Author Archives: Akhil Kalsh

About Akhil Kalsh

Akhil has been a biking fan since his umbilical was cut. He got his hands on a Pulsar 150 when he was in college and has ridden its sorry ass about 50,000 kilometers since over most of India, including Ladakh. Now he can be seen on a Duke 390 trying to run as far away from civilization as possible.

This is what racing is about

I hope you enjoyed the French GP just now, all 3 classes had some spectacular racing, but today’s MotoGP was something else. I won’t bother with the details of what happened, as always the best source for everything about motorcycle racing is Motomatters, go there for the technical stuff. What I want to talk about is the very basic question I ask myself whenever there is a race, any kind of race.

What is a race?

For people who don’t really care about MotoGP, it might look like a bunch of millionaires riding million dollar bikes in circles for no good reason. For the casual fans, it might be a lot of dangerous overtakes, high speeds, and crashes. For the hardcore fans, it might be about that one person, as long as he wins the rest can go to hell.

I think a race is nothing more than entertainment, and there’s nothing entertaining about already knowing the ending to a story.

This is the reason why I’ve found it so hard to watch F1, especially in the last couple of seasons. It is true that F1 by its very nature is different from MotoGP, F1 is more like chess, MotoGP is like a 200m sprint, but it’s just hard for me to watch a race where one car can open up a 20 second gap on another car.

The beauty of racing is in the unpredictability. When underdogs win, when GOATs crash, when every approaching turn makes your stomach turn, that’s what I call action.

In recent times, I think people have started taking MotoGP far too seriously. The riders themselves are under strict control by their teams and sponsors, the fans just want their guy to win and rest all to crash out, and the general feeling of fun seems to be missing from the equation.

To give you some perspective of what I’m talking about, take a look at this race below.

Do you see the difference? When was the last time you saw race leaders pulling unnecessary wheelies on the home straight just for fun? This is racing, the riders are having the time of their lives, the fans get to swim in the waves positivity, lap times don’t matter, points don’t matter.

Twitter is exploding right now with the hate of those who cannot believe Rossi crashed out, I don’t understand what they are so angry about.

You just watched a race where Valentino Rossi, the undisputed greatest motorcycle racer of all time, folded under pressure. You just saw his new teammate break the lap record on the last lap of the race. You just witnessed the most experienced racer on the field make a mistake.

How is that a bad thing? All that tells you is what insanely high level of racing we are getting to see the past few seasons. All that tells you is the hunger of these youngsters to become like Rossi. All that tells you is just how strong Rossi’s desire is to win. 

I get it, we all want Rossi to win that 10th championship, there’s something inherently satisfying about the number 10. But your responses to the efforts of a 38 year old fighting it out with a 22 year old, taking it to the limit and beyond, are just odd to me.

I also understand that some people take MotoGP far too personally, all you have to do is look at the comments section of any post where Lorenzo is mentioned. I think the only justifiable scenario where one can truly be angry about a MotoGP result is when you’ve bet a shitload of money on the wrong guy, although the arguments against your anger in that situation would be even stronger.

The point is this, support whoever you like, cheer for anyone, cry for anyone, but don’t disrespect others. I don’t want a championship where you know at the start of the season how it’s going to end, and trust me, neither do you.

It’s easy to get emotional about someone and wish them all the good luck in the world, but when that one person keeps winning, and winning, and winning, you would be the first to switch that TV off and look for something else to get sentimental about.

This article is brought to you by Paganini. Paganini, what is the hell is going on?

Dear “Dear George” writer, fuck off

I would like to begin this article by extending you an olive branch, and invite you to unfuck yourself by gently sliding your fist out of your rectum.

I understand why you are doing what you are doing, I have done it myself, here’s one example. My work against Lorenzo might be a bit more logical than your imaginative bitch moans, but I believe we agree as far as the general sense of direction goes.

More importantly, it pains me to admit that I recognize in you a lot of the things I once was, and it is slightly embarrassing to be suspected that I am the man behind your Facebook page. We share some sarcasm, a twisted sense of humor, and the ability to connect seemingly far-fetched things to prove a non-existent point. I would like to think that I have outgrown your level, but it is easy to overrate oneself.

Now it’s time for you to go ahead and do your favorite thing, a little bit of lube might help, or perhaps you prefer saliva or some other natural bodily fluid. Feel free to use the olive branch I gave you in the beginning as well, there’s no shame, it’s a victimless crime.

My aim in this article is to show you and the people who keep sharing your posts why you deserve none of the attention you are attracting. I would try to keep my arguments as straightforward as possible, but I think we both know it’s much more fun to do the wrong thing.

It’s easy to do what you are doing

It doesn’t take a genius to pile hate on Lorenzo, he is clearly not a likeable guy. He doesn’t give a shit about fans, rarely ever smiles, and has orchestrated some remarkably boring races leading every corner, every lap. It is even easier to dislike him considering the other options available. Rossi attracts fans like Manson attracted groupies, Marquez is popular both on and off the track, and then there’s Pedrosa, who can only be described as the second coming of Jesus.

All you’re doing in an elaborate version of high-school bullying, picking on the one the popular kids hate.

I’m not impressed, and I don’t really understand why so many others are. The only skills required to do what you are doing are:

  • A beating heart
  • Slightly below average IQ
  • A childhood of neglect and abuse, coupled with a head that’s been in the toilet too many times

It goes without saying that you have no obligation to impress me, just like Lorenzo has no obligation to impress you. I am writing this to question the judgement and taste of the people who sit on their knees, mouth wide open, head tilted back, waiting for your pus and blood filled ejaculations.

Your opinion is irrelevant

You are not Casey Stoner, you are not Colin Edwards, you are not Troy Bayliss. I know that because none of them are balding, jobless, twice-aborted online trolls like you, believe me, I checked. From the little I’ve read of you, you come off as someone who not only doesn’t understand what MotoGP is about, but has very little knowledge of sports in general.

The mere act of creating a Facebook page and writing some clever nonsense about someone doesn’t exactly prove your qualifications for the task.

On a similar note, who the fuck is George? I don’t know of anybody in the current MotoGP field by that name. Either you call Lorenzo that because you have no idea how Jorge is pronounced in Spanish, or you are too much of a pussy to use his real name.

My guess is you are from America, because in only that country it is possible for any random turd to stand up and start explosively vomiting words about things he clearly doesn’t understand, while also gathering hordes of redneck supporters who can’t tell bestiality from incest.

Your methods are counter-productive

I’m assuming that the reason you setup the Facebook page is to demoralize Lorenzo, maybe irritate him, get inside his skin. You seem to have completely forgotten that this guy has lived his entire career in the shadow of Rossi, has been booed on podiums, criticised at every step. He thrives on this negativity, loves to give the middle finger to butthurt fans, and steps on little shits like you to reach the top of the podium.

If you really want Lorenzo to fail, praise him, love him, suck his dick or give him a rim job. This man is fuelled by the desire to prove everyone wrong, everyone who thinks he can’t tame the Ducati, everyone who feels he’s not as good as Rossi. You can remove his motivation by being nice to him, what you’re doing right now is only feeding Cthulu.

On a similar note, why would you want Lorenzo to fail? Do you actually wish that a man as talented as him should no longer be able to fight for the win? Don’t you want races like this? Do you really wish that the one guy you jack off to should win without a fight?

I wish that the MotoGP guys should fight like the Moto3 kids do, 5 should go into corner side by side and rough each other up. For that to happen, you need highly skilled people who won’t do a Maldonado in every race. Legends are made not just by the skills of the legend, but by that of the one who fights him as well.

A wise man once said that sports exist for the sole purpose of teaching people to hate other people they don’t know for no reason.

Your followers are pathetic

Most of your followers are Rossi fans. Rossi has this unique ability to make people love him, and more importantly, hate others who are not him. His allegations about the Marquez-Lorenzo relationship didn’t help things, nor does the fact that he has never publicly asked his supporters not to spew hatred on Lorenzo or Marc.

It’s such a disgrace to hear the cries of booing at the end of a race, your page is basically an online version of the same phenomenon.

It’s crazy to find such widespread support for what is essentially cyber bullying. What do these morons even like in your work? I know all too well that fucking up someone’s day is a very rewarding experience, but there at least should be some logical reason to justify such depravity.

At the end of the day, MotoGP is nothing more than entertainment, a show, a theatre. You’re gonna have your heroes, and there will be villains as well, but the intelligent viewer understands that it’s all good business, wishes for some memorable fights, and takes nothing too seriously.

You are being a fucking coward

Let’s for a moment assume that everything I’ve said till now is objectively wrong, we are still stuck with the fact that you have to hide behind Gigi to do your thing. What’s up with that? What are you afraid of?

If you have something to say, at least let us know who you are so we may judge your ability to say those things. What’s the worst that could happen? Ducati might sue you, Lorenzo might send you a legal notice, Dorna might send SWAT to your mom’s basement. I would think that would be an improvement on your existence right now.

As someone who has been sent legal notices from time to time, I would like you to know that it’s not so bad after all. If anything, that helps you get more publicity, although the first few times can be a bit nerve wracking.

Keep the imaginative stories, no problems with that, but at the end of the post just leave a link to your Facebook profile, or any other place where we might get some idea of what dungeon you’ve crawled out of.

In case you are wondering why I wrote this piece, I did it because nobody else seems to have. I ignored you in the beginning, because as Richard Dawkins says, acknowledging your existence is equivalent to giving you the oxygen of respectability. This article will have the unintended side-effect of making some people be aware of you whose lives were until now untouched by the cosmic catastrophe that’s you. However, things were getting a bit too irritating for me, and someone had to tell the world that this is all monumentally stupid.

I’ve said what I wanted to say, and you are now free to extricate your arm out of your ass and move onto your second most favourite thing, sucking your thumb.

The simple pleasures of life in the United Kingdom

I have been in the UK for about 4 month now. During this time I’ve been to London, traveled around Milton Keynes a bit, and been in contact with a few Brits at the place where I work. This is obviously too little an experience to pass sweeping judgments about the way things work in this country, however, I would like to talk to you about a few simple ways in which the quality of life in Britain differs from that in India, and the possible reasons for this difference.

On some level, I understand the paranoia some English people have about “immigrants”. I obviously can’t support their more extreme opinions, being an immigrant myself, but I get the heart of their fears. This is a beautiful country, organised, spacious, serene. People follow unwritten rules in an attempt to make it a better place. Life is lived by the rules of basic human decency, which feel fragile and easy to destroy.

