Why I stopped driving…

It started way back, even before I could legally acquire a license. My folks didn’t own a car. That meant only one thing, I was ever more desperate to have what I didn’t – opportunity to get behind the wheel, as often and as much as possible. I’d beg, plead, cajole anyone I could. More often than not, (read 0.001%) I’d succeed. I would visit many a showrooms, pretend to be a rich rice distributor’s son and request a test drive.

Finally, 6 months into my first job, I got myself my first car – a Madison Blue Maruti 800 standard, had loads of fun, but getting into it means I’ll have to digress.

And then I upgraded to a Maruti Zen. These two Marutis amount to the maximum fun I’ve had on four wheels. I used to think that the more expensive cars are simply over-rated and I used to think that any car priced over INR 10Lac are simply a waste of money (looking back, I wonder if it was a manifestation of ‘sour grapes’). I remember being very vocal about it too. This line of thought almost cost me a job, I didn’t know the interviewer was a passionate BMW owner and this opinion of mine really irked him.

When my wife needed a car, I got a Honda City, the CVT variant (over a decade later, we still have it). At that time, she was the only auto-transmission available in the market. Runs like a gem to this day, not a scratch under the bonnet (yes, read again, I meant under the bonnet).

Finally, I bought my last car (the way it looks, probably will remain the last car) – Land Rover Freelander 2. Had my bit of fun with her, a few long drives, a bit of off road, quite a few adventures.

dsc_0411-e1536646083653.jpg

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Finally, as suddenly as she came into my life, she was gone.

Which brings me to the topic of this blog – why I stopped driving.

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My three girls, yes, shoot me, am partial to white, so much so that I even sport my hair white.

I found a new love, actually a few of them. It was a passion that was lying dormant for over 40 years finally erupted. My love of two wheels completely overwhelmed me. At first, it was the bicycle (read more here) and then the bikes (read more here). Once I started, I just couldn’t stop, commuting, joyrides, weekend jaunts, vacations, everything was on two wheels. The freedom, being one with the elements, the sheer thrill that the two wheels gave resulted in the cars feeling neglected. Many a reasons for this:

  • The sheer experience:

Realised quite late in life, but riding a bike is therapeutic to me. The sheer joy of wind whistling in your ears, being one with the nature is an unparalleled experience. To quote Robert Pirsig, “Driving a car is like watching a movie. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. On a motorcycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore.”

You smell everything, feel everything, hear everything and everything around you is a blur. Over 1,00,000kms in total with these three sets of wheels and I still haven’t had enough of it, not just yet.

  • Camaraderie:

Whether you ride in groups or prefer going solo (read more on the pros and cons of group v/s solo rides here), camaraderie is a given. Even when solo, there is a brotherhood, a feeling that is very hard to put in words, there’s instant bonding, usually. Motorcycles definitely are conversation magnets. People feel less inhibited to come and have a conversation with you. They always end up saying one of the two things – “I wish I was doing what you are” or “I wish I knew why you are doing this.” Either way, it is an awesome feeling. On the other hand, if one is in a four wheeler, there usually is a wall that seems to prevent people from coming close.

  • Solitude:

A complete contradiction to the point above huh? Actually no, while riding is enjoying the company of other like minded folks, it still remains personal, very personal. It is you, your bike and your decisions, Despite being in a group it is that feeling of solitude the second the helmet is on.

