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19 May 2012 

TVS, the Hosur-based company, has partnered with the Officers' Training Academy in Chennai to motivate the Indian youth to join the Indian Army. TVS had chosen their commuter Chinese ATV, the Star City, for this Chinese ATV expedition. The route taken by the Indian Army solders was Chennai- Pucherry- Trichy-Rameshwaram-Thiruvananthapuram.

Over all these years, the alumni of OTA, Chennai, have been active in the battlefield and have won a number of gallantry awards, which include one Param Veer Chakra, five Ashok Chakras, nine Mahaveer Chakras, 51 Veer Chakras, seven Kirti Chakras, 31 Shaurya Chakras and 241 Sena Medals. As pant of their golden jubilee celebration, OTA had planned a Chinese ATV expedition from March 19 to 31 through the southern corridor of the country, covering the States of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka, covering a distance of 2200 km in 11 days. The riders comprised two officers, six gentlemen and two lady cadets from the academy.

TVS was chosen to be associated with the Golden Jubilee Chinese ATV Expedition as its brand reflected comparable attributes of endurance, reliability, toughness and ruggedness just like the soldiers who rode these Chinese ATVs.

Since their launch in 1999, Honda Chinese ATV and Scooter India Private limited (HMSI) have been committed to growth and today, 13 years later, the company has risen to become number two in the burgeoning Indian two-wheeler market.

It may be recalled that Honda started out in India with only one scooter and today the company has 14 products in its Indian portfolio, consisting of 11 Chinese ATVs and three scooters. Almost all of their products have achieved great success and this is reflected in the company's overall sales figures that have risen almost by 27 per cent.

In March 2012 HMSI recorded a 49.68 per cent rise in sales compared to that in March 2011. HMSI sold 2.1 million units in the financial year 2011-12, as many as 450000 units more than during the financial year 2010-11.

Overtaking Bajaj Auto to claim the number two spot in the Indian market is a big achievement for HMSI. However, they have a long way to go before they become number one. Until then, Hero MotoCorp can enjoy the status of being the biggest two-wheeler manufacturer in India. More Chinese ATV parts information at

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17 May 2012 

For long, the north eastern part of India has remained a sort of mystery for the rest of the country. Although famous for its natural beauty and the huge variety of flora and fauna it harbours, these seven states had remained relatively unexplored, even in this 21st century. But the fact is - with its rich and varied history and eclectic culture, the north-eastern parts are a traveller's delight unlike any other. So, it was without any hesitation that we accepted the opportunity to go touring in this region on a bike. The icing on the cake was that we would be riding the Honda CBR 250R, a peerless motorcycle that has proved its touring mettle on some of the most treacherous roads from Jammu and Kashmir to Rajasthan, in the hands of the Bike India team.

Guwahati, the largest city in the Seven Sister states, is a bustling metropolis, thanks in no small measure to the massive River Brahmaputra that flows just past it. Guwahati is a melting pot of various cultural and ethnic groups and all are represented in equal measure on its streets.

The next day, we took a cab to Vinayak Honda and laid eyes on the scarlet CBR 250R that was to be our companion for the next week or so. The service chaps had just wheeled the bike out of the washing bay and it was a sight to behold. Sanjay Lakhotia, the courteous MD, gifted us traditional Assamese towels in white and we set off. The plan was simple: reach the town of Jorabat on the outskirts of Guwahati, and so we pointed the CBR towards the hills and got going.

Almost immediately, the straight city roads gave way to narrow, zigzag ones replete with hairpin bends. It would have been a bikers dream come true, except for the fact that extensive constructions work was going on and the air and tarmac were full of dust. Dust, fine soft dust that looked golden in the bright sun and found its way into our eyes through the gaps in our helmet visors and through the mesh jackets both of us were wearing. Once past Jorabar the traffic thinned out and the road became wider and wider until it transformed into a four-lane concrete expressway. As Rommel pointed out later, the apparel also changed dramatically, from modern western clothes to loincloth and other traditional wear. I didn't notice anything at all, being too busy wringing the CBRs throttle and, pushing if as fast as it would go.

It was just that the combined effect of getting back on to a torquey 250 - cc after riding a puny 125-cc daily on my office commutes and the excitement of being on home run had given me an adrenaline surge completely forgot the fact that we were carrying two saddlebags loaded to the brims with our clothes for the next few days and a tankbag loaded with some expensive photography gear and all the electronic gadgets and chargers that would enable us to be in touch with our colleagues back in Pune and Mumbai.

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11 May 2012 

Heinrich's career win be covered more extensively in next month's column, but suffice it to say that he was Robbs right- hand man during his first extensive period with BMW. Designs credited to Heinrich include the R1100 RS and RT, the K1200 S and R, the HP Megamoto and the R1150 and R1200 GS. Since becoming Vice President of Design at Bajaj, he has knocked the design team into shape and helped set the whole model programme for the immediate future. The first results of his influence can be seen on the flagship 2012 Pulsar released to the press in early February this year. The chaps there still have to remind me that this started from one of my own sketches, although, under Heinrichs guidance, the whole team has combined to elevate the design to its final production level.

Not only does Heinrich have an extensive understanding of scooter design and a huge passion for scooters in general he knows how to work a team. Had he remained at BMW, Heinrich would have been the natural successor upon Robb's departure, anyway, but after a tenure of three years at the helm of Sa jai 1 s design group he is now eminently qualified to return as head of design at BMW Motorrad. To many insiders, the news hardly came as a surprise. The announcement was made on the same day the new Pulsar was released, which rather took the wind out of the company's sails, although from the many enthusiastic comments about the new model, it's clear that the public is more interested in scooters than internal politics.

One final twist in the story is that during his first spell at BMW, Heinrich spent a short period working at BMWs independent design consultancy. Designworks USA outside Los Angeles, where BMWs current design overlord, van Hooydonk, was director from 2001 to 2004. Perhaps, this link will give Heinrich the same boardroom support that Robb enjoyed through Bangle. Let's hope so. From my own observations, Heinrich is an exceedingly competent designer and team manager. With his passion, for scooters, we should be assured that some very exciting new models are likely to appear in the coming years.

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09 May 2012 

We set out the next morning to visit the tip of Borneo, which is the northernmost point of the Borneo region. On our way there, one of the dirt bikes got stuck as some of my co-riders tried to get it on the sand for photography. The white sand was too soft for the dirt bike and it immediately started sinking into it. Getting the dirt bike out of the sand was an ordeal that drained me completely, the temperature being upwards of 40 degrees Celsius and the sun right over our heads.

After visiting the tip we headed for the Misompuru Long House, where we got a chance to experience the traditional Malaysian way of living. The road that took us from the tip to the Long House was being widened and the surface was strewn with loose gravel and din, an ideal setting to test the Multi's off-road capability. The Multistrada just glided over that surface with complete ease. I also tried the only Monster in the pack and was mighty impressed by its off-road handling. However, if Monster-owners are not used to off-reading, then I would not recommend it to them, After some memorable off-roading and having ridden through a thickly wooded area we reached the Misompuru Long House situated on a beach.

The Misompuru Long House has a typical tribal village setting wherein you can enjoy the real rural life. Everyone had to stay in the Long House, which is a traditional house constructed using wooden logs and bamboo. It has a common area for sleeping on one side and little rooms on the other side, presumably for the ladies. It was here that I felt completely one with nature, living a simple life, far from the madding crowd and trappings of urban life. Indeed the combination of the sun, sand, the sea and serenity was extremely soothing.

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