For me, motorcycling is more than just a passion. It is what defines me, allows me to retain almost all of my sanity, helps me clear my head, make important decisions the right way, keep calm, stand tall, be humane, enhances civic sense, improves mental stability, keeps my heart pumping strong and healthy, helps me channel my thoughts and feelings in the right direction, keeps my facial muscles relaxed, educates me on responsibility, keeps my morale high, boosts confidence, takes care of my attention issues; I’m sorry its just difficult for me to stop when I start talking about motorcycles.
I’ve been quite a late bloomer when it comes to riding. Born and brought up in the city of lakes – Bhopal, an avid playground for all the old city kids, boys and men who’ve played on two wheels since they could stand on their feet, I learnt how to ride when I touched eighteen (I know right?) on my first motorcycle – a Bajaj Pulsar 180 dts-i.
What followed was a series of falls, crashes, bruises, injuries – some barely even superficial, and others quite traumatic for my clothes and my parents; yes on the lines of physical injury, a little painful for me too but being stubborn as I was, not so much. The Pulsar 180, when launched was amongst the most powerful bikes available in the Indian market and for someone like me who had planned on learning on the go, the lessons were going to be tough.
Once I’d gotten a hang of what riding a motorcycle really was, like all amateurs on their new toys, I wanted to race. Every multi-lane road, every corner, every empty street and by lane was like an invitation to the newborn biker inside of me. And I raced. Sometimes I crashed, skinned my knees, broke bits and pieces on the bike, got back on again, leaned low into corners, slipped, fell again and repeated. But every time that I pulled out of a lean onto a straight road, or just simply went flat out with control being my ally, I underwent a complex mix of adrenaline, confidence, happiness, peacefulness, sense of achievement, excitement, joy, and basically all the positive emotion defining words one could think of.
It’s true when they say, “You’ll see cars of every make, model and colour, but never a motorcycle parked outside a psychiatrist’s clinic”. To millions like me and those who give it a shot, motorcycles are a world ahead of being just “automobiles”. They are our best friends, to some – even girlfriends, therapists, pets, shoulders(or tank and shrouds) to cry on, relaxation, freedom, exhilaration, a world of experience, basically – a way of life.
Achieving a sense of conquest on your own city roads is one thing, Riding is another. And the moment you get even a fragment of the feeling that even the best roads in the city aren’t a playground big enough, you know its time to hit the highway.
My first solo ride was what a seasoned rider would call a “weekend activity” or “warm up run”. From my hometown to the next neighbouring city, Indore – a meagre strip of 200 kilometers, it generally took people commuting between the two cities about 4 hours, considering that renovations were on at that period of time and every thirty or so kilometres brought with them a diversion onto a rough patch off the road. The biggest mistake on my part was choosing to ride after sunset. Well, inexperience has its costs. And there were a couple of times when I almost when off at the diversion points and even yelled out from inside my own helmet.
Fear is a curious emotion. Although it is generally decapitating for one’s confidence, if it arises for the right reasons, however – it comes with cautiousness, calculation, and focus. For a highway ride, especially when it is your first, all three play a predominant role.
The ride was fun, and the trip added immeasurable experience to my otherwise “rookie” status, but what it really gave me was loads and loads of mental satisfaction, and confidence. When you make a trip on a motorcycle, for the sole purpose and feel of riding, all by yourself, the results are pleasantly surprising. Some of the side effects being high self confidence, boosted morale, experience of travelling alone on the highway, a sense of attachment to the road, the journey and most of all – to the motorcycle.
With each passing year and series of solo and group rides, I could feel a strong attachment and respect for the Pulsar, for it had taught me so much – about riding, about myself, about people, about the way the world is, in general.
The next big ride was with a group of close friends. Six guys on three motorcycles – the Pulsar, a TVS Apache and a 1988 Royal Enfield Bullet std 350, all riding together, and a five hundred and fifty kilometre stretch of some brilliant, some nightmarish and some absolutely crazy ghat roads. From Pune to Goa, again, riding through the night, and keeping a steady speed of sixty kilometres an hour – the Bullet had just had an open heart and acquired some new organs, not allowing it to go beyond the set speed – we took almost 14 hours to reach and had no feeling left in our bodies from head to toe. A weekend full of fun followed, and the ride back took us less than 10 hours – the benefits of riding through the day, is that you save on time, can ride better, faster and cover more distance in a shorter span. The journey taught me a lot of things, like when you ride in a group, you stick together, watch each other’s back, take responsibility for each other. It brought me closer to my motorcycle, my friends, nature, and most importantly – closer to myself.
Nine years of having ridden a Pulsar, it was time for an upgrade and although I had my heart and mind set on a Bullet, I had no clue that what I was about to test ride next, would completely blow me away.
January this year, I picked up the craziest, meanest, baddest and one of the most brilliant bikes on the Indian roads – the KTM 390.
What has followed since, requires of me another exclusive article on it at the very least, and I shall comply shortly. In the meantime, for those of you who have a motorcycle parked in their garage or in the society parking, or wherever, get out, get on it and get going. For those of you who don’t, buy one, borrow one, lease one if you have to, and just ride.