People here are open, helpful, and intelligent, but nobody wants to compromise on peace of mind at the cost of looking open, helpful, and intelligent. If you’ve ever lived in an apartment complex, you would understand that it takes just one person to degrade the positivity of an entire building. They don’t want this, nobody wants this.

On the other hand, it is also important to understand that all humans have the right to a good life. A lot of people who come here do so with just that aim in mind. To be valued as a human and to exist in a progressive society is a beautiful thing, and England gives you this experience. They repay England with kindness, hard work, and a more cosmopolitan outlook to the world.

It is sad that the actions of a few smear the beauty of many with generalizations, stereotypes, and fear-mongering. It is also sad that the media tends to focus more on rare extremes of hatred rather than the regular banality of love. I hope through the points I’m mentioning below people get an idea of the positive side of life here, rather than all the post-Brexit negativity that pervades the internet.

1. It’s a physically healthy place to be

It is hard to overstate just how naturally healthy the entire setup around me is.

There’s a small garden at the back of my room, there’s a giant park a few hundred meters away, and there’s an even bigger lake at a few kilometers distance. There’s proper space to walk everywhere, which is something entirely absent from India. There’s no pollution, the difference in quality of air is staggering. The amount of open space around you is simply unbelievable, an effect that’s accentuated by the lack of buildings higher than 5 stories.

A small example of just how clean things are around here would be the fact that I can, and do walk around for hours without any goggles on. If I did this in India, my contact lenses would’ve started dry humping my eyes, with the occasional speck of dust acting as lubricant, and I would be blind by the end of the day.

I don’t have a motorcycle here, and obviously no car, hence I depend on taxis, public transport, and my body to take me places. I have made full use of this opportunity, in the few months I’ve been here I’ve probably walked more than my 28 years back in India. It is a beautiful thing to wander around on your feet, thinking, listening to books, and imbibing the surroundings. I also steal my housemate’s cycle from time to time, it has no rear brake or mudguards, but I can’t complain.

One of the primary differences between Indian and UK is the way public spaces are maintained and respected. It is as if I’m in a country whose entire population suffers from uncontrollable OCD urges, which is why everything is so beautifully constructed, kept that way, and improved. The most important examples of this behavior are in the little things, insignificant bushes that have been minutely trimmed, pedestrian bridges that nobody uses but which still stay in immaculate shape, and even graffiti on the walls that appears to have a more artistic touch rather than an anarchic one.

You can imagine how easy it is to find yourself kilometers away from home, walking on some breathtaking paths, all alone.

Although I haven’t been to the US, I did notice that the traditional British food is rather good, tasty and nutritious. It is true that most Indians would find it bland and tasteless, but for a chilli-challenged twat like myself, it is heaven.

On the whole, this is a place that motivates you to keep yourself fit and healthy, and gives you the means to make it happen.

2. It’s a mentally healthy place to be

I feel valued as a human being here, something I’ve rarely experienced back home.

The menace of jaywalking that’s so rampant in India doesn’t exist here, because cars actually stop for you. It took me a few days to get used to this, I’d be on the footpath trying to cross over the road and I’d see a car approaching. I’d naturally stop, because my brain’s still used to the way things work in India, where vehicles have priority over humans. The car driver would look at me and slow down, which would really surprise me, and I’d awkwardly look at him like “What’s up”, and he’d look at me like I’m some sort of jackass. Then he’d actually wave his hand and ask me to cross, at which point I’d run and give him the thumbs up.

When I return to India, the chances of me dying under some vehicle are really high, since I’ve lost that instinct of looking both ways when crossing a road. I did it here in the beginning, but soon found out that people looked at me funny for checking the wrong side of the road before going across.

They don’t know.

Another exceptionally small but important detail is the fact that people open and hold doors for you, for no particular reason. It’s not even like men hold doors for women and old people, everyone does it for everyone. When you do it, people thank you. The only time I’ve seen people be so nice in India is when they are high.

When I go for a run or walk, people look at me and smile, sometime they say hello and ask if I’m “alright”. It took me a while to understand this way of greeting, the first time someone said “You alright?” to me, I thought I was bleeding from my nose or something, but it is just their way of saying “How are you”.

I get even better greetings on my journeys from doggos, many of whom attempt to climb up my legs. Dogs here are very well mannered, they normally just pass you, or come and say “Hi” and then move along. The cats here are fucking fat as fuck, and they run away from me for some reason.

The population density here is almost depressing. If I cycle for 20 kms, I pass no more than 20-30 people on the way. This means that you frequently find yourself in secluded areas without anybody around for miles. I haven’t had any bad experiences till now, and I’ve gone through some rough-looking neighborhoods at rather wrong times. I’m sure bad stuff happens here too, but the implicit sense of security in the surroundings is quite rich.

The sense of security comes from other people and situations as well. When me and wifey recently checked into a hotel in London, I was surprised when the receptionist asked for no ID. Your name is enough to put a room key in your hands. I was even more surprised when at check out time, nobody bothered to go and check the room as it happens back in India. I stood there like a jackass waiting for them to see that all was well in the room, when the receptionist politely told me to fuck off.

When you enter a mall, there’s no security check. When you enter a train station, or even the underground, there’s no security check. You can enter any shop with a giant trekking back on your back, and nobody will stop you. Nobody runs towards you the moment you whip out your phone to take a few photos.

One of the strangest feelings I get is from the houses around here. They are so beautifully made, but very few of them have any sort of gate at the front, and none have any grills in the windows. It feels odd to me that the only thing protecting the items inside their house is a thin sheet of glass. It is true that most houses have alarm systems and security cameras, but they appear to be of more use after a burglary has happened, rather than to stop one from happening. It is kinda sad that I feel this way.

I’m sure I can’t explain to you fully what emotions you feel around here, what I can tell you is that your sense of self-worth increases dramatically in just a few days.

3. Roads are beautiful, road sense is even better

I am in sort of a self-exile from automobiles at the moment, but I do use public transport a lot and it is hard to describe just how good the road infrastructure is around here. There’s no such thing as a pothole, it doesn’t exist, and I’m not just talking about the main roads and highways. The cycle and footpaths that are everywhere are in pristine condition as well, as are tiny bridges going over marshes and big underpasses going below the city streets.

Like I said before, there’s no such thing as jaywalking, because first, there’s a designated area where people can walk, and second, cars stop for you if you happen to be crossing their path. There are clear markings at places where cars get priority over pedestrians, obviously you can’t expect cars to stop and pile onto each other in the middle of a busy road just to let a few people cross over.

One of the most beautiful things I’ve seen around here is the use of high-beams. The only time someone uses the high-beam is to indicate to someone else that you can pass, I’ll wait. This is completely opposite behavior to what you see in India. It is so nice to walk around the city at night and not have your retinas burned out.

Unlike India, where the horn is used as a non-verbal form of communication, here you barely hear it once or twice a week. When you do hear it, you can be certain that someone fucked up real bad.

Another fantastic thing here is the lack of hoardings along the roads. In India, roadsides are generally treated as a giant advertisement space, sometimes at the cost of pedestrians, but here they don’t exist. Everything feels so clean without them, you are not constantly distracted by someone trying to sell an iPhone or detergent powder.

People here follow traffic rules, and not because there’s police standing at every junction. They do it because they understand that they are responsible for maintaining the beautiful system that they have. At a traffic jam, people wait patiently in line, lane discipline is followed, and traffic lights are respected. And all of this without the threat of some police officer jumping in front of your car from behind some random tree.

Drivers here understand that they are not at war against each other, but instead are using the roads as common property to live their lives.

4. Everything is organised, the system works

I have never seen a stray dog here, neither have I heard the cries of their orgies at night like we do in India. Dogs here always seem to be accompanied by humans, and they are both very well behaved. This is the kind of place where one can think about getting a dog, you have space for them to run around in, you don’t have to carry a stick to shoo away the other attacking strays every time you get out of the house, and you have plenty of friends for them to play with.

It is still fascinating to me that there’s no such thing as a power cut here, I’m so used to the electricity supply randomly going off that this is just amazing. On top of that, the streets here look brilliantly clean because unlike India, electricity lines run underground. There’s no mess of wires and poles everywhere, it’s almost magical how electricity is distributed everywhere without any visible signs.

One of the most brilliant things I’ve seen here is the centralized heating system that every house has. It is not electrical, a heater heats up water, which is then circulated throughout the house. Inside your room, you have a radiator, and you can control the temperature by increasing/decreasing the flow of water. It’s compact, there’s no risk of fire, and you can dry your undies on it.

It is hard not to appreciate the intelligence behind all the little things here.

5. Law of personal space is followed

In my time here, I’ve understood that there’s basically only one rule that governs the way people live their lives.

As long as you don’t create problems for others, you can do whatever you want to do.

This is so refreshingly mature, to be treated as an adult human again, to not have your every action criticized by people whose only qualification for being able to do so is their love for power.

Two people kissing in India in public would be such a big deal, people would stop and look, others would whistle and gesture, police might get called. Here, nobody gives a shit, and it’s not “I’ll not look because I don’t agree with what you are doing” behavior, it’s “I’m happy you are having fun and I hope I can add to your romance”. I saw a couple kissing passionately by the edge of river Thames in London, it was romantic in the true sense of the word.

One of the most annoying things for me in India are these jackasses who feel so happy about someone’s marriage or some random festival, that they just have to include everyone within a 5 km radius in their celebrations. They’ll play loud music, burst firecrackers, and generally be dicks in the name of tradition. That doesn’t exist here, and that’s such a satisfying thing in itself.

Even better is the fact that when you want to go somewhere, you don’t have to factor in the presence of any agitations, roadblocks, strikes, demonstrations, or political dickwaving. When people have something they want to complain about, they stay human and civilized, rather than spouting horns and gathering in large numbers in the middle of some highway like cattle.

I’m not a patriotic person, and although I’d like to believe that I can look objectively at things, it is possible that I can’t. I feel trapped in India, I hate the so-called culture, the idiocy, the illogical following of obsolete customs in the name of heritage and tradition.

I understand now why parents get so paranoid when their kids go overseas, I don’t want to come back, there’s absolutely no reason for me to want to live out the rest of my life in India now that I’ve seen that I can have a much better quality of life elsewhere.

At this point, I have newfound respect for people who stay back in India and try to improve things. It is hard for me to imagine the level of selflessness such an act would require. You can live a fulfilling life anywhere else, and yet you decide to spend it in a hellhole, hoping to make life better for others sometime in the distant future.

I think these are the people who come closest to the concept of God.

This article was bought to you by Vivaldi. Vivaldi – Making violinists regret the day they were born, since 1678.

