bike to buy? 😉

Sport Tourer for the Soul! The Kawasaki Versys 650!Take a keen look at the Kawasaki Versys 650. A perfectly priced sports touring motorcycle for the Indian market.

An 800,000 Rupee ticket to premium motorcycling freedom. Buy it and you join the big league, kit it out well and you can ride the length and breadth of India, Nepal and Bhutan – all without a passport and over all sorts of terrain, roads and climate!

The 649cc engine on the Versys is all but battle tested, rock solid and super smooth over the rev range, gives a sweet straight power delivery up to a healthy 69 BHP. It can do 120 kmph all day long, comfortably, getting you where you need to be easily. The torque (64Nm @ 7000 rpm) too is tweaked in favour of the rider travelling with a little load – whether that be your luggage over a long weekend, significant other or both.

It has an ABS and an adjustable suspension setup too! Pretty freakin’ cool at this price point, we can tell you that.

Nipun Srivastava on the Versys 650 ABS!

Nipun Srivastava, our resident adventurer, has been painstakingly kitting out a Versys 650, using it on his photography missions and weekend rides alike.     

How the Kawasaki Versys 650 is the perfect beginner premium motorcycle to take on the Indian road, we’ll let him break it down for you.

He’ll take you through everything, from what accessories go well with this motorcycle to what one must watch out for when on the Versys 650. Enjoy 🙂 .

“”You’ll be mistaken if you think the Versys 650 is a small motorcycle.”

This Kawasaki is meaty enough to keep you full for a lifetime of comfortable riding, customized to your specific style.

Me, I’m more a sucker for exploration and seeing the country on tour. Piece by piece, I like to pick up areas which look promising on the map and then head out to check if my research was any good. Often times the research goes out of the window when on a major ride, so what I need then is a reliable machine which can get me through some serious stuff.

The 650cc parallel twin on the Versys is known to be a bullet proof engine. It has been used by Kawasaki on a number of its top-selling motorcycles like the Ninja 650 and the ER6N. Right there one knows that if maintained well, this engine will go a long long way. The gearbox is a tad notchy for my liking but one soon gets used to it.

The Versys 650 is quite big for its credentials.Take the Versys 650 almost anywhere!

Height-wise, the Versys 650 sits right in the middle. If you are too tall or too short, give it a proper test ride before you consider buying it. Lowering kits are available for this Versys but they are almost always underwhelming in performance and often lead to ground clearance issues, especially while riding two – up. For those who hover around 6ft or just under, the seating on the Versys is just right. The seat, well that’s relatively comfortable too.

All fueled up, she weighs in at just under 215 kgs.

Good suspension, that’s what makes the Versys an absolute game changer at this price point. The Versys boasts of Showa’s Separate Function front forks which are manually adjustable for Rebound and Pre-load. The rear mono-shock can be adjusted with just the twist of a knob, while seated even! Although I find the front a little soft for my liking, I am yet to fully explore all the possibilities these front forks offer. I’m pretty sure there’s a setting somewhere which will work perfectly – I just need to find it.

Versys 650, the ideal Sport Tourer for India?

So then, on paper, the Versys 650 makes a very healthy case for itself in India. What more can one ask for then? Read on 🙂 .

In this Sport-Touring motorcycle segment, one major factor is the accessories one can mount on one’s steed. It is here that the Versys really excels. There are just so many options from reputed brands like SW Motech, Hepco Becker, Givi, Evotech and even Kawasaki themselves that one is truly spoilt for choice.

Each Versys then is sort of a blank canvas. A very capable and smart blank canvas.

One can take the Versys from being an intercity shuttle to a relatively tough machine, able to head out on to the road and even off it to a great extent. All one needs is the right set of accessories mounted and you can push the Versys 650 trail-side. On the trails, the 650 is a little top heavy if you’re running a full tank of gas but if you know what you’re doing, the motorcycle does well to get you across a dusty, gravel topped trail without any difficulty. One sore point, the ABS can’t be turned off. You’d think Kawasaki could have thrown in a switch for that just for good measure. Alas.

Holds its own, trail-side!Trail-side with the Versys 650!

The accessories you choose for your motorcycle need to be on point, always. They must be geared towards the kind of riding you intend to do.

 

Here’s a list, a brief description and a final GO or NO on the accessories we chose for the Versys 650.

Versys accessories line up - Click to Enlarge.

Our accessories line-up:

Radiator Guard: By far the most necessary accessory for your Versys is the Radiator Guard that you mount. It must be light yet strong and be ready to take a subtle thrashing every time you hit a rough patch. On the Versys, this is important as the front tire tends to send small stones flying into the radiator as a routine. We chose the Evotech Performance Radiator Guard as it is extremely light (aluminium), an absolute breeze to mount and covers the full front of the Radiator assembly and not just the fins. An absolute GO from us.

Guard that Radiator baby! Evotech Performance

Guard that Radiator Baby!

Also seen are the SW Motech Sump Guard, The Hepco-Becker Crash Bars and the SW Motech Fork & Swing-arm Sliders.

Engine/Sump Guard: Very important if you ride long distances on Indian roads. This guard protects the engine sump, the bottom of your exhaust system and more importantly, the vulnerable O2 sensor located just next to the engine sump. We chose the SW Motech Engine Guard as design wise this thing is a masterpiece. It presents an absolutely smooth surface to the ground so as not to catch on anything and cause damage. It’s made of aluminium, hence is lightweight and the rubber mounting bushes save you from any vibration/resonance on higher revs. GO for this.

Crash Bars: These cover the lower part of your front fairings and the sides of your engine heads. We chose the Hepco Becker Engine Guard for the Versys 650 as it provides very good coverage, has perfect clearances with the fairings and fits in seamlessly with the design language on the Versys 650. It is also very easy to bolt on. It is rock solid once bolted on correctly. An absolute GO from us!

Front Axle & Rear Swing-arm Sliders: We went with the SW Motech sliders as they seem to be the most polished and easily available sliders in India. Once on, you almost forget they’re there. GO.

Chain Lubrication: No one will tell you this before you buy a premium motorcycle but your chain is the key to a good ride. It is also a part which demands constant attention when riding religiously. We’ve gone ahead and mounted a Versys Edition Scottoiler V-System on the bike so as to keep our chain lubricated at all times. Giving us the peace of mind to carry on riding regardless of conditions. This is a GO if you don’t want the hassle of manually lubing your chain.

Note: The single sided lubricator, included with the Scottoiler, does an OK job. We suggest you use the dual sided lubricator for consistent lubrication.

Barkbusters hand-guards. As purposeful as they come!

Barkbusters hand-guards. As purposeful as they come!

Hand Guards: This is a requirement only if you tend to test your skills every now and then, which obviously increases your chances of taking a tumble or having your brake/clutch lever smacked out of shape. We got the Barkbusters mounted on our Versys with the VPS guard cover. Moreover we added the Barkbuster DRLs atop the cover to increase the visual footprint of the vehicle and add style to the overall look. The Hand Guards are a GO from us, the cover and DRLs you can do without.

Dazzle Baby! The Denali D4 Auxiliary lamps.Dazzle Baby! The Denali D4 Auxiliary lamps.

Auxiliary Lighting: We think this is important. Also, it is one of the most confusing and cost intensive investments you can make on your vehicle. Important because in our riding conditions, one needs to be visible. Confusing because of the sheer number of choices out there – Baja, Denali, SW Motech and even Chinese knock-offs – it’s a tough call to take. We went with the trusted Denali D4s for our Versys and give it a healthy 7/10 on its daylight and night time performance. GO for the Denali D4s as they are simple, hardy and get the job done effortlessly. Just look at them dazzle!

Tank Pads: We’ve mounted the Tech Spec Snakeskin for the Versys 650. Industry leading, very good performance and absolute value for money. GO.

Tank Bag(s): We looked at them all and then settled for SW Motech. We got two – The Yukon 90 for when it gets wet and the Micro for short intercity bursts. Both mount to the same tank ring and can handle rough riding. The Yukon is ugly and a pain to use but is waterproof, the Micro is a breeze to use but is a tad small, even for something called a micro. SW Motech, Givi, Hepco Becker or even Giant loop, the choices are endless out there! GO.

SW Motech Quick Lock EVO Aero ABS Panniers

Travel light, travel right! The SW Motech Aero Semi Rigid Panniers.

Luggage: We’ve mounted the SW Motech (Quick Lock EVO) Aero ABS Semi Rigid Panniers. These are cost effective, let you carry more weight (8 kgs per side) and look bloody amazing on the Versys 650. We give these a 10/10 for looks and an 8/10 for functionality. GO for it!

