Top 9 tips while touring

It’s been quite a journey. After having enough of falling off cycles, I hopped on to motorbikes (more on that here – https://musingsinlife.com/2017/11/29/a-bikers-musings/). The thought was it should be easier right, no effort of pedalling. But now, two motorbikes, many a trainings from riding gurus and after clocking over 1,00,000kms, I’ve come to realise that I have a lot more to learn. But more on that later.

For now, after learning what not to do from my experiences with my better ‘three-forth’ AKA my small-decision-maker, have listed down top things to do/not do when you go touring, especially if you are going solo.

  1. KEEP YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS INFORMED: Learnt it the real hard way. Once, during one of my initial jaunts, after a long day’s ride, reached Sarchu, a place between Leh and Manali. There’s just no mobile network coverage out there. Yes, I should have called my small-decision maker before starting, maybe I was lazy, maybe I didn’t want to disturb her early in the morning. Anyway, that’s now history, couldn’t update her, and couldn’t reach her till the end of next day when I reached Manali. What happened next is, err, let’s leave it as being understood?
    The lesson learnt is that you should call your family and friends and keep them  informed daily. Give them a call before you start the ride for the day and tell them where you’re headed. Call them (or text) again to let them know you’re ok after you stop at the end of the day. If you know that over the next few days, you are going to be somewhere remote and telephone/internet connectivity might be a problem, let them know. It is also a good idea to let a friend know as well – preferably one of your regular riding buddies. A simple text updating your ride status 2-3 times a day should do. In case of an untoward incident or a mishap, a family is bound to get panicky. But a rider friend is likely to keep a cool head and will use his instincts to help you get out of the mess, and keep your family posted.
  2. INSPECT YOUR BIKE EVERY MORNING: I’m infamous for seeming to love my bike too much. Be it lubing the chain, checking the tyres or going through T-CLOCS checklist (https://www.msf-usa.org/downloads/t-clocs_inspection_checklist.pdf). But I strongly believe that a happy bike ensures a happy ride. Nothing can be worse than something going wrong in the middle of a ride, especially something that could have been taken care of before starting, that too with some support around. In the middle of the road you have no tools, no support, no spare parts. Biggest telltale sign of an unhappy bike is oil stains on the ground where you parked. Also, when you start, instead of gunning right away, go easy for a few km, letting both your body and bike to warm up while paying attention to anything unusual in the bike’s performance.
  3. PACK LIGHT: This is something everyone says, and no one follows, that is until they
    WhatsApp Image 2020-04-19 at 7.49.19 PM

    Not my bike, just in case you were wondering 😉

    experience it themselves. The first time I went on a long one, I thought I had to be well prepared, planned for contingencies and back-up for contingencies. But the way things panned out, I didn’t need any of what I thought I needed, let alone the contingency or its back up. Worse still, the ones that I actually needed were buried under the contingencies and couldn’t be easily accessed. Lesson learnt – most of the day you will be riding, and your gear is good enough to last you through the day. The only additional clothes you will need is a pair for use while retiring for the day, and a couple of undergarments. Have multiple smaller bags inside one large one while packing, one for tools, one for clothes, one for eats, one for accessories for you camera, one for extra gear like raincoats/thermals et al. This helps you get to what you are looking for easily. Travelling light makes it so much easier to pack and unpack. The best way I’ve realised over the years is to keep all the things that I want to pack and then fight with myself to categorise them as a need or a want. I then ditch all the wants and half of the needs and I’m good to go.

  4. HAVE A PLAN, BUT BE WILLING TO DEVIATE: This is akin to “trust in god, but lock
    Screenshot 2020-04-19 at 8.14.09 PM

    BRO clearing a landslide

    your bike”. Having a plan is critical, but flexibility to change it is paramount. Plan helps you with point 1 above. While in unfamiliar territory, knowing where the next fuel spot is or good place to halt is critical. Also, to know what distance you can cover in a difficult terrain, a simple rule of thumb is to plan for 20-25kmph or approximately 25-30% of the distance you cover in good roads. The same 200km you cover in under 3hours in the plains can take well over 10 hours in the hill, maybe more in case of landslides or roadblocks. Tiredness will set in easily. And trust me, after riding a long patch of pathetically bumpy roads, more so in the rain and cold, when you get off your saddle, every part of you will be totally numb. Having a day or two as contingency or a zero day would be a life saver. If your body and/or bike is tired, call it off for the day. Relax and start afresh the next day.