The experiment fails

I’ve always attempted to live my life as a series of experiments, that seems to be the only way to not die of regret. At the base of all these experiments is always the singular question, “What if?”.

Curiosity.

What if I gave up on the IT life? What if I got a job about my passion? What if I was my own boss? These 3 questions define the last 6 years of my existence. In some ways it is sad that the pursuit of these questions has led to exponentially higher levels of misery, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s always better to know.

I’ve learned many things from these experiences, and I hope I’ll be able to make better decisions because of them in the future. It is however quite likely that I would continue to waste my life chasing idiotic answers that make no sense.

It is fun.

After 2 years of fucking around, I now have a regular job again. I spent these 2 years trying to understand what it felt like to have a job about something that you have an emotional attachment to, and what it felt like to have no job at all. Here’s what I learned.

For a person like me, it was a monumentally stupid idea to get a job about motorcycles. The overlap between work and fun was absolute, and I spent most of my time chasing the latter. I understood that I don’t really work well under pressure, and that it is quite impossible for me to work for someone else, unless it is something completely tasteless and ordinary. I also understood that I rather suck at marketing, the basic principle of which is the art of gaining attention, which is something that I detest. Most importantly, I realized that I’m not really a constructive creative individual, but a rather negative nihilistic one.

Not having a job and working for myself was far better as far as physical and mental health goes, but in every other aspect it was a disaster. I am a completely unmotivated individual, I do not give a shit about anything. I don’t care how many views my website gets, how many Youtube subscribers I have, or how much money I make per month. I know what I should do if I want to be a successful blogger, and I don’t do any of those things, on purpose. This means that either I don’t want to be successful, or that I’m incapable of doing the right thing. Either way, it is a frustrating experience to want to do something, and then have to fight your own damn self to do that same bloody thing.

My motivation to write has completely gone away since I’ve come to the UK. It appears that the only reason I wrote those long, angry articles was because I was trapped in India, and venting out my frustrations seemed like the only logical solution. Another evidence in this direction is the fact that I’ve lost most of my sarcasm.

I’m no longer trapped in India, and I’m no longer dependent on motorcycles, hence I have no irritations to upload online. The less I think about motorcycles, the more I realize what a stupid culture I’ve always been a part of, a culture of Royal Enfields and superbikes and showoffs. One of the primary qualities one requires to be a popular figure around automobiles, is the ability to elevate cars and bikes to something that’s not just a machine. The easiest way to do this is by introducing fashion into the culture, helping useless companies sell pointless stuff. It is painful that I wasted so many years of my life spending energy that fueled this mindlessness.

I enjoy motorcycles, but I don’t want to be a biker anymore.

In my new job, I am an insurance claims processor in a taxi company. It is probably the most banal job I’ll ever have, and I love that. When I get out of office, I’m free. I’m not constantly thinking about that one thing that overpowers my existence. I make minimum wage, which is a fucking insane amount of money for someone of my wants.

I haven’t had this type of financial security in years.

I walk, run, cycle, read books, meet new people, and experiment some more. A few days ago I met a man from Sierra Leone. Today I met a man from Afghanistan. I’m working with proper Brits, under a Pakistani boss, with people from Poland, Kenya, and Sri Lanka.

I have no need for social media anymore, my entire reason for posting stuff online was to get more traffic to my website, and once you start, it’s never enough. It is surreal to find that you haven’t looked at your phone in 5 hours, that you haven’t refreshed your Facebook feed all day, that you didn’t feel the need to post anything on Instagram for a week.

My life now spans only a 5 mile radius around myself, not dependent on online connections thousands of kilometers away.

I live in a tiny bedroom in a small house with shared kitchen and bath, I can pack my bags and fuck off in an hour. I have nothing of value, no car, no bike, no credit card. I take trains, taxis, buses, and sometimes good people give me lifts in their cars.

This is my new experiment, a completely ordinary life in a far away land.

My apologies to anybody who looked forward to my articles, I don’t think I’ll be writing much for at least the next few months. On the bright side, it is possible that the lack of reading material from my end would force you to expose yourself to something better. I obviously still love writing, but I think it was a mistake to try to make that into a career.

It’s better to keep somethings that you do for no reason.

A few ideas about becoming a better biker in 2017

This piece is in continuation to this article. During the last 2 years I’ve experimented with a number of different strategies, some of them worked, most did not.

Last month I put up a poll on this website asking people if they noticed an improvement in their riding during 2016. Out of the 141 voter, 73% said yes.

I don’t believe them.

Such extreme positivity about your riding skills is either overconfidence, or a lack of understanding of what “becoming a better biker” means.

When I ask you if you’ve improved as a motorcyclist, I do not mean that you’ve gained a few thousand kilometers worth of experience, or that you finally picked up some proper riding gear, or that you didn’t crash. All those things are awesome, but they are not enough.

A better biker not only improves his riding skills, but evolves as a better human being by using motorcycles as a base upon which he can build himself. One of the biggest reasons why people are unable to change their lives is lack of motivation. A biker has a vast pool of natural inspiration that pushes him to ride. If you don’t channel that energy to improve your life as a whole, what’s the fucking point.

In that direction, here are a few ideas that I’ll try and apply to my life in this year.

1. Give up riding for a few weeks

It is very easy to start enjoying bikes so much that you completely ignore all others means of transport. Some people are actually proud of this behavior, including myself at one point. There are numerous problems with this system though.

First, like I’ve said many times before, motorcycles are nothing special, and dedicating your entire life experience to just one type of machinery is stupid.

Second, by giving up on driving, cycling, and public transport, you also give up on a vast set of experiences that could’ve improved your riding indirectly. For example, if you’ve never driven a car, it is less likely that you’ll be accurately able to predict the movements of others drivers on the road.

Lastly, this lack of knowledge, coupled with the monotony of existence with just one form of transport, leads to frustration. You get angry at bus drivers for overtaking you on a blind turn, you should’ve instead expected that to happen if you’d noticed the life of a bus driver, and hence taken steps to ease their pain and your own.

Cycle, drive, take the train, fly, walk, run, hitchhike, the world is your stage. Not only will you end up with a richer life filled with random ups and downs, you’ll also end up connecting with a much larger and more diverse set of people than what bikes will ever get you.

2. Ride something different

Last year I rented the Daytona and the Benelli 600i. I enjoyed riding them, more so the Triumph than the fat piece of TNT, but the most interesting part of that experience was the way I rode when I went back to my Duke 390. The simple act of me having ridden a bigger, heavier, faster bike made me much more confident on the smaller, lighter, slower one.

The biggest reason for this change was the fact that I wasn’t afraid anymore.

The progression of a rider’s life usually follows a slow path upwards, you start with shit scooties, then you move up to shit commuter bikers, and then over the years you get to own and ride bigger, faster machines. Every time you make the step up, you are afraid. You are afraid of the speed, of dropping the bike, of crashing. With time you get used to the bike, but a small part of that fear never goes away. In the end, you end up never pushing your bike over 60%, because in your mind that’s the absolute limit.

Imagine you are a beginner who just graduated from an Activa to a Pulsar 150. You were a bit afraid of the gears and the clutch, but you learned quickly and now you’re quite happy with your abilities. One day a friend of yours comes along and offers you a ride of his Duke 390. You’ve heard plenty of horror stories of KTMs, so you accept, but with fear. You start her up, somehow struggle through the traffic, and then find an open stretch where you see that speedo climb over 150 kmph like it’s a zit. The braking is better, the grip is phenomenal, the acceleration is mental. After a few hours, the party ends, and you are back to your trusty 150.

Your riding style on the Pulsar changes immediately, you’ve seen level 5, level 2 doesn’t scare you anymore.

This effect is even more pronounced when you ride something that’s smaller than what you normally ride. When I rode the Aprilia SR150, there wasn’t even a single fleeting thought of fear in my brain. I have ridden much bigger bikes for far too long to be scared of a measly little scootie. This meant that I truly enjoyed the experience, I pushed, scraped the side stand, made the tires squeal. The same happened when I rode the Navi, I actually did sustained powerslides in dirt on that thing, apart from some rather gnarly trails. Also, I really had fun riding the RS200 on the track, it was so rewarding to have to work the bike hard to get that swing off the corner exits, to downshift madly, and to actually get to twist the throttle all the way round.

The pleasure of feeling totally dominant on your motorcycle takes years of practice and knowledge. One of the easiest ways to make this process faster is to ride every kind of bike you can get your hands on.

Of course it goes without saying that you’ll need to use your brains in certain situations. I still haven’t ridden a liter class bike till date because I’m quite certain I’ll end up dead.

3. Seek knowledge from books, movies and videos

This is one area where our automotive websites and “influencers” rarely ever put any stress, and I don’t understand why. Experience is a big part of motorcycle riding, it is a very visceral activity that can’t be directly derived from bookish knowledge. However, by giving up on that vast repository of books, movies and videos that concern a biker, you are missing out on some truly remarkable and intellectually stimulating works of art.

When I read Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I realized that the book had nothing to do with bikes, and yet it remains one of the most profound works of literature that I’ve ever read. When I saw On any Sunday, I realized how unimaginably huge the culture of motorcycle riding is in this world, and what a hilariously insignificant spec I am in it. When I saw this interview of Freddie Spencer, I realized just how intricate motorcycle racing is, and how much effort people put into being who they are.

Sam Manicom’s books have taken me around the world, Twist of the Wrist has scrambled my brains, motorcycle crash videos have taught me so much. Riding kicks ass, but don’t miss out on other aspects of this enormous culture that you’re a part of.

4. Ride in dirt

This is something I did a lot last year, and thoroughly had fun with. Even though my bike wasn’t even remotely prepared for this kind of riding, and neither was I, I didn’t let that piece of logic stop my stupidity.

Riding in dirt is much more than just about riding. It’s exploration, since you usually end up just finding new paths into nowhere. It’s serene, since you usually find yourself far away from civilization. And it’s dangerous, since one little mistake can cost you dearly.

It is such a beautiful feeling to find that your motorcycle is able to take you to places a car could not. It is at that moment that you truly start appreciating the power of two wheels, and the freedom it spawns inside you. You take huge risks, sometimes things backfire, but the overall experience is never ever negative.

Although I enjoy riding alone in dirt sometimes, I usually try to have company. I also gear up at the same level in dirt as I do on the track. The reason for both of these behaviors is the same, dirt is dangerous, and it’s better to be prepared than be sorry.

5. Learn how to service your bike

I am not the kind of guy who likes to get his hands dirty. I am not mechanically sound either. I’ve always depended on mechanics for all my maintenance needs for most of my life.

