Yesterday’s article brought back memories of how my riding life started.
Over the decade that I’ve spent with motorcycles, my purpose with them and my behavior towards them has changed dramatically. It’s difficult to notice these changes when they happen, because it’s all in super-slow motion, but when you look back over the years, see all the old photos, you realize how different, how incredibly stupid you used to be, and how insanely fun that was.
Some of the things in there are deeply embarrassing, but it’s extremely important to remember where you came from. Even though there were many moments where I was being a total and utter jackass, I wouldn’t change anything, even if I could.
Your choices and experiences is all that you are.
Here’s a look at the 7 phases that I’ve gone through till now, and if my luck doesn’t fuck me over, I’m sure I’ll have another 7 to share in another decade or so.
1. The Squid Phase
This was the time when I got my first bike, after emotionally blackmailing my parents for a year. When I went to the showroom to pick up my Pulsar 150, I actually forgot to carry a helmet, because I didn’t have one. Inside the showroom I found one that was at least 2 sizes too big for me, and bought it for some 600 bucks.
When not strapped in, I could rotate the helmet on my head by 360 degrees without any trouble.
Thus began a daily routine of attempting to kill myself with my brand new motorcycle. The first thing I did with my bike was rather obvious, try and see what’s the top speed I could do. The sad little thing could barely touch 110, and I was hell-bent on making it do 125, since I had ridden a Karizma, taken it to 124, almost crashed into someone, and immediately come in my pants.
I also tried Wheelies and Stoppies, the former doing absolutely nothing at all, and the latter nearly making me kiss the asphalt on a number of occasions. After a lot of attempts and too many failures, even at simple burnouts, I grudgingly accepted that stunting wasn’t for me.
I rode to college everyday, rode to my friend’s college everyday, explored Chandigarh, and basically spent most of my waking hours on the bike, or thinking about it. Me and my friends did stupid things with the bike.
On one such trip, we got caught riding triple on it, so the Police took my RC card that I could get back after showing up at court and paying a fine. That didn’t stop us from continuing the trip, which involved riding from Mohali to Patiala for a concert by the band Jal, riding back after midnight, and overheating the bike due to excessive load and overspeeding on the way.
My newfound girlfriend at that time didn’t really like bikes, but she had her own Activa and we sometimes rode around town, while being extremely careful of not getting spotted by friends/family. I used to sneak up close to her place on the bike, leave it parked in some shady little space, meet her inside her parent’s house, all the while wondering if my bike was safe or not, and then flee when her family returned.
One time, I missed her Mom and Dad by a few feet, I came out the gate, walked a few steps, and they were there. I literally had to sit down by the side of the road just thinking what would’ve happened if I was still inside, or worse, if I was caught between the door and the gate.
Another time I parked the bike near a public park close to her house, and came back after a few hours to find cops trying to rip open the rear seat to see if there were any registration papers inside. Apparently someone had called the Police that there was a bike abandoned in there, and most likely the owner had jumped into the river that was just across the park and killed himself. My balls were in my throat when I saw them, and I have no idea how I kept my nerves as they questioned me.
If they’d called my parents, it was over, I hadn’t told them I was in town.
I removed the pillion grab handles to make the bike more aerodynamic, removed the chain guard for weight reduction, and put a number 4 sticker on the front for some reason that I don’t understand right now.
2. The Enlightenment Phase
This was the time close to when I broke up with the girl I thought I was going to live out the rest of my life with, and went into a weird depression that could only be made better by travel. I went from Chandigarh to Jammu, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Bathinda, Shimla and so many other places on my bike. The Bathinda ride was literally just to enjoy the night-riding experience, we started at dusk, touched Bathinda, and returned by dawn.
The more I traveled, the more near-misses and near-death experiences I had, and the more I felt something had to change.
By this time, Xbhp was the place to be. All seasoned bikers that you see today most likely started their life on that forum. Unfortunately, I never found anything of value in there, the only things I learned by being a member were:
- Bikers have snazzy haircuts and cool beards.
- Bikers fight like little bitches on pointless little things in a public forum.
- Bikers ride in giant hordes of hundreds to drink too much beer.
- K&N filter is the answer to all life’s problems.
My main concern at this point was comfort, I still didn’t care much for safety, but it had started coming into the big picture. I bought a slightly better fitting but still quite shit Vega helmet, for what seemed like a fuckload of money at 1200 Rupees, but it did had flames on it. I also bought a jacket, but it was mainly to protect my arms from the painful Sunburn, rather than being something protective.
It was around this period that I started writing seriously for the first time. This used to be my blog, and although I have contemplated on a number of occasions that I should delete it and burn the server it sat on, I haven’t.