Side Stand Foot Enlarger: This is probably the most underrated accessory for your bike. Our SW Motech side stand foot enlarger helps keep the bike steady on soft terrain, like a boss. Be it on a beach or a mushy trail, the motorcycle stands steady.

OEM Accessories: The Kawasaki Gear Indicator and the DC Output Socket. The DC Socket is an absolute GO. You can live without the Gear Indicator, moreover it comes console integrated in the 2017 Versys 650.

Accessory Loaded!

That takes care of the accessories list on our Versys 650! Phew!

Why didn’t we go with OEM Kawasaki Accessories? Two reasons, one – they are freakishly expensive and two – they do not inspire confidence when on the road.

VERSYS 650 – ISSUES

Every machine has its quirks and the Kawasaki Versys 650 is known to have a few too.

  1. For starters, Kawasaki India has recently gone solo and split its operations with Bajaj Auto Ltd. This boils down to a smaller service network and in places service that’s not so great. Moreover, basic spares have become slightly tougher to come by.
  2. On the road, some riders claim to have bent their rims while riding over large pot holes at speed. We faced no such issues, yet.
  3. The stock tires (Dunlops) are geared towards delivering high mileage only. They perform badly on dry roads, wet roads, good roads and bad roads alike. We exchanged ours for Metzeler Sportec M7 RRs after the first thousand clicks.
  4. The stock headlamps are weak. You NEED an auxiliary light setup. Alternatively, we hear, Cyclops make good replacement LED Bulbs for the Versys.
  5. Versys 650’s jerky gearbox takes getting used to but becomes smoother after the second/third service.
  6. Typical parallel-twin behaviour – the handlebar vibrates when getting off the mark, can make a novice question his/her intuition when new to the motorcycle.
  7. The Horn is puny, in India, one needs to get something with more punch.
  8. Lack of a healthy exhaust note. The Versys 650 sounds like a refrigerator. Sorry.

If you notice, I’m picking nits here. In the end, the Versys 650 is a damn fine proposition for Indian roads. 😉

Just leave!

VERSYS 650 – THINGS TO LOVE!

  1. An absolutely bulletproof engine and a suspension setup which is sublime.
  2. It comes touring ready. If you had to, you could take the Versys 650 out of the box and hit the road straight away. It would do well.
  3. Short running in period of 1000 kilometers. After that, get new oil and kiss 9000 rpm all you want.
  4. Comfortable service intervals of 5000 kilometers. This will irk the mile-munchers but most riders will be fine.
  5. Acceptable cost of maintenance. It’s not a super expensive vehicle to keep in ride-ready condition.

Overall the Versys 650 is damn easy to live with.

Easy Kawasaki!Easy Kawasaki!

This motorcycle provides the perfect mix of reliability, mechanical prowess and is very accessory friendly.

The Versys 650 delivers decent power, nothing crazy or too intimidating, so as to get your soul the sport tourer it needs!””Sport Tourer for the Soul!

Happy riding!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our story on the Versys 650 from Kawasaki. Tell us what you feel about this motorcycle and whether you would consider buying it.

If you already own one, let us know how it’s going for you and how far you’ve travelled on your steed!

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and let’s start a conversation!


Versys 650 ABS – 2017 Update

There’s a new kid on the block and it’s more or less the same as the old kid.

The New 2017 Kawasaki Versys 650 is now green in colour, has a console integrated gear indicator, sports a giant Versys decal on the fairing and that’s about it. The Engine (now BS IV compliant), Gearbox and Suspension remain the same on the new Versys as well.


Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. Views represented are personal opinions of the rider based on his experience with the vehicle showcased.

Vehicle: The Versys 650 ABS (2016)

Photography for this piece has been delivered by our Lead Photographer – Nipun Srivastava and assistant photographer Kaustubh Khare.

Model: Our resident adventurer – Nipun Srivastava.


 

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With the Toucan, You can!

In this article, we’ll briefly talk (and walk) you through the Alpinestars Toucan Motorcycling Boots in India.

Our review will help you understand whether this is the pair of adventure boots you should go for!

Alpinestars Toucan Motorcycle BootThe Alpinestars Toucan Motorcycle Boots!

Adventure motorcycling in India is fast catching up. Manufacturers are rushing to our shores with their machines, trying to bank any spare penny that the Indian tourer may have to invest in their products. Well, motorcycles aside, what often gets talked about is quality riding gear to go with these adventure machines.

A good helmet, a great riding jacket, good pair of gloves and a functional yet hardy pair of boots which will get you through thick and thin – that’s what’s on any true rider’s gear list. Well at least that’s the idea, anyway.

Here in India, buying quality riding gear takes a little doing. Very few places to test out the big brands, check the look and feel etc. If premium gear is what one is after, in all probability one will have to wing the sizing and bet ones money on a leap of faith while ordering these pieces.

This time, we bring to you the Alpinestars Toucan Adventure Touring Boot.

A boot we’ve lusted after for a while. A boot that’s almost mystical in its concept and a boot we’ve got our hands on recently! They say it can take anything any tourer worth their salt can throw at it. So does this thing really match expectations in India? Read on.

The Toucan is a premium motorcycle touring boot and costs a hair under INR 30000/-, which includes a 41% import duty. The boots aim to incorporate features of Alpinestars’ top of the line dirt-riding boots and safety aspects from the years worth of research and experience they have gained in creating riding gear for all types of motorcycling.

All that means little if these boots don’t keep a rider’s feet cool, dry and most importantly – safe while out on the Indian road (or off it!).

Alpinestars Toucan Boot Shoot!Alpinestars Toucan Boot Shoot!

Alpinestars Toucan Boot Shoot!Studio images for the Alpinestars Toucan Boots, shot at our in-house studio at TheNirvanaTeam HQ!

Over to our lead Photographer and resident adventurer, Nipun Srivastava, who is actually using the Alpinestars Toucan Adventure Boot currently:-

“”Damn, this thing feels stiff.”

When you first put on the Toucan Boots, you’re gonna panic. They feel extremely stiff, offer limited movement and make your heart sink. Putting these boots on for the first time made me feel like it was a waste of 30 grand. I probably wouldn’t be able to ride the bike with the foot freedom I was used to anymore. I even considered not riding with these boots at all, yes!

Once I calmed my disappointment however, I read the owner’s manual. There it was, the manual clearly states that the boot will be quite stiff when you first start using it and will loosen to fit aptly in due time. Alpinestars even advises one not to size up if the boot fits snug when new.

Phew!

Walk in the boots. Keep walking and flexing the boots to get used to them and let the boots adjust to your feet. The Toucan is a big boot and may be a tad overwhelming initially but bear with it. After a while of walking the boot, I got on to the motorcycle and took it for a ride.

Alpinestars Toucan Boot Shoot!Leaving town with the Toucans!

The gear shifts were tougher to make now. Braking no longer remained a casual flick of the foot, it now had to be a more conscious effort. Riding with this boot takes some getting used to.

Here are the usage aspects broken down for you:

Was I comfortable? – Yes.

Was the fit right? – Yes

Were my feet hot? – No

Were my feet sweating? – Very slightly.

Were the gearshifts easy? – No, especially at the start, since the boot is new and stiff it takes quite an effort to get the gears to shift when you need them. It does become easy as one keeps riding though.

Was rear braking easy? – No, I had to alter my braking style and be conscious of the amount of weight I put on the brake pedal. Since the boot is heavier than the ones I was used to (SMXs), usual force applied seemed too much. I got used to it eventually.

Are the boots easy to wear? – Absolutely, the boots are a breeze to wear and take off. The aluminum arrowhead buckles make the boot very easy to use.

Can I walk with the boots on? – Yes, it gets easier with every step.

Can I hike/trek with the boots on? – Hell no.

Are the Toucans waterproof? – Yes, you’ll be amazed. The Gore-Tex membrane keeps all water out 100%!

Are the boots prone to slipping on wet surfaces? – It is possible to slip in these boots. Do not take a chance.

Alpinestars Toucan Boot Shoot!Waterproof baby!

Are the boots easy to live with?

Big boots seldom are but the Toucans do the job they were meant to do very well. So taking that into consideration, yes, the Toucan is easy to live with.

Alpinestars Toucan Boot Shoot!Nipun’s Gear Setup:

Alpinestars Toucan Boots, SX-1 Knee Guards, Apex all-weather gloves and the Air Jacket – a perfect harmony!

You will buy this boot only if you’re in search for the best that’s out there for your feet. It cost us just under INR 30,000/- to import it to India from Germany, with a 41% import duty included. So, it does cost a pretty penny. If you’re still interested, you probably intend on doing some great travel with your motorcycle. After getting into these boots, you’re going to want to ride far and ride hard.