In the last year, I got fed up of riding into a service station every few thousand kilometers to get my chain tightened. Then I got a bit frustrated with the oil changes. Slowly, I bought the tools needed for both these activities, and started doing them myself.

It started quite disastrously though. My first attempt to tighten the chain ended up with me in a fit of anger since the number of threads on the left and right side of the swingarm never matched, no matter what I tried. One time I attempted to fix a crash protector on the bike myself, and ended up riding a few kilometers without the main bolts that mount the engine onto the frame. I suffer from major OCD itches, and every time I tinker with my bike I end up in circles of minute adjustments that end in some bolt’s threads getting sheared off.

And yet I continue.

After a year’s worth of chain adjustments, I finally understood quite recently the orientation of the bolts, how they should be turned, and by how much. I’m still quite new with engine oil changes, but I enjoy that moment when you remove the drain bolt and your hand gets smeared in stale, black, dead engine blood.

I do not believe that doing these things creates some connection with me and my motorcycle. I’m not a romantic, I still look at my bike as a combination of moving parts that does what I tell it to. However, I like the feeling of control I get from understanding how my bike works, I like the fact that if it misbehaves I know how to make it fall back in line, I like that my dominance over the machine extends beyond what it can do, to why it does that.

Saves money too.

6. Get fit and healthy

Riding is a physical experience, not as sedentary as driving, but it’s still not an alternative to exercise. Some specific types of riding can improve your mental and physical health, but you are the one who has to do most of the work.

A few months ago I tried dirt track riding with the Motovation people, it was a singularly exhausting experience. As my friend Alex put it.

“Rather than calling it a dirt track day, you should call it a weight loss program, that way you’ll get far more people.”

I did some 4 laps of that 3 km dirt track, and all I wanted by the end was the sweet release of death to ease my pain. Asphalt track riding in that respect is far more forgiving, I can do 15, maybe 20 laps before I want to kill myself.

Being fit and healthy doesn’t necessarily mean you must be thin, go to the gym, and have abs. If you’ve ever seen Rossi with his shirt off, you’ll know what I mean. He’s as fit as a horse, but looks like a poor, white, low class rickshaw puller. I exercised at a gym for a few years, and I enjoyed that experience, but nowadays all I do is walk, run and cycle, and that’s more than enough to make me feel as good as being able to bench press 50 kgs.

The more difficult part is mental health. It is true that bikers generally enjoy better mental health than most because of the very nature of motorcycle riding. Riding is adventurous, it opens you up to different people and experiences, and it momentarily helps you forget the unending misery and sadness that pervades life. However, in this respect as well you must make efforts of your own, rather than just depending on bikes.

I’ve been listening to this book about mental health and ways to maintain it, and it’s quite beautiful in the way it looks at the very basics of our thoughts, behaviors and emotions, along with examples of real people. I’ve also been watching this Youtube series that tells you so much about the way human thought has evolved over the millenia. I recently finished a book about Hitler, another about all the philosophers in the world till date, and am finally reading the entire Sherlock Holmes.

This is what I do to keep myself happy, your methods may be different. Whatever they may be, invest time, money and effort in them, and the results will show up in every area of your life, including riding.

SJCAM M20 review: The best budget action camera

You can pick up this camera from the SJCAM India official site with a 10% discount by using the code RIDER10.

Before we begin this, I would like you to understand something I’ve said repeatedly in my articles, but is rather easy to miss.

I am not an expert in anything, and when I say that the SJCAM M20 is the best budget action camera in the market right now, that is nothing more than my opinion, based on the narrow set of experiences I have with action cameras, in an even narrower set of circumstances.

When you are out in the market to buy an action camera then, I would like you to take my opinion as a very small component of the entire critical argument you should have with yourself, and hopefully you’ll slowly learn to apply the same logic to all your future decisions, big and small.

As far as action cameras go, I have talked in detail if you should even buy one or not in the beginning of this review, along with other useful info about the SJCAM buying and camera options, and I’d like if you go through that.

Motorcycles, wives, and action cameras are real easy to get, but living with them is an entirely different domain.

I would also like you to know that I didn’t buy this camera, it was sent to me by SJCAM India. It is extremely rare that I get something to review from a manufacturer, and the SJCAM people were unbelievably nice to me, and thus it is not impossible that my review is biased, which should be all the more reason for you to not take my word for anything.

Having said that, I was extremely impressed by the way this camera worked for the 2 months that I had it with me, and even more impressed by the amount of abuse it took, without trouble. I shot more than 50 GB of footage with it, and here is one example of the final product I was able to create.

Throughout this review I’ll try and give you more examples of what this camera is capable of, and here’s my detailed review of the SJCAM M20, starting with the negatives first, since they are nothing too serious.

SJCAM M20 review: Negatives

1. Cluttered interface

This one has continued from the 5000X Elite review, as will a number of other negatives. My criticism of the unbelievably stupid UI of SJCAMs was absolute, however, since then it has been pointed out to me that Git cameras are even worse in this department, hence comparatively the M20 is not bad.

My complaint with the software is very simple, it is entirely disorganized and very unintuitive. There are far too many options, many of which don’t even do anything, and all of these options appear separately in all the sub-menus, which is just idiotic. I do not know why it was designed this way, but it can be vastly improved in a few very simple steps.

2. Unintuitive button actions

This negative is also carried forward from the 5000X Elite, however the issue is made worse due to the way the design of this camera is. The problem with the 5000X Elite is that the buttons work in mysterious ways, one click of the start/stop button may or may not start/stop the video, depending on the state of the screen, apart from the mood the camera is in. With the M20, there’s an additional issue.

Both the power and start/stop buttons are on the top of the M20, unlike the Elite, on which one is on the front, and the other on the top. Now picture this, you are looking at your camera in the mirror, trying to press the start/stop button to finish the video off. What button should you press? Both of them look the same, and even if you generally remember that this one is for power and the other is for video functions, many a times you end up looking at the camera in a mirror, and that confuses things even more.

The side buttons work fine though, even if their number has been reduced to 2 on the M20 from 3 on the 5000X Elite. It is possible that I didn’t face much issues with the side buttons because I never bothered with the WiFi, which is activated by the same “up” button.

3. No external mic input

No surprises here either, the universal hate for 3.5mm mic jacks that the SJCAM people share is visible in the M20 too, however this issue leads to greater problems in the M20 than it caused in the 5000X Elite.

Since the M20 doesn’t come with a mic jack, this camera gets automatically taken off the list for anyone who is serious about Motovlogging. Although I find Motovlogging to be a rather awkward and half-assed way of getting your point across, its popularity in the last few years cannot be ignored.

4. Bad audio quality

In continuation of the last point, the M20 suffers even further in the audio department because of the way the internal mic is setup. Here’s a video example of what I’m talking about, although I must warn you that the following footage may be disturbing to some viewers.

Okay then, apart from the weirdness and the psychotic brain activity, I would like you to focus on how the audio changes with respect to the position of the camera. Most action cam internal mics are more or less omnidirectional, which means that no matter what orientation you hold the camera in, upside down, face up, backside, the audio volume remains fairly consistent. This is not the case with the M20, which might be so because the mic is recessed deep inside the camera body, with openings only under the screen.

The bigger problem is that even if you do hold the camera in the correct position to get the maximum audio output, it is still quite sucky. If you keep the internal audio volume at anything below 9, you can’t hear anything, at all. If you keep it at 9, you can hear a bit of sound, but nothing workable. If you keep it at 10, you can clearly hear the sound, but with the addition of a massive amount of noise.

Overall, the audio quality of the M20 is by far the worst I have ever found on any camera.

5. Low intensity lights

As you might have already noticed, the faults in any SJCAM run through the entire family, and this is no exception. The 5000X Elite’s blue light was simply invisible, the M20’s yellowish orange light is a bit better, but still falls far short of the way it should be.

In bright light, I had to bring the camera right to my eyes to know what was going on. Things were even worse when I was wearing my helmet and goggles. It must be added that my eyes are absolutely shit, hence it is possible that you may not face similar levels of pain while using this camera, however I’m sure that if the lights were brighter, things would be better for everybody, not just visually impaired cunts like me.

6. New mounts

With the M20, I also got to try out some of the new mounts SJCAM has added to their lineup. There was only one positive in this experience, in the form of a sticky mount that could rotate on its axis, I had great fun with that. Everything else is either pointless, or destructive.

It appears that SJCAM people decided to kind of flatten their mounts a bit, which I don’t really understand the need for. The main problem is their new J mounts, and the way they are supposed to clip inside the sticky mount. In my opinion, what SJCAM has done is a clear case of trying to fix something that isn’t broken.

With a normal GoPro J mount, you pinch the two arms, and slide the thing out of the sticky mount. Has worked awesome for centuries. To remove the new SJCAM mount, you have to lift the front top section, and then slide it out. The problem is that no matter how much power you put in, the damn thing doesn’t move. I only saw this miracle happening once at the hands of the guy who distributes SJCAMs in India, every attempt that I made to dislodge the fucker ended in a failure.

SJCAM M20 review: Positives

1. Exceptional gyro stabilization

I would rather let the video do the talking.

If you weren’t impressed by the stability of that footage, you should be. This video was shot at the Motovation dirt track near Hyderabad, and it’s rough. I was quite certain of not getting any footage at all, but the final result really surprised me.

I’m not sure if it’s a hardware or a software upgrade, but the gyro stabilization of the M20 feels substantially better than that on the 5000X Elite. Like on the Elite, using the gyro doesn’t seem to affect battery life at all, which is why I used it in all situations, except when a wide field of view was most important.

2. Nice video quality

This is what matters in the end, a camera that doesn’t help you publish good final footage is good for nothing, no matter how much it costs or what gimmicks it has. I generally shot at 1080p and nothing higher, simply because my laptop can’t process anything beyond that. Here’s a short clip of what I was able to do with this camera.

I am not a high-level videographer, and for me the camera delivers more than what I need. The colors are awesome, the stability is great, the footage is smooth, and the overall feel is realistic. The way this camera handles sudden changes in brightness could be improved, but that problem happens with all cameras.

Low-light video quality is nothing special though, there’s a lot of noise, diffraction, and overall the footage doesn’t feel usable for any artistic requirements. It still could be used for safety purposes though, for example a dashcam.

3. Great value for money

This, for me, is the biggest reason why I feel the SJCAM M20 is the best budget action camera in the market right now. You get a camera with some amazing capabilities, plus a bunch of different accessories, plus warranty and support, and all for the cost of a second-hand GoPro Hero 3.