  • Practicality:

    • Time: This is a big saving. Without necessarily riding the bike faster than cars, one can save 15-25% of time. The ability to squeeze in and out of traffic, makes it much faster on two wheels, be it powered by man or ‘horses’.
    • Space: The small footprint helps you park closer to your destination. Further, the real-estate required to park one car is more than adequate for 2-3 two-wheelers.
    • Cost: This is a topic big enough to ‘earn’ its own mention as a head below:
  • Cost:

    There are multiple aspects to this head. Will try and break the cost factor of a car down below, the bikes typically are immune to this, provided you are comparing like to like. This would hold no water if  you were to compare a super bike to an entry-level hatchback:

    • Acquisition cost: With the vehicles from INR 3lac to over 3 crores, there’s a different dream car that each one of us aspires and it almost always is just out of reach. Now, in hindsight, I wonder if the basic need of mobility is defied by such a priced possession as you may not dare to or may not want to take it to many a places. Surely it is heart over brain choice.
    • Maintenance & repair: This is a biggie, more expensive the machine, costlier is the upkeep. Don’t know if it is just my experience, but there seems to be a direct correlation between the cost of the car and its propensity to get pick up a scratch or a dent. One could argue that the repair is well taken care of by the zero depreciation policies, which brings me to the next cost head
    • Insurance: Zero depreciation policies are a big boon, given the cost of the repairs, but then the premium is a handsome amount, also, they are usually offered for a maximum period of 5 years. Post that, even a minor accident can set you back in a major way.
    • Depreciation: The value of the car goes southward faster than ice melts in peak summer. In fact there are times I wonder if it is more profitable to push the car down a hill and claim the IDV value as that is surely more than the resale value of the car

Sure, one could argue there are tonnes of cons of riding a bike – safety, open to elements, limitation on how much you can carry, bugs, dust and grime all over you. More often than not you are a blind spot to guys with more wheels, even if they see you, they have little or no intention of sharing the road.

To sum up, to me being on two wheels is a pure, almost childlike joy of speed, immediacy, adventure and everything that goes with it. In fact the cons above challenge me and turn me on more! Sure, there could be a need for a four wheeler on certain occasions, for that we have the Olas, the Ubers and the self drive cars. I can proudly say that there is one car waiting for me in every corner of the globe, and I don’t even have to spend on maintaining them.

And now to answer the eternal question – “Why you are doing this to yourselves?” – To me, it is all about the lean and the bellowing tranquility. If you are not a biker, never mind, you won’t get it.

And if you did get it, 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.

 

 

 

Multistrada 1200S – Long term ownership review

She lovingly came home on 22nd January 2015, one of the very 1st Multis in Delhi I was given to understand. Today, 2.5 years later after clocking over 25000km (not a lot, but she shares the home with an equally loved Bonnie who too has clocked over 25000km in the same time period, an average of 25km per day astride each of the two bikes is all that I could muster), I would say that I have no regrets. Here’s my long term ownership review of the bike, heave tried to bucket the various factors very unconventionally (yet hopefully logically):

The heart factor: DSC_0010

This perhaps might seem as the single most important yet logically illogical factor, after all love as they say is blind. So I will try and steer clear of looks (with a disclaimer that I obviously love the way she looks). Multi will set your heart racing, a little twist of the right wrist in any gear, at any speed and she will ensure that the objects that appear small in the rear view mirror will look smaller, way smaller. I’m yet to have a vehicle pass me unless I want it to.

She is a bit grumpy at lower revs. But keep her over 4000 RPM, you can hear your heart beat, yes even over the wind roar and the exhaust. And if you do decide to take her to the red line (at about 11000RPM) in the first three gears, you will have something soft and rubbery in your mouth, yes I am still referring to the heart (what were your dirty minds thinking?).

Of course there are multiple riding modes that you can tweak to get her to respond like a grey hound on a rabbit chase or a friendly retriever as a guide dog, and that brings us to the brain factor.

The brain factor:

At times you wonder if she is smarter than you. The electronic nannies like ABS, Cornering ABS, Cruise control (adaptive), EBD, ECU modes, ES/EAS, ETC, IMU, Traction control, Wheelie control etc. seem to take the purity of biking out. Yes, these nannies can be toned down or even switched off with a bit of fiddling, not really a rocket science. But, does take a bit of time to find your comfort zone. The new 1260 is a tad bit easier with graphics aiding the process. But do remember to check the settings before you ride off from your friendly, well-intentioned service centre, they could have accidentally reset it, changing the nature of the beast completely.

