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.