Riding with a Pillion

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https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bengaluru/karnataka-bans-riding-pillion-on-2-wheelers-below-100-cc-capacity/articleshowprint/61188674.cms

Untitled_630_630While I am not sure if this eventually will get implemented or not, this article sure highlights something that we take for granted here in India. Getting 2 (or more, read many more) on a bike seems to be a norm, mazboori (helplessness) as one would like to put it in a country like India. There was another story where a senior police officer was pleading with a repeat offender not to overload his bike. <https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/picture-of-andhra-pradesh-police-officer-pleading-to-overloading-biker-has-twitt/302834&gt;.

And that brings me to the topic of my next blog

Riding Two-up

Riding two up can be a fantastic experience for both driver and passenger, however, one might not realise that it simultaneously is a very big responsibility – a responsibility for the safety of your pillion rider, and others on the road. There is a marked difference in how your bike will behave with a pillion – how she handles, corners, accelerates and brakes, everything will be different. Further, you will need to adapt your riding style as you won’t be able to do things that you do solo, and finally, the distractions from and reactions of the pillion, all of this significantly change your ride.

DSC_9537-SMILE
Disclaimer: This is a pre-delivery shot inside the closed confines of a showroom. I do not endorse riding without gear

It however doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it seems, work together as a team and the pleasure of riding will grow multifold. Your pillion will ensure you share all the fun and experience. Typical of more eyes syndrome, they can help navigate, alert you about potential hazards and also lend a helping hand in case of hiccups enroute. Here are a few points, both for rider and the pillion, that will go a long way in ensuring the three of you – the rider duo and the bike – enjoy to the fullest.

Suggestions for the riders:

Pre-ride preparation:

  • Pre-ride briefing: Do discuss the ride plan, the stops for breaks, and most importantly, the common signals for communication. At any speed above 50kmph, with both the rider and pillion wearing helmet, there can be no conversation in the usual sense, unless both your helmets have some communication device like Scala installed. Discuss the signals for important things that the pillion might want to communicate like “slow down”, “stop”, “stop NOW“, “look out”, “I need a drink/eat”, “I’m mounting/dismounting” etc. Also discuss what you may want to tell them as a rider “hang on (I’m accelerating/breaking)”, “bump/pot-hole ahead”, “stopping now” etc. Keep it to a basic minimum, overdoing it could also result in miscommunication.
  • Ride before ride: While it might seem like an oxymoron, it is relevant and important. Before embarking on a long journey, have a small “dress-rehearsal”. This will help in bonding and prevent the long ride from going sour.
  • Tyre pressure: You may need to increase the tyre pressure with a pillion on-board. Please do refer to the instruction manual to find the right pressure for your bike.
  • Adjust mirrors: The rear of the bike will tend to go down a bit with a passenger, do adjust the rearview mirrors to compensate before you start the ride.
  • Suspension setting: To compensate for the rear end going down, some bikes allow preload adjustment. Some high end bikes do it electronically, all it takes is a few clicks while some other bikes let you adjust the pre-load and damping manually. Do check if your bike has these features and tweak it as required. If such settings are not present, take extra precautions while riding.
  • Helping the pillion mount the bike: Many bikes today seem to have a raised pillion seat. This makes the process of mounting the bike a lot more different. Stopping near a kerb if possible can make this process easier. Also, ensuring you are ready with your feet well planted and, if required, having the side stand on can help prevent ending up as an embarrassing heap on the floor. If on a steep incline, you can even engage your bike in first gear. During the pre-ride discussion, have an understanding with the pillion that he/she mounts only after you give a nod of approval. If you have stopped on not so firm surface like gravel or dirt track, do all of the above and get your pillion to mount from the right side of the bike, i.e. opposite side of the side stand. This helps relieve some weight off the side stand and prevents it from sinking in.cardo_scala_rider_q3_multiset
  • Communication equipment: If you plan on very long and frequent trips, investing in a good in-gear communication equipment will come in handy. It not only connects with your pillion, but also, if riding in a group, connects with other riders. <https://www.revzilla.com/motorcycle/cardo-scala-rider-q3-multiset&gt;

During the ride:

  • Acceleration & gear shifts: The added weight on your bike will mean that the bike will be a bit sluggish comparatively, you may have to work your way up the gears. Don’t try to compensate for it by revving more. If your bike doesn’t have a sissy bar, an inexperienced pillion can even topple. Also, with the weight transferred towards the rear of the bike, hard throttle might result in an unintended wheelie. Be smooth with the throttle and gear shifts, remember it is not a race, enjoy the ride with your company.
  • Braking: Increased weight will also reduce braking efficiency. Plan ahead, break early, try and use the engine brake when possible. Increased weight however is not completely a bad news, more weight over the rear wheel will make your rear brake more effective than in a solo ride. Use this more, it helps avoid the unintentional helmet bumps and doesn’t get your passenger unsettled. An unprepared passenger may slide into you during braking. Be prepared for it and use your knees to brace against the tank while your upper body supports the passenger. Using your arms would mean you transfer that force to the handle-bar and this can be a problem, especially while cornering.
  • Cornering: Here again being smooth is the key mantra. Go easy initially, too much lean angle can unsettle a not-so-experienced pillion. Their fidgeting in the middle of a turn can spell disaster.
  • Riding over bumps: Remember you can’t compensate for bumps by standing on your foot-pegs like you do when you go solo. You need to look ahead and slow down. Also the added weight would result in lower ground clearance. If you are not too careful, you could bottom-out.
  • Role swapping: If your pillion can ride, do swap your positions. Trust me, you will only enjoy it. Not only will your pillion get a chance to be in control, but also will give you a well deserved break and an opportunity to enjoy the surroundings.

