There are some people who live their life calculated, slow, boring. Then there are others who take every risk they can and fly away on the highway of life. The second kind never live longer, but they sure do die richer in experience. I am trying my best to be the second kind, and not die prematurely.
When I went to Ladakh in August 2013, I drove about 500kms in a single day, Leh to Srinagar. The road was barely there, especially near Sonamarg, covered in knee-deep slush. Zojila pass wasn’t much help either, greeting us with ice-cold rain and proper off-roading. But I did it in about 10 hours and now live to tell the tale, repeatedly.
So naturally, something crazier had to be done. I always wanted to drive quadruple digit distance in a single day, but when does one get such an opportunity? Surviving in the throes of IT in Mumbai, I got a chance to live this dream last week. Mumbai to Bangalore is a perfect 1000kms. The road is also one of the best in India, being a part of the Golden Quadrilateral. All I needed was a whole lotta ass.
I checked my ass in the mirror and found it sufficient for the distance. So it was decided, we shall ride!
Preparations didn’t take much, I am pretty used to packing in an hour and living out of the bag for 2 weeks or more. All the gear was set, so was the luggage. My KTM Duke 390 had just got her first service, so she was ready for some serious speed action. To the roads!
I started at 4:20 AM on 28th December 2013 with the cross-hair set on Bangalore. My Viaterra Claw at the rear, Viaterra Fly up front and Viaterra Marine on my back were the luggage I was carrying. Riding gear included KTM Racetech gloves, Vega helmet, DSG Triton jacket and Spartan Odysseus riding pants.
The initial hour was spent dodging the city of Navi Mumbai and the construction works therein. There was little traffic, thankfully, so I was able to drive around 70kmph without impaling myself on some freak steel girder lurking around in the dark. With the super hard suspension of the Duke and the super big potholes on the way, my luggage was all over the place, just like me.
As soon as I hit the open road, speeds started to build up. The road from Mumbai to Lonavala is pretty good, apart from weirdly placed and completely unmarked speed breakers, that are capable of breaking your bike in half, if they feel so. I would have enjoyed the scenic ghats on the way to Lonavala, but it was so freaking cold! Thankfully, the bike heats up quite a bit, great success for cold conditions!
Dehu road, which lets you bypass the Pune city, arrived quick. Once you reach this point, speeds above 100kmph are easy. The road is flat and straight, except for some places where construction is going on, since forever. About 20kms into this road I encountered something I hadn’t anticipated, thick fog! Speeds dropped down considerably, but I kept pushing on.
About 70kms off Satara, I took my first break. As I got off the bike, I saw a Duke 200 flying towards Satara, is someone is as crazy as I am? It was also the time to appreciate one of the best things about early morning rides, sunrise. I admired the yellow ball climbing up over flat fields and trees, before I had to climb up on the saddle again and ride like there was no tomorrow.
Duke 390 is a lovely little machine, but it has one major flaw, the fuel tank. At just 11 liters, it is just pathetic. I firmly believe the engineers at KTM purposely put that in as a joke. Add to that the sub 30kmpl mileage, and you get barely 250kms on a single tank of gas. So naturally, I stopped quite a lot for fuel. At the Katraj ghats, I again saw the Duke 200 parked on the side and gave him a thumbs up.
Once you cross Satara, the road just becomes like a dream, smooth, silky and orgasmic. All the way to Bangalore the road remains this way, perfect and unblemished. I was doing an average of 140kmph, occasionally going over 160, and once touched 166.
I was carrying some biscuits, 2 bananas and 2 oranges for food, but all of them ended up pulverized due to the initial jolting action in Navi Mumbai. I was starving and none of the places were open yet! I survived sipping the water from my Marine and soon found an open restaurant, near Belgaum. Here I made the good decision of removing the Viaterra Marine from my back and putting it into the saddle bag, my back owes me one. Stuffed my face like a latino porn star and then went onwards with the ride.