The battery life is not bad, some 1.5 hours, and you can swap batteries easily, while being able to use the camera as it is charging. It doesn’t take too long to charge either, unlike the 5000X Elite. It weighs nothing, looks discreet, and does everything an action cam is expected to do. For the more fashion conscious out there, you even get the option of colors, plus a selfie stick.

4. Remote connectivity

One of the main reasons why the software and hardware of the M20 did not frustrate me as much as the 5000X Elite’s did, is because of the remote that came with the camera. Thanks to the remote, you no longer have to slither through the options on the cam, just the 5 buttons on the remote do it all for you. More importantly, the buttons on the remote work much more intuitively than the buttons on the cam. For example, pressing the power button shuts the camera down, irrespective of the state of the screen.

You can mount the remote on your handlebar, or wear it as a watch, or just leave it on your selfie stick. In every situation, it makes the act of using the cam into a delightful experience. I think the M20 is sold bundled with the remote by default, but if you do get to choice to buy it or not, buy it, it changes everything.

5. Light weight

The M20 weighs 55 grams. For comparison, the GoPro Hero 5 session weighs 73 grams.

When mounted on the helmet, you barely even notice it. Due to its low weight, it remains much more stable on mounts around the motorcycle. I personally prefer the shape of the M20 as against the shape of the 5000X Elite, it just feels more streamlined, better in every way.

6. Usable as a dashcam

Like all SJCAMs, the M20 can be used as a dashcam, since it comes with loop recording and a dedicated car mode. Like all SJCAMs though, it is not really a good idea to use them as dashcams for a number of reasons.

They are not discreet enough, are too easily noticeable from outside the car. They are mainly designed to be used for adventure, hence the mountings will need some special attention. Also, dashcams are supposed to be setup once and then left there for good, if you plan to rotate the M20 between dashcam and riding duties, you will most likely find yourself frustrated.

SJCAM M20 review: Verdict

The M20 is one hell of a device, and here are my suggestions to the SJCAM people about how they can make it even better:

  1. Add some mark on the housing and the camera that makes it easy to differentiate between the power and the start/stop button. For example, you could add a red mark next to the power button on the housing, and same on the cam itself.
  2. Convert all the lights on the camera into bright, red colored lights. Also, increase the frequency of their blinking a bit, the time between them turning on, off, and then on again is too high right now.
  3. Add a goddamn mic jack.
  4. Clear up the interface, delete options that are not important, organize those which are into one single menu setting.

That’s it, you do this and what you get is the ultimate action camera money can buy.

You may have noticed that I didn’t talk about the SJCAM app at all throughout this review, this is because I didn’t use it even once. With the remote, I never felt the need to fiddle with the WiFi and connect the app, and on top of that the SJCAM app is quite shit, as I found out while using it with the 5000X Elite.

Overall, I highly recommend this camera to anybody who is new to adventure videography, or just wants a cheap, lightweight alternative to a GoPro. Below is a small playlist to give you an idea of what this thing can do, and I hope that helps you make your decision better.

Few thoughts about the Bajaj Dominar 400 launch

I’ve just finished watching the Dominar 400 launch stream. It took a lot of effort to not kill myself.

Here are a few thoughts I had during the launch, about the bike, and the launch itself.

What the fuck is wrong with Bajaj’s marketing department?

While watching the launch feed, I really felt the need to actually watch what the Bajaj’s marketing team looked like, to see what kind of people would create this kind of campaign. A few searches on Google gave me this result, which explains a lot.

Yes, that’s an actual photo of the Bajaj’s marketing department for the Dominar 400, taken during a small team outing.

The fact that the Dominar launch campaign was designed by a bunch of BDSM loving Goth Vampires makes a lot of sense. How else can you explain the name of the bike, which brings the mental picture of an 18 inch vibrating dildo with metal spikes all over? What about the tagline “Dominate the night”? Or that weird Dracula music? Or that group of Dementors dressed appropriately for a Christian ritualistic orgy, which probably also doubled up as the after-launch party?

The most clear proof for this theory is the fact that the announcer at the event would’ve been totally at home doing a death metal gig, rather than the sorry, raspy, coughy excuse for a job that he ended up with. The weird guy with the white mask who was guarding the bike also helps my hypothesis.

If this theory is disproved, I have another one.

I firmly believe that Bajaj’s marketing and advertisement department is composed entirely of fat racist squirrels who suffer from extreme attention deficit disorder. Their campaigns at the launch of the RS200 can be used as evidence in this regard, and so can this one for the Dominar 400.

The fact that the most interesting part of the entire live feed was that point when the cameraman shouted at the photographers to sit down, and followed it up with “Bike ko ghar leke chale ja”, proves my point beyond all doubt.

What happened to Bajaj? These are the people who did Pulsarmania, and that “Definitely Male” advertisement series, both of which were iconic in their originality and execution, and still to this day remain one of the best motorcycle launch campaigns I have ever seen. How did it come to this point where every Bajaj launch is by default expected to be another exercise in epic stupidity?

And then there was Mr. Bajaj himself. If you didn’t know already, someone watching the live feed could’ve mistaken it for a university management lesson. Nobody gives a shit about your philosophy Mr. Bajaj, publish a blog post like a normal human being and launch the damn bike without boring us with your ideology. His speech has such a massive contrast to the way Steve Jobs launched something, he sounds like a headmaster, someone entirely removed from the reality of the situation.

This entire festival of idiocy stands out even more due to the comparison it draws against the way Mahindra Mojo was launched. Mojo was launched to the people first, and then a bit of time was wasted in presentations and shit. The fact that Bajaj totally disregarded that marketing model proves it even further that they are managed by a bunch of BDSM loving Goth Vampire racist squirrels who suffer from extreme attention deficit disorder.

The bike

Dominar 400 looks like an excellent bike, on paper.

34 bhp and 35 Nm of torque is nice, so is the 6 speed gearbox, and the pricing is insane. 1.36 lacs ex-showroom for the non-ABS model, and 14,000 bucks more for the ABS one is mental. It’s fuel injected, which is awesome, and has a slipper clutch, which as a selling point is nice, although it may not add much to the overall riding experience.

The 182 kgs of weight is not bad, if it’s wet. The 13 liter fuel tank is bad, especially considering the fact that it is supposed to be a cruiser. The 148 kmph top speed is hopefully not electronically limited, I’m sure the bike will cross 150 easily if given the chance, but it looks like it’ll have no problems cruising at 120 all day.

There are still a number of details that are missing, the tires is one, cooling system is another. Then you have the ground clearance and the seat height and the service interval.

The biggest factor to consider here is the fact that the Mojo is also a brilliant bike on paper, but in the real world it presents a number of issues which you can read about here. This could also be the case with the Dominar, which has a similar stance and a similar “let’s make everyone happy” ideology behind it.

Also, the Dominar looks like a bike that’s been developed from scratch, consequently there are going to be a large number of teething problems. Hence, the decision regarding how good the bike is can only be made 6 months after the deliveries begin.

Will Dominar kill the Mojo?

It is possible.

Based on the information we have at this moment, the Dominar trumps the Mojo in all departments. It costs less, makes more power, has ABS as an option, looks better, has a single exhaust setup, and inherits the advantage of Bajaj’s vast service network. I can’t think of any reason why someone will choose the Mojo over the Dominar, but then again the Mojo really irritates me on a personal level, which as an emotion may not be shared by everyone.

One major disadvantage that the Dominar would most likely have would stem from the lack of quality in Bajaj’s parts. This disadvantage is even more likely to be present given the ridiculous price it has been launched at. Mojo has done relatively good as far as refinement and quality of spares goes, although they certainly could’ve done much better. Having said that, this alone cannot be a reason good enough to choose the Mojo over the Dominar, especially considering the narrow Indian mindset that values money above all else.

Will Dominar kill Royal Enfield?

No.

Royal Enfields do not sell based on logic, in fact they, like religion, sell exclusively to the illogical. A man who buys a Bullet does not buy it for the bike, but for the emotions it is connected with, his childhood memories, the people he looks up to, and the whole cult that has spawned around Royal Enfield.

It is true that the Dominar could do everything that any Royal Enfield motorcycle can, and do it much better. It is true that as a motorcycle, the Dominar can safely be assumed to be a far better example of engineering when compared to any Royal Enfield. It is also true that the Dominar should be the logical choice over any Royal Enfield for any literate human being, but none of this matters.

As long as men are insecure about the size of their penis, as long as legions of humans don’t mind being brainwashed as long as they belong, as long as the value one attaches to himself remains dependent on external factors, Royal Enfields will sell like tissues at a Bukkake.

Will Dominar kill the Duke 200 and 390?

No.

The fact that the Dominar doesn’t really compete against the 390 is rather obvious. One is a cruiser that is supposedly easy to handle, the other is a streetbike that constantly wants to murder you. Duke 390 is for the people who enjoy the track, Dominar is for the people who want to take their wife to the beauty parlor.

The comparison of Dominar to the Duke 200 is a bit more complicated. Duke 200 remains the best beginner to mid-level rider bike in India in my opinion. It is far lighter than the Dominar, will be far more agile too, and already has a large base of after-market parts and accessories to make it useful for any type of riding. Youngsters would most likely still pick it over the Dominar, owing to the flashy orange and the general association with coolness.

It is true that someone with a budget around 1.5 lacs may get confused between the Dominar and the Duke 200, but I believe the choice will be rather easy to make. People looking for some excitement, especially beginners, will go with the Duke. Relatively experienced bikers looking for something easy to take them places should go with the Dominar.

You shouldn’t forget that Bajaj owns KTM, and the Dominar has been intelligently designed to be different from the Dukes by its very essence.

Will Dominar be a game changer?

Probably not.

As much as Mr. Bajaj might want to play up how “big” the bike is and how many gazillions they are going to sell, I don’t think the Dominar is going to be a success at the level of the Pulsar family. I also don’t think it will be able to grab much share from the Royal Enfields, neither do I believe it’ll shuffle the market in any big way.

The Mojo attempted to upset the superiority of RE in the cheap cruiser department, and it hasn’t exactly worked out well for them. I don’t think the Dominar story will be any different. Following Mojo’s example, I also don’t think a large number of Squids would end up buying this bike. Squids need agility, to be able to slalom the bike from left to right as a proof of the infection inside their brains. The Dominar feels like a mature bike, unwilling to participate in the fucktardery of pubescent vaginal cramps.

Tourers would be the ideal candidates to pick up this thing, and they most likely would, but their numbers against the entire market are negligible. As much as I like the concept of this bike. something with decent power, comfort, and ABS, I think I have grown out of the need for this bike, and would rather go for something bigger. In other words, even for tourers, the Dominar would end up being a transitional bike, something that helps them move onto 600cc bikes, or something that they fall back on when they have ridden everything.