Yes it’s childish and juvenile, but so was I, and deleting the thing won’t change that. My father was always supportive of my writing, and encouraged me to pursue it more seriously, although he does get a bit sad when he sometimes reads what I write nowadays.
“What is wrong with you son?”
3. The Ride for Odometer Phase
Things got more serious here. I finally had a job, and could pay for my own shenanigans, rather than mooching off my dad. I spent roughly a year without a motorcycle in Delhi and then Chennai, and even though I still traveled quite extensively, remembering the comfort and freedom of bikes made me feel quite miserable.
I shipped my bike to Mumbai with me, and met a few like-minded people who enjoyed motorcycles. Talking to them gave me a better idea about what to buy and from where. It also helped that I was in a big city, shit was available here, I had choice.
I bought knee and elbow guards, Probiker gloves, and rode around a lot. My aim at this point was just kilometers, it didn’t matter where I was going, or why. I explored a lot of Maharashtra, had tonnes of fun, and even thought of attempting the Saddle Sore at one point. Thankfully, common sense prevailed, and instead we decided to do Ladakh.
Many people planned to go together, many kept dropping out as the dates came closer, and in the end it was just me on the Pulsar, and Vishal on his R15.
I had almost done Ladakh 2 years before this, while I was a Squid in college. Friends planned the shit out, booked the hotels and everything, and I said sure, what the hell. It was only a week before the D-Day that reality hit me in the nuts. Looking at the photos and watching the videos of people in Ladakh had thoroughly frightened me, I chickened out, told them I’m not going because my parents found out or something.
It was tough to be afraid, but if I hadn’t been, if I had gone to Ladakh, I would have died, with 100% certainty.
It was the Ladakh trip that brought about the biggest change in my riding safety. I bought a proper riding jacket, proper riding pants, and proper riding luggage. Once you’ve used these things, you realize how big a moron you had been your entire life without them.
We did the Ladakh circuit, it was one hell of an experience. I suffered a severe bout of AMS and was blowing stuff out both the ends. We rode through an intense hailstorm that felt powerful enough to rip open my helmet. I saw my first snowfall.
It was during this trip that I constantly felt this urge to start writing more seriously, to be able to put my stories and knowledge into words. When I got back, I started RiderZone.
4. The Upgrade Phase
I had done roughly 45,000 kilometers on my Pulsar by this point. The damn engine block had been changed thrice, and I simply hated the sight of the thing. I wanted to go faster, to have better brakes, to have a better bike. I also wanted to upgrade my gear, which happened rather slowly.
Being the cheap fuck that I am, I kept buying stupid shit rather than saving up and getting the good stuff. I bought one of those gay-pride parade protective jackets, the ones that have mesh all over and plastic on the places that matter. Total waste of money. I bought a pair of fake KTM gloves for some reason. The pants that I’d bought before the Ladakh trip were total shit too, couldn’t wear them with the knee-guards inside, but still kept on using them.
All this time I kept experimenting with RiderZone. At one point, I even paid 3 different people to ghost write for me. I wanted news stories to show up on the site to get more traffic, but I hated them far too much to write them myself. I basically tried following the bigger websites in the way that they appeared to function, but soon realized that it was a rather sad place to be at.
I’d seen and followed the launch of the Duke 390, and I had given it the customary 6 months to sort out all the manufacturing issues. Once that had passed, I simply couldn’t wait anymore. For some stupid reason, I was confused between the Duke 390 and the Ninja 650, and was willing to take a loan for the green machine.
ABS was the deciding factor for me in the end, and I fortunately went for the Duke.
It wasn’t that straightforward though, I only had a lac in cash, and although I was willing to take a loan, I really didn’t want to. A friend of mine loaned me another lac, and I picked it up. I was only able to pay him back after 6 months, but I’d always be thankful to him for helping me out, even though he wasn’t a biker himself.
I got my Duke 390 with 0 kms on the odo, picked it up straight from the warehouse. The jump from 150 to 375cc was far too much, but somehow I survived. It’s hard to describe the feeling the bike gave me, I doubt I’d ever been this happy.
5. The Squid Phase Part II
Upgrading from a bike that could only do 110, to a bike that could do 180, meant that I relapsed into Squid mode for a second time. The fact that the Duke 390 is an extremely rough bike that doesn’t want to go slow didn’t help either. I rode too fast, took too many risks, pushed my luck far too much.
The speed of the Duke also bought with it anger and rage on other road users, which then translated into rants on the site. Surprisingly, people seemed to like that, and I got far more traffic than I used to get with those shitty news stories.