Suggestions for the pillion

Pre-ride preparation:

  • The right gear: Just because you are not riding doesn’t mean you do not need all the gear. You need it as much, if not more, than the rider. If you think it is not cool enough, then you should not be on that seat.
  • Pre-ride briefing: This has been discussed in the rider section above.
  • Getting on a bike: Ideally, get on from the left hand side once the rider gives you a nod, swing your right leg over the bike and after you sit, adjust your position with both feet on the pegs. However, this might not be always possible. High pillion seats and/or luggage might prevent you from doing so. If that is the case, when on firm ground, put your left leg on the left peg and pull yourself up while holding on to the rider’s shoulder. Do the reverse when on soft ground, mount from the right side. But before this, ensure that the rider is prepared with both feet squarely on the ground, and if required, side-stand in place and vehicle in gear.
  • s-l300.jpgFiguring out where your hand are going to be: This is of utmost importance. Do figure out what you will hold with a relaxed yet firm grip. Different things work for different people with different bikes – grab rails, sissy-bars, rider’s midriff, rider’s shoulder or some clip on accessories <i.ebayimg.com/images/g/ijIAAOSwSPBaa4R-/s-l300.jpg>. To me, shoulder is a no go as it tends to transfer all the weight directly on to the handlebars, drastically diminishing my control on the bike (see the straight line of weight transfer from pillion’s shoulder to the handle bar in the picture below). As a duo, you should figure out the right place before the ride starts.

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During the ride:

  • Look ahead & move in unison: Anticipate what the rider is likely to do next. This will give you a few seconds of advance preparation, helping you get a better grip, bracing your legs and  avoiding sliding forward into the rider. Whatever you do, avoid back seat riding. Do not ‘lean in’ while cornering to “help” the rider. Just stay relaxed with a firm grip and move in unison with the bike as if you are an extension of the machine. Occasionally you may encounter helmet bumps, but this is still better than fidgeting around or moving sharply/abruptly.
  •  Putting your leg down: Whatever you do, do not try to “help” the rider by putting your feet down when bike comes to a halt. You are only unsettling the rider. To add to it, it is not easily possible with the high pillion seats in the modern bikes.
  • Communication: Communicate to the extent necessary, whenever important. Enjoy the ride, remember, even with a communication device, you are only distracting the rider. Restrict it to short, essential messages. If you are getting bored, get the rider to pull over and stop.
  • Dismounting: Inform the rider before getting off the motorcycle, once the rider is prepared, do the exact reverse of the mounting process.

Being aware of these small things will go a very long way in making the ride immensely pleasurable. Ride hard! Ride safe!

 

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover

Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.

Disclaimer:

  1. This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
  2. No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.

Musings of a lone wolf

18527841_10208975869130373_6922975058997027771_n.jpgA group of wolves by Moe Mirmehdi

The link above on a pack of wolves and their roles & behaviour got me thinking about group riding and roles played by different bikers in a group. Group riding too, when done correctly, has well defined roles, there is a lead who decides the pace of the ride depending on the road & weather conditions, capability of fellow riders etc., and then there is a sweep also called the tail, one who ensures that group rides as a group and that no one gets left behind. These two roles are played by the best and strongest riders in the group. In fact there is a whole science dedicated to this. Internationally, group riding training is one of the last segments of mandatory advanced motorcycle driver education program, saving the toughest training for the last. But, in India, where even basic training is not mandated by law, training sadly is not taken seriously enough. This leads to comical situations, including those of bikes being ridden like mopeds, with both feet down!

This article also brings us to a more basic question – are you a wolf in a pack or a lone wolf? This depends a lot on what biking means to you, and, don’t be surprised, it means a lot of diverse things to different people. There are some meanings that drive (or is it “ride”) one closer to a group riding rather than being a lone wolf. Here are some of them that I could readily think of, and it is not water-tight either-or compartments, it could well be a mish-mash of more than one below. Also welcome your thoughts if different from the ones listed.

  • Building familiarity with a new bike: Most people get their new bike through its paces starting with group rides. Apart from the usual bonding and brotherhood reasons, one is curious to know what one can do with his/her bike, general biking knowledge like service centres, accessories, customisation, tips and tricks.
  • Extreme riders: These are riders with a penchant of touring unchartered territory, places where they are unlikely to find any help in case of emergency. That’s when having a co-rider is critical. These typically are very small groups and consist of very like-minded people with similar skill-sets.
  • Riding for a cause: More frequently than not, various entities organise rides for a cause. It is a great reason for riding together and for expressing your solidarity.
  • Once-in-a-lifetime ride in exotic location: There is always a special place in the bucket list of most riders which is either too far/expensive to take their own bike or too extreme or involves too much of paperwork. To tick this place off the list, going with tour operators is an option. While all in the group are likely to be strangers, having a veteran organising things, taking care of logistics (including bikes, hassles of paperwork et al) with a security of back-up vehicles is logical alternative.
  • Wanting to socialise: And then there are folks who are inherently gregarious and just love company, meeting people. Riding a bike is their other love and they use it as an opportunity to socialise.
  • Building connections: These are guys who love biking so much so that their occupation is directly related to biking as well, say owing an accessories/mods outlet or being tour organisers etc. They ride in groups, whether they like it not, so as to build connections with other bikers, an opportunity to garner new clientele.
  • The humble-brags and not-so-humble-brags: These are the typical show-offs in any group. They are out there to advertise their achievements and/or their bike/mods and or their skills/knowledge. There also end up being the leaders in the said groups, deciding where to stop, when to stop, what to eat, bordering upon being a #SmallDecisionMaker.
  • Show-piece collectors: These have-money-will-spend guys would have spent a lot more time talking about their bikes than on it. Their social media handles will be a-flush with photos of them with their bikes at various locations, so what if they shipped it there or got someone else to ride it there.