Riding 1000kms in a day can be extremely boring, even if you love riding. To beat the melancholy, I do some pretty weird things. Singing to myself, talking to myself, swearing inaudibly at everyone who passes by. But then I found something better, a Duke 200. It was being ridden by a dude in full riding gears, including boots and luggage system on his back. He drove like he was in the US, giving indicators on every lane change. He was the same rider I had met twice!
So I started following this guy like a maniac. He was doing 110 average, so following him was a piece of cake for me. Thankfully, he didn’t think of me as some crazy dude, and kept on riding. But as expected, my fuel ran out again and I asked him to stop at a fuel station. The guy works in IT, just like me. His name is Sujoy and he was riding from Pune to Belgaum. I loved his gear, Alpinestars jacket and boots in white color complimented his bike very well. We talked for a while, and people ogled at our bikes like they were of alien origin.
Started the ride again and I enjoyed this part thoroughly. It’s funny how good you feel when you are not alone, even if it is for just a few minutes. Soon his exit arrived and we parted ways. The good thing was that I could now go berserk and cross 150kmph whenever I felt like. Miles were being munched with great dexterity.
When your average speed borders 140kmph, for hours, it is very frustrating to see the distance reduce so slowly. Bangalore 530kms said one sign, Bangalore 527kms said the other, Bangalore 520kms and so on. I was so pissed I crouched like a ninja and rode the shit out of the bike, and never looked at a sign board again.
As lunch time arrived, I had entered Karnataka. There seemed to be no good places to eat on the left side, so I had to cross the divider and go over to a place on the right. As expected, people swarmed on my bike like bees on a flower. How much? Mileage? Top speed? The questions never stopped. I tried my best to be polite, lubed the chain, ate some shitty idli with dirty hands and rode on.
There were times when I was riding at 150kmph and my eyes were closed. I know this doesn’t seem very responsible, but I was bored and tired. Plus the I could see for the next 5kms and it was one long, empty piece of asphalt. My butt was comparatively good, considering how hard the seat of Duke is.
I was so bored that I took another stop just for the heck of it. Bangalore was still 250kms away. I ordered some roti and paneer, while kids climbed onto my bike like it was a tree. Another rider on his Unicorn arrived and we got talking. His name is Aadarsh and he was returning from a ride to Goa. Nice dude. I felt much better after having some food in ma belly and talking to a fellow rider. Time to go again!
The final 200kms were just a blur, I have no recollection of doing it. It’s just sound of wind blast, engine and blank thoughts in my brain. Suddenly the roads became small, a flyover appeared and speed bumps joined the party. This was the only time in my life that I was happy to see bad roads, auto rickshaws and speed breakers, the city must be close!
I stopped to ask for directions, the auto drivers were extremely helpful. They asked me where I had come from, I said Mumbai. They said when did you start? I said today morning. You should have seen their faces.
Bangalore is a weird city. It seems like the city planners were high on meth when they designed the place. Wherever they felt like they made residential areas, then they went on to make buildings for companies. Finally, they remembered that roads were also required, so they put them in all the blank places. I had to ask for directions quite a number of times before I finally made it, at 6:20 PM. 14 hours!
It was one of those nights when you can’t remember when you slept. Whatever position you lie down in, you wake up the same. I slept with the sweet lullaby of engine sound and wind blast drilled through my head.
Next day was spent in recovery. I had little pain in my back, but my fingers were aching like hell. But friends don’t care for your troubles, so I went out and met a bunch of them. Needless to say, I forgot most of the pain with them, until I got back home.
Spent most of the week vegging out, until it was weekend again. I did one good thing though, in spite of my incredible laziness. I needed a new helmet that suited my new bike, and Let’s Gear Up had a stock of my favorite helmet, in my size! Went there, spoke to the owners, Sapna and Sukesh. Incredible people. If you are a real biker and you live in Bangalore, just head over there someday and talk your heart out.
Sunday was the day when I had planned my return trip for want of less traffic. Got up at 3 am, thought would wake up in 5 minutes, and it was 3.35. I have no idea how that happens.
