Odyssey Unplugged

I am gunning along towards the mountains up in the distance.

In front of me is 40km of freshly laid tarmac.

The Thunderbird 500 huffs and puffs as I wring the throttle. The motor feels out of breath, and so do I. Which is when I remember what they told us in the morning briefing: “Make a conscious effort to breathe”. Turns out, 13,000 feet above sea level, the air is extremely thin, and breathing is something you have to work at.

I’m no stranger to highway riding, but this trip has turned everything I know about long-distance biking on its head. This is the 10th edition of the Himalayan Odyssey, a bike run organised by Royal Enfield (RE). And as most RE fanatics know, the Odyssey is one of the most challenging rides in India, with participants starting preparations months in advance.

The 17-day journey begins in Delhi, goes up to Leh and then back to Delhi, covering 2,700km along the way. This year’s event has drawn 100 riders, split into two groups. For the record, riding to the hills is not all straight lines; there’s bad roads as well, and sometimes no roads at all – for instance, when you approach Rohtang Pass, where landslides are common.