And then there are prime motives that tend to make you choose going solo over a group. Over the years I’ve finally come to understand that, to me, biking is akin to meditation, a tool to attain temporary freedom, a moment of solitude with my gurl. This has inadvertently translated to going solo for most part. It lets me be the boss, deciding when to take a break, when to push on further, where to stop, etc.. It also helps me get a place to stay without much ado.

Contrary to what it sounds like, the objective of solitude can be met even if it is not solo ride, theoretically at least. End of the day, one is alone on one’s steed during the ride. I therefore have been part of a few group rides as well, but they would account for less than 10% of all my rides. My favourite peeves of a group ride are one too many:

  • Rides never ever start on time, the punctual ones end up getting penalised, always.
  • IMHO, biking in a mismated and contrastive group is a sure-shot invitation to disaster. Diverse riding skills, pressure to keep up, frustration of slowing down/waiting for others seem to play a magical spell on one’s mind, adversely affecting one’s ability to ride. More the number of bikes bikers, greater the probability of a slip-up.
  • Group rides of say 5 people over a distance of 100km, as a rule of thumb, will slow down the ride by at least 15% (if not more). This percentage only increases with more members and/or distance. There are gazzilion reasons behind this – random and uncoordinated stops for clicking photos, smoking, fuel, bio-breaks, tail-enders taking a wrong turn etc., leads to a lot of riding time compromised.
  • And then there are the clashes of ego, what somebody else is deciding for the group need not necessarily be what works for you.

To some, these peeves are no biggies and that these are small compromises one makes to ride in a group. To me however, it seems to go away from the basic need of solitude. If at all, I would team up with one or utmost two like-minded people. But then again, that’s me. What do you see yourself as, a lone wolf or a pack animal?

To sum up, if you are a pack animal, please remember the nine points below. These are things that help you and the rest in the group:

  1. Always come prepared – tank up in advance, wear the right gear, remember the acronym ATGATT – All The Gear, All The Time.
  2. Ride plan/route should be discussed before start. Just in case one gets separated, the modality of regrouping should be known to all to avoid frustrating waits for everyone else.
  3. 2x2Never ever ride right behind the rider ahead of you. A 5 second gap (please note the unit is time and not distance, that way you are in the safe zone no matter what speed) should be maintained at all times, and if the road is wide enough a 2×2 staggered formation is preferred.
  4. Look beyond the bike in from of you, ALWAYS. It is very easy to get fixated at the tyre of the bike ahead of you and this target fixation is also the easiest way of stealing valuable seconds of reaction time in case of an emergency.
  5. img-20141109-wa0002.jpgMake a note of the kind of bikes others are riding in a group. All bikes should have similar capabilities. For instance, taking a modern classic to a group full of super-bikes is like taking a knife to a gun fight.
  6. There are some universal hand signals, or if your wallet permits you could even opt for multiway communication equipment. www.motorcyclelegalfoundation.com
  7. Usually, mistakes occur when one goes outside the comfort zone under a pressure to keep up. It is not worth it. Push yourself outside the comfort zone in a track or in a private cordoned off area. public roads are not for pushing it. Here’s where knowing the ride plan comes in handy. You can regroup at the next break location.
  8. Your ride is as safe as the weakest in your group. Always look out for them, give them their space and if you think you are the weakest link, there’s no pressure to keep up.
  9. Finally, remember, it is a ride for pleasure, and not a race. It is all too easy to confuse one for the other. Save races for a track day.

 

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover

Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.

Disclaimer:

  1. This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
  2. No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.

The Italian Connection…

Musings of a Ducatista!

My first tryst with superbikes was when I picked up a Bonnie (Read more @ http://bit.ly/2kjMy1stGurl-Bonnie). She served me well, still does, will forever be my trusted steed. She saw me through many a miles, including the childhood dream of Khardung La. But eh dil maange more, wanted more power, more comfort, more… And Bonnie couldn’t really keep up with the newer gurls, especially in the freeways. By the time my gurl reached the top gear and a steady cruising speed, other gurls were way ahead, despite being in 2nd or 3rd gear, still accelerating. And then there were certain descriptor associated with the Bonnie:
  • Gentleman’s superbike
  • Modern classic
To me these roughly translate to an Old man’s superbike. Old I’m not, hence wanted something that matched my age. My first love is touring, so tourer the gurl had to be. Not into racing and tracks. Also, the stuff I want to do needs a lot of ground clearance, so sports tourers eliminated. That brought me to adventure tourers (#Adv), and heart truly sold to the GS, I started the test rides back in 2015:
Triumph Tiger (the 800s) – this bunch of gurls is awesome, great pricing, bloody good triumph-tiger-800-phantom-blackperfomance, am sold into their mother brand – Triumph, but a few niggles – slightly top heavy; the electronic nanny’s a tad bit rigid, cuts in more abruptly than what I’d like. Most importantly, she’s got a 3 pot, don’t get me wrong love the engine, she’s an absolute gem, only not in this bike. To me an adventure tourer has to have two pots, twins of any kind – parallel, V, L, or the mother of them all – a boxer. The whine of a 3 pot v/s thump of a 2 pot was THE deciding factor. (Photo credit – http://bit.ly/2kTfjPb)
versys1000-1
Kawasaki Versys – Again an awesome gurl, has the same DNA of the much acclaimed Ninja, that to me was the pain point. The 4 pot high-rev engine does brilliantly well on a Ninja, I just love the noise, she screams and shouts “I’m a super-bike, look at me”. But for an adventure tourer, IMHO, NO, not my style. (Photo credit – http://bit.ly/2BxysNA)
2015_Suzuki_V-Strom_1000ABSAdventure
Suzuki vStrom – Good bike, a darn bloody good bike, but nothing that made it go to the great territory. Everything about the bike is good, can’t pick even one decent sized hole, but on the same note, can’t pin anything on the vStrom to say that this is awesome. Or maybe the dealer didn’t let me explore her enough, but I guess we were not made for each other. (Photo credit – http://bit.ly/2C3Cpqz)
BMW-R-1200-GS-7691_2
BMW GS 1200: I just wanted to sit on her once before I made the final decision, wanted to ensure that my heels touch when I’m astride. I was willing to travel anywhere in India, just to get a feel, but no, no one seemed to have one at that point of time. I have my heart set on her, even now. (Photo credit – http://bit.ly/2BwBzWj)
Edit: Finally rode her in 2017, read my take on it @ http://bit.ly/BlueBMW1200GS
Ducati Multistrada 1200S: She’s the gurl I eventually picked…
In hindsight, not very sure what helped me zero into the Multi – was it the Skyhook suspension, was it the curves, the L-twin, the raw power, or the unavailability of the GS, dunno. Also wondering if the decision were to be made today, 14-15 months later, with the GS now available in India, would the decision have been different? Honestly, I don’t know.
No, don’t get me wrong, not regretting my choice (well, may-be, just may-be grapes are a tad bit sour). But no major post-purchase dissonance, niggles, yes, many, but major dissonance, no. Will not make this blog a review of the Multi, that’s a subject of another blog, instead will focus on my musing with the Multi.
The common questions from my previous blogs – A Biker’s Musings (http://bit.ly/2kjMy1stGurl-Bonnie) and Musings of a cyclist (http://bit.ly/2A9EwHW) remain, just because the bike changes, the questions don’t, only new ones get added on.

