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Tearing up Bhutan’s roads on a Bullet

Updated on: Nov 12, 2015
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Less than a thimble width on the map, Bhutan still offers one of the best riding tarmac in the Himalayas.

A ride in the mountains has always meant a trip to Ladakh and stark, barren, torturous landscapes.

Look around you on a crowded street and you’re likely to find at least a couple of bikes and a few cars floating around with prayer flags hanging indicating that common conscience points in that direction. Somehow, we manage to overlook the fact that the range extends all the way to the east of the country. It is even less often that we notice a little bump in the map called Bhutan, which is smaller than most states in India. But, Royal Enfield picks its spots well and the Tour of Bhutan is a ride that deserves special mention.

1000 km in 10 days

Ten days, more than a thousand kilometres, landscapes to take your breath away, people warm enough to make you melt and roads that sometimes test your patience and at other times your skill. That is the average ‘things to expect’ list from the Tour of Bhutan.

I was handed a Thunderbird, to rumble across the ‘Land of Thunder Dragons’. Puns apart, the Thunderbird 500 with its easy riding stance and double disc brake set-up works incredibly well in this kind of terrain.

Low-end grunt ensures you have enough power in any given situation, it is surprisingly agile at tackling corners and feels absolutely at home on any stretch of tarmac that happens to run straight. The only gripe comes from the fact that it’s almost impossible to stand up and ride when the surface gets really poor.

Fortunately, most of Bhutan’s roads have excellent surfaces and the bits where roadworks are on, are slushy and slow, so there aren’t many places where you actually miss standing on the pegs and riding across. What there is a lot of, though, is spectacular scenery. Around every corner there is a picture waiting and it is always better than the last one. You might manage to turn your face away at a couple of such instances, but sooner than later your helmet will come off and so will your gloves and you will pull out your camera.

Photographer's delight

There were a few instances, like the road between Paro and Thimphu, where the surface is so incredibly good that you try and fight the urge to click a few more pictures to just buckle down and ride.

The Thunderbird’s wide seat and easy riding stance makes it all the more relaxing while you carve out corners and have a blast. All the while the 500cc, single-cylinder motor gives you enough shove to tackle corners and ride your heart out.

Moreover, with the Thunderbird’s massive fuel tank you never have to worry about running low on fuel either.

If there was any doubt about how good the Thunderbird can be on a grand tour, they were all put to rest after scraping pegs across half of Bhutan.

The Thunderbird surprises

Everyone knows it is a great motorcycle to have on wide open highways and sweeping corners, but to tackle varying surfaces and tight corners was a trait I was pleasantly introduced to over this particular tour.

If there is any further evidence required, it has to be the fact that most of the motorcycles on the trip were Thunderbirds, with one particular gentleman having ridden all the way up from Bangalore and, wait for it, all the way back home too.

Published on January 22, 2018

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