With the Toucans on and adapted to your feet,  you can ride far and long. Comfortable cruising on the highway is a pleasure as there is lesser need for rider inputs. On the trails too the boot manages to support ones feet very well. Should you have a brush with the dirt, rest assured that the Toucan will perform well. Adventure riding is where the toucan shines beautifully.

Alpinestars Toucan Boot Shoot!Trail trials!

I spent long, hot and sweaty days riding with the Toucan here in India and I have no negatives to report. It performed very well on the road. When I took it off-road and onto some tricky trails, the Toucan supported my feet and calves as I stood up to negotiate ruts and mounds. They have a solid feel when you put your feet down next to the motorcycle and make you feel well protected. The Alpinestars Toucan Adventure boot is value for your money despite the premium price tag.”

Alpinestars Toucan Boot Shoot!

Give it dirt, give it dust, give it mud or splashes of water while you tease your comfort zone exploring new horizons – the Toucan will thrive.

Then, just clean up and head out again!

Alpinestars Toucan Boot Shoot!


Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. All views represented are personal opinions of the writer based on his experience with the product showcased.

Product: Alpinestars Toucan Motorcycling Boots.

Photography for this piece has been delivered by our Lead Photographer – Nipun Srivastava and assistant photographer Kaustubh Khare.

Model: Our resident adventurer, Nipun Srivastava.

Vehicle: The Versys 650 ABS.



ARAI You Ready?

In this article, we’ll briefly talk (and walk) you through the New 2017 Arai Tour X-4 Adventure Helmet in India.

Our review will help you understand whether this is the helmet you should go for!

Arai Tour X4 (Route White)Adventure Ready – Arai Tour X4 ADV Helmet

As part of our jobs here at TheNirvanaTeam, we often head out to lesser explored parts of the Indian countryside. “Recces”, as we like to call our photography and trail finding expeditions, sometimes expose our team to conditions less than adequate for a “safe” and comfortable experience. As they say, no great story ever starts with the words “it all went smoothly”.

Given the risks we take to get our clients the shots and images they deserve, our boys and girls deserve the very best of motoring protection out there when exposed to the elements. We pride ourselves on using the best equipment to get that epic shot every time and that’s the same philosophy we like to follow for the vehicles and gear that we use for our job.

2017 Arai Tour X4 Route WhiteHelmet Colourway – Route White

Over to our lead Photographer and resident adventurer, Nipun Srivastava, who is actually using the Arai Tour X4 (XD4) currently:-

“”Jesus, you want me to pay close to a thousand dollars for a helmet?! You must be crazy.”

The Arai Tour X4 ADV touring helmet costs exactly INR 57000/- here in India. That’s a lot of money, a hell of a lot. One can by a brand new scooter for that much cash or maybe go on a short luxury holiday even. Is there anything that justifies spending so much on a helmet? That’s the question to ask, I think.

There are helmets and there are helmets and then there are Arai Helmets. What’s so special?

Well, everything. Arai does everything humanly and scientifically possible to get us the lids we deserve. The impression one gets is that every freakin’ stone was turned before asking you to shell out the better part of a months take home for a lid that is so expensive, one may want to store it in a hermetically sealed container. At least that’s the treatment our Tour X-4 got when it landed up at our studio, flying in (first class, we assume) straight from Arai HQ, Netherlands.

Arai Tour X4 Photo-Shoot!Arai Tour X4 Photo-Shoot!Arai Tour X4 Photo-Shoot!

Arai Tour X4 Photo-Shoot! Arai Tour X4 Photo-Shoot!

Studio images for the Arai Tour X4, shot at our in-house studio at TheNirvanaTeam HQ!

Arai only has one dealer in India. Moreover, there is no place where one can go, try out, have a look and then buy a lid of ones choice here in India. So, we’re more or less buying Arai products off of hear say or online reviews and in the rare case, having seen one a friend uses. This is something which should change, Arai, at least create one Pro Shop in India?

I met a couple of big shot looking riders once and saw them flaunt their Arai lids around like it was made of some special material. Showoffs. But that did get me thinking and I researched Arai and what they do. This was almost a decade ago. It’s taken almost a decade of touring and motorcycling for me to finally get my hands on an Arai Helmet. So as far as I’m concerned, each Arai is a saga. Less a fantastic piece of motoring gear, more a fantastical entity that every enthusiast must enjoy at least once for their type of motoring usage.

Mid trail with the Tour X4!Trail time!

Right from the start, my Tour X4 fit me like a glove. I was lucky that the helmet fit me perfectly and I didn’t need to fiddle with the peel away cheek pads for a better fit. The clear visor let me comfortably wear my Aviators inside while being closed and the air vents (on the visor) did their job very well in keeping the top of my head cool even at the peak of the Indian Summer. Right from our first ride with the Tour X4, the climate was very hot and humid. More over, we did the better part of our ride close to noon, when the temperatures were tickling the tropical 40 degrees. Add to that, we were riding to the coast (humidity for the win! Not.) .

To the West Coast of India!To the West Coast!

So, the Tour X4 had its job cut out for. Keep my head cool, don’t let it get too sweaty, keep noise low at high speeds and do not buffet in the wind.

Arai Tour X4 / X.D 4 Performance:

Ventilation: Very good. Kept me cool throughout the ride, didn’t feel the need to get it off my head at every stop.

Dealing with sweat: The Tour X4 is good here too but only just. Ultimately, with the Sun directly overhead, I needed to open the visor.

Noise:  Good. You will hear the wind at high speeds but it’s very manageable.

High Speed Dynamics: Sadly here, the Tour X4 is prone to buffeting in the wind at high speeds (with the peak on). Mind you, this happened even though we had a windscreen on our test motorcycle.

Visor Behaviour: Very good. Wide vision. Good clarity and very low on distortion. Locks down firmly. On-visor air intakes seal the deal for tourers.

Weight: 1620 gms.

Safety Ratings: ECE | SNELL

Emergency Release Tabs: Yes.

Accessories: Pinlock screen comes included in the box.

Looks: It looks very good. The paint finish is fantastic and the myriad colourways will satisfy everyone. Although, Arai charges extra for the smarter schemes.

Overall: I’ll cut this helmet a very good chit. It does everything a 50-50 on-road off-road helmet should do and does it very well.

Arai Tour X4 Photo-Shoot!A feature rich and premium helmet!

The new Tour x4 feels like a solid high quality piece of gear in your hand. No loose trim, nothing hanging out anywhere and immaculate paint schemes all around. Even the moisture ‘wicking’ inner fabric is soft enough for rugged use. The double D ring fasteners are relatively easy to use with just enough space to loop the strap through and finally button it down. Buttoning down the strap ensures no flapping in the wind or at higher speed. So the attention to detail and build quality on this Arai is truly extraordinary.

Where living with the helmet is concerned, it’s not too difficult. As we mentioned, Arai has just one dealer in India but they do a good job of suggesting the right sizing etc and are open to questions. Moreover, ordering replacement parts (like the inner liner, visors etc) should be relatively easy in the long run. What that means is, you don’t need to be over protective about the helmet. Use it like you would any other piece of good riding gear, store it relatively well and it should last. Arai recommends using the helmet for 5 years and then replacing it, which seems reasonable.

Arai Tour X4 Photo-Shoot!A premium helmet that’s easy to live with, in India!

The Arai Tour X4 Adventure Helmet is the way to go if you’re used to this kind of thing. If you’re an adventure tourer worth your salt and often put yourself in situations where you may get lost without a road, you should consider this Arai. You know that Indian motorcycling conditions are very challenging. Our extreme traffic scenarios, bad road surfaces and unpredictable conditions demand that we get ourselves the best in personnel protection we can afford. There are only a few helmets that make the cut for on-road & off-road touring and the Arai Tour X4 sits at the top.

On the other hand, if you’re an occasional motorcycle adventurer looking for a premium lid, there are options like KLIM’s Krios or AGV’s AX 8 (DS) which are good and hurt the wallet less.

Even if you’re not used to the moto-x shape of this helmet, Arai has done everything they could to make the helmet behave like a regular helmet. If you’re new to ADV riding and don’t mind shelling out the dough, this is a very good bet.

The competition: AGV’s AX-8 DS EVO, ICON’s Variant, KLIM’s Krios, SHOEI’s Hornet X2 and the likes.

The competitors come with similar issues, not many dealers, nowhere to test these lids out in India and sizing is a big fat $500 guess (at least).

.

Finally then, is the Arai Tour X4 price justified?

The answer – Yes, if you value the research and development it takes to develop these top of the line products.

When you buy an Arai, inside, you know you’re getting the best that the world has to offer. Quality seldom comes cheap.”