#Cost

2-3 laakh ki to hogi, Haan bhai, shauk ki koi keemat nahin hoti… (Roughly translates to – “Must cost INR 200,000-300,000, well, one can’t put a price to passion huh?” Innocuous statement at the face of it, but for the uninitiated, he’s missed a zero!!)
So, skipping the rest on #Cost & mileage (#KitnaDetiHai), here are a few notable ones…

Curiosity (#Curious):

No matter where she goes, she does draw eyeballs, away from the cities, they are more carefree, more open, #Masoomiyat? The cities however are more reserved. Got a first-hand look at it when I accidentally left the camera on.
While the video does explain the curiosity lucidly, there was one guy in a group who went a few steps further – after using his knuckle to tap (yes, it hurt quite a bit, but then again, I was alone and he was a village chieftain) around all across the fairing, petrol tank et al, the village chieftain says knowingly – Poori plasteek hai, nahin tikegi! (roughly translates to – “Completely plastic, will not last”). Hate to admit it, but he seems to be right, fairings are a tad bit delicate. The Italian philosophy of design before engineering I guess. She doesn’t give the built-like-a-tank feeling of the Bonnie. No doubts on the design aspect, dainty damsel she is, and a big tick in athletic capabilities as well, but she’s not a boxer (pun intended) or a wrestler.

The panniers and tail-box have invariably given hilarious responses:

DSC_0006

Ismein kya hai? (What have you go in these?)
Iske andar engine hai kya? (Does it house the engine?)
Kya pijja-vijja deliver karte ho? (Are you a pizza delivery guy?- Sure bro, how else do you think I can keep the delivery within 30minutes promise?)

Miscellaneous muses…

Naam kya hai? डकैती (dakaitee)? What’s the name? Dakaitee? (incidentally this mispronunciation translates to “robbery” in Hindi)
Ismen kya khaas hai, special feature kya hai? What’s special about this, any special features? (A polite inquiry, in actuality hides a rhetoric – what kind of a fool are you to spend this kind of money?)
Kitna bhagleti hai? How fast does she go? If answered truthfully that she’s electronically limited at 299kmph, it is usually followed by:
Tumne kitna bhagaya hai? How fast have you gone? If safe enough to be truthful, the next question is:
Kahan? Where? (Read – Gotcha liar!)
But usually, when the answer is not given to “how fast bike/me”; the exploratory question follows –
Sau dedhsau to bhagti hogi? Must do about 100-150kmph, no?
Kya chipakke chalti hai? Phavikol hai ke? The local elderly gent admonishing the local stud (and therefore indirectly me) – What do you mean she sticks to the ground? Where’ve you spread the Fevicol (a popular glue brand)?
Tanki kitni badi hai? How big is the (petrol) tank?
Garam nahin hoti? Doesn’t she get heated up?
She’s faithfully served me, been through an effortless all-India trip and Spiti trip, and a not-so-effortless Leh trip, more on these soon.
Niggles, there have been a few, kya karen, dil mange more (roughly translates to hunger for more, actually a caption borrowed from an ad campaign from yester-years), but astride her, there’s always a smile on my face with the sheer pick-up or the long distance riding comfort or the smoothness of active suspension or the attention she seeks and the road presence she has. Overall, for a more road oriented jaunt, she’s the most comfortable steed that I have owned till date.
Or, then again, is it – dil mange less (read more about my ideal bike @ http://bit.ly/RightSizedBike).
Signing off for now…

 

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover

Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.

Disclaimer:

  1. This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
  2. No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.

Hard core soft porn…

Ooops, typo, panniers I mean. Top 11 things to consider before purchasing panniers.

Another touchy point, POVs are a lot more diverse than the options available…. Here’s an analysis of top 11 things to consider:

While the broad options are soft and hard, there are some more categorisations possible, all options fall into one or the other of the 5 options below.

Soft Hard
Leather Aluminium / metallic
Waterproof, modular Plastic
Canvas (or similar no-so-waterproof material)

 

The top 3 are some references for soft and the bottom two for the hard cases

I talked to a few adventure tourers for their opinion, (yes, yes, it was convenience sampling, topped up with my bias :D) and have put up the initial summary here. Would request you all to share your opinion as well in the comments below.