  5. EAT AND DRINK RIGHT: If you are like me, who enjoys exploring new cuisines, new  menu, then this is not for you. But for some, eating alone while travelling can be boring affair. To some, breaking the momentum by pulling over for lunch or snack seems to be a drag. But skipping meals is not a great idea. Just like you do at home,  setting regular times to eat is a good idea. Be flexible, if you find a good spot to eat, ±30 minutes from the planned time, go for it. For one thing, you may not find the next good spot very soon. It would be a good idea to avoid anything heavy or anything that feels you drowsy. Fresh fruits or salads, energy bars and chocolates can act as that meal between meals. And most importantly, drink lots of water throughout your ride. You can get dehydrated very soon, without even realising it.
  6. WHEN TO START IS THE KEY MANTRA: I usually start late in the night or wee hours in the morning when near metros. The main reasons include, beating the heat and traffic. Usually there is an embargo for heavy vehicles in the day and they usually start at 9:00PM, best to avoid that time, especially near the outskirts of any city. It can be particularly unnerving to see a heavy vehicle going at 40kmph overtaking another going at 39kmph, blocking the entire road. In the hills however, I start early, as soon as there is a hint of sunlight and finish early. Many reasons to this, the flow of nallahs (water from glaciers flowing on the road) is much lesser thanks to it freezing over the night, you are better prepared for unexpected events like a flat, a roadblock, a landslide or simply bad weather. Best part is that the photos that you capture at sunrise are simply priceless. Also, nothing can be worse than trying to look for a place to sack out after sundown, given the fact that life almost comes to a standstill in the hills after dark. And when all goes well, you end up having time to spare for a little walk around or take in the sights.
  7. CONTROL YOUR TEMPER: There will always be jokers on the roads, people in cages
    Screenshot 2020-04-19 at 6.39.00 PM

    Truck in a hurry to overtake a van!

    overtaking in blind curves, yet others getting irked at a puny two-wheeler overtaking them, or some moron busy on phone and not spotting you. It is very easy to get irked, get into an altercation or at the very least show them the finger. Have been there many a times. Well, don’t. It’s just not worth it. He is not worth it. For one think, as sure as hell, within a few minutes, you too will mess up, karma of sorts, and you will be at the receiving end. No, I’m not superstitious, but with the incident on top of your head and/or you looking over your shoulder while riding will for sure get you into a spot, sooner than later. Instead, just ignore the joker and go ahead with what you are there for, enjoy the vistas and the ride, let the morons be. Worst case, take break, click a picture, a smoke or what ever that calms your nerves before you move on.

  8. ID AND IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (ICE) DETAILS: Always keep an ID with you and a list of ICE numbers. Your driving license should serve you well for the ID purpose. Keep another form of ID if you can as a precautionary measure. Have a list of In Case of Emergency details with you. Mention your address, phone numbers, blood group, contact numbers of at least 3 individuals who should be contacted in case of an emergency. Keep this on you all the time. Another important but oft ignored fact is that we don’t remember phone numbers anymore. The mobile phones have killed that capability of ours. When your phone runs out of battery or worse, losing or killing it (by accidentally dropping it into water for instance), you are completely done for. Have a small piece of paper in your wallet with details of your important contacts. same goes with spare keys to your bike, for sure dent keep them locked inside your panniers, you’ll need your keys to access the keys.
  9. GET FRIENDLY WITH THE LOCALS: I just can’t emphasise this enough, the
    Screenshot 2020-04-19 at 6.44.49 PM

    Helpful localites (Unintentional capture from my GoPro)

    number of times the locals have helped me, be it about road conditions, or a local delicacy or information on a place that’s not mapped, or a great place to stay, or relatively inane thing like how old the road is, more scenic detours that are available, well I could go on and on. It is a lot easier when you are solo, people tend to be intimidated interacting with a group. People themselves will approach you to talk to you when you are solo. Get friendly, click a few pictures with them and share the same with them.

Do let me know your views in the comments below.

________________________________

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.

 

Top 8 reasons to go solo

Whenever I meet someone who knows I’m a bike lover, they often ask me why I ride alone and some wonder about the genesis of the term Lupo Solo – Lone Wolf. To be honest, I hadn’t given it enough thought, probably the urge to go solo was more due to a taunt of a fellow rider. I once confronted this gent for not keeping to the time suggested by him. He then said I’m better off solo. So there I was, going solo. Sure there’s no one to click my picture, or someone to look over my bike when I take a quick break, these are but minor irritants.

With this COVID enforced introspection time got me thinking deeper, why indeed? Managed to collect my thoughts, grouped them to the top 8 reasons below. I’m sure there would be more, or some here you don’t agree with, or cons to going solo that are not listed. Those I would request you to leave in the comments section.