It might look like I’m not really happy with the bike, but that would be wrong. As a motorcycle, the Dominar is a huge step for the Indian market. It has everything that a biker like me needs, at an astounding price. The reason why I’m not too positive about it all is because motorcycles are like wives, you never understand them well enough until you start living with them.

We haven’t even seen a proper ride review of this bike yet, except this one, hence we all must calm our tits down.

There of course would be people who would go ahead and buy one from the first lot, and I admire your balls. As far as I’m concerned, I would let time decide if the Dominar 400 is worth my time.

England, bikes, and the complexity of chasing the dream

In case you didn’t know, I am in the United Kingdom right now. As much as I’d like to take credit for this achievement, it had absolutely nothing to do with me. My wife works in IT, and she’s here for an onsite assignment, and I joined the party as a dependent.

I’m writing this from a beautiful hotel room that overlooks the Milton Keynes marina. There are boats outside, and white swans, and beautiful exhaust notes of fast cars and big bikes. We’ll sadly have to move out of this place in a few days to a more permanent temporary home, but I’m sure that’ll be an experience in itself.

This article is in parallel with Shumi’s latest opinion, in the sense that it looks at the complexities of the act of “Chasing the dream”. The content of his post, and more so the title, does not give enough stress on the fact that not only is the process of finding “the dream” an extremely difficult one, even when you do happen to find something to chase, the end of the chase, and the chase itself, may end up being entirely different from what you’d imagined. A simple example would be fact that what Shumi is doing with his life is a dream worth chasing for a lot of other people, and yet the thoughts of someone in his position invariably go towards doing something else.

This article is also meant to be a place where I’ll try to organize my thoughts about what I should do here with the limited time that I have. On a deeper level, this is an attempt to understand the Things vs. Experiences debate, and to really grasp the complexity of this thought train, especially when it crosses tracks with money.

I apologize in advance if this post becomes too abstract, too intricate or too weird, I’ve been watching too many books and videos about philosophy lately, and although I believe they are helping me better understand the world and myself, they do tend to use too much jargon, and sometimes feel a bit elitist, which breeds in you this feeling that your knowledge of this knowledge makes you better than others, which it doesn’t.

As always, I’ll now try to break down my thought process into small, digestible parts, which by the end of this piece should hopefully bless us with a pleasing, heart-warming brain fart.

The situation

I am not certain how much time I have in this country, but it’s safe to assume that it’ll be roughly 3 months. My visa is actually for 11 months, but I can’t really expect to stay back here and chug chilled, sparkling beer with my English pals, while my wife flies back home, works, and pays for the aforementioned chilled, sparkling beer.

This is probably the worst time to be in England as far as the weather goes. The temperature outside drops below zero at night, snowfall should start sometime soon, and it’s just a generally foggy, wet, miserable time to be here.

My wife leaves for office around 9 in the morning, and comes back by 8 at night. My job is to provide moral support, take care of any tasks outside the office, and basically just be around. This means that I have plenty of free time, which is a good or a bad thing, depending on perspective.

The options

Since I have so much free time, I could do a number of things. The problem begins when you start comparing one of those things with the others, and then can’t decide what should be done and for what reason. The main assumption here is that I don’t want to use my wife’s Pounds, anything that I spend for myself must be earned by me.

Option 1: Just write

As of this moment, I have 31 different article and video ideas that I could pursue and finish. Yes, that’s thirty one distinct article and video ideas. Based on my normal routine of writing 3 articles a week, this should be enough material for more than 2 months, which should get extended even further as new ideas join the queue.

Advantages:

  1. A giant clearing of backlog, extremely OCD satisfying.
  2. A big help to my online revenue, which could use all the fucking help in the world.
  3. An overall growth as a writer, by spending a few months in pursuit of pure writing.

Disadvantages:

  1. Boring, majority of the time would be spent in front of this stupid laptop.
  2. No real chance of travel around UK or around, since travel needs money, and I won’t be making any.
  3. Distinct possibility of all that time spent to be good for nothing, in terms of the advantages above.

Option 2: Drive a cab

This is something I’ve wanted to do since a long time, to experience what it feels like to be a taxi driver. There could be no better place to try it, the roads here are unbelievably beautiful, the road sense even more so. From what I’ve read and seen, it’s not too bad money wise either, but nothing spectacularly good.

Advantages:

  1. An incredible opportunity to really understand the people of England.
  2. An incredible opportunity to really understand the roads of England.
  3. Money.

Disadvantages:

  1. Requires big initial investment, most cab drivers here own the cars they drive, which is important if you want to do it part-time only.
  2. Requires investment in time, money and effort to secure the necessary licenses and medical certificates.
  3. All this investment might be in vain if I get only a few days of driving to do.

Option 3: Work at restaurant, gas station, or shop

Another one of those things I’ve always wanted to do, it would be quite easy to get it done here. There’s such a huge lack of manpower in this country that any place you go to perpetually has a “Help Wanted” sign in front of it. The money is rather OK too, especially when converted to Indian Rupees, although it can be a bit dangerous to think of it that way.

Advantages:

  1. Guarantee of some interesting experiences.
  2. Money.
  3. Small chance of a life-changing change in perspective towards life by character development through a menial job.

Disadvantages:

  1. Greatly reduced chances of travel.
  2. Possibility of chewing more than I can swallow.
  3. Lack of availability to wifey.

Option 4: Pick up a bicycle and ride around

This is the option I’m inclined towards the most at the moment. I could pick up a super cheap cycle, like the shittiest one front some yard sale or from a dumpster, and then ride it through UK, Isle of Man, Ireland and Scotland, maybe even some parts of Europe, while surviving on goodness of mankind and a lot of couch surfing.

Advantages:

  1. Exploration at its best, slow, intimate, and a bit stupid.
  2. Big opportunity to see the life and understand the people in a post-Brexit UK.
  3. Cheap, when not free.

Disadvantages:

  1. Weather conditions might lead to serious complications, things that I am not even aware of, far from being prepared for.
  2. Extremely demanding physically, not sure if a fat fuck like me would be up for it.
  3. No time for wifey.

Option 5: Dedicate this time to books, learning, and knowledge

I currently have pending 8 audio books, 1 physical book, and millions of Youtube videos, it would be so easy to just sit back and try to finish some of them. I have recently developed interest in 2 main fields, philosophy and psychology, and the time that I have could be used in scratching the surfaces of these 2 massive icebergs.

Advantages:

  1. A beautiful opportunity to understand Plato, Kant and CBT in the serenity of Milton Keynes.
  2. Wifey should be very happy, if a bit confused by my attempts to psychoanalyze her.
  3. Possible growth as a human.

Disadvantages:

  1. Not something that can’t be done back in India, feels like a wasted opportunity to be in a different country and just read books.
  2. No money = No travel.
  3. Small chance of getting infected by a harmful idea and destroying my life.

Option 6: A combination

There could be a sort of middle path between these options, but I’m scared that I’d end up doing none of them rather than both of them. For example, I could combine writing with either working at a restaurant or reading about philosophy, however, I have realized over time that I need a clear mind and a lot of free time before ideas start converting into alphabets, although that is something I’d like to change.

Advantages:

  1. A chance to experience different things in a limited amount of time.
  2. To earn a bit of money while getting time for other things too.
  3. A good balance between personal goals and wifey’s happiness.

Disadvantages:

  1. Small chance of success, based on previous experiences.
  2. Might end up spreading myself too thin and feeling unsatisfied with the overall results.
  3. Will require planning, will power, and hard work, none of which I excel at.

In case you are wondering why I’m not thinking of doing something around motorcycles, there are a number of reasons for that.

First off, motorcycles need money, to buy and then run, along with riding gear, and I don’t have money.

Second, any plans to ride around in the upcoming weather are simply suicidal. Even if I do buy heated gear somehow, it’ll all be useless back in India.

Third, I do not want to be restricted towards the places I can see by my means of transport. This needs elaboration, which I don’t want to give.

Fourth, motorcycles are too fast for the kind of travel that I’d like to do here. England is a small country, you can technically “see” it all in a single day of riding.

Fifth, I did try to get a job at a motorcycle shop, showroom, website over here, just to be close to bikes, but none of them wanted me.

Sixth, and most importantly, I would like to stay away from bikes for a bit. They are brilliant, but life is about more than just two wheels.

Things vs. Experiences and the money problem

In case you didn’t notice this while we went through the options mentioned above, the basic question seems to be this.

Should my time, money, and effort be invested in acquiring more things, or should it be invested in gaining more experiences?

The answer is quite difficult to find out, mainly because a majority of the time experiences require things, and many things can also give you experiences. You may also have noticed that in every option, money plays a big role. I’m not saying that money is essential for all experiences, but it is an undeniable fact that a large majority of experiences require at least some level of monetary investment.

It is very easy to say that you shouldn’t worry about shiny things, that you should always choose experiences. It is also very easy to say that as a whole, your path in life should be one of moderation, something that lets you enjoy things, pay for experiences, and still save something for the future. The problem with both of these ideas is that they, like Shumi’s article, are very general, and do not consider the depth of the thoughts and the difficulty of choice that follows.

It is also very easy to say that this entire article is an exercise in massive overthinking, and I would agree with you on that. More often than not, the final choice that you end up making seems so logical, that you wonder why you were worried with other options to begin with. However, I enjoy the process of contemplation, I like organizing my thoughts, no matter how useless that might be in the long run.

My understanding of the nuances of the things vs. experiences argument aren’t fully developed yet, hence I’ll let them run their course and write something when I am able to put into words the fleeting thoughts as they are right now.

The brain fart

Thinking such thoughts can be a bit depressing, but there are also other thoughts that make you feel happier.

For example, yes it’s sad that I’m in a foreign country and wasting my time writing shit articles that make no sense, but I’m also happy that I’m not here as a student under debt. It is sad that I would have to compromise on outright travel if I want to make money for travel, but it’s good that I at least have the choice, unlike a lot of people with kids and dependent parents.

I’m happy, and that’s all that matters.

Emergency motorcycle braking: A few thoughts

This post came into existence due to a question asked by a friend on Facebook, and also due to this interview of a multiple motorcycle world champion.

As much as I’d like to make my life simple, and try to generally simplify my thoughts, behaviors and emotions, the more I think about anything, the more I realize how complex everything is. Here’s the question that I was asked, which looks rather benign, straightforward, easy.

Let’s say I am on full throttle, suddenly spot an animal on the highway, and wish to stop in the least possible time, on a bike without ABS. Any tips?