Here are the top 11 things to consider amongst a multitude of others:

  1. Security: Is it lockable? Is it safe from “slash-and-dash” kind of stealing?
  2. Rigidity: How rigidly is the pannier fixed on to the bike? Will it last the bumps and grinds of an off-road jaunt (or for that matter our pothole ridden roads)?
  3. Repairability: Can it be easily be repaired or fixed in case of minor problems?
  4. Convenience: Can it be left overnight on the bike without supervision? Also, are they modular, adding/removing parts or compartments to suit your needs?
  5. Weatherproof: Is it waterproof and dustproof, or do you have to get waterproof liners?
  6. Weight: How much does it weigh, and more importantly how significantly does it alter the centre-of-gravity of the bike?
  7. Size: How much does it add to the width of the bike? How much weight can they carry?
  8. Cost: How much does it cost? And the cost of repairs? In in some cases, will it damage the bike in case of falls, and the cost there-of?
  9. Life: How long is it likely to last?
  10. Personalisation & looks: How cool does it look and how amenable is it to personalisation (either cosmetic or functionally)?
  11. Universal v/s custom made for a bike: Some of the panniers need bike specific mounts and brackets to fix the custom made panniers for each bike, yet other are universal and can fit any bike.

Now to my experiences with the 5 options and how they fare on the 11 points above:

Leather Panniers: These look really classy, especially on the REs, the modern classics Leatherand most cruisers. They have the old-world charm about them and the smell of leather just adds to the whole experience. Usually, they do not offer too much of storage capacity. But they are not what one might call cheap and are not waterproof either. The contents are not usually safe enough to leave unsupervised. They are available as permeant fixture or as detachable ones, depending on the model. Finally they do not add too much to the bulk or width of the bike. Overall more for cosmetic purposes, not for hardcore, all weather and all terrain cruising. These usually are not universal, more so for the modern classics and cruisers.

Soft weatherproof panniers: There are a gazzilion options available on this genre of FSB_C + http-::dirtsackluggage.com:wp-content:uploads:2016:06:FSB_Cpanniers from the very small to very large, not so expensive to the very expensive, direct mount on any bike to requirement of frames to mount, standard to modular flexibility. These are amongst also the most versatile of the lot, giving you modularity and flexibility (or not depending on the ones you choose) to carry stuff the way you want it wherever you may choose to. They tend to have a pretty long life and best part, no matter how old, you will never get creaks or rattle out of these panniers. The only thing that you need to look out for is the clearance from your mufflers. This would determine how big a pannier you can use and if there needs to be a frame to keep the panniers from fouling with the exhaust or wheel.

Soft canvas panniers: Everything that has been said for the waterproof ones aboveX001-Y001 + https-::content.motosport.com:images:items:large:GYA:GYA007S:X001-Y001
holds for these as well, right from the range to size to versatility. The couple of points on which this differs from the former is in the fact that these are not weather proof so you may want to use some liners to protect important stuff, second, they may not be as durable as the former, and, finally, they are not as expensive. This would be the best choice to if you are not a frequent tourer or if you want to explore options before homing in on one or the other.

Plastic panniers: These are now seeming to be getting popular as an option for DSC_0006adventure tourers. It is aesthetically pleasing, can be moulded into any shape and colour, not many size options for a given bike, good all-round dust and water protection, lockable hence can be left unsupervised. There can be a bit of vibration noise over time. The side panniers do not alter the centre of gravity of the bike, but the rear top case is a cause of concern, it does raise the centre of gravity much higher. Aesthetically too the rear top-case is bit of a question-mark, it looks like the top-box of the fast-food delivery bikes, so you can start a side-business of pizza delivery. :). In case of the bike gets tipped over, these panniers prevent the bike from going all the way to 0°, a lot easier to pick the bike up from 20°. But plastic it is, so the parts that lock it on to the bike are also plastic. In case of big spills therefore, these plastic locking mechanisms break, you have to replace the whole pannier (and in some cases the lock on the bike as well) then. So not only is it costly to buy, but even costlier to repair. The mounts for these too are customised for each bike, hence more expensive. Finally, the good looks are all gone even with minor scratches, these do not like battle-scars as much.

Metallic panniers: This is by far the most popular choice, gives the bike a rugged look, IMG-20171129-WA0020while being weatherproof and durable. Some of the top end panniers intentionally allow for a small amount of play between the bike and panniers. It has been sort of a gold standard for adventure tourers, thanks to the GS. It looks awesome with or without battle-scars, with or without stickers. It incorporates the positive aspects of all of the options above, but has a couple of limitations as well. It is a bit bulky, so can impede hard core technical narrow trails or in a city ride. In case you are carrying delicate stuff inside, you need to pack them so that they do not get bounced around inside. Also, while the most rugged of the lot, they also are the heaviest, upwards of 15kgs, yes, when empty, also over time they also tend to pick up vibration noise. Finally, the mounts for these too are usually custom made for each bike so you can’t go on a pannier swapping spree.

So, go ahead chose you pick, do drop a comment on what you think works for you. Your final choice also depends a lot on which bike you ride, on which terrain, your wallet and finally your build.

As for me, I am all sold on the soft, modular, weather-proof panniers.

Happy riding!!

LLAP

 

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover

Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.

Disclaimer:

  1. This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
  2. No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.

A biker’s musings…

A biker’s musings…

When my spills from a cycle became more frequent than frequent, I decided to move on to motorbikes – a safer option (??). Went through a really long cycle of evaluation – REs to Continental GT to Thruxton to Daytona to Tiger to a Night Rod. Now, that’s quite a range with nothing in common what so ever! Even the cost of the shortlisted bikes ranged from INR 150,000 to IRR 2,200,000, in hindsight, guess I was looking only at drool-factor or at any one specific aspect of the bike while shortlisting. Incidentally, when I was on a test-ride spree on the above shortlist, what hit me was that I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 18! My dad used to own a Bullet, obviously I would monkey around with her. We used to stay in a township where technically everybody knows everyone else. Eventually complaints from well wishers about my monkeying around forced my dad to take action and he sold the bullet off and instead got a Bajaj Chetak.

