Monday, April 25, 2016

Garage 52 Open House

So Garage 52 is starting its 3rd year of operations. So to celebrate we decided to host an Open House last saturday (23rd April). We planned to put up some Art, Food, Motorcycles and have a few bands play a few sets basically have a nice evening at the garage.

What eventually went down was an insane night of pure madness there is no way to put into words.
Check out some of the images. 





















A few thank you to the people who made it happen Rohan Mazumdar, The Mad Hatters (Zane and Jude) and Nikita Valerie & Niteesh Tokle for the brilliant music that provided. Prankur Rana, Rohan Joglekar (obsessivesketch) and Anything Metal Works for their excellent pieces of art they showcased. Mean Green Customs and Bombay Custom Works for bringing us some sweet custom motorcycles to showcase. Bira for getting us some of there brilliant beers and last but not least to everyone who came and made this evening phenomenal.

The Royal Enfield Himalayan - First Ride

Royal Enfield put together a sweet short film on the Himalayan first ride in the mountains last month (remember the one where we rode in the mad snow storm).

Can you spot the Helmet Stories crew. Hint we are wearing black and white helmets.

Friday, March 25, 2016

5 THINGS OR PLACES IN SPITI VALLEY THAT YOU MAY NOT KNOW OF


GANGCHUMIK NUN
Evi chomo (grandmother nun in Tibetan) as she is referred to, has been living in her cave in Gangchumik above Pooh for over 35 year. Evi is from Pin valley and at the age of 61 donated her land (in Pooh village) to the villagers and went into her solitary life. A living example of the spiritual life devoted to realize the Self and a strong indication of what the Buddha dharma means to people in this valley.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
Evi meets locals and others who seek her blessing and she does not speak hindi. From Pooh village its a 3hour trek to her cave. If evi is in her sadhana then it is not possible to meet her.
There is an unmistakable aura around her and evi is helped by nuns who stay with here and take care of her. Travel is the most rewarding when it broadens your perspective and inspires you. Feel for yourself Evi’s presence.
BON RELIGION
Before Spiti and the Tibetan plateau adopted Buddhism the prevailing religion there was Bon. Bon is a Tibetan religious tradition or sect, being distinct from Buddhist ones in its particular myths, although many of its teachings, terminology and rituals resemble Tibetan Buddhism. Bon teachings feature Nine Vehicles, which are pathway-teaching categories with distinct characteristics, views, practices and results.
Traditionally, the Nine Vehicles are taught in three versions: as Central, Northern and Southern treasures. The Central treasure is closest to Nyingma (Mahayana buddhist sect) Nine Yānas teaching and the Northern treasure is lost.
TiIl about 40 years ago there were people in Spiti following the Bon religion and even now traces of Bon religion are found everywhere in Spiti. In the rock art, blue sheep horns on stupas, the stupas themselves, the devtas in the villages, the dresses in the cham dance etc.
mask_dance
ROCK ART
Spiti’s rock art is a gift from the past. It is a message from Spiti’s ancient peoples to today’s, which should not be forgotten or dismissed through our neglect or lack of understanding. There are two types of ancient rock art in Spiti: petroglyphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs are drawings engraved, pecked or abraded on a stone surface, usually a boulder.They are primarily found in Spiti’s southeast.
The ancient rock art in the Spiti River watershed gives us insight in the lives and cultures of the different peoples that immigrated to and visited region over the last 3,000 years. The many blue sheep, ibex, wild yak, deer, tigers, snow leopards, eagles and other animals reveal the important place animals had in ancient peoples’ lives. Stylistic differences in the representation of these animals trace different communities. Some of the animals, for example deer, are not found in Spiti. Hunting blue sheep is a common motif. Horses and riders are not uncommon. Bon, the religion of Zhang-Zhung, the cultural-political association that dominated Spiti before its conquest by Tibet in the 7th century, has left its symbols on many petroglyphs and pictographs: the sun and moon, the Shupka tree, the left turning swastika, etc. More recent inscriptions in Lentsa and various forms of Tibetan script, old and new, along with engravings of Buddhist stupas, record the influx of Buddhism into the region and its peoples’ ongoing commitment to the practice of Buddhism.
The rock art can be found in Tabo, Sumra, Lari and Pooh amongst other sites. They date back from 800 to 2000 years.
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TASHI GANG CAVE
About 45min walk from Tashi gang towards Langza is a mediation cave with rock carvings of Guru Padmasambhava, Tara and other Buddhist deities. The carvings are gorgeous and have been made by monks using the cave. Most people in Tashi gang (1.30hrs from Kaza) know about the cave and may be willing to guide you there. Scholars from India and abroad have been studying these carvings. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Spiti is a wonder hidden in the Trans Himalayan range and discoveries of such sites only highlighten this.
Tashi gang is a small village but significant nevertheless. Many Bon and Buddhist archaeological finds have been made there. An academic paper on the painting in the lakhang in Tashi gang will be presented at the first international conference on Spiti at the oxford university in May 2016.
KOMIC CAVE
Believed to be from the 12th century this cave has frescos similar to Tabo. The cave is believed by many archaeologists to be older than the 12th century but unfortunately only 1 cave survives out the original 4.
The Komic cave is about 30min walk from the village. Depending on your luck and perseverance the locals may or may not take you to the cave. Spitians are known to hold on secretly to their history and for good reason do not trust outsiders easily. The paintings in the cave that survives include that of a mandala and the Maitreya buddha.
Spiti valley has had people living for 3000 years and while the Kinnaur road was made after the 2nd Indo-China war and the Manali-Kaza road in the 60’s, visit to the Komic and Tashi gang cave will make you realize that despite the harsh conditions a civilisation has thrived here for an incredibly long time.
Karanbir, the author of this post runs a bliliant little hotel in Kaza, Spiti Valley. We have know him for many years as he went to school with my sister and later on was an automotive journalist befor he took off for a few years to travel South America. He started Hotel Deyzor in 2013, 2 years after in 2015 he has started working toward setting up a social enterprise in Spiti. Karan now stays there 7 months a year. Website for his Kaza hotel is – http://www.hoteldeyzor.com