One part of me cringes at the thought of so many nannies governing you, but the other part constantly reminds me of the days when ABS was being introduced and a similar hullabaloo ensued, now one can’t think of life without it (except when off-road). With a hung jury on that, would just add that the nanny in MTS is not as abrupt and intrusive as in some other bikes, works silently in the background. Guess, I have to grudgingly owe my uneventful journey so far to it.

dsc_0159.jpgThe only time I do realise its presence is when she is in extremely harsh terrains and environment like the ones I encounter during my annual pilgrimage to Leh and beyond, sometimes the dash starts displaying all sorts of error messages, making the presence of these nannies felt. That’s when I love to wish away all the electronics as there is nothing one can do to fix it. Thankfully, as suddenly as, the error messages appear, they usually vanish as well.

The base-of-your-pant factor:

Ah, this is my favourite part. The sky hook semi-active suspension is a dream. The bike ‘actively’ alters damping and preload within milliseconds, adapting to every little variation in the terrain. Before you can finish thinking of riding the pegs or shifting weight, the sky-hook has already taken action, saving your poor behind from incessant rams from our dynamically changing roads. Result – you manage to maintain your cruising speed without the need to really slow down, keeping your overall average speed (and your poor behind) healthy.

It is called semi-active because the wheel’s position relative to the chassis not “actively” controlled.  In an active setup, servos and electromagnets push the wheel out actively instead of springs.

Totally a no nonsense, effortless mile munching bike, I end up covering at least 20% more distance same time as compared to my Bonnie without necessarily increasing my speed. This is one electronic nanny that I simply adore.

The ‘Bahubali’ factor:dsc_0043-e1533464892530.jpg

Given my build and height, friends ironically call me Bahubali (an Indian equivalent of He-man). After a long tiring ride, especially in the thin air of the mountains, to me, setting her up on centre-stand, or getting her unstuck from muck or picking her up if she tips over is not exactly is cake walk. The trick is to use the bike and her momentum to tide over everything. And the unexpected does happen sometimes, that’s when I do need help. Not that she is top heavy like some other ADVs, but she doesn’t have the low-CG advantage of a boxer twin either. These moments set me wondering if I’d have been better off with a smaller bike. More on that here.

The India factor:dsc_0150.jpg

I guess that during homologation, the Italians didn’t think the Indian conditions were, well, a lot harsher. Result, much shorter service intervals, air filter has to be replaced twice as frequently, dust and grime gets into every crevice, so opening pannier and seat locks becomes next to impossible, fork’s oil seals go kaput, fuel quality makes idling go haywire, but more on this in the tips section below.

The Eyeball factor:dsc_0113.jpg

Being with her is like having a supermodel in a bikini for company. She never fails to attract attention wherever she goes. This is both a good and bad thing. All the attention and curiosity is good if you are around, but when you are not on guard, people get on the bike, take selfies, try all sorts of things, toying with the levers, pedals, gears and accessories. Being a bit possessive, it’s not exactly what I’d like happening with my bike. Clearly, my ‘Bahubali’ build has no role to play in this. What clarifies further is the incredulous looks on the onlookers’ eyes, almost giving voice to their silent thoughts – how did this joker come to be with her” or “if only I had that kind of money“.

The wallet factor:

Hmmm, it is anything but light on your pockets. The bike has long service intervals, 15000km for regular services and 25000km for desmo. However, in the Indian conditions, the service intervals has been halved, the gurl visits maike (her paternal home aka the service centre) every 6000-8000km and/or after every pilgrimage.

The spares don’t come cheap with all the import duties. Also, there is a considerable wait for getting the parts in.

With the ADV market still nascent in India, most accessories are not easily available, even the ones available come with a hefty price tag.

But then again it is a small price to pay for the wide grin on your face.

