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

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.

dsc_0012.jpg

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.

 

Riding with a Pillion

news.jpg

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

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

And that brings me to the topic of my next blog

Riding Two-up

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

DSC_9537-SMILE

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

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

Suggestions for the riders:

Pre-ride preparation:

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

During the ride:

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

Suggestions for the pillion

Pre-ride preparation:

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

img_79811.jpg

During the ride:

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

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

 

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

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

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

Disclaimer:

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

Musings of a lone wolf

18527841_10208975869130373_6922975058997027771_n.jpgA group of wolves by Moe Mirmehdi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the author:

Muralidhar (www.musingsinlife.com):

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

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

Disclaimer:

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