— Nipun Srivastava

. Arai Tour X4 Photo-Shoot!

There it is then, If you are confused between what’s good and what’s arguably the best, go for the Arai Tour X 4 (XD4).

We see the Tour X4 as very good adventure touring helmet which can protect you as far as your wit will take you.

So head out and blaze trails.

Arai Tour X4 Photo-Shoot!

The Nirvana Team


Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. All views represented are personal opinions of the writer based on his experience with the product showcased.

Product: Arai Tour X4 Adventure Helmet. Also known as the X-D4 in the American Markets.

Photography for this piece has been delivered by our Lead Photographer – Nipun Srivastava.

Model: Our resident adventurer, Nipun Srivastava.

Vehicle: The Versys 650 ABS.

We would like to thank Kaustubh Khare Photography and Vaishali Chandan for assisting on shoot.


Note: Mounting any helmet on rear view mirror stalks may harm the inner linings of the helmet.



Chasing Clouds

Our resident champ takes the new Mahindra Mojo – Tourer Edition out for a spin!

Join Nipun Srivastava as he chases his vision and talks about the striking New Edition Mojo by Mahindra Two Wheelers.

Mojo RHS Side Profile

The Mahindra Mojo Tourer Edition

Fully loaded with Saddle Bags, a Tank bag, Custom mounted Fog lamps, an engine guard, Pannier mounts, Tail carrier and a Mobile Phone Holder which works!


“You know what they say, “If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride at all.”

I’ve been shooting photographs for the better part of a decade now. In that time, I’ve travelled long distances on two wheelers loaded up with my stuff, most of it being camera gear, since my motivation for travel was second only to my need of creating images wherever I went. – Showing it off, once I was back. Stands to reason then, that vehicles have played a major part in my journey. I can’t even remember the last time I took a flight to get somewhere for a shoot.

When Mahindra Two Wheelers came to me with the Mojo, I was intrigued to say the least. I was to take a short trip with the Mojo Tourer Edition and see what it was like. For me, it’s the little things that take a motorcycle from being a mere machine to becoming a true companion on a journey. Power is good to have and we all love style but a motorcycle that takes care of the rider is one that will truly stand the test and taste of a motorcycle rider.

Rider & Mojo 1 (Story Shot)

Found my Mojo!

Each time I ready myself for a journey, it starts with nervous excitement. Nervous because no bike ride is the same. Each trip has its own charm and challenge, no matter what direction one takes. On this ride, The Mojo Tourer Edition was to be my companion. A motorcycling date of sorts!

The motorcycle was a black, one pot, 300 cc, twin exhaust, fully kitted out and ready for action Mojo Tourer Edition. With new saddle bags, a tank bag, a handlebar mounted phone holder and two new super seductive fog lamps, this version of the Mojo had us all under its spell right from the start! Phew!

Loaded up and turning heads!

As I walked to the motorcycle, I could hear Santana’s Black Magic Woman chiming at the back of my head. Only fair I thought, this Mojo seemed like a very snazzy slice of motoring kit.

Parking lot silence is blissful. Especially when you get to break it with a sweet sounding twin exhaust. A turn of the key, a flick of the ignition, the mellow hum of the fuel pump and then the ripe cherry of a starter button. The Mojo rumbled to life and settled into its characteristic note.

“It sounds bloody good”, I said to myself.

Time to ride out!

Six gears will let you own the better part of 100 kmph. As will the linear and pretty much effortless power delivery to get your riding day started right.

1 Extra Shot.jpg

Purpose built for the long haul

The Indian monsoon is at its peak here in Pune, a dreary grey and overcast sky had me wondering if there was any point in riding out on this day. I love golden light you see, I love the setting Sun, especially in my photography. Still, a day of good motorcycling trumps almost everything else really. We dodged the rain quite a few times on this day but eventually it caught up with us and I decided it was time to eat, for me that is. The Mojo’s 21 liter belly meant it could keep going way longer than my fight with hunger.

Rider & Mojo 2 (Story Shot)

No damp spirits here!

As we waited on the weather to let up, I noticed the attention to detail Mahindra has put into this version of its flagship motorcycle. For instance the pannier frames on either side of the rear wheel hold the saddle bags in place, giving the rider more confidence while tackling Indian roads and their temperamental surfaces ;).

Mojo Off Road (Story Shot)

No road, no problem!

Connected to the pannier frame is the Tail carrier. A spot perfect for my tent and sleeping bag, if I’d carried it on this day that is! Still, it made a sexy hold for the helmet. With the helmet on it, damn she looked hot!

Mojo Tourer Edition Close up of Accessories

Ready for adventure!

Rain had now given way to a steady breeze around Kusegaon on this early evening. The rays of the Sun took turns poking at the landscape while I sat admiring the Mojo and setting up some shots of myself with the bike. Kusegaon is a place I come to, often. It’s the perfect place to quickly disconnect from the city and its usual trappings. Something which the Mojo is good for too.

5 Extra Shot

In the thick of it all!

The Mojo Tourer Edition is a purpose built machine for the aspirational Indian motorcycle traveller, to say the least. It’s a nice bike to start ones motorcycling journey on. I was beginning to regret the lack of time I’d have with this motorcycle, only a 300 kilometer ride around Pune/Mumbai this time. Would be an experience to ride through the night with those sexy fog lamps, I’m sure. I have a penchant for auxiliary lights, I must confess. 😀

Spellbinding lights!

Evening was upon us as I vroomed around exploring the lush green Kusegaon had offered on this day. With the kind of weather we’d had all day, I was almost certain there would be no good sunset to write home about but boy, was I wrong!

6 Extra Shot

Surreal Clouds!

It was surreal, as if the clouds decided that this would be the day they would put on a show of sorts. As if to mark my ride with the Mojo. Further driving home the point of getting out of one’s comfort zone and more importantly, getting out there on a purposeful machine.

Mojo Without Rider Mood Shot 3(Story Shot).jpg

The Mojo Tourer Edition – as purposeful as it gets!

Touring is all about being out there and when you least expect it, you’ll be gifted for the choices you made to get on the road and travel on a motorcycle.

Mojo & Rider Mood Shot 1

Conquering Dreams

The Mahindra Mojo Tourer Edition has been put together for just such a person. One who’s in control of their individuality and does not fear going out there and conquering dreams. Even if it’s as simple as – Chasing Clouds!

— Nipun Srivastava

Mojo Without Rider Mood Shot 4(Story Shot).jpg

Chasing Clouds!


We Thank

Mumbai: (Client) Mahindra Two Wheelers Limited, for flying with @TheNirvanaTeam and for providing the Motorcycle.

TheNirvanaTeam: Kaustubh Khare, Roy Kulkarni, Dinesh Pawar, Vaishali Chandan and Nipun Srivastava (lead).

All views represented on the article are personal opinions of the writer based on his experience with the vehicle showcased.

Check out how Mahindra Two Wheelers Ltd used the content: www.mahindramojo.com/mojo-tourer

More on the motorcycle, here.


Check out more shots from this Photo-shoot!


Great Sound Goes Places

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

The Bose SoundLink Mini 2, Bluetooth speaker.

Every once in a while we come across a product which takes our breath away. Like something new you bring home for the first time and then wonder how you lived all those years without it! The Bose SoundLink Mini 2 is just such a thing.

For us travel bunnies, the need for great sound on the go is an important one.

Headphones are a pain to untangle, music systems cant be taken out of cars and other speakers (although reasonably good at sound) sport a complete lack of aesthetic value (even Beats!). Our passive quest for a solution was on for a while now. On our latest trip, a new friend brought along this sleek beauty.

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

At first glance, you wonder what it is. Sleek lines, slender profile, meaty weight, understated controls and oh, no wires.

We haven’t even gotten to the sound yet!

Imagine the most striking, well cut, visually spellbinding diamond in your mind. That’s how good it sounds when the waves hit ones head and that’s how good it sounds all the time. A breath of high-fidelity fresh air, truly.

Practicality

It is heavy, pretty heavy compared to other stuff in the market. It is not water resistant (like a JBL). And is not something that can be thrown around in the back of a backpack. Well you can but the sheer beauty of it will make sure you give it the attention it deserves.

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

It gives a good 4 hours of high fidelity high volume sound. Or if you like it mellow, it might even last two days.

The Bose SoundLink Mini 2 charges up within the hour and the lady inside tells you how much juice it has every time you switch it on.

Has a 3.5 mm jack, a cradle charger and also a direct charging micro USB port.

Clearly marked buttons with good tactile feel let you control everything from the power to the volume and you can even toggle through two devices which can be connected simultaneously via Bluetooth.