Although by this time I was intelligent enough not to race anybody on the street, I did get pulled into group rides which involved people riding far too quick for the terrain.
On one such ride, a friend crashed heavily and damaged his knee. We had to leave his bike at Lonavala, and then me and another friend went on his 390 to pick it up. I went pillion for the 100 odd kilometers, saw what it looked like when you rode like a jackass, and saw what other road users thought of you when you didn’t care for them. That changed things quite dramatically.
6. The Tourer Phase
The far bigger change came when one fine day I got a Facebook message from some guy called Sachin Nair. He invited me to ride with their group, and although I didn’t really want to, I still went, just for fun. That was one of the few good decisions that I have made in my life.
Before I met Sachin and the LOST group, I had toured a lot on the 390. I had done far too many trips to Bangalore from Mumbai, with the sole aim being to see my girlfriend. On the first of these rides I finally upgraded to the SOL helmet that I use now, and life has been so much better since. I also bought proper riding boots, full-gauntlet leather gloves and a few other small items, mainly by watching the LOST people put them to use.
I’d also done Mumbai to Himachal and back on the Duke, with the only reason behind it being a KTM track day happening at the Buddh Circuit. The track day was horrible, I was so scared I wanted to run away after just one session, but somehow managed to finish all three.
I didn’t learn a single thing.
With the LOST people, I found a whole other side of motorcycling. We met randomly in the middle of the night to ride to some arbitrary place, just for some food. We rode far and wide, went to new places, met new people. We even did a Bangalore-Mumbai-Bangalore run in 3 days for no good reason.
I had never expected group rides to be fun, but with the right people, it’s a thing of beauty.
Another one of those rare good decisions soon came along, 6 of us rode to Bhutan and back. In many ways this was a stupid thing to do, I ended up almost killing myself on multiple occasions, we rode too much and saw too little, but it was a life-changing trip for me in the true sense of the word.
I quit my IT job soon after we came back, with no idea what I was going to do next. I knew that RiderZone, although more popular than I had expected it to be, was still not something I could depend on for food, clothing, shelter and petrol.
7. The Old Fuck Phase
I got another job in a motorcycle accessory company at Hyderabad, spent 10 months there, and then left it all over again. During this time, my riding had become very different from what it used to be.
It was no longer enough to just ride, a reason was must. Riding to the edge of city? What for? Riding to Bangalore? Why? Riding for breakfast? Need more.
I rode bikes only if there was something else that came along. I started enjoying the track much more, because I felt it was improving my riding, and wasn’t just pointless burning of rubber. I also spent a large amount of time off-road, simply for the peace and quiet.
I rode bikes like the Daytona, CBR650F, 600i, Himalayan and Mojo, but only so I could write about them and make some shit videos. My track trainer’s death made my touring escapades even more painful, so I spent more and more time on the track, improving little by little.
This is the phase that I’m currently in.
I don’t ride anymore without any purpose. Most of my recent rides have been to test the SJCAMs, others have been to meet someone important. Although I still enjoy touring, it doesn’t have that fatal attraction that it used to. If I do ride long distance, I want it to be slow, comfortable, and alone.
Night riding is absolutely not a possibility anymore, I just can’t do it, I’m too scared, too twitchy. Group rides irritate me, especially when the people show up with an empty fuel tank, and you stop at a gas station like 15 minutes after the ride begins.
I think part of the reason for my behavior with bikes is the people around me. If I was still living in Mumbai, things would’ve been very different, but that’s just how life is. Another major change has been marriage, it has created some circumstances that are difficult to get out of.
Your best riding days are always before marriage. You don’t have a single shit to give about anything, no responsibilities. Your rented place usually is fucked up, thanks to your 11 other roommates. And most importantly, you have nobody to keep you at one place, no one that you care for enough to settle down.
It’s not that marriage is all negative. The only reason I’m able to work full-time on RiderZone is because I have a supportive wifey. The compromise is that I don’t ride much often, in the last 6 months I have spent only 1 night outside the house.
The strange thing is that someone like me, who used to be always hungry for adventure, feels like an old and fat fuck now. The bed is too comfortable, there’s too much nice stuff to eat, there’s an actual TV that works. It’s hard to find the motivation to give the middle finger to all this and go live on the road.
If you’re reading this and you’re young, someone without responsibilities, get the fuck out, stop reading this shit website. You can take risks right now, make monumental mistakes, don’t give up on this time. You might end up with a supporting wife/husband in the future who wouldn’t mind your riding, but the time will definitely change, and you might not feel the same way about motorcycles that you do right now.