Riding along the NH8-NH3 Loop with SJCam’s SJ5000+

It’d been nearly two months since i’d gone on a ride, and the term ‘withdrawal symptoms’ would’ve been too mild to describe my state. So when I finally got my bike back home from the mech, a ride was definitely on the cards. Not satisfied with the usual 100 kilometre circuit, a slightly longer loop was what was in the mind. The plan was to add in the usual elements, from quick straights, to long winding corners; switchbacks and some broken tarmac, all in the same ride. Some keyboard hunting later, a nice loop was starting to emerge.

NH8-NH3 Loop Map

Come Sunday morning, the comfort of the bed was finally given the boot. The riding gear was brought out of the cobwebs & it was time to fire her up. As the engine warmed up, it was time to hook up the nice surprise from the fine folks at SJCam India. The SJ5000+ had arrived a couple of days before, and what better chance to test out its capturing chops than on this ride.

Opening up the box, there were two things that caught my attention. Unlike other action cameras, SJCam offered all the key mounting hardware together with the cam. From helmet mounts, to J-Hooks, they all came in the box. There was also a tripod mount adapter as standard along with the package. Quite a nice touch then, for both, my personal Contour Cam, as well as the GoPro that sits at the other end of the pricing spectrum, come with only the bare basic, helmet mount in the box.

Camera all set & ready, it was a time to ride! The plan was to escape the city via the Dahisar check naka and enjoy the straight tarmac that is the NH8 for a while. Being a Sunday, traffic was lower than usual, though the sun was already starting to make its presence known by 8 am.

Out on the road, it was a treat for the senses with plenty of exotic wheels passing by at regular intervals. Spotted a few Royal Enfield riders & Harley owners out on the Sunday run, as were a bunch of Ducati’s that went growling off, followed by the Triumph’s. The pick of the lot though, was the BMW K1300R. Watching it in full flow was a smile inducing sight. But it was the freight train bogies going across on the rail line above that caught my attention a bit more.

One of the things about NH8 is that it isn’t just a superbiker’s track straight. The highway is also a key freight corridor that goes all the way up North, till Delhi. This means that you often get to see unusual cargo packages being transported on any given day. Something similar happened, when I happened to chance upon these trailers with rather long cargo bays, just before the Virar turn-off. The wheels peeking through from beneath the Hyundai Glovis covers indicated these to be some sort of new-age rail coaches, or maybe for another Metro Rail project.

It was time to catch a break though, and when the toll-naka came into view, the yearning for that hot glass of cutting chai meant that a stop was mandatory. So far, there had been much to like about the SJCam 5000+. The mount hadn’t shifted much out of place. The camera itself came in a sturdy housing that looked like it could take a beating or two. But the great part was that I had been able to work the buttons on the casing that took me through the menu as I rode. Something which had been a hit & miss affair on the GoPro. Couldn’t fiddle much via the phone app though, since the OnePlusOne threw up messages in a language that I don’t understand.

As the engine cooled down, it was time to make a few adjustments to the camera mounting. Turns out, classic motorcycles, like the RX135 I ride, come with rattles and vibes as part of the package deal. Which, in turn, isn’t much help to a smooth video capture. But nevertheless, it was time to motor on, vibes and all.

It was time for a Bollywood pop reference, and the fairly successful blockbuster – Jab We Met. In it, the main protagonists, Kareena & Shahid Kapoor have this scene that also features a Hotel Decent in it. Well, there’s a certain Hotel Decent on NH8 too and while I’m not quite sure if this is indeed the real McCoy or just another doppelganger, it sure is fun coming up on it!

The Manor turn-off was next on the cards, which would mean only one thing. It was going to be bye-bye fast straights, and hello twisties. But NH8 had one more treat in store for us that morning, and it happened rather by chance. The body was starting to reel under the blazing sun, and a drinks break had to be taken. This meant that the flyover had to be skipped, and down below we went. But hydration was quickly forgotten when this green coloured veteran of Indian trucking was spotted. Once a familiar sighting along our highways, the Tata truck had long been synonymous with moving heavy loads from one part of the country to another.

This particular specimen appeared to date back to the early Seventies (those round headlamps being the first clue). It had been just after the Tata-Mercedes-Benz Deal had ended, that saw the Three-Pointed Star being replaced by the Tata emblem. The truck seemed to be on some sort of water-boring works run, and came complete with a generator fitted on the loading bay. A closer look was mandatory, and even if that meant a few surprised souls in the bargain.

History lesson over, it was then time to make an important decision, as the Manor turn-off had finally arrived. Now, there’s two options on the route to take. One going via Wada, while the other taking the scenic Vikramgad route. Although, the scorching summer did put a dampener of sorts over our scenic beauty hopes, the fact that it came with the promise of lesser traffic, meant it was easy for us to choose between them.