Finally, 25 odd years after I rode a bike, I picked up the good ole Bonnie #TriumphBonnevilleT100, #Bonnie. Yes, it was not even in the shortlist. The practicality of having usable rear seat (to convince the #SmallDecisions maker that I wasn’t being selfish when I decided to bike) and a respectable ground clearance, yet having a drool factor helped me home into the Bonnie. Triumph calls colour scheme of my Bonnie – Aurum gold – talk about them ensuring comprehension, “just in case you don’t know what aurum is you dummy, it is gold”!
I rode her like the wind, literally, a sense of freedom that is indescribable. Despite getting on the saddle after a break of almost 25 years, it was almost second nature. In fact I would inadvertently upshift when I meant to downshift, the bullet’s gearshift pattern seemed to be hardwired into my brain. It took me 6-8 months to get used to the correct side and correct pattern of gearshift on my Bonnie, talk about old habits dying hard!

Joined a group of bikers, made new friends, explored new places, went on many a long rides including those to Rajasthan and a childhood dream – Khardung-La – the highest motorable road. More on these trips later, but the musings and memories of people’s reactions to the Bonnie:

Joined a group of bikers, made new friends, explored new places, went on many a long rides including those to Rajasthan and a childhood dream – Khardung-La – the highest motorable road. More on these trips later, but first, the musings and memories of multitude of reactions to the Bonnie:
Someone or the other invariably has always walked up to me and asked some or all of the questions below, even today:
Koi race-wace hai kya? (roughly translating to – Are you guys part of a race?) For the life of them they haven’t figured out why one would aimlessly roam around in the extremes.
Khud ke paise se ghoom rahe ho kya? (roughly translating to – Are you guys actually footing the expenses of fuel et al that too with one’s own money!)
Yeh kyon kar rahe ho? (roughly translating to – Why are you guys doing this?) Kaash mid-life crisis ke baare mein samjha paate.
Kitna deti hai? (roughly translating to – How much fuel does she consume?) The timeless Indian curiosity. #KitnaDetiHai
Light on hai bhaisaab (roughly translating to – The lights are on?) The good samaritans, unfortunately the Europeans think the bike lights must be constantly on!
Accha, do engine hain? (roughly translating to – Oh, so this has 2 engines?) Yes bro, its called parallel-twin.
Kitne ki hai? (roughly translating to – What’s the cost?) Another timeless Indian curiosity. #Cost
Is it the original Triumph? 😐 #FacePalm The best part, coming from a person in modified Gurkha with the coveted star on the bonnet.
Kitne gear hai? Accha 5, 1 up and 4 down? (roughly translating to – How many gears? oh 5, so 1 up & 4 down then?) Like I’m dying to hand over the bike to him for a trial ride.
And then one day I was peacefully cruising through the countryside. I suddenly heard really loud exhaust of an RE (#Bullet, #RE, #RoyalEnfield) that was really being pushed real hard. For a second I almost impulsively twisted my throttle, a typical male reaction to show that certain part of his anatomy is bigger than that of the other person in question. But then I decided not to, an alien territory, didn’t want to vex an angry local. He caught up with me and signalled that I stop. He was over 6 feet tall, really well built and his dress and mustache indicated that he was a local. To me it was redder than a red light. So, stop we did and had a brief chat:
Him: Bullt hai ke? (The thick Haryanvi dialect roughly translating to – Is it a Bullet?)
Me: Nahin bhai Triumph hai. (roughly translating to – No brother, its a Triumph?)
Him: Trump? (Trump? – no indication of political affiliations here, thats the Haryanvi accent)
Me: Haan wahi. (roughly translating to – Yes)
Him: Kitte cc ki hai? (roughly translating to – What’s the engine capacity?)
Me: Nau sau bhai. (900cc brother)
Him: Nau sao? Danadan bhagti hogi? (roughly translating to – 900? She probably races crazy?)
Me: Haan, lekin aapki Bullet bhi koi kam nahi hai. (roughly translating to – Yes, but your Bullet is not something to be ignored either)
Him: Haan, door se yo bullt hi laage hai. Kahan ki hai yo? (roughly translating to – Yeah, from a distance your bike looks like a bullet too. where she from?)
Me: England ki company hai, bilkul Bullet ki tarah, dono bhai-behen hi hain. (roughly translating to – From England, exactly like your Bullet, they are practically siblings)
Him (sheepishly looking at Bonnie): Bhai to yo hi laage se, ben to maari Bullt se. (roughly translating to – Yours looks like the elder brother, and mine the younger sis)
So much for my initial anxiety!
And then one day during a ride, I accidentally left the key in the ignition, overheard the exchanges when I quickly doubled back to pick the keys:
Him 1: Chabi chod gaya hai. (roughly translating to – He’s forgotten the keys)
Him 2: Lekin kick kahan kahan hai? Start kaise karega? (roughly translating to – But where is the kick start? How will you start it?)
Him 3: Bhaari hai, koi dhakka dekar bhi nahin ja sakta… (roughly translating to – yeah right, bloody heavy too, can’t push-start either)
Many many miles later, more so when one of the litre class bikes overtook me, I realized that the Bonnie can’t keep up with the present generation. The final nail in the coffin was when someone commented that it was an old man’s super-bike, I finally lost it. Went ahead and picked up a Ducati Multistrada 1200s.

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover

Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.

Disclaimer:

  1. This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
  2. No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.