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

This Bluetooth speaker is by far the best we have ever used. The design, the feel and the sound – all of it sets the Mini 2 apart from the rest.

Travel

What blew us away is the sheer quality and usability of this Bluetooth speaker. We love using it while working behind the scenes. It lends any photo-shoot that much more ambience and heck, we even use it when it’s time to chill out and take a break from it all!

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

The SoundLink Mini 2 is just the thing one needs to head out alone and be by ones self.

Give a boring evening them feels, we all know good music can do that! We love using it while driving. On road trips, our Jeep and the Bose make perfect companions over long hours of travel over far and distant lands. All while keeping our music humming right there with us.

(the Jeep does not come with a music system as standard)

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

Style

Oh boy, who knew Bluetooth speakers could be a style statement?

Put it on any surface and it will make heads turn. Play music and the same heads will swing with melodies galore. It’s like audio Nirvana.

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

This speaker really is something we wonder how we survived without, given our love for music and travel. Even though the Bose SoundLink Mini 2 is one of the most expensive speakers in its segment, it is the one which takes the prize in the end.

Great design and amazing sound – Kudos Bose!

Bose Soundlink Mini 2

The Bose SoundLink Mini 2, Bluetooth speaker.


Photography for this piece has been delivered by our resident Champ – Nipun Srivastava.

Product: Bose SoundLink Mini 2 Bluetooth Speaker. This is not a sponsored post, we payed for the piece!

Model: Kaustubh Khare

Vehicle: Our very own Kalmoohi – The Jeep.

We would like to thank Kaustubh Khare Photography for helping out on shoot and also for standing in as our lone model ;).


Own the game!


Touring with the GLA!

One thing we love about our job is that it always feels like a vacation. Recently, our resident photographer landed up at a destination so beautiful, in a car so cool, he had to bring out the big guns!

The new GLA from Mercedes Benz!

Check out the view!

Nashik, in Maharashtra, is an Indian city tuned mostly towards religious tourism and the occasional trek. In recent years though, this city has taken on a unique personality. One, that has truly intrigued and amazed the entire country and the world!

Nashik is home to India’s most popular Winery – Sula Vineyards. Just outside the city limits stand the stately Vineyards. An expanse ripe with enthusiasm, technique and a unique taste for the good life – that’s the Sula vibe. Right then, we struck a chord with the place.

Visiting the Sula Vineyards!

Arriving in style!

We drove from Pune to Nashik in the striking Mercedes Benz GLA. A car we chose for its unique form and laudable capability. Right from the get-go, the GLA 200 CDI took on the challenge of the Indian road with solid gusto. Traditionally, Mercedes Benz cars occupy a luxury oriented placement in the Indian market. Touring in the GLA however, we felt brand Mercedes Benz was now venturing into territory not just for the chauffeur driven CEO but also for the one who likes to take charge of the wheel and steer into the good life, head-on.

Head into the Indian countryside and one is greeted with boundless beauty albeit coupled tastefully with the occasional bad road. A place not ideal for soft, sexy and luxurious cars, surely. It is here that the Mercedes Benz GLA, with its rugged disposition, throws down the gauntlet in the face of this fact. Roads, good or bad, are easily traveled by this mid sized GLAdiator of sorts. The GLA also excels in quenching the thirst for trailblazing across the countryside. All this while keeping the driver cocooned in familiar luxury. It is by far the best suited Benz for the aspirational Indian.

All about the GLAm!

All about the GLAm!

Talking aspirations, the Sula winery was born out of sheer passion and a great attitude. CEO Rajeev Samant took what little he had, poured his heart into his work and gave rise to a truly global wine brand. The creation of Sula has brought about a wine revolution in India. Growing at a healthy pace and gaining popularity by the minute, Sula’s Wines have captured the attention of most curious travelers and wine connoisseurs alike.

Taste the Sula Life!

Taste the Sula Life!

Attention is something the GLA grabs by the ton as well. The GLA’s road presence is something which needs to be felt to be believed. This luxury SUV gives India the pomp of a three pointed star, the elegance of a luxury tourer and the go-almost-anywhere attitude! The GLA rivals the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1 when we look at price points. The Mercedes Benz GLA looks stunning from every angle, something that its rivals struggle to do even on the best of days.

exquisite

exquisite

The GLA is big enough to command the road and small enough to even be called compact! On the motorway, the GLA drove flawlessly across hundreds of kilometers that we threw at it. Eventually the roads ran out and we were doing trails towards Nashik and this is where the GLA came into its own. We weren’t worried about ground clearance, we knew there was enough power and all doubts about the GLA’s capabilities evaporated as we circumvented traffic jams on the Pune – Nashik Highway by driving through tricky village paths & broken roads!

Tasting Trails!

tasting trails

We did not push the GLA beyond the broken road however. When driving a luxury car of this form, it isn’t always the best course of action trying to do high articulation maneuvers. That’s simply not what the GLA is about. A 7 speed dual clutch gearbox mated to a 4-pot diesel motor churning out 135 bhp provides effortless on-road performance on the new GLA 200 CDI. The diesel engine does create some noise outside and on the inside as well but it’s not something which affects the overall drive experience. Space is tight on the inside, making the GLA in essence a two person tourer.

Two of us, with our luggage and camera equipment traveled very comfortably in the GLA. We fell in love with the fantastic driver and spotter seats in the car, these seats make long drives an absolute dream! The unmissable sport mode makes easy pickings of sharp mountain curves and the suspension which is specially tuned for India (owing to the increased ride height) does well to keep the GLA centered and the occupants charged up ;).

Ideal for India! The Mercedes Benz GLA!

Ideal for India!

On a drive which ends at a location as stunning as the Sula Vineyards, we had to go all-in. We reached Sula and were greeted by their brand managers, Nirvana was given a one-on-one tour of the Vineyard and the manufacturing facility. Not to forget the tasting of 10 most popular wines from Sula!

Sunset at Sula!

Sunset at Sula!

A visit to Sula can be an all encompassing experience. Soléil, the restaurant, serves Indo-French Cuisine at the vineyard and ‘Beyond’ is a luxury hotel managed by Sula for its patrons. They also undertake tours of the winery for a small fee which includes a quick wine tasting as well. If chilling out is all you plan to do, you can head to the cafe overlooking the Vineyard for some amazing sunsets and snacks.

Touring with the GLA

The Nirvana Favorite – Chenin Blanc Reserve.

We’re no wine boffins but we do have our favorites! On our scales, the Chenin Blanc Reserve and the Late Harvest Chenin Blanc take the top spots! Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Shiraz and Merlot are a few more among the varieties produced at Sula. If you are someone with a genuine thirst for travel and love a unique experience, a visit to these Vineyards is a must-do. It is one of the most unique weekend experiences one can undertake.

GLA for the win!

In it to win it!

Pushing the realms of possibility and chasing perfection relentlessly are traits both Sula & Mercedes Benz embody. Our boy Nipun Srivastava cut short his vacation and took on the task of showcasing both the car and the destination, single-handedly. This, because we value true originality, class and quality. Any such endeavour inspires us to do more and way better than ever before. We thank Sula Vineyards for their exemplary hospitality.

Do Not Drink And Drive!

Motoring and alcohol do not mix, let’s be clear.

Here at Nirvana we practice the highest norms of motoring safety. We adore the vehicles we drive and use, behooving us to do our job responsibly.

Do share our Sula story if you liked it! In our bid to encourage motoring conversations further, we’d like you to comment below and tell us what you think.

We’d love to know how our readers satisfy their cravings for the road! Cheers!

More pictures form our Sula Vineyards road-trip!


The Jeep Life!

Lex Talionis!
Lex Talionis! – A long term update on the Mahindra Thar!

We’ve spent an adventurous four years with this mean and mod-friendly machine! So before we let you through to our original story on the Thar, here’s a quick look at the major modifications on our daily driver!

Mahindra Customisation: Snorkel, Midnight Edition Front and Rear Bumpers: Inspire confidence while fording and enhance maneuverability / aesthetics.

Bimbra 4×4: Heavy Duty Rock Sliders, Fiber reinforced Hard Top (V2), Aluminum Roof Rails: Protection from rocks underneath and the Hard Top takes cabin comfort and security to the next level.

Hella: Front Auxiliary Halogen Lamps (Comet 500 Black Magic): Used as DRLs and driving aid.

Onella: Rear Auxiliary LED Lamps: Rear driving aid and campsite illumination.

Aurora LED: Front LED Bar (Off-Road): Off-road path-finding.

Cooper Tires: Discoverer STT Pro 31″ Mud Terrain Tires on 15″ Steel Wheels: Improved off-road capability, increased stability on road, the trade off – an audible ‘humm’ while at speed, reduced top end. 