Monday, March 21, 2016

We finally rode the Himalayan...


The rain was coming down in sheets. We have been riding in it for a few hours now but ​the last one had been pretty bad. All we wanted to do was stop ​,​wring out our gloves, dry out and get a hot chai. ​It had been a while since we had seen any one on this back road we were riding. ​When we eventually did stop​,​ we found out we had overshot the left turn we had to take by 18kms. A look at our soggy notes and map and a quick call to Harsh (who incidentally was playing photographer this day so was warm and toasty in a media car) to clear up our navigation issues and we were ready to get back on the bikes. The plan was to back track and hit the trail we missed. Turns out only 2 of us were up to the task​ as​ the rest wanted to take the brilliant tarmac back to base.



Ok before I get ahead of my self let me start at the beginning. A clutch of India’s most crazy motorcycle journalists and I​​  were invited by Royal Enfield to the British Summer Capital of India - Shimla​,​ to swing a leg over their new motorcycle ​- ​the Himalayan​. The idea was to​  spend the weekend riding around a few of the mountains it was named after.


Royal Enfield motorcycles have been exploring the Himalayan ranges ​ever ​since they first landed on our shores back in the day. The bikes​,​ as you can imagine​,​ we​re​ not well suited to handle such terrain and insane places​ that p​eople were ready to take these machines​ to.​ ​T​he fact that they were torquey, simple and built to last made these motorcycles the bike to ride in India if you were looking for some sort of ​an adventure. For years adventure seekers have been custom building their motorcycles to suit their needs for when they ride off into the Himalayan ranges. ​We at Helmet Stories more than a few in our stables. But finally the powers that be ​(​read-Sid Lal​)​ decided that it was about time that the company purpose built a motorcycle to take on the mountains. Hence, ​the Royal Enfield Him​a​layan.


At the heart of Himalayan is the new carbureted, 411cc, long stroke motor. This is Royal Enfields revolutionary new engine where they have used overhead cams instead of pushrods like in their old engine. It makes 24.5bhp and 32Nm of torque and it is happiest once you push it past 3000rpm. It is decently quick but I wish it had just a bit more Grrr. Sid Lal said the intention was not to make it savage but to keep it inviting for the new adventure enthusiasts.