The right way to beat the blues

The right way to beat the blues?

GS always has been the epitome of adventure riding to me. Never had seen one up close, let alone touch or ride one, but dream she’s been, for a real long time now. Also see my note on Italian Musings.

A quick recap, when I wanted to upgrade my Bonnie to a more adventure oriented litre class bike, GS was the first choice. Unfortunately it was not available readily, the dealers offered to import it for me, but I wanted to make sure my feet reached the ground comfortably. Since that was not an option, I opted for the next best – Multistrada 1200s.

Finally got a chance to ride one, boy what an experience. It was so awesome that I accidentally (?) missed a U-turn, and rode on an additional significant distance before calling to enquire where the others were, and then rode back to rejoin the pack.

The ever so slight torque twitch was magical. So what if the shaft means slightly lesser power at the wheel, it is a shaft drive, total reliability, freedom from grime and oiling, good riddance to clanking chain, no more spotty rims after bike returns from servicing, no adjustment required every 1000kms…

The quickshifter! Boy I can’t get the smile off my face each time I remember about it. I was grinning from ear to ear while shifting up and down the gears with my left hand doing nothing! The motor blipped just right to match the rev and I always found the right slot, no accidental intermediate neutrals, no sirrie. Poor left hand has been used to pull in the lever and when I did accidentally pull in the clutch, the GS almost chided me for doing so, she didn’t seem happy about it at all.rallye-2.jpg

The boxer engine was torquey, just the way I love it, didn’t beg me to rev hard in each gear before shifting, no frequent gear changes, she just pulls and pulls and pulls, in all gears and more or less any speed.

And lest I forget, the boxer meant much lower center of gravity and therefore much easier to chuck around the corners, changes direction on a dime. And yes, the exposed engine also meant that a man’s vanity doesn’t take a beating (read – heating).

The Ralley comes with a one-piece seat and the spec sheet puts the seat height as 850-871mm, much higher than the Multistrada’s 825-845mm, or at least on paper. The real test is if one can plant the heels on the ground, and I could, comfortably, thanks to the shape of the seat I guess.

Hill hold assist! Nifty lil feature, comes in really handy when I need to flash the access card to open the gate in a slope while exiting my basement parking, couldn’t use it where it was really intended to – the mighty Himalayas tho…

The spoked wheels with tubeless tyres, what more could an off road junkie ask for…

And then the color, matches my riding gear too!

Need any more reasons?

Well, here comes reality check (read GRAPES ARE SOUR):

  1. Do I need it or is it just a want?
  2. Do I need another liter class bike, or would a 310 GS / 650 GS suffice?

Do read my other blog along the similar lines – Big v/s Small.

 

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover

Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.

Disclaimer:

  1. This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
  2. No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.

 

Khardung-La

Journey to the world’s highest motorable road (#WorldsHighestMotorableRoad):
It was June 2015, peak summer, just about when the mountain passes were opening up for traffic. A motley crew of 10 “young” men decided to conquer the world’s highest motorable road, a journey of a lifetime, one that I had been waiting for all my life. We were on 8 bikes and the remaining 2 in a car. We were quite an ensemble, some of us seeing each other for the first time. I for sure didn’t know all of them very well, definitely not familiar with everyone’s riding skills. The first halt planned was Jammu. Enroute, we witnessed crazy sandstorms and rains, visibility was down to few meters, forcing us (and other vehicles on the road) to a grinding halt, putting us way behind schedule.
A couple of breaks later (like broken rim, crashed bikes and broken egos, frayed tempers and some road kill), we reached Jammu, almost 20 hours after we started in Gurgaon! I was barely awake as I hadn’t slept a wink for over continuous 40 hours. Finally we did reach the hotel we had booked.
IMHO, could have been done in a lot lesser.
After a night halt and a much needed rest at Jammu we were all busy loading our luggage onto the bikes to start riding to Leh. A bunch of curious kids were looking at all the RE Thunderbirds, Classics, Desert storms and my Bonnie. It was very exciting to hear them speak in a dialect that sounded like Punjabi, but wasn’t. Later on I got to know it was Dogri:
Kid 1: Bhaiyya eh 350cc hai. (Bro, this is 350cc)
Kid 2 (the Bhaiyya): Arre oose chod, eh dekh 500cc (forget about it, see this, its a 500cc)
Kid 1: Eh bhi 350 (this is 350cc too)
Kid 3: Eh dekho kya mast miltree colour hai (pointing to the Desert Storm – look at this awesome military colour!)
All kids reach the Bonnie, looking really curious, until the smart bhaiyya looked at the T100 badge on my Bonnie and said very confidently Arre yeh to 100cc hai! (This one is 100cc) So much for the much touted 865 cc, 61 bhp bike. I was really foxed – do I join the others and laugh or go for a big #FacePalm!
The natural beauty of the hills is just unparalleled! It’s a non-stop feast for one’s eyes. We chose a lesser used path to reach Srinagar from Jammu. It is called the Old Mughal Road. It is a beautiful, winding narrow road via quaint villages. As luck would have it, it was raining cats and dogs, as we took shelter in the awning of this shop, the 3 beautiful kids, (don’t you adore those blue-green eyes…) offered us bread. To us tired, wet, frozen and hungry riders, it was heaven send! Another #FacePalm moment when the sweet girls told us that this was supposed to be eaten with subzi like roti, and not gobbled down like we did. When we offered to pay, the lil lad said Paanch Rupaiye, (5 rupees) we dug into our wallets the girls quickly said, koi baat nahin uncle, koi nahin. (It’s ok uncle, forget about the money). Do we lose this hospitality, the #Masoomiyat (innocence) once we urbanise? I wonder. Incidentally a common Indian way of addressing unknown men who are older than what one can call “elder brother” is “uncle”.