Mopar: Wrangler Hood Latches: Aesthetics primarily, eliminates squeaky noises made by stock metal bonnet Latches.

DampMat: Thermo-Acoustic Insulation: Reduced cabin noise and heat by 50%. Improved life inside cabin (and air-con efficiency) immensely.

ARMORO:  Custom Spare Wheel Cover: Adds attitude and improves overall aesthetics, protects spare rubber from elements.

Lex Talionis!
Built not Bought!

Each modification/add-on mentioned above has been made after careful research and due scrutiny of each available option in the category. The custom accessories market in India is steadily growing and so are the options that are natively available for enthusiasts to use on their individual rigs.

We at TheNirvanaTeam & theroadtonirvana.com have also grown with the industry as end-users and as creators who use these products to our advantage while on the job.

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Now, back to our original story on the Mahindra Thar!

The Jeep Life!

The Jeep Life!

Those who follow our work will know we did a quick review of the Mahindra Thar some time ago. The Thar is an SUV which carries the tag of a Jeep in India. People who drive these brutes are often from a different school of thought altogether. These men and women, like most, value comfort, style, ease of handling and most of all practicality. With all these in the bag though, there is still something missing. The chase for this missing element is what makes people buy a Jeep.

A jeep is not practical, it isn’t comfortable, the handling on these machines is appalling and as for styling – it hasn’t changed for the last 7 decades. So then, what is it? What makes one buy a Jeep? Nirvana set out to unravel this mystery in the best way there is!

Trailblazing Thar!

Why Jeep?

We cleared our schedule, packed up as much stuff as we could, stuffed it into a Mahindra Thar and then drove off in tandem with the rising Sun. For the first few kilometers, we battled the blistering cold as the Thar warmed up. The cabin heater takes its own time to wake up and the canvas-ish soft top roof was not helping things either. Eventually though we did find some semblance of temperature inside the cabin. The drive had now begun. We were now officially giving chase to the element, that one thing which makes one go out and buy a jeep.

Barreling through the cold morning winds, we’d defog the windscreen manually (with a cloth) every few minutes. Irritating at first, it is something a Jeeper gets used to very quickly. Much like the bumpy ride one has to deal with even on smooth highway roads. The rear end of the Thar sits on an antique leaf spring suspension setup making it jump over every little lump of tar on the Indian road. Safe to say, the ride is not something to write home about. Even with the fully independent pot hole eating front suspension, there is only so much this Jeep can offer.

Highway Crusin'!

 Highway Crusin’ – Indside Story!

The 2.5 Litre turbo-diesel does tend to impress when given the beans on the highway. Sluggish at first but given time, the Thar holds its own on the highway. For what is essentially a box on wheels, the Mahindra Thar is a gem on smooth straight roads. On mountain roads however, curve after curve, one has to calibrate to the comfort zone of this Jeep. The driver learns to read the road for potential bumps and it’s his/her skill which decides how smooth or unnerving the ride will be.

Barring a rudimentary seat-belt, there is nothing between the passenger/pedestrian and certain loss of limb. Oh, maybe the less than adequate brakes might soften the nudge a little. And then there is the price tag; eight and a half lakhs on the road (Pune). Phew! So where does all that money go? Clearly the interiors (or the lack of them) is not something which eats up the budget.

Jeep It!

Getting dirty!

As we found out, the Borg&Warner 4×4 transfer case mated to the 2.5 turbo is where the money’s at. It is the off-road capability of this Jeep that costs. Off-road loyalists in India will probably want to discount the Thar’s ability when things get a little too technical (Compared to a traditional solid-axle). Not to say this jeep is bad when taken off the road. We found the stock Thar to be adequately endowed for someone looking to break into the world of Indian jeeping. Having said that, we were still miles away from discovering the magic element (and our destination!).

Trailblazing Thar!

I can go anywhere!

We had driven a few hundred kilometers by now. Over highways and in the curves, we’d found our rhythm with the Thar; then something funny happened.

As we got used to the Thar’s antics, she took on an almost endearing personality. Like a human being, even with all its limitations, the Thar kept moving. Eating miles and sipping diesel, she got us to our destination – Our holy grail – Hedvi.

Holy grail – Hedvi!

Despite all the niggles, we had fallen for the Mahindra Thar! Every time we looked, we couldn’t take our eyes off it! On a beach, out trailblazing in the wilderness or even on the city street, the Thar cuts a very crisp figure. And gosh is it attractive! Driving down the streets, everyone from young boys and girls to middle aged couples and even a few Army and Police personnel will give you the thumbs up.

The Thar almost always becomes the conversation piece because truth is, the Jeep (as a concept) has seen it all. Over the past century, in all corners of the world and in every walk of life this vehicle in all its forms has proven its mettle beyond doubt. Starting from the military, through utility and going all the way till recreation, the Jeep can do everything.

Trailblazing Thar!
Trailblazing!

The compromise in comfort and luxury, we feel, is fair in return for the capabilities and downright uniqueness. Safety on the other hand is something Mahindra & Mahindra still need to work on for the Thar.

Finally though we’d cracked it; we now knew why one buys a jeep. Read on.

Travel till land’s end!

Romance is rare, charm is even rarer and class, well that’s almost extinct. There is a reason why a charming, secure and confident man makes any woman swoon. The reason is romance. Any man who is secure in himself and confident about his abilities probably knows how to woo a woman. He could walk onto her turf with his charm and the only thing a lady will do is welcome him. No matter how uncomfortable it is to be together, no matter how unpractical the love is and regardless of the cost, if the romance is alive – the love will flourish.

And that is it ladies and gentlemen. The romance of a lifestyle is what attracts enthusiasts to jeeps like bees to honey. It’s the romance of doing things differently, standing unaffected by the way the ‘herd’ looks at living and going where few bother to look which sets true blue Jeepers apart. Living with a Jeep is not for those corrupted by comfort!

Trailblazing Thar!

The virile lifestyle!

Comfort zones become a thing of the past with a jeep. A well kitted out vehicle and with a strong skill set on tap, anyone can become an explorer. In fact, we love the romance of Jeeping so much, we’ve bought one! The vehicle you see in the pictures is a bone stock* Mahindra Thar from our very own Nirvana stable!

Expect a lot more travel and Jeeping stories hereon out! Also, in our bid to encourage motoring conversations further, we’d like you to comment below and tell us what you think. We’d love to know how our readers satisfy their cravings for the road! Cheers!

For more Jeeping photography click on The Jeep Life!


Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash!

Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash!

Road trips, to us, are the best way to break the ice between a vehicle and the people who use it. Much like it is for strangers travelling together. Here at Nirvana, we like to believe that vehicles, regardless of the number of wheels, have personalities too. With the Mahindra Xylo, we were on the verge of finding out what motoring could mean if one let go of stereotypes and just put pedal to the metal.

The day before our trip, as the Mahindra Xylo arrived, we were a tad surprised with the space inside. The initial drive made us feel like everything was where it needed to be in the vehicle. Power, space, air conditioning, stability and that all important 3rd row of seats. We would be putting the Xylo to the ‘Nirvana Travel Test’ so obviously we had no back up vehicle to lug our stuff separately.

Let’s go that way!

Five boys, seven days and loads of camera things, we set out to conquer the Indian countryside in our Xylo. We must be honest, an ‘MUV’ is probably not the first choice of vehicle for a bunch of young boys who’d want to have a bit of fun on a road trip. Through our photography, that was the very mindset we were out to change!

There were two major aims of our week long trip. We were to photograph the vehicle and also experience life with the Mahindra Xylo H9. H9 being the most well equipped ‘top end’ version.

Our first destination was the beach town of Murud Janjira. A 170 kilometer drive saw us there well in time for the sunset and a quick bite. On the short drive here, the Xylo behaved like a silent companion, nonchalantly going about its business of turning wheels and getting us to the town.

Shooting big vehicles such as the Xylo can be a tricky proposition. We had to think and shoot, constantly reworking frames to get shots worthy of the Nirvana name. We wrapped up our first sunset shoot. Taking some time to relax and absorb the beauty that was Murud Janjira, with the Xylo by our side. The vehicle had performed well on her first day. We were now excited to see the rest of the trip unfold!

Spontaneity equals fun, always!

The whole premise of this road trip was spontaneity. Everything would be decided on the go. Be it the next destination, the next photographic angle or even what/where the team would eat, we were flying freestyle all the way!

Early next morning, we forgot to wake up.

It happens, too much prep and no relaxation before hitting the road can lead to this. Good sleep is most important on any road trip. Good sleep leads to good fun, we think.