  1. I am the boss: The destination is mine, the route is mine, the pace is mine, the timeDSC_9780_Original is mine and so the motorcycle is mine as well. No obligations to reach the end of a predetermined route. If I feel like spending a day laying beside a river, I do it, without answering to anyone.
    Need I say more? Guess I will anyway.
    • I go where I want: When I ride alone there’s only one person I have to cater to while designing the route. I don’t have to bother about anyone else’s comfort with the distance, the destination, the route or the amenities enroute. The only thing that matters is what I want to do and my bucket-list.
    • I go when you want: Waiting to go is very annoying. I hate it when I’m all prepped up and am forced to wait until others turn up. It’s even worse if I have to meet people enroute, part of me knows they’ll be late and other part of me doesn’t want to be the one who’s late. Solo riding lets me head out whenever I want. Be it midnight to beat the heat and traffic or early morning to clock more miles or lazy start for a small sprint.
    • I can stop as many times as I want: I can stop when I want and take that amazing shot, or just stretch my legs or adjust my gear on answer nature’s call or listen to the nature calling. As many times I want to. Without worrying about holding people up. And the corollary holds too, I don’t need to stop for others, I don’t have to stop at a petrol bunk each time someone hits a red, trust me, it happens exactly after a couple of kms from the previous fuel break.
    • Ride Like I Want to: I can satiate that urge to twist my right wrist, whenever I want, without worrying about leaving anybody behind. Lean into that curve to my heart’s content. Scraping a peg or two. Or on the other hand, I can also take it as easy as I want, taking in the scenery, the smells, the sounds, no one will be waiting up.
  2. Interacting with New People: How often do you interact with new people without imagean official or personal motive? To me, if social obligations are the only way I end up meeting new people, then I see myself as a complete loser. On a solo motorcycle tour, I am not obligated to hang out with my buddies, there aren’t any. While I don’t enthusiastically make friends with strangers, I do occasionally meet people from different cultural and regional backgrounds. The new perspectives that I get from their stories and experiences are priceless. There have been innumerable times when localites have been lifesavers, be it warning about road conditions, or a local delicacy or information on a place that’s not mapped, well the possibilities are endless for an inquisitive mind.
  3. Practicing Self-Dependence: It is a different feeling to be totally on one’s own. SoloDSC_9813_Original is the only to make my decisions be my mistakes or my wins. I am responsible for managing my resources and keeping a check of things while traveling. Having no one but me to blame for my problems in the middle of nowhere is an unexplainable situation. Sure, blame games are a source of immediate solace. However, when solo, one does not end up wasting time on blaming instead one looks out for solutions. Also, I’m thrown into a corner to make a decision in an instant. Riding alone makes me feel independent in the most effective and efficient way. That has changed me, immensely.
  4. Spending Time with myself: We keep hearing of me-time, the latest buzz word. ButIMG_9001 how often do you really get to spend time with yourself? It is quite a rare occasion. There will always be people and their opinions. And so will the responsibilities to fulfill, one has work to be taken care of, duties to be discharged. I see travelling alone as an opportunity to understand myself better. I end up having a lot of time to think about myself, about life and about things which means to me. This is perhaps my single biggest reason why I travel solo.
  5. AppreciatIng Nature: Most of us today live in concrete jungles, the only nature we perhaps end up seeing is during the occasional visit to the zoo. Our connection with mother earth and nature is slowly getting lost. To me riding solo is a way to calibrate myself with nature, an opportunity to appreciate nature better. The sights, smells and sounds are like reset buttons in my life.
  6. Challenging myself: From the moment one thinks of a solo trip, it is a challenge. DSC_0150_OriginalConvincing people, prepping myself, my bike, deciding what to take, what not to. From day one to the last day of the ride, I’m on my own. Everything that happens (or doesn’t) is completely my doing. This reminds me of the quote – Danger is real, but fear is a choice. Being aware of the dangers and pushing the limits to lose my fear – nothing better than going solo to become more confident and comfortable.
  7. Become more Observant: When I travel in a group I barely pay attention to planning and exploring alternatives, I end up being just a luggage that my bike carries. I also too caught up in the struggle to keep up or in the wait for others. Or in the best case, I’m cocooned in my comfort zone, don’t feel any need to look at things around me. But when I’m alone I see things very differently, I start observing every small thing or people around me. Always looking for alternatives, pondering how things could go differently. Basically I start sensing rather than just seeing.
  8. Learn to take setbacks in my stride: Things almost always don’t go as planned. DSC_0159_OriginalI’ve had flats in the middle of nowhere, my bike got stuck in nallah, I skidded and dropped my bike, lost my way, got stuck in bad weather. Well, there are a lot of things I didn’t plan for or anticipate. Sure, it has set me back. But one is bereft of options, that’s when one learns to take it in their stride, looking for alternatives, a plan B of sorts. A sort of hard to forget lesson I’ve learnt when going solo.

