With the BMW G 310 GS, adventure can be found anywhere. Even at a place that is meant for a peaceful weekend getaway.
Story: Azaman Chothia
Photography: Apurva Ambep
We have been living in a new world ever since the pandemic changed many aspects of our day-to-day lives. The last couple of months trapped at home on account of another lockdown did get really frustrating and little did I know that things were going to take a turn for the better very soon. As I arrived at the office the next day, a BMW G 310 GS wrapped in the special black and yellow “40 Years of GS” anniversary edition colours was sitting pretty in the Bike India garage.
I jumped at the first chance and convinced my Editor to let me borrow the motorcycle for the weekend. The special part about living in Pune is that it is surrounded by beautiful mountains on all sides and the best part being that they are not too far away. I chose to visit Mahabaleshwar as I had heard it had recently opened up to the public, with the easing of restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, and, so, would make for quite an adventurous visit.
The ride to Mahabaleshwar spans over 120 km from Pune and covers various terrain including highways, some twisties, and a fair share of bad roads on the way. The day began with pleasant weather as I headed out on the bike early in the morning. The route to exit Pune is via the Katraj Ghat and that is where I got my first dose of the twisties on the G 310 GS. Katraj Ghat is not the cleanest place with garbage dumped all over and is always flooded with slow-moving traffic, too. The climb and following descent were effortless as the wide handlebar allowed for easy maneuverability through the tightest of corners and the engine was always ready for times when I needed to get around and ahead of the slow traffic in the way. The G 310 GS may look like a considerably large motorcycle but it becomes one with a rider as soon as they swing a leg over it and set off. Even with my short stature, the bike was not intimidating and this friendly nature of the G 310 GS made it all the more fun on such a trip.
The first stop was for breakfast around 25 km into the ride at the first misal joint that we found open on the highway. As I got down to eating, the rain came pouring down, violently, and it was now time to gear up for a wet highway ahead. A combination of the suspension setup, brakes, and the Metzeler Tourance tyres made for an engaging highway ride as the bike soaked up all the bumps and undulations from the road surface while providing high levels of grip. This is the part of the route where a lot of distance can be covered quickly and I was able to achieve a top speed of around 156 km/h when I got an open stretch of tarmac on the highway.
The next part of the route went through one of my favourite set of twisties — Khambatki Ghat. This is a wide stretch of tarmac with traffic travelling only one way and with flowing turns through to the end of the mountain pass. There is a stunning view from the top but, with roads like these, I was concentrating more on carving corners. Luckily, we had passed the rainy sections and were back to dry roads by the time we reached this point. After a few corners, it was evident what a good handling machine this motorcycle is. There is no worry about the pegs scraping in any of the corners with the higher ground clearance. This gave me the confidence to effortlessly flick the bike from one side to another with it being extremely stable and planted through the flowing corners and put a wide grin on my face. Until this section came to an end.
The next part of the route passed through Wai. This is a small town and the route leading through it consists of a narrow straight road with a few bad sections along the way. This was the second-last part of the route before we got to the last ghat that would lead us straight to Panchgani. This is where I stood upon the pegs to stretch myself while I continued cruising with ease. When traffic came to a sudden stop for a few moments, all the bike needed was one finger on the front brake as it came to a halt. From here on it was just a little while before we were getting to our hotel that was located in Panchgani.
The last part of the route is the Wai Ghat, a narrow two-lane road with oncoming traffic, that spans a distance of 15 km. As one gets higher, one can begin to admire the views from the top. Overtaking on this part of the route is tricky as the road is narrow and has unpredictable oncoming traffic. All the G 310 GS needed was to be kept in its mid-range where it was happy to climb with a good amount of power left in reserve for a quick overtake on the straights. Most of the turns on this part of the route are not very sharp so the bike can easily be straight-lined through the corners while keeping an eye out for oncoming traffic.
My stay was arranged at the Prospect Hotel. It is a property that features antique cottages surrounded by greenery, has some of the tastiest and unique food, friendly staff, and a peaceful atmosphere for a perfect weekend getaway. I would recommend this beautiful property to anyone visiting, who hasn’t already checked it out, for their next stay in Panchgani. This hill station is all about relaxing, visiting the various points in the mountain and, of course, relishing some strawberries with cream. However, this time out, our trip turned out to be very different compared to what we had been expecting. Even though the place had been opened up, most of the points, restaurants, and tourist attractions there were still not open to the public.
Even after the 120 km of riding to get there, I was not fatigued, thanks to the comfortable and plush ride offered by the G 310 GS, so I headed out to explore soon after freshening up at the hotel. The owner of the Prospect Hotel was kind to tell me about a location just a few kilometres away, where we would get a good chance to have some fun with the bike. We were accompanied by a friend of the owner to a secluded spot that had a helipad surrounded by an old off-road track. You can’t ask for more when you have an adventure motorcycle at such a location. It was time to slip, slide and jump around the place and further explore the capabilities of the BMW G 310 GS.
The helipad was scattered with gravel and around it was some slush and an off-road trail that headed downhill. From there, I would have had a great view of the mountains as it was at high altitude, but everything was draped in fog as far as the eye could see. The weather started to get gloomier and it was just a while before it began to pour down again. Although, I did spend a good amount of time at this location, and I feel I made the most of the day.
There have been opinions on the bike’s details. Many would like the option of spoked wheels compared to the alloy wheels on the bike but, to be completely honest, they took a beating and felt like they would live to fight many more intense off-road sessions. The dual-purpose tyres kept the bike stable under all conditions and it was really forgiving at times when I lost control of a slide in the gravel. A light kerb weight of 175 kg makes the bike easy to push and pull around even while sitting on it with my legs tip-toeing on the ground.
After a long day of riding in all sorts of wild conditions, we stopped at Bagicha Corner. This is quite a famous location and, luckily, was one of the restaurants that were open to enjoy a meal. It was currently not the season for strawberries so our desert had frozen strawberries with cream rather than fresh strawberries. One of our last stops that day, as the wind got stronger and the weather more chilly, was at a small road stall serving street-style ‘butta’, or roasted corn-on-the-cob. The night came to an end with a lip-smacking meal served to us at our hotel and we seemed to have made the most of the day even with most of the attractions around being shut.
The next morning I checked out from the hotel and headed out early from Panchgani to visit the market in Mahabaleshwar. The road between Panchgani and Mahabi, as Mahabaleshwar is popularly referred to, is a distance of around 20 km and makes for a great ride with beautiful scenery around. While entering Mahabi, there is a stunning view of the Venna Lake. The ride back was a more challenging one as we decided to leave in the afternoon and take a new less travelled route heading back down. This was usually the time the weather suddenly changes from bright and sunny to heavy showers. The LED headlight is a new addition on the BS6 model and provided great vision even in the foggiest sections on this narrow route going downhill; with the pouring rain accompanying us all the way to the bottom.
This trip surely did make me want to own an ADV, what with the current situation of broken roads in our country. Also, how could I forget to mention that the baby GS catches eyes just like its larger siblings wherever it goes, especially in this rad colour scheme. Even with most of the tourist attractions shut around Mahabi, my craving for adventure was fulfilled on this journey. This ride after the lockdown was a much-needed getaway and the G 310 GS accompanying me for the journey was the cherry on top.