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.

 

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.