Suspension wise ​-​ there is 200mm of travel up front and 180mm of travel at the rear. The suspension is totally at home when you start to bash about over bad roads ​and ​at no point did it bottom out on the hairy rocky bits(even with me on it). At higher speeds, it soaks up bumps impressively without throwing the bike off​.All in all its a pretty brilliant little motorcycle.


Ok, ​so back to the trail. Ouseph and I decided to back track. We had it on good word that is was totally worth it. The rain had slowed down to a slight drizzle and the cold and wet was not bothering us anymore. The trail was mostly hard packed mud with a  rivulet running down one side of the track. The trail started climbing over the mountain and through a forest and went from hard packed mud to slush to big puddles of water. We were having a blast so of course it started to rain again. By now Ouseph and I were way past caring ​as ​we followed the track throug​h​ a beautiful untouched forest and come out at a clearing on the other side​.​ ​When we had ​​stopped to take a shot ​-it suddenly hit me​-​ Holy shit​ this wasn't rain,​ it was snowing!!!




After a little jig we decided to keep moving. ​We rode on,​​ figuring we would ride out the storm as the road had to start descending soon and we would eventually leave the snow behind us. Instead ​,​the snow got heavier and thicker and the trail was showing no signs of hitting the main road or a highway. ​Not being the kinds to consider stopping or finding shelter​,​ we carried on enjoying the ride. Big flakes of snow covered our helmets and our visors​ but we were having a blast riding through all of it. The trail became a thick layer of white ​and ​not knowing what lay under it ​-​we pressed on and rode. For two hours we rode through this insane freak snow storm and that is when it hit me. The bike had never once questioned what we were doing. It was handling like a dream it was going where we wanted it to ​and ​the suspension was taking whatever was under that blanket of snow. Never once did we lose control and feel ​we ​were being idiotic. At one point​,​ in those two hours I hit a patch where the front slid and I thought it would go down but I caught it and carried on. The bike​,​ dare I say​,​ was cutting throughout this snow like a hot knife.


​It was only​ when we hit the highway eventually and got our chai and hot pakodas ​that we realised how insane this little 411cc motorcycle is! Of course it has bits we would change and fix​,​ and of course most of us would have loved a bit more grunt but as I see it Royal Enfield has been ballsey and it has worked.


As the snow thaws and riding season approaches we cant wait for our two bikes to be delivered as its TIME TO RIDE…


Friday, March 11, 2016

Tomorrow we ride the Royal Enfield Himalayan

We are here in Shimla to ride the new Royal Enfield Himalayan finally. We can't wait for the sun to come up.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Riding up Baralacha la

Trying to hone some new skills on this slow Sunday afternoon. The video is clunky and the resolution aint the best but here is an idea of what it is like riding up Baralacha La. Sit on a block of ice to feel how cold it was that day.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Chasing the Bullet - a Royal Enfield Documentary

Chris Zahner has been on a quest to film this documentary about the legendary Royal Enfield Bullet and it is finally ready. Take a gander and tell us what you think?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Royal Enfield Himalayan 360 Spin

Our friends at Motonomous were there at the launch of the Himalayan and waited patiently until they got a bike to them self and came up with a 360 Spin of the Royal Enfield Himalayan.

Royal Enfield Himalayan 360 Spin
The first ever 360 spin of the Royal Enfield #Himalayan. Take the Himalayan for a virtual spin!Remember, you saw it first on Motonomous!#royalenfield #himalayan #360spin
Posted by Motonomous on Thursday, 11 February 2016

It was well worth it we think.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Time to Ride - Helmet Stories 2016 Ride Schedule

Ladakh and beyond
When - June to September
Days - 7, 10 and 16
Ladakh literally means the Land of the Passes. This Holy Grail of motorcycling roads famed world-wide will take you through three mountain ranges, six passes–a dizzying 18,380 feet high at Khardung La, pre-historic salt water lakes of the Changthang Plateau and a 40-km off-road ride through a high altitude desert at the Moré Plains. Rich in natural beauty, the landscape in its silence, emptiness and unbelievable vastness is breathtaking. Lying off the beaten track, this mysterious destination once accessible only to professional explorers can now be easily done, taking you to hidden villages and an enlightened people who worked out a sustainable lifestyle centuries ago and have seen little reason to change.