Our first Achilles heel was the Zoji-La pass. What made novices lead the way while the experts waited, I don’t seem to recall. But what certainly was out of this world was riding behind a mama bear and her cubs. Boy, could they run!

It was a case of scare them or drop your bikes and run back, there was no way we could do a U-turn in the slush and muck. I chose the former, wonder, in hindsight, if stand-off would have been safer. For, honestly, not sure we were more scared or them! We successfully crossed this pass with not too much further ado…
Riding further ahead, we met some chicks…
 Posed with battle tanks…
 Stopped over at the Kargil war memorial. An unexplainable emotion – just the question “why” kept coming up in my head constantly, why the wars, why the sacrifices, why hatred, why, why, why, WHY! No satisfactory answers ensured that I found one silent corner and shut myself down for sometime.
Continue from there we did, had to reach Leh. Stops enroute got us to meet some more local kids. DSLRs were out and flashing, kids posed, posed rather well, I dare add. But by the end of it all demands for Baksheesh got so loud that we had to scoot.
At a quick pitstop that soon followed, the disarming smile and happiness on the face of this kid on seeing bikes was priceless.
By the time we reached Leh district, some 80+ km from Leh city, it started getting cold and dark, we decided to call it a day. The quaint place was right next to the road, we sank into our beds. We convinced ourselves that this was the best thing to do to acclimatize ourselves to the altitude rather than racing to Leh.  The following day, we had a lot of time at our disposal, under 100km to Leh and the whole day ahead of us. We really took our time…
…crossed a few passes and felt snow fall for the first time… (before this, I had never seen snow falling, it has always been before or after snowfall!
Road was fantastic, for most parts we had amazing fun riding on one of the straightest roads, well maintained, with desert on both sides. We stopped for a few photographs.
And immediately after this photo, I tried to take a U-turn, most simple and basic of manoeuvres, but didn’t realize I was in 3rd gear. Bonnie couldn’t take this abuse, definitely not at this altitude. She stalled. And I dropped her, at 5 kmph! Doesn’t get more embarrassing than this huh? Broke my foot peg in the process. Quickly changed the one from behind to front and I was ready to hit the road again…
…not this way, if you know what I mean.
Continue we did, sometimes thumping, sometimes racing, sometimes waiting. But always ready to go…
…through the twisties at Lamayuru – moonland…
 …or one of the innumerable road blocks due to landslides…
 …or the magnetic (???) hills…
..or proving that I do not have ‘chicken stripes’…
 Got a royal welcome at the hotel, the place was awesome. Food was brilliant, it seems like a luxury to have a proper room with mattress, heating, laundry facility and even a WiFi. We kinda made this our base camp and after every expedition, we’d return to this hotel.
So continuing to thump, race, n wait; being eveready to go…

The customary pose at the mighty Khardung-La…

At the Khardung-La & Chang-La, Bonnie sure did grab quite a few eyeballs.
DSC_0564.jpg
Was overwhelmed with respect and a feeling of patriotism yet again. The presence of the soldiers patrolling there rain or snow is something that deserves a hell of a lot more than just respect.

It was quite a sight to see Bonnie merging right into the whiteness of snow. Bonnie purred along effortlessly through anything that nature threw at her, would have prefered a bit more of low end torque, but apart from that, it was perfect.

Visit to Nubra valley was something else. Dunno about you but seeing a sandy desert with camels amidst snow capped mountains was not something I had ever imagined
The experience at Pangong Tso was surreal! The color of water changing with time, the temperature changes, the very ride to the lake and the fact that we were literally at China’s border was something else
The tranquil peace at the lake made us all take off and do their own thing. Some took of for photography, other for a dip in the lake yet others rode of to more desolate spot to meditate, some chose to hit the bottle and yet others hit the sack!
 I guess I selfishly spent time with myself, mah gurl and stacking up a few pebbles…
 Finally called it a day in these tents. They were awesome in the day, when the sun was up. Once the sun set, I was breathless, no-no, not the awestruck breathlessness, literally breathless, oxygen deprivation. Was working up a sweat just to haul myself over to the toilet, yes sweating in freezing temperature! But it was an experience I’m ever-ready for an encore (anybody listening?)
And thence began the loooooooooooong return journey…
…many a nalah crossings…
…and a very interesting gent called Topi (the gent sporting the yellow helmet), life saver, literally…
…and one random skull in Mori plains, couldn’t resist the photo-op…
…and a few moments of peace and introspection…
 …and that of forced male-bonding (never before and never since have I slept so close to another man, there were 15 or so of us in mattresses and razaais good for I’d say 10). After a sound sleep (actually quite literally, for there were Harleys, Busas, RE w/o mufflers, Yams amongst our snorers)…
…and a lots of eventful-events later (omitting them here as they were less to do with biking and my running out of tongue-in-cheek ways to narrate them without ruffling feathers), when I was feeling rather pleased with myself and my achievement, saw this gent riding a cycle rickshaw from Jalandhar enroute Mumbai (a distance of 1800km). Saluted him and his journey, came back to mother earth, and returned home.
That brings me to a new beginning, but then that would be a new note.
Do circle back and check my page for new stories
Till then, continuare a correre Hmmm, #TheItalianConnection, story idea…

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

A biker | A blogger | An adventure junky | Animal lover

Tries to fit all of the above whilst working as a brand marketing professional. His blog is a product of contemplations, reflections and an unquenchable thirst for self-deprecating humour. It is the world as seen through the eyeballs of a salt-and-pepper *sixteen year-old* fighting off #MidLifeCrisis. No doubt perspectives will be different when seen by others and those are equally welcome in the comments section.

Disclaimer:

  1. This is written with a sole intention of laughing at and with the author, no offence meant to anyone else.
  2. No bikes or animals or bystanders were harmed while writing this.