Some quick-fixes and tweaks I discovered to make my long-rides a dream:

Here’s a summary of many a lessons learnt, some a very hard way:

Must have:

  • Bash plate/sump guard: dsc_0010.jpg
    Wouldn’t recommend a long trip without one. I opted for the OEM, know of a few who have chosen SW Motech, either way, a must to protect the underbellies of your gurls. She does have a good ground clearance but I’m sure some of the speedbreakers in India can even cripple battle-tanks (ok that was a bit of an over-kill, but you get the drift, no?).
  • Bark busters:20180306_163215.jpg
    The reservoirs for brake and clutch fluids are mounted on the bush guard which incidentally is a delicate plastic structure, all with an intention to keep the weight of the bike down. But that is the first thing to go in case of a hard brush against a bark or a fall, rendering the bike incapacitated with no breaks and/or clutch fluid. You could also lose your levers. I chanced upon a product from Bark Busters made for the multi, a bull bar of sorts, that protects the complete unit, an aftermarket product that is a life-saver.
  • Gaiters for front fork:dsc_0030.jpg
    A typical problem of dusty environments – while the stock bike comes with a wind deflector to keep dust of the from fork, but it is not sufficient to manage extreme dust. If a grain of dust manages to get in between the oil seal and the fork, you can end up with a leak. If the damage is bad, the front suspension can go kaput, worse, the fluid can reach the front disc, severely affecting the breaking. I opted for an Acerbis gaiter. It wraps around the fork, keep dust from entering while cleaning the fork as well.
  • Rear break:Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 9.15.19 PM.png
    There are two issues with the stock rear break pedal. First, the stock brake pedal is so small that one’s foot, especially with off-road boots, can easily slip off it or in the worst case, miss it altogether. Second, it being rigid, doesn’t take too kindly to even mild impacts. I opted for the optional OEM off-road version of the brake pedal. While this folds back, protecting me from mild bumps, it still is not big enough. Further, it has no extender (it is awesome in the GS incidentally) to help while standing on the pegs especially when you push yourself back to get the load off the front wheels.
  • Gear lever:DSC_0006
    Similar to The break lever, even the gear lever suffers similar problems. not necessarily small, but not folding and not adjustable. One tends to find false neutral, more so between 5th and 6th with heavy boots. The off-road one sorts that out, you can adjust it to your comfort zone while folding in case of light bumps.
  • Panniers:dsc_0013.jpg
    I initially went in for the OEM panniers, tail box et al. Single key, made by and for Ducati, and boy the sexy looks, nothing could go wrong, right? Yes, nothing did, they last me over 2 years and 20000km. But Indian dust proved too much for these as well. During one of my recent pilgrimages, the key hole got filled with dust and much. Just wouldn’t open. I had everything I ever needed, only I couldn’t access it. If I were to repeat the mistake, just for the awesome looks, I’d choose to tape up the openings during the pilgrimages so that they still remain functional, or if the brain were to rule over the heart, I’d go in for semi-rigid waterproof ones. More on my thoughts on luggage options here.
  • Centre stand:
    Despite the fact that my ‘Bahubali’ build sometimes makes it difficult to set her up on the centre stand, especially when the grab rails are tucked under the luggage, I’d still put this under must-have. One reason is the ‘Eye-ball factor’ mentioned above. an unattended bike is an open invitation for anyone to sit astride, can’t afford the problems associated with a bike that tips over. Secondly, it is a lot easier to fix a flat and to clean & lube the chain.
  • RAM mount:dsc_0002-e1533487662612.jpg
    While I do have a tank-top bag with a slot for mobile under transparent cover with charging capability, I’d much rather have a RAM mount for my waterproof phone. A lot easier during fuelling stops, one less piece of luggage to fiddle with, plus it gives me more room for riding on the pegs.
  • USB Adapter:
    Coupled with the RAM mount above, a cigarette lighter to USB adapter to juice up my phone and perhaps an action cam. Handy as power many-a-times is not readily available in remote areas. Having these trinkets fully juiced up sure come in handy.