The first thought that came to mind was “Brake like hell and pray to God!”, but that’s not very useful. I then slowly organised my thoughts based on a large number of factors, and here’s the answer I came up with, which has actually become even more elaborate with thoughts that came into my mind after I had ended the discussion with the friend.

Factors that affect braking on a motorcycle

Not all motorcycles brake equally well, neither does the same motorcycle brake equally well in different conditions. Here’s a small list of factors that might affect the way your bike behaves under braking. It must be added that ABS makes everything better, even if it robs you of one sensory input that makes riding what it is.

1. Tires:

Different tires from different brands offer different levels of braking. An MRF Zapper will not give the same braking power as a Pirelli Supercorsa. Braking grip also obviously depends on how old or new the tire is, with both of those extremes providing less grip than ideal. Generally, grip also depends on the tire pressure, lesser tire pressure provides a bigger contact patch between the rubber and the asphalt and hence helps you slow down faster. However, keeping the tire pressure too low creates its own set of problems.

2. Braking system:

On bikes like Dukes and RCs, the default brake pads and even the front master cylinder isn’t too good, the brakes are weird and can have a spongy feel. EBC brake pads make a huge difference, so does upgrading the master cylinder. This is true for a number of bikes, although it is also true that some OEM braking systems can be remarkably brilliant, for example the one on a Triumph Daytona. The point here is that not all bikes come with braking systems of equal quality, and it may be a good idea to upgrade them, if you feel the need for it.

3. Brake you are using:

This is common knowledge, but important to note. Rear brake is far less effective in stopping a motorcycle as compared to the font one. This is basic physics, the more you brake at the front, the more it gets loaded, and the more braking force it generates. This rule does not apply to all two-wheelers though. Old scooters used to have ridiculously bad front brakes, touching them meant instant death. Today’s scooties also tend to work better with the rear brake, since the engine is at the back, but it depends from model to model.

4. Lean angle:

Naturally, if you are leaned over to a side, the tire contact patch is smaller, and also your suspension is not in a position to be able to handle a large braking force. Hence, you’ll either use a very small amount of braking force to get your job done, or pick up your bike and bring the center of the tire into play if you need more braking. Some people in some situations are able to handle sideways tire slippage, and even use it to their advantage, but we’ll ignore them for the sake of this discussion, since this is centered more around road users than racers.

5. Surface on which you are braking:

This is again rather obvious, your braking technique on track would be different from one on a dirt trail. Your braking technique on a wet road would be different from one on a dry day. Your braking technique on a concrete road would be different from one on the black asphalt. It also depends on whether you are going uphill or down, since you’ll either get assistance in your braking, or resistance to it, both of which will require adjustment on your part. It’s all about what the tires can do and how much you want to push them, but experience plays a huge role in such a decision.

6. The bike:

Braking on a cruiser like Avenger or a Harley would feel very different when compared to braking on a sporty bike like a Daytona or an RC. This is dependent on a number of factors, like how far out the front tire is from the steering, the weight, and the bike’s dynamics. For example, in case of hard but progressive braking, an RC200 is more likely to stoppie, while under the same kind of braking a Bullet’s front is more likely to wash out.

7. Additional items on the bike:

This should also be obvious, but your braking distance with pillion is far more as compared to when you are alone. The added weight gives you more momentum, and it takes you longer to stop. This holds true for other weight additions as well, for example luggage in the shape of saddle, tank, or tailbags. Not only do you have to compensate for the added weight of these items, you might also need to compensate for their movement under braking.

8. Skill:

Skills comes from practice, to know how quickly a particular bike would stop on a particular surface takes time and judgement to understand. My first time on a slushy mountain trail at Rajmachi was horrendous, I folded the front twice because I was so used to using the front brake all the time. This is why it is important not to let yourself be confined to only one kind of riding. Don’t just be a tourer, experience track, trails, slush, dirt, and whatever else you can.

Is emergency braking always a good idea?

This is an important question, and one that not a lot of people ask. Consider the following scenario.

You are happily riding on a highway, cruising at 120 kmph on a bright, sunny day. There are cars, buses, and trucks on the highway too, but you aren’t really bothered.

As you take a slight left corner, out of the bushes you see a group of black buffaloes sitting majestically in the middle of the road, blocking it completely. At the same moment, you also notice in your rear-view mirror that a speeding Volvo bus is right behind you. 

Let’s assume that there are only 2 possible things you can do at this moment. 

  1. Brake as hard as possible to stop just before the buffaloes, but possibly get hit from behind by the Volvo.
  2. Slow down just enough to hit the buffalo as slow as you can, and possibly avoid the Volvo. 

Let’s also assume that there are no other vehicles after the Volvo, and no other dangers on the road except the buffaloes, and that only one of these 2 situations will happen, in the sense that the bus driver will avoid you if you hit the buffaloes and vice-cersa.

What will you do?

This scenario can also be applied to other road hazards, like potholes, speed bumps etc. On a busy highway where you have cars tailgaiting you, should you risk bending your rim by going straight into that pothole, or should you risk braking, which might bump you into someone else?

Such questions can never be accurately answered, they depend on a large number of indeterminate factors, things you can never know for certain. The bad thing here is that you do need to make decisions of such sort on the road, and when you do, you don’t really have time to rub your chin and contemplate what you should or should not do. Hence, it makes sense to be constantly aware of your options, and to understand beforehand what would be a better outcome for you.

For example, I’ve always risked going into potholes rather than braking and hitting someone else. My reason for this behavior is simple, I’d rather spend the money getting my rim fixed than to fight with someone else on a highway. This choice however, isn’t always that straightforward either. If it becomes a choice between life and death, that’s a whole other dominion.

The problem is that if you see an animal on the road, the correct action is NOT always to just brake like hell. For example, if you are on the Yamuna Expressway, where people regularly go above 150 kmph, sometimes even 250 kmph, if you brake hard abruptly, the chances of someone hitting you from behind are very high. If you had just kept accelerating and had hit the animal and fallen, the damage could actually have been lesser when compared to a Fortuner ramming you from behind at 150.

The point of what I’m trying to say is that emergency braking isn’t always the best thing to do. There are many situations where acceleration would save you, there are other situations where you might have to go with the lesser of two evils. One thing which is certain is that emergency braking is something that you should definitely know, even if you may never be able to properly apply that knowledge in real life.

A few thoughts about different animals:

Different animals require different techniques, not all of them react the same way. The 2 main points of consideration in this regard are the following.

1. Ability to make a decision:

When you have only a second to decide what to do, you need the animal to go with you in that decision. The contrast in this situation is real easy to see between dogs and donkeys.

If you see a dog on the road, and the dog sees you, chaos ensues. You decide to go left and miss him, he decides to go left and miss you, then he notices you are going left and he panics, starts running to the left, which is even worse since you looking at the dog going left had decided to go even more left, and the story ends in disaster.

If you see a donkey on the road, you are the decision maker, because the donkey doesn’t give a single fuck about you. You can go left or right, he doesn’t care. This is good, this is what we want, to be in control of the situation and to be able to predict the outcome, based on which we can make a decision. This also works for cows, buffaloes, and to a lesser extent, pigs.

In short, if you have the option to be a dog or a donkey in your life, be a donkey. Decide, do, die.

2. Possibility of going over the animal without harm:

This is an interesting thing to consider as well. I once hit a dog close to its rear legs, but I was lucky that he bounced off the front tire, rather than getting caught under the bike. Such a scenario is impossible with a cow, or a fat pig.

What I’m trying to say, in spite of the feelings this might raise in people who love animals, is that you have to decide if you can save yourself at the expense of the animal. This is possible with dogs, as sad as that might make you, and maybe with piglets, but not much else.

The most important thing is what happens to your front tire, if the animal comes under it and moves it to a place from where you can no longer recover, you are done. Generally, going over a dog with your rear tire will not make you crash, although it’ll certainly give you one hell of a jolt.

With this painful knowledge, it can be said that with dogs, it makes more sense to keep going rather than brake for them. Dogs are not good at making decisions, so you have to make one for them. If you keep going, they’ll either run away, or run back. Slowing down leads to confusion.

Cows, buffaloes, pigs are in a different category, they don’t give a shit about you. In their case, slowing down is the only option. You might be able to go over a dog without much damage, or without even crashing, but you can’t go over a cow without flying out of your seat.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s better to cross an animal with its ass towards you, rather than its face. This is because most animals run forward when they get frightened.

An ideal case emergency braking scenario:

So, let’s assume an ideal case emergency braking scenario.

You are on a highway, there’s nobody behind you, nobody in front you. You suddenly notice a group of cows sitting in the middle of the road, blocking it completely, and you understand that you must shed speed as quickly as possible if you want to stop your bike before them. There are no other road hazards, it’s not wet, and your bike, a KTM Duke 200, is in good shape. 

This is the procedure I would follow in such a situation.

  • Roll off throttle immediately.
  • Simultaneous to the throttle roll off, move my weight forward.
  • Simultaneous to the throttle roll off, pull the front brake as hard as I feel comfortable with.
  • Simultaneous to the throttle roll off, engage the rear brake.
  • Simultaneous to the throttle roll off, downshift as quickly as possible to engage engine braking.

All this would happen simultaneous, without any delay between the different actions.

Now, each one of these actions has complexities of its own. Let’s go through them one by one.

Moving the weight forward must be done without upsetting the bike. This is possible by gently sliding your ass forward until you can feel the inside of your thighs is pushed against the fuel tank. If you lift up your ass too high while braking hard with the front, it is very easy to find yourself flying over the handlebars.

There are 2 reasons for moving the weight forward.

  1. To load the front as much as possible, which’ll help increase the braking power, while also reducing the chances of skidding. When the front is loaded, a bike like the Duke 200 is more likely to stoppie than to fold the front, and arguably, a stoppie is easier to handle. This logic wouldn’t work for a cruiser.
  2. To use your thighs to hold tightly onto the bike, while your hands and feet and head remain stable to do what needs to be done. You don’t want any unwanted throttle inputs, or sudden release of brake pressure, or a missed downshift at such a moment, and keeping your hands, feet, and head stable is the key.

How you engage the front brake is also extremely important. In the heat of the moment, if you panic and grab the front, that’s the end, especially if your bike doesn’t have ABS. Generally, I try to apply roughly 70% of my brake pressure at the start, and then progressively increase it as the front loads up and as I get feedback from the handlebars. This depends completely on your experience, as a motorcyclist in general, and with that bike in those conditions in particular.

The rear brake will not do much, but it’s an emergency, and you need all the help you can get. The same principle applies to engine braking, although on bikes like KTMs, their engine braking can feel very strong and capable. It’s also important to understand that the rear is very easy to slide, so that’s something you should be comfortable with, and should know how to deal with when it happens, which it will.