Finally started the ride at 5 am on 5th January 2014, seemed like I had spent a year in Bangalore! I had already done recon for the road, I knew there would be nobody there to give me directions at 5 am. But as expected I took a wrong turn and ended up on one of the most beautiful roads I have ever seen. It is a new flyover that goes towards Bangalore airport. The reflectors gleamed in the dark, the black asphalt looked yummier than chocolate. Even though I knew I was going some place else, I just kept on riding! Turned back after 5kms and onto the correct road again.
Indian people are obsessed with speed breakers. I have seen speed breakers just before a flyover, speed breakers just after a toll station and speed breakers in the middle of a highway. I mean what the hell? The NH4 is particularly nasty about it. It will give you an amazing piece of road for 50 odd kilometers. It will gain your confidence and push your bike near its top speed. Then when you least expect it, there would be a black-as-7-day-old-shit speed breaker in the middle of the road. You go flying into the air, spend 2-3 seconds there and then return back to reality. Crazy.
I have been planning since long to do a Saddlesore. For people who don’t know about it, it’s just riding 1000 miles in 24 hours. To prepare for the Saddlesore, I made a decision on the return trip, stop only for fuel. I am happy to say that I stuck to that resolution, even though my ass hates me for it.
At one point, because all fuel stations were across the divider and I kept looking for one on my side, I ran out of fuel. I had expected this, and was carrying 1 liter extra, but it was a scary situation to be in. I was once stranded in front of Bandra station for 2 hours, when I came back from Ladakh. The bike had arrived in train and hence had no fuel. No one else seemed to have any either. I literally stopped people on the road and begged them for fuel. Bad memories.
Anyway, on the return ride I hit the magical 173kmph mark. The bike is so stable that you would think you are still cruising at 80. It’s only when you lift up your head that all hell breaks loose. The hand guards also did a good job protecting against the wind blast and bugs. Speaking of bugs, they seem attracted towards my helmet visor. It seemed to be the perfect holiday cum suicide destination for them, for some reason.
I was doing speeds over 145kmph, so naturally I was in the right lane. Then some prick in a Verna shows up on my right side and throws up his hands in the air like I fucked his wife or something. Dude, first, get a better horn. Second, if you are doing 160kmph, you already don’t care about traffic rules. So feel free to overtake me from any of the 3 lanes available on the left side.
I didn’t stop for food anywhere. Whenever I stopped for fuel, I would munch on some Snickers I was carrying, cool off my butt, piss into some dirty toilet and ride again.
Lonavala arrived quick. This is where I had my first scary moment of the trip. If you’ve been to Lonavala city, you must have seen those assholes that park their cars on that narrow road and go out to masturbate in the trees. It is because of these guys that the road generally remains jammed. I was making my way through the cars when the driver of an Innova, which was parked on the side, suddenly opened his door all the way out, and we were on collision course. Reflex actions took control and I must have missed it by less than a millimeter. I looked back to see who the fuck it was, and the guy didn’t even care.
The second scary moment arrived when I had entered Panvel. On a flyover I was following a WagonR. As I always do, I was following its left wheel. Car drivers generally avoid potholes by riding over them, so if you follow them dead center, be ready for a bumpy ride. At one point, the WagonR suddenly darted to the left, there was a dead dog on the road. Reflexes again took over and I followed the movement of the car, narrowly avoiding a squishy death.
Dogs may be man’s best friend, they sure are biker’s worst enemy.
My ass was on fire, my fingers hurt badly. But I was smiling, like the smile you have after the best sex of your life. I went to my room, stripped down to undies and slept like a baby.
Would I do this trip again? I don’t think so. Riding 1000kms a day is fun, but you don’t get much time to do photography or enjoy the road. It’s just a mad dash to the destination. I would try to keep my distances at around 500 a day from now on.
If you are looking to do this ride, you definitely can. Just man up, fuel up and suit up!
Total distance: 2110kms
Total time: 26 hours
Total riding time: 23 hours
Total fuel: 6000 rupees, 74 liters
Average speed, 86kmph
Top speed: 173kmph