Please do leave your comments, and please do keep coming back for more…

________________________________

 

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…
DSC_0010
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 case v/s soft case…

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.

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.

Big v/s small…

The eternal debate…

While choosing a soulmate, one that partners you for a lifetime of munching miles, it is a big tussle, heart v/s brain, left brain v/s right, various hats will be donned – logical /rational, practical…. Having gone through the complete cycle, and having taken all these decisions, I have homed in on to my decision.

Logically one would go in for a bike all the obvious choices – big engine with loads of power, large luggage capacity, big tank, shaft drive, good amount of creature comforts…

I did the same, went in for the Bonnie, and when I wanted even more of it, picked up the Multistrada 1200s. Close to 50,000km between the two gurls, (and many more miles with  the many other borrowed choices) I’ve reached my verdict, much to my surprise, don’t shoot me, please go ahead and repeat my mistakes.

My ideal jaunt:

My ideal gurl – 300cc (ok willing to stretch it to a maximum of 600cc) bike with about 40 horses and 30 Nm of torque, ideally most of it on the tap as low down the rev range as possible. Ideally weighing well under 200 kg, with a good suspension travel and ground clearance. ABS would be the only electronic aid if at all that I’d crave for, rest of the electronic nannies I’d gladly let go, for good.

I will try to break it down to logical buckets:

The Cost: The big gurls cost 3 to 5 times as much as the ones I’m now leaning towards. And that’s just the cost of purchase. There’s more, the service, maintenance, insurance, tyres and the spares. At the very least, under the most optimistic of conditions, it is 2-3 times more expensive for the bigger gurls. Obviously, with most of the accessories having custom connections, adapters, switches et al implies that the OEM (read extremely expensive) accessories have to be purchased. Simply put, nothing about them comes cheap. Alternatively you should be willing to give up the warranty by using cheaper, non-OEM stuff.

Speed: Sure, bigger engine capacity does mean higher (read much higher) speeds and DSC_9794.JPGfaster (read much faster) pick-up. There’s just no denying that. And the ear to ear grin when you kick the butt of just about everyone else on the road is quite an adrenaline rush. But that doesn’t necessarily mean better adventure. On long drives, consistent average speed matters much more than top speed. In fact, higher speeds on long drives can slow you down – for one thing, the breaks become more frequent, and the chances of avoiding unforeseen problems become higher. Finally remember, it is a road-trip, not a race – don’t speed if you want to see the world.

My idea of road trips is hitting the mountains where there are no roads, the twisties, lesser frequented trails. Ok, now let’s talk speed. In these conditions, bigger the vehicle, lower the speed. PERIOD. The fastest way down the mighty Khardung-La is on a puny bicycle. On bigger bikes, you always have something soft and round in your throat, hoping nothing gives. Trust me!

Unless of course you are one of those weekend warriors and a bike to you is but a social badge.

Weight: If you use your bike on the roads (or is it no roads) that I do, one needs to be DSC_0041.jpgable to change directions literally in a dime on the ruts and gravel. You need to be able to get yourself unstuck from muck. You need to be able to single-handedly push the bike in case there is a flat tyre. And you need to be able to single-handedly get the bike up on centre-stand. Finally, in these terrains, it is not a question if, but instead when the bike falls. And when it does, you need to be able to pick it up by yourself, you may not be lucky to find helping hand readily available. Those of you who have seen me can vouch for the fact that I, well how do I put it, am not best built for hard labour. 😀

Safety: To simply put it, a big bike is a billboard advertising the fact that I have loads of money, come get your share. It will never stop drawing attention towards you and your bike #Curiosity. Unless of course you can pull off a story like you are just and ordinary human, doing test-ride of a bike on behalf of the company – more on this on #TheItalianConnection. On the other hand, a small bike is easy to move in any terrain, park, pull by yourself when it dies on you or has a flat. Further, you can park a small bike without worrying much for its safety.

Luggage capacity: Come on, learn to travel light, you don’t need a big bike just to lug your house with you. You are on Earth, not Mars, you can find most of the stuff you will ever need on road. You don’t always have to carry your tent and sleeping bag wherever you go. Yes, it is kind of insurance policy, #JustInCase, I have never deployed my tent, EVER. Trust me if you were to be in such a situation ever, you would have spent all your energy by then. If tent does catch your fancy, you can always hire one. Similar is the case with a sleeping bag, only exception being up in the mountains when you don’t want someone else’s body-odor from the blanket. IMHO, you need same amount of luggage be it 1 week or 1 month.

So there, a petite gurl it is for me…

 

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.