The road had narrowed. Gone was the six lane highway, and in its place was this dark ribbon of tarmac. As the odometer kept on spinning, the road flowed through fields on either side, with the occasional hamlet popping up at regular intervals. It didn’t matter that one couldn’t up the pace much, or that the tarmac was broken in places. The slower speed allowed us to take in sights and sounds that are usually blurred at highway speeds. The youngsters playing a game of cricket, toddlers trying their hand at riding bicycles, they were all spotted. As were the old weathered faces that bore the look of experience, of times past, as it left its mark on their skin.

Passing through Vikramgad, we couldn’t help but look back fondly at the quaint village life & how things are changing slowly but surely. We did however suspect that not all change can be desirable, and wondered just how much of their uniqueness would be watered down in the name of progress.

The route from here, all the way till Jawhar phata was a motorist’s delight. Whether on two wheels or four, the sheer twists & turns together with the relatively smooth surface makes for a wonderful trip. Can’t wait to come back during the monsoons, when the entire landscape would have erupted in various hues of lush green.

As Jawhar phata loomed up on us, it presented us with an interesting dilemma. You see, Nashik-Trimbakeshwar were tantalizingly close, and we were really tempted to make our way straight past the intersection. In the end, better sense prevailed, as we resisted the temptation to add another 100+ kilometres to our ride loop. If it had been a weekend ride, then the longer detour would make complete sense. This being a day run, it wasn’t fair on either the bike or the rider to get greedy and push our luck.

Our luck with well surfaced roads soon ran out as we neared Devbandh & the poor SJCam 5000+ had to be powered down completely in interest of protecting it from vibration induced damage. The road surface got mighty bad. While we were reeling from the crumbling roads, we were in for another shocker as the barren riverbed of the mighty-Vaitarna stretched out in front of us for as far as the eyes could see. The few pockets of stagnant water, didn’t look to be in the best of condition either, and it really put things into perspective on just how close we were to literally running dry. Thankfully, there was still some water left as we wound our way down along the catchment area & with the Kasara ghat beckoning to us, we soon pushed those drought thoughts to the back of the mind.

The winding Kasara ghat with its long, sweeping corners and well surfaced tarmac is a treat to tackle on two-wheels. It is wide enough to let you practice your lines, and is forgiving to a great extent too, so long as one doesn’t cave in to the temptation of getting carried away with the throttle. With lady luck on our side, we got a relatively clear run and had a feast on the twisties. But before we knew it, the ghats were over and we were down to the straights again. With our stomachs rumbling, it was time to pull into the parking lot for refuelling.

Looking back, between morsels of yummy food at Dalvi Darbar, we couldn’t help stop the wide grin that had plastered itself on our face. When the sun had risen that day, we’d started our trip down a road that would have taken us all the way to the national capital, if we’d wanted. But the mind was set on something else. It led us through some pristine back roads, lent us some insight into just how dire our water situation is this year and brought us back within sniffing distance of the city.

With a flyover under construction & another bridge under repairs, navigating through the ensuing chaos took a fair bit of time (further enhancing the joy of riding that we’d experienced in the hours past). After much scrapping about, the home stretch beckoned. Rolling into the usual parking spot, there was a lot of excitement of going over the footage that had been captured, but not before a hot shower to shake off the dirt & grime.

So until next time, happy tripping & do let me know your thoughts when you can. Meanwhile, here’s my take on the SJCam 5000+:

  • It is compact & light-weight enough.
  • The buttons are sized well and the textured border allows for a good grip. The fact that mine came in black further helped reduce the visual mass.
  • The case however adds a fair bit of bulk. You’ll find yourself struggling a bit, especially at first, to open/shut it, till you get the hang of it.
  • The buttons are spring loaded & surprisingly usable (even with gloves on), though you’ll still struggle on the tactile feedback part.
  • The display at the back is a tad smaller than expected, but is bright enough. Legibility does take a beating when the sun is up above it, but it is on par for its segment. It isn’t touch enabled though.
  • The switch-on to shooting time with the camera is a second-odd longer than what you’d expect it to be.
  • SJCam includes a long list of mounts & assorted hardware in the box. Add-on mounts are available and cross-compatible with the GoPro, thereby immediately improving their usage spectrum. The fact that they’re a built well & are priced reasonably make it all the more attractive, even as a standalone option.
  • SJCam are the only brand to have a full-fledged aftersales support here in India. Not that they breakdown that often, but it is nice to have that safety net, given the pounding that these cameras take.

Wrapping up:

In terms of Footage Quality, it still is some way off the standards set by the flagship GoPro. But the SJCam does hold out on its own. With its stellar price-to-performance proposition & all the other brownie points mentioned above, the SJCam offers close to 90% of the quality for about 50% of the price. And that, my friends, is why, the 10k-20k adventure camera war is just about starting to hot up.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Atulmaharaj says:

    I’ve heard a lot of good reviews of SJCam. Seems worth a try. And great post as always. A wonderful loop indeed 😇


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