Nice to have:

  • Fog-lights:dsc_0187-e1533487268142.jpg
    Have put this under nice to have as the 1200S has awesome stock lights with cornering function that really works as well, you wouldn’t miss a fog-light under normal circumstances. Thinking it is a must have, I have opted for the OEM ones. Chose the OEM over other brighter non-OEM alternatives in the fear that I’d lose the warrantee and also, non-OEM lights would mean that I can’t use the built-in switch. Now, I have a strange feeling that these don’t really make that big a difference (apart from making her more photogenic), one surely can live without them. Only time I feel the need for additional and more powerful dazzlers is precisely for that – to dazzle the oncoming joker driving in hi-beam. Else, I’d let it pass, pun intended. If you have a 1200, well, this could creep into a must have.
  • Battery maintainer:
    Nice to have again if you do not manage to ride the bike as often as you like. Also come in handy when you try to crank her up in extreme cold with, well less than ideal fuel. Further some insurance companies do not cover battery under insured items if you don’t have one. so more as an insurance than a necessity, I’d put this under-nice-to-have.
  • Tank top bag:rearview-shot.jpg
    Nice to have to stow-away nick-nacks like toll receipts et al, but as mentioned above, also eats up space and is fidgety while refuelling. Further, if you choose to have any other trinkets like the RAM mount for phone or action camera, or a GPS mount, they will end up fouling with the tank-top bag, not allowing for a lock to lock turn.

Avoidable:

  • GPS:dsc_00011.jpg
    I opted for the Ducati branded Garmin Zumo. Funny that despite getting it through the proper channels, it didn’t have maps of my region preloaded. Had to buy the maps separately. For some reason, Garmin doesn’t provide any updates for India, it therefore has maps that were valid 4-5 years ago. Further, it doesn’t include lots of places. Unlike some other ADV bikes, the Zumo doesn’t sync with the bike to act like an extended dashboard. As a stand alone navigation device, that too a not so reliable on in my case, Google maps on your phone is a much better option with more functionalities like traffic info. To me therefore, a stand-alone GPS device is an avoidable investment.
  • Performance exhaust:
    This topic could end up rubbing a few the wrong way. I see the logic from the enthusiasts, louder means safer as the bike is more ‘visible’, performance is enhanced, lesser weight, the sound is musical, etc. But to me this too is an avoidable investment. The very advantages stated by enthusiasts works against my riding style. I do believe that I am yet to push my gurl and squeeze out all her 160 horses all the time, and that by a good margin I dare add. So additional power or performance fails to seduce me. My riding usually involves long hours and many a miles everyday. To contend with even the stock exhaust for extended periods of time, I resort to ear plugs. Any louder music, I guess I’d go deaf. So this too fails to entice. To sum up therefore, shedding a few kilos is not big enough a reason by itself to help my wallet lose some weight.

Some things to look out:

  • Fuel gauge (and the associated leak problem): The fuel gauge is not one of the most reliable parts of the bike, at least in my bike, have had it replaced twice over, thankfully under warrantee. Not a biggie, but got me into the habit of using both the trip meters, especially during long rides. But one needs to ensure that the pipe from the fuel pump is fixed properly. Else, it pops right out under pressure, getting petrol all over the front part of the bike instead of the engine.
  • Rubbery rear breaks: The fading break owing to the heating is another known issue. The rear breaks get spongy after a bit of riding. This is supposedly because of the catalytic convertor being too close to the break lines, over-heating the fluid. Some have opted for changing the exhaust, yet others different break fluids, I’ve chosen to live with it, relying more on front break and giving the bike a short break when the problem gets too bad. I have heard of two solutions, yet to try out either. One is changing the exhaust, the other using a different break fluid. If any of you have found this helpful or any other solution, please do write in.

Adv tourer v/s sports tourer:

I would like to end this blog with a question, what do you think of your MTS, is she an adventure tourer or more a sports tourer? Welcome your thoughts on this and anything else you would like to add to this, or simply your point of view on must and nice to have.

 

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.