‘Go and have fun!’ What a brief to work with! Those were the editor’s exact words as he handed me the keys to the Honda WR-V, with a pointer that the R in WR-V stands for Recreation. Welcome to the first part of our ‘Live the Adventure’ with Honda WR-V, where we explore some off-beat destinations. This time to ‘Live the Adventure’ with Honda WR-V, we indulged in some downhill cycling. Hrishikesh Mandke our resident stunter, scrolled through his network of nutters, made a call to Vinay Menon and we headed out with one of the country’s finest downhill cyclists to the middle of nowhere. Vinay of course doesn’t travel anywhere without his trusted ride and we easily loaded it into the WR-V, Honda’s ‘man maximum, machine minimum’ philosophy making it very spacious. Except two decades of experience has made him wiser; if you can call a guy who hurtles down a hill on a cycle wise. Vinay never travels without tonnes of spares and so the cycle was mounted on the tailgate of the Honda WR-V and we headed for Saakaar Eco village, where Vinay said, there was something in store for me too. I found that hard to believe.
“We headed out with one of the country’s finest downhill cyclists to the middle of nowhere”
The venue for Downhill cycling
The very nature of downhill cycling ensures that once on a trail downhill, you’d only see the cyclist at the bottom of the trail leading me to wonder if Vinay will keep up his end of the deal. An hour and a half of driving on the Pune-Bengaluru highway got us close to Bhor dam. The Honda WR-V with its zippy petrol mill was a breeze to drive on the highway and overtaking slower cars was a non-issue. Ninety horses under the hood coupled with the car-like weight of the Honda WR-V (half the weight of most SUVs) ensure you can build up speed fairly easily.
After Bhor ghat however, the roads were a real test of the car’s capabilities. With bad roads and a number of corners to deal with on the way to Saakaar, all of the car’s ride, handling and braking prowess was put to test. The Honda WR-V, despite not being an off roader, comfortably tackled deep ruts and imperfections that the narrow roads were strewn with, never once complaining. The brakes too performed commendably with enough bite and good feedback.
“Nestled in the Sahyadri ranges near Bhor dam, the Saakaar Eco village is an organic lifestyle destination frequented by people all year round”
Saakaar Eco village
It was almost afternoon by the time we reached Saakaar, a drive of around four hours from Pune. What we saw blew us away. Nestled in the Sahyadri ranges near Bhor dam, the Saakaar Eco village is an organic lifestyle destination frequented by people all year round. With lush green surroundings, and the blue waters of the lake framed by mountains on either side, it was a sight to behold. After marvelling at the pristine surroundings for what seemed like eternity, Vinay had an idea. This time, unlike too many times in the past, he wouldn’t leave me in the lurch as he rode downhill.
This time Vinay wanted me to drive downhill to within touching distance of the water. Of course, we would be taking different routes. Vinay, being the maverick, decided to use a mix of natural as well as man-made (he and a clutch of riders work on creating riding routes at Saakaar Eco Village) trails to get there, while I would stick to the road. His ride was a Psynyde bike with custom bearings and a custom handle that Vinay himself played a huge part in developing. My ride was the WR-V, completely stock. I wasn’t complaining though. The WR-V was at home on the roads leading up to the Eco Village. It couldn’t get any more challenging, now could it? It did.
“The high ground clearance of the WR-V helped me sail over bumps and undulations that would have otherwise slowed me down or worse”
Downhill cyclist Vinay Menon in action
Vinay kitted up and got his cycle down from the mount. And we set off. This was the first time that I was going to witness Vinay in action this close and soon enough I was amazed at the pace that he was carrying on what seemed like terrain that was difficult to walk on. Picking up my jaw off the floor, I started following him down the hill on narrow roads that seemed to get narrower as I went further. The high ground clearance of the WR-V helped me sail over bumps and undulations that would have otherwise slowed me down or worse. Hairpin after hairpin followed and soon Vinay was nowhere to be seen. The meandering trail didn’t look like it was leading down to the water. I anxiously continued driving wondering where I was going and then all of a sudden, out of the blue, appeared my answer. Vinay landed in front of the WR-V before disappearing off the road again. He was faster!
Off road fun with the Honda WR-V
Pedal to the floor, I kept on going through the maze of green walls that kept the lake hidden from view. Mostly. Glimpses of what lay ahead were often enough to make you avert your gaze momentarily before an upcoming corner forced you to focus on what lay in front of you. This wasn’t an easy drive down the lake. It was challenging and demanded a lot from both the car and the driver. The Honda WR-V was up to it, charging down the straights and showing a hint of playfulness out of the corners. I did lose the tail for a brief moment on a couple of occasions, but it was easy to bring it in line. The corners littered with mud were to blame.
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A long sweeping left hander was in sights and Vinay and his yellow Psynyde were in my rear view mirror. A moment later, he was gone. Again. As I hustled the WR-V, I saw Vinay riding over a dozen or so bunds (made by the local folk to arrest soil erosion) and cutting through the corner. This wasn’t a race and I was more than happy to slow down and witness the man in action. It was poetry in motion. The head was low and the shoulders relaxed as he let the cycle chart its way over the bunds powered by his legs that simply didn’t seem tired even after kilometres and kilometres of riding.
“The Honda WR-V is an enabler and for all the hair-raising adventures you want to do in life, you need just that”
As we moved closer and closer to the lake, the green started giving way for the calm blue of the lake. I slowed down, got out of the WR-V and took a few pictures with my phone. I sauntered down the final slope leading up to the lake and by my side was Vinay astride his bike. We stopped a few inches from the water and high fived each other. I wouldn’t have to think twice about heading out to the mountains with Vinay. I just have to make sure that I have something as capable as the Honda WR-V.
The trip from Saakaar Eco village isn’t just for riders
The numerous tight corners and a narrow road leading to the base of the mountain along with literally no traffic means you can have great fun driving, too. Tired but thrilled with the ride/drive, we decided to head back to the village, where a meal of freshly caught fish and organic chicken curry awaited us. Licking our fingers clean, it was time to bid adieu to our excellent hosts and head back home. The bike was propped up on the mount again and we left just before dusk.
Exhausted by the day out in the sun, Vinay slept like a baby and the WR-V’s suspension and comfy seats worked their magic in ensuring that his sleep wasn’t disturbed. The intuitive multimedia system with Blutooth phone connectivity allowed me to enjoy listening to my favourite tunes on the drive back home and the smooth gearbox along with the tractable engine helped me drive home in a relaxed manner. In a very short while with the WR-V, I have learnt a bunch of things. The Honda WR-V is an enabler and for all the hair-raising adventures you want to do in life, you need just that. This Honda allows you the luxury of having a great city car with the ability to take you where adventure awaits you in absolute comfort. Now isn’t that what all of us want?