Spiti
When - June to September
Days - 7, 10, 12 and 16
The Indo-Tibetan regions of Kinnaur, Spiti, and Lahaul are the stuff adventurers’ dreams are made of, offering sublime mountainscapes, twisting roads, and fascinating Tibetan- Buddhist communities with atmospheric monasteries. The old Hindustan–Tibet Highway (built by the British as a invasion route into Tibet) runs northeast from Shimla through Kinnaur and Spiti, along mountain villages with slate-roofed temples and vast orchards of apple trees. The views turn even more dramatic as one negotiates the rough, drop-off ledges of the road —an action-packed art in itself—into the desert-like landscape of Spiti where tiny villages of whitewashed houses are dwarfed by the sheer scale of the surround- ing landscape. Although the spectacular scenery is undoubtedly the highlight of any trip through Kinnaur and Spiti, there are also marvelous monuments, including some of the world’s most intriguing Buddhist complexes (such as the 1000-year-old World Heritage Site of Tabo Monastery in Spiti), as well as high-altitude villages that seem to cling to the sides of mountains or balance on the edges of sharp cliffs.



Pangi
When - September
Days - 8
When you ride a motorcycle, and you crave adventure, you are always looking for that special road trip that challenges you and your bike to the core - a ride that resonates within you long after the ignition has been switched off and your battle-scarred bike finally silent. The champion of all adventure road trips is the Helmet Stories ride through the Pangi Valley in Himachal Pradesh. This gem of a little-travelled route — first pioneered by Helmet Stories in 2012 — is bookended by Rohtang Pass on one side and the almost mythical Sach Pass on the other as we ride along the ever narrowing valley of the Chandra Bhaga river through some of the most naturally beautiful locales in India. The roads are unpaved and narrow, hewed out of living rock, sometimes so high that the river looks like a shimmering silver ribbon below. The ride includes forays into abutting valleys and meadows, a route of seemingly endless twists, turns and elevation changes turning each day into a most excellent adventure on two wheels. There are no fast food chains or 5-star hotels on this route and it is so much so better for that. We camp below a thick canopy of stars, sometimes next to the river, or high up in the mountains with a scented mattress of pine needles below our sleeping bags. Before dark, the bonfire is lit, the grill fired up, the bar is open and it's time to exchange irreverent banter about the day well spent. The toughest day is the ride from the idyllic meadow of Sural Bhatori that crests Sach Pass, a road that crosses over the Chandra Bhaga and ascends through forests of bhojpatra, pine and deodhar before the terrifying switchbacks that take you to the summit. Beyond lies civilisation and the idyllic hamlet of McLeodGanj an easy two days ride away.
Only riders with a lust for extreme mountain roads, thin air and great food need apply!

Coastal Route 
When - All year round except in the monsoon
Days -  3, 4 and 7
This ride will start in Mumbai and we shall head south till Vadkal Naka, traverse the most spectacular coastal route in the country. Take in the views of hills and untouched beaches along MSH-4 all the way down to Guhagar. The road often stops abruptly, and ferries are the only way to get across. There’s more spectacular scenery further down, toward Ratnagiri and Tarkarli. A short boat ride takes you to Sindhudurg Fort and then we shall be in Goa in time to have a cold beer and watch the sun go down. There are no fixed date rides for this route open this year so if you are a group who would like to do this ride contact us and we will fix it up.


No this is not all we are working on a few more shall update this post once they are final. So what are you waiting for? Start planning and write to us at vir@helmetstories.com for more information.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Royal Enfield Himalayan

As mostly everyone knows by now yesterday Royal Enfield showed us their new motorcycle they have been working on "The Royal Enfield Himalayan".

Lots has been said and even more will be said once "the experts"get their butts in the saddle and take the bike to test. So all we are doing at this point is sitting and staring at this sweet looking motorcycle that Royal Enfield has given us and marvelling at the opportunities and places that we can take this motorcycle and get lost.

A Time to Ride indeed.