Loyalty of the steed and the rider is mutual prerequisite, an emotional bond that outweighs an otherwise logical “man for the job” kind of selection. Man and the gelding, they’d yearn to conquer the unknown together and they won’t let that thought of a “better replacement” shake their stubborn loyalty. I, for one, fell in love with the ‘leaf out of history’ reintroduction of the Cafe Racer by Royal Enfield with a 535 Electronic Fuel Injection heart, Continental GT, named rather inappropriately as the machine’s ergonomics only made it suitable for a short city ride at max, that was pretty much a Cafe Racer’s cut-out task anyway and associating any kind of “continental” reference was pretty misleading. Well, if that wasn’t enough Royal Enfield embarked upon an advertisement campaign that showed a British duo riding all through Europe and Asia on their Continental GTs to find their ‘cafe’ at Madras. That callow yet tenacious one smitten by the beauty of that stallion was done in by the looks of it, that red cafe racer responding to his grip on the throttle reducing ravines, the vales and the mountains only to a distant image in the rear view mirror. That view though, was unfamiliar to that cafe racer creed, so were deserts of Arabia once for Hidalgo, an American native Mustang.
That 2016 Continental GT535 and Hidalgo of the yore had much in common, both were threatened species, Hidalgo’s mustang breed was being culled by the orders of the US government in order to force the native Americans to farming, mustang was a native variety of horses looked down upon as a lesser variety of breed, they weren’t considered pure blood or “thorough bred” yet its rider Mr Hopkins decided to race it to utmost endurance in an unfamiliar, unsuited terrain and he raced it to victory as well. The GT535 was being discontinued by Royal Enfield to make way for the newer, better and more powerful cousins GT650 and the Interceptor 650 and could be called a threatened species already. Quintessentially mulish me, decided to draw another parallel among-st the GT535 and Hidalgo, i decided to take him to a journey it was rather incompatible for, i decided to take that stallion to Himalayan circuits, lesser known to the “cafe racer” creed.
The designer must have been pretty sure of himself while he put that cafe racer on the drawing board, he was going to make it a single seat, city ride. The forward leaning rider’s posture on its back made sure it was a swift, muscular short sprinter and no-way a long distance marathoner, you attempt a marathon and it’ll hurt decent number of muscles to remind you of your unyielding idiocy. The ride came with a single seat which added to the already glam look about it however made sure there wasn’t space enough for a saddlebag or enough frame for an added Ladakh carrier, a double seat could be additionally bought but there wasn’t even a rear foot-rest to allow a pillion if you tried to stretch your ideas a bit too far. That “Jugaad” double seat provided some space for a saddlebag though, if that was a respite i was looking for, i got it just enough. A double seat and a saddlebag bought, bungee cords could do the rest, strapped on a rucksack and i was good to go. Designer was pretty sure, had inbuilt anti-idiocy alarms all around to warn the rider about the perils of an endurance marathon except one “NOT FOR LONG RIDES” written in bold capitals, however…………….did i just tell you i am ‘Pigheaded’? Well then, even Hidalgo, an American mustang wasn’t quite suited for the endurance run in Arabia.
I wasn’t in a mood for a warming up, I took the lad on one of the world’s toughest track, Kishtwar to Killar, that Pangi Valley ride, the bloke stamped it’s reliability all over the eleven day route from Delhi through Punjab, Himachal, Jammu and Kashmir and back to Delhi. The ride was hard on my back, shoulders and specifically my wrists owing to the forward bending design of the cafe racer, well someone had to pay for the idiocy. GT proved itself and did bulwark my lunacy to take it further the Hidalgo story had started and started off rather well notwithstanding the stiff muscles that followed for about a week.
After Pangi valley the next two rides, Delhi to Chakrata and Delhi to Jaisalmer didn’t really find much relevant space in my memory though still would share some pictures to kindle your imagination, well this turns out to be a photo log perhaps.
That steed gave me a belly full of memories and filled my living room with some pictures to look back at for a lifetime, I was in love already and wouldn’t mind the tough ride and the ache that came along, nevertheless the ride sure wasn’t pretty snug as a bug in a rug comfortable, I knew I was going hard on myself though that steed won’t give up. I still wanted to stretch that affair to the pinnacle of it and write the epilogue of my Hidalgo story, I decided to do a Lahaul and Spiti Valley circuit starting and ending it at Rajasthan.
That 535 CC heart was was sufficient to pump enough adrenaline through my veins to keep up with my insanity, that gelding never let me down though I pushed it to an ‘out of turf’ battle, he won every day. Perhaps was time for me to go easy on myself and the machine, I’d let that be a regulation city ride from now on, going to be over 40 my back too called for a little respite. I turned to check out the up-gunned cousin of my reliable bike, an Interceptor 650, the bike had some retro simplicity that appealed and some easy ergonomics to go along as well. Heart skipped a beat, she’s the latest fling and I am sure would be easy on my back too, took a test ride, she was a stunner, handled easy and zipped on a little nudge. She was capable to tread those Himalayan tracks and allowing me a delightful riding pleasure, she wouldn’t be an outlander in that adventure turf she’d just be at home but then….that won’t be a Hidalgo story, that’s been written and written rather well, my Hidalgo has done his bit and that novelette wouldn’t be written again, rides would go on and tales would be told, that zeal would always be owed to my ‘Reliable Stallion‘