Finally, around 10 AM and with everyone on the breakfast table, we bounced ideas off each other. It was important we did that, 5 heads and no calibration can lead to a lot of chaos with the lens. Having decided we would let our quest for exploration guide our shoot, we hit the road destination unknown! Driving through interiors of the Konkan Coast, it was inevitable that we hit the famous National Highway 17. The smooth and bendy roads of this highway were a good test run for the Xylo. Not to forget the five boys inside!

We drove about 200 kilometers on this day, finally finding ourselves in a quaint and almost completely secluded beach village, Hedvi.

Hedvi!

If you haven’t guessed it yet, the Nirvana team loves beaches. We believe some of the greatest driving roads in the world run along the coasts and it’s no different in India. Another reason maybe that we love shooting images in those dreamy golden hours :). We had timed our arrival perfectly. Hedvi welcomed us with the perfect sunset vistas, not to forget the perfect beach driving opportunity. Until now we had driven the Xylo on good roads, bad roads, straight roads and bendy roads but now it was time to have some fun on the beach!

The New Mahindra Xylo: Practically Brilliant!

The stereotype of boring MUVs does not apply to this vehicle. The New Xylo is a very amusing car. Right from the voice enabled commands to the mind bending amount of space inside, the Xylo surpasses all expectations. To delve deeper, lugging all our camera equipment along with the team that makes it all work is no easy task but the Xylo was toe for toe with every challenge we could throw at it. We’re not shy of acknowledging the elephant in the room either, a car this big has to have monumental body roll right? Wrong!

The new Xylo with its comfort spec suspension once again had us snoozing in our seats as we munched those curvy coastal miles. Trust us when we say this, a hard working team loves a vehicle that takes care of its passengers over long distances regardless of the road conditions. Rumbling under the hood was the Mahindra’s flagship M-Hawk engine. We really enjoyed putting the 120 horses to work on the Indian highways, taking turns to drive the vehicle all throughout the Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash. We were impressed.

Splash!

Boys will be boys and who doesn’t like making a splash in water?! As the Sun set over the Arabian Sea, we pulled up our socks and washed the behemoth off of the salt water from all that driving and splashing in the sea (basics!).

It is imperative that we mention more about the Hedvi village. Hedvi is something else, it is solace, freedom and fun all rolled into one exquisite ballad of beauty. We’ve always been in love with the simple and rustic charm of this place. The beach here is absolutely untouched by civilization and the village brings the same ‘middle of nowhere’ feeling into any stay at this place. Especially since there is no cellphone network here, time spent here is exclusively private. Which is something that helped us get in touch with the vehicle we were shooting even more.

Evening under the stars!

At Hedvi, the Nirvana Team had spent all its time interacting one-on-one with the Xylo. The climate here was so humid that we spent an entire afternoon napping inside the Xylo, you know, taking advantage of that exceptional air conditioning system. Night fell and we were out again, we realized that it’s the perfect vehicle to go camping with buddies. Oodles of space for camping gear and everything else one might need!

Bonfire brothers!

We hit the road early next morning. Initially deciding to stick to the coast as long as we could, in the Xylo, we explored a little bit of the Konkan (coast) one usually misses out on. We even took a short ferry ride (with the Xylo!) to get ourselves across a river. As the day progressed, we took turns suggesting our next possible destination. In the end, we needed the map to figure out where it is we could actually go in the time we had. As soon as the road map of India unfolded, Lead Photographer Nipun Srivastava exclaimed – Hampi!

decisions decisions

The moment Hampi was mentioned, we took off! Hitting the National Highway Number 4 a little after lunch and then soon getting off it to head towards the prehistoric temple town that is Hampi, we were on a roll with our Xylo! We reached Hampi late in the night, a drive that was not just beautiful but also equally intense. We had spent an entire day travelling in the Xylo. To be honest, none of us were too tired so we treated ourselves to some well deserved pints of beer :D.

Hampi

Hampi is a village about 850 kilometers from Mumbai, close to the town of Hospet in the South Indian state of Karnataka. This place is a true wonder of nature. Views of the landscape here are full of boulder hills in various sizes and shapes. Hampi is a site located within the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire. It is older than the medieval city of Vijayanagara and is still of much religious importance. Hampi is home to the Virupaksha Temple – the main center of pilgrimage here and dedicated to Lord Shiva. On the banks of The Tungabhadra river which flows through Karnataka into Andhra Pradesh, Hampi is not just a religious stop for the Indian traveler but is also a place of wonder and amazement to the foreign tourist. Hampi to us was the perfect opportunity to photograph the Xylo in truly unique surroundings.

The Mad Dash team at Hampi!

Amidst the ruins our team of photographers had a ball shooting the new Xylo! We drove from one ruin to another and explored the unique architecture and rock–cut structures and boy did we have the ‘time of our lives’! On one hand, temples of the Vijayanagar Empire poke ones spiritual inner self and on the other the awesome expanse of ruins spread as far as the eyes can see make one wonder, how on earth did they manage to build this wonderland!

Explore everything!

The Nirvana Team spent two days amidst the striking structures of Hampi. Six amazing days of travel, motoring and unparalleled fun were to be followed by one last Mad Dash across the states of Karnataka and Maharashtra to get us back home to Pune. Pack up – load up – rev up – kind of a theme now for us and the kind of work we do around here.

The Xylo MUV is regarded by most as just a people carrier and nothing more. Understandable, as it feels like one’s private cave on the road – it’s that huge. When Mahindra & Mahindra called us though, we were forced to look at the whole idea of the Xylo differently. As is the case with every vehicle we shoot/test, the can of worms opens first. Once that’s been dealt with, we head out with the vehicle to see if we were right.

Take a trip with the brand new Xylo!

The mood inside the Xylo on our drive back was surreal. Each doubt we had about the super-MUV had been quashed by the intense trip we’d taken in this car. So much so, we were even talking about getting one for the Nirvana Garage. Yes, the Xylo is that good! Turns out that our preconceived notions about the Xylo were exactly that, preconceived. Talking about personalities again, we think the Xylo knows where it stands in the ‘looks’ department. Like most underdogs though, it outperforms expectations and delivers on platter a lot more than one might imagine!

The Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash was conceptualized and executed by Nirvana exclusively for Mahindra & Mahindra.

We Thank:

Mumbai: (Client) Mahindra & Mahindra (Brand Xylo), for flying with us and for providing the vehicle.

Hedvi: Abhay Bhatkar, for the extremely personalized service to Team Nirvana.

Hampi: KSTDC Mayura Bhuwaneswari, for the best hotel deal in town!

Team Nirvana: Yogesh Shinde, Henry Fernandes, Vishal Kankonkar and Jitendra Singh for their support on shoot.

Videos from the Mahindra Xylo Mad Dash!


India in an AMG!

India in an AMG

 Mercedes Benz and www.theroadtonirvana.com share a motoring relationship of sorts.

‘The Best or Nothing’ says it all. The statement resonates so fiercely with our passion for creating experiential motoring images, that we push ourselves to the absolute limit every time. The moment we got the message from Germany, our planning began.

We were to deliver images that were clearly rooted in India. Routine as that may sound, fitting a car/vehicle into that bracket was always going to be a challenge. The list of possible destinations was endless. Right from the backwaters of Kerala to the mountain passes of Ladakh and even the seven sisters of the North east, we considered everything. After all, this was a unique opportunity. Through our photography, the world would lay its eyes on India.

Something still eluded us. It was the peak of the Indian Monsoon. Everywhere, the skies were grey and the earth a wet green. Then it struck us, we would have to outrun the Indian monsoon! We would head to Rajasthan!

Sun, Sand and Wind.

Rajasthan!

The Desert State of India is home to the Thar Desert. A place we are very familiar with and if you know our work, it is a place we love to shoot at. The sound of the wind in the Desert carries with it stories of times past and as the sun beats down relentlessly each day, the sheer tenacity of the desert people comes to the fore. The odds were stacked against us though. The Desert was 1200 kilometers away, the rain was heavy and we had just enough time to make it all happen. Along the way, we were also to shoot at Vadodara for a separate brief.

Then came the question of the car itself. We were to shoot the new CLS and also the GL 63 AMG both and we had just about a week to make it all happen. Even though the weather was an obvious risk, The Nirvana Team was ready and we slotted ourselves into gear. We flew out to Vadodara where we were to collaborate with a local artist for 2 days. For Mercedes Benz, of course. This shoot was part of the ‘Homestory’ and artist profile for the St Moritz Art Masters, Switzerland.

Grunt Central!Making a presence in Vadodara!

The Laxmi Vilas Palace at Baroda is an eternal icon of the city. In every mention of the City, the Palace features at the top. The question was – How do we get in?

We exercised all our contacts and then some more to at least get a word through to the palace authorities. The people at the palace were superbly kind to us and let us shoot on the grounds solely on our merit. The palace gates opened and we drove the mighty GL 63 AMG onto its August grounds! Rani ji, the reigning Queen of Vadodara also graced our shoot and met with us. We were truly honoured! On this day, even the Sun came out for a short while and we got a few shots worthy of the Mercedes Benz Badge.

Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara.Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara.

As soon as the adrenaline of shooting at the Palace wore off, the realization of the start of the road trip set in. Experiential road trips are our forte but even then, each road trip shoot brings with it unique challenges. The Indian monsoon was still unrelenting. We were very low on sleep too, an average of just three hours a day. Then again, if the car you’re driving is more luxurious than a 5 Star hotel, who needs sleep? This is where the GL 63 AMG really came on song.

“Enough power to move the earth, while keeping one cocooned in luxury.” were lead photographer Nipun Srivastava’s actual words just after they hit the highways leading into Rajasthan.

GL 63 AMG – Grunt Central!

Hell for leather, always. - Team Nirvana

Whoa!! That’s the first thought one’s brain will have when you ram the pedal into the GL. You will be punched into your seat and then your world will change. As you hurtle forward, your ears will tingle to sounds of the V8 sitting under the hood. As the needle hits red, one pull of the paddle will usher in another delivery of power as if it was something the gods arranged for you to have. Crisp steering response and a not so heavy steering wheel make controlling the GL 63 AMG a pleasure.

By now, you’re in a trance. Eyes on the road, pedal to the metal and going hell for leather – that is the AMG experience. The handcrafted engine will follow your every command, in the GL 63 AMG, you are the Maharaja of the Indian road. When you’re coming, they will hear you and when you’re going they WILL look. That’s the reaction one gets on the roads.

The Indian Road:

Indian highways are notorious. Bad roads were the least of our concerns.

The Blue Hulk, as we had begun to call the mighty GL, was powered by a V8 Petrol Bi-Turbo engine. A high performance engine like that needs to be fed appropriately. Only a high octane diet would adequately satiate The Hulk’s appetite. Sadly though, out near the Desert, just finding a fuel station which sold petrol was a luxury. The fuel economy of just over 4 kilometers to a litre of fuel (when Nipun aka lead foot was at the wheel) was not helping things. On the secluded desert roads, we fueled up every opportunity we got!

www.theroadtonirvana.comLeaving the weather behind!

We covered the distance of 650 Kilometers from Baroda to Jaisalmer in record time. Stopping over at Barmer and at a few other places along the road as well. Driving across the landscape was such a rush that we forgot lunch! Improvisation was the answer – Bananas! We reached Jaisalmer as the moon rose over a now clear sky. Team Nirvana had finally outrun the Indian Monsoon. We love it when a plan comes together!

The Desert, The City: Jaisalmer.

This city and Nirvana go back a long way. One of our pet projects; Rooh – e – Rajasthan meaning ‘Spirit of the Desert’ has featured this superlative city. To us, Jaisalmer is like home.

www.theroadtonirvana.comGolden City

To twist things a little, this time, we were not staying at the city per say. Team Nirvana and the mighty GL 63 AMG would be put up at a special place a little outside Jaisalmer. Super car – super hotel, you know. The luxurious surrounds of Hotel Suryagarh out in the Desert was to be our new playground and also our home base for the remainder of the shoot. As soon as we were in the city, we tanked up the Hulk and then our tummies as well. Shooting photographs on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster ;).

With full stomachs, we marched onto the Desert, knowing exactly where and how we were to shoot. This shoot started at 11pm and we shot in the dunes for a couple of hours. Not a soul around for miles, the only lighting we had for this mini shoot was the Moon and the GL 63 AMG itself.

www.theroadtonirvana.comShooting in the moonlight!

After our initial fill of playing around in the sand under moonlight, we drove back to our (not so) humble abode.

A word about the hotel we stayed at: Suryagarh is a hotel which has little in common with the other places we’ve stayed at. In the middle of the arid desert life is difficult to say the least but if you’re at this hotel, everything is literally taken care of. We had spoken to them about our “plans” beforehand and they were most happy to oblige. Even before we reached, they knew what we needed and had it ready for us, customized to our liking. Amazing. It helps to have things sorted when on a photo shoot such as this. Kudos to Suryagarh!

SuryagarhThe Suryagarh Courtyard

Nothing ever goes to plan. We were up early for the sunrise but the eastern skies over Jaisalmer were overcast with mist and remnants of the monsoon. It felt as if the skies themselves were telling us to take a break. For the first time in 6 days, the Nirvana team sat down for a proper breakfast. Breakfast is a luxury few can afford in the bets we make to shoot in the golden hours. One look at our work and the sun and its shades will tell you how much we love using just natural sunlight.

As the Sun rose, the skies cleared. We began our final recce and chalked out a rough plan of action. Over the next two days, we shot in the desert, at our hotel and of course the city of Jaisalmer itself.

For us, the two most important things are motoring and travel. These words continue to define our style of photography. Jaisalmer and its surroundings gives photographers like us the perfect play ground to make our mistakes, learn and then deliver – every time.

www.theroadtonirvana.comBig toys!

Not to forget, another word which defines our work is adventure. We love taking a risk or two with everything we do. Whether it is shooting without camera straps altogether or dangling out of an open top jeep to get that perfect rolling shot, we’re always pushing limits.

We wanted to explore the roads that turn off of the main highways here in the extreme western parts of India. These small and almost inconsequential roads are sometimes gateways into photo opportunities which one would never imagine out on the highways. Going ‘off the beaten track’ as they harp every time ;).

As we drove further into the desert on one of these inner roads we saw the real temperament of the elements here. The landscape in this part of Rajasthan is unpredictable, from hills to sand dunes to sand dunes the size of hills – one never knows what will pop out of the horizon. In the Thar Desert, sand has the unquestionable right of way.

www.theroadtonirvana.comHell for leather – always!

Another side to Rajasthan’s beauty is the music here. This desert region is known for its folk and regional music and musicians. No evening is complete without a song or two from the repertoire of these tenured musicians. The tunes are mesmerizing and take one into bygone times when kings and queens reigned over this part of the world. It was a simple shot that popped up into our heads. Musicians + car + local architecture, simple.

www.theroadtonirvana.comMusic & Motoring

As it happened, on that particular evening, the Super Moon had come out in all its glory. The moonlight and the clouds added just the right amount of drama into the frame, we think. This was also the last night of our week long shoot. Before the Sun rose again, we would be on our way back to Pune.

The Beginning

www.theroadtonirvana.comThe journey is eternal.

The shoot had ended but the journey was a long way from being over. Not only did we have to drive our way back but like most journeys this was an experience which would continue in our minds for quite a while. The GL 63 AMG was the first super car we had ever shot, here in India and the way we do things, that was a big deal. We can hardly take credit for this shoot though. Yes, we shot the images but without the special support of our friends, acquaintances and team members none of this was possible. It was the people that we met who made it possible, we just made it happen :).

We thank:

Germany: (Client) Mercedes Benz for their awesomeness.

Pune: Mercedes Benz India for the vehicle.

Vadodara: Benchmark Cars – local Mercedes Benz Dealer. Miss Vishwamohini Priyalak Bhatt, Miss Malvika Singh and her highness The Queen of Vadodara.

Jaisalmer: The Suryagarh Boys: Siddharth, Sunny, Rajesh, Asif and Kunal for taking every effort to make sure our shoot and stay goes smoothly!

Team Nirvana: Niranjan Tarphe for his support on shoot.


Why I ride

Why I ride

Once they asked me why I ride.

I told them, I take everything into my stride,
leaving a trail while through life I power slide.

So that others may have a guiding line.
So they too can break free from the grapevine.

This is how I live my life,
unencumbered and free from strife.

Challenges accepted are challenges won,
failure makes things even more fun.

They looked at me all wide eyed,
as I told them why I ride.

~ Nipun Srivastava

Photographs sometimes have a way of touching the innermost chords with their maker and the subject. These are personal pieces of art. They embody much more than just the subject and thought process. These photographs represent the philosophy behind whole existences. Entire life stories in a picture, meanings of entire lifetimes visualized through action and depiction.

Here’s one such image. The rider and I spent close to an hour composing and recomposing this particular photograph. Fading light and a slippery riding surface were two major constraints, this shot could have been better. But like somethings usually are, this image is beautifully imperfect. Enjoy.

The Motorcycle: Royal Enfield Classic 500.

The Camera: Nikon D 800.

Motorcycle rider: Vishal Kankonkar.

Photographer: Nipun Srivastava.