If you feel the rear end fishtailing, it could either be because of the rear brake, or engine braking. If it’s because of the rear brake, you could simply release and reapply. If it’s because of the engine braking, I’d suggest just hanging on a bit, since it’ll grip back real soon, and pulling the clutch in to ease the engine brake may make things rough.

You will also have to decide what downshift method you want to use. I use the rev-matching method, in which you downshift one by one, while disengaging and reengaging the clutch, and blipping the throttle. You can also use the clutch slip method, in which you pull the clutch in, downshift all the way down, and then slowly let the clutch back out. Both will require time and practice to master.

It is also important to understand that in this ideal scenario, you are not using your steering at all, in the sense that you are trying to stop before the cows, rather than slow down enough so that you can avoid them and then carry on your way. Such a scenario will have a number of additional factors, which’ll need a separate article to discuss the skill of object avoidance.

Things you can do to improve your emergency braking skills:

  1. Use the rear brake often: A lot of people have told me that I use the rear brake too much on the highway and the city, that I should just relax my legs and use the front one. The problem here is that your emergency response needs to come naturally, you won’t have the time to think “Oh I’m not slowing down fast enough, wonder what I could do to make it quicker, oh I know, I’ll just use the rear brake, where’s the damn thing”. As my friend Mr. Anoop Pamu says, riding is all about your muscle memory, and muscle memory isn’t gained by resting them all the time.
  2. Learn and practice downshifting: It’s a lot of fun, I can tell you that for sure. I tried both the methods, and decided to go with the rev-match one, simply because it felt awesome, and sounded even better. It certainly is more complex than slipping the clutch, but I like my actions to have an aesthetic touch as well.
  3. Do emergency braking simulations: This is not easy, you first have to find such a place where you can brake abruptly without the danger of hitting someone else, and then you have to create imaginary obstacles on the road and practice. You’ll make lots of mistakes for sure, in my first braking exercise at Motovation Track Days, I remember sliding my rear for some 20 feet, I was almost sitting on the rear brake.
  4. Know your bike: Handling an emergency situation requires confidence, and confidence comes with knowing yourself and your machine. Do track days, that’s the easiest way to understand what you are capable of, and your bike too. Take your bike off-road, do stupid shit, slide around, stunt, crash. As long as you are in full gear, nothing is going to happen, and the knowledge of finding the limit will make a huge improvement in your overall riding.
  5. Try different kinds of biking: There are 4 basic kinds of riding you can do in India: Touring, track, trails, and city. Touring and city don’t teach you much, not technically at least, they are more a test of endurance and patience. Track and trails teach you far more, on a per-kilometer basis. Both bring very different items to the table, and give you a big opportunity to better yourself as a biker.
  6. Learn how the technical aspects of a motorcycle work: Read books, watch videos, watch others who are better than you. Twist of the Wrist is a popular reading option, although without applying it on the track, that knowledge can cause more harm than good. You can watch MotoGP videos, or other stuff on Youtube that talks about the technical aspects of braking, including tires, chassis and suspension. Cycle world and Life at Lean are good sites to read for this. Understand what preload and damping is, what is chatter, what is soft rubber what is hard rubber etc. If you don’t want to do a track day yourself, it’s always a good idea to just sit by the side and watch others go around, you can learn so much from their engine noises only.

This article, as always, spiraled a bit out of control, and there’s still a lot that could be said about this topic. It goes without saying that all this is just my opinion, learned through experiences in a very narrow field of motorcycling. Take my opinion, combine it with other opinions, and then make your own opinion, based on experiences, empirical data, and intuition, for as Bertrand Russell said.

I would never die for my beliefs, because I might be wrong.

Lavasa: A culture of street racing, ignorance, and bad choices

A good article is like a fart.

You get the idea, you chew it into smaller ideas, digest all of them, and out comes a beautiful tootsie that relieves your system of distress, while making a cute sound. An idea that stays in your system for too long leads to either constipation, or diarrhea, both of which result in a smelly, painful outcome that nobody enjoys.

This post has been overdue since a while.

The idea came in my head a few months ago, and since then the internal dialogue that constantly happens inside my head has been raging on continuously. Initially I wanted to label all who go retard at Lavasa, or any other twisty section for that matter, as ignorant and stupid. Slowly, I started identifying the reasons why people do such stuff, and finally came the realization that I’ve done it too, although not at the level of what some of the people in some of the examples that I’d show you have.

Sadly, the average length of my posts has almost quadrupled from 1000 to 4000 in the last few months, which means that being able to structure my thoughts properly is even more important than it used to be. Let’s break this thing up into parts that can easily fit inside our mouths then.

Identifying the problem

What is the issue that this rant is about? Here is a small playlist to help you figure it out.

In case you still have some doubts, here’s my take on what the problem is.

People push themselves and their bikes beyond the limits on public roads, full of natural and man-made hazards, with complete disregard to their level of skill, experience, type of bike, or the safety of others, for no other reason than the thrill of doing an obviously wrong thing. 

The first video is someone riding their wheels off in rain. Second and third are of the same guy making giant blunders while attempting to push too hard. Fourth is a Bullet guy who doesn’t understand how an uphill hairpin should be approached. Last is just one example of how moronic it is to go beyond your limits at a place like Lavasa.

It goes without saying that this is not an issue exclusive to Lavasa, but endemic to every twisty section you can find anywhere. I’m singling out Lavasa here because it’s the most popular one, and people seem to call it “The Mullholland of India”, a statement so deeply idiotic and false on so many levels, that it’s hard not to laugh, and then cry.

Here are a few more examples from places all over the country, just to make sure you guys don’t feel Lavasa is the only place where this shit happens.

In some ways, it feels like ghats of India have become infested with bikers, who, like a plague, have spread themselves far and wide, making life difficult for a vast majority of people, and sometimes ending it altogether.

Have I done it?

Of course, there’s no stupidity I haven’t tried for myself. Here’s just one example of it.

Yes I’m not as big a cunt as I’d like myself to be, but I try.

Although I’m a relatively slow rider who takes few chances, I have done some incredibly brainless things over the years.

I once overtook a car on a blind turn, only to find a truck right in my face. If the truck hadn’t moved off into the gravel, I wouldn’t be writing this. I once went to Shimla from Chandigarh and came back the same day, and that entire ride was filled with insane moments of incredible foolishness. I once attempted to do Chorla at night on the way to Goa, lost my way, found myself in some godforsaken jungle, with a dark visor on my helmet, and rode like a madman through the potholes and besides the truck and over the jams to get there by midnight.

The biggest reason why people may not recognize me as an asshole is because I try not to share such witless moments in public, and also because I rarely carry an action camera on me, hence many assholic moments go unrecorded.

In any case, let there be no doubt in your minds that when I say people do stupid stuff, I know exactly what I’m talking about.

Why do we do it?

The reasons for this type of self-destructive behavior are varied and deep. Here are a few that fit my theory.

1. Ignorance

They just don’t know any better.

When you’re young, at the beginning of your riding life, the obvious thing to do is to try and find the limits, of you and your bike. Since you are young, and consequently a jackass, this aim is achievable anywhere, inside the city, on the highway, or at some ghats somewhere.

The riding and driving culture in India is anyways fucked up, the people who they watch on the road everyday are probably the worst ones to learn from. They watch people break every rule in the book, do crazy stuff for no reason, and risk themselves and others just to feel a bit better about themselves.

On top of that, it’s easy to see that those who don’t behave like dicks get trampled on by other dicks, hence the incentive to be a dick yourself is pretty huge.

The same story continues in the virtual world. Young people are far more attracted to the extremes, all they watch on Youtube are videos of cars and bikes that sound loud, go fast, and stunt from time to time. The demarcation between what needs to be done on a track and what can be done on the road doesn’t exist in their minds, even though the videos they watch might come with the pointless “Don’t do this at home” warnings.

You really expect to tell a walking bag of testosterone “Don’t do this at home” and expect him to comply?

Our education system teaches nothing at all about safe and responsible road behavior. Our law enforcement system is entirely ineffective. And traditionally, we tend to use our roads as an anger management system more than one for transport. It’s no surprise that young dudes Squid their brains out all over our streets.

2. Influence of Youtube

Media, as in films, advertisements and news etc., don’t play an important role in the development of today’s bikers. Kids don’t watch the news, which is a good thing in a lot of ways, but most importantly because all news channels constantly brand bikers as dickheads, that anyone who crashed on a bike was racing, that it’s OK to blame bikers with big bikes and fancy riding gear for all of nation’s problems.

Movies are worse, in the sense that they portray bikes as these stunt machines that can do anything, slide under a moving truck, jump over a bullock cart, stop a moving train. Motorcycles in movies have no connection whatsoever to reality, and most kids understand that, or at least I hope they do.

Advertisements are the worst, mostly because the manufacturers themselves make such fucking short-sighted blunders, that the people who watch them are given completely wrong information.

It’s a rarity to watch any rider in any motorcycle advertisement wearing a full-face helmet. Gears? What gears? And then there was Bajaj’s marketing campaign for the RS200. If you don’t remember it, the tagline was “Leave track racing to Amateurs”. If the guy who thought of this idea, and the managers who approved it, haven’t been fired and then lynched, we as humans are not living up to our potential.

However, films, advertising and news have almost no influence against what Youtube has. Youtube videos have such a huge impact due to 2 reasons.

First, they are real, you know that’s a real guy doing those real things right in front of your eyes. Second, you can watch what a guy in Jordan or Switzerland or USA is doing from the safety of your house, the level of reach Youtube gives to you is incredible, it’s your choice what you want to see.

In India, a major factor in this direction has been Powerdrift. They make beautiful videos, with Sagar doing some pretty incredible stuff, and to that gets added their popularity in general. I enjoy watching their videos, especially the old ones, but what you need to understand is the difference in perspective between when I watch one of their videos, and a young dude watches the same thing.

When I watch a Powerdrift video, I appreciate the editing skills, the time that must’ve gone into thinking it, and then making it happen. I appreciate Sagar’s skill with motorcycles, more so since I’ve never got my knee down, and I understand how much effort it takes to get to this level where you can do anything with a motorcycle that you just got a few hours ago.

However, I’m also aware of the bigger picture, the fact that these guys have had plenty of crashes on the way, have spent countless hours on the track getting trained by professionals, and overall, spent huge amounts of time, money and sweat to get where they are. They understand the risks, they understand their limits, they prepare for eventualities, and they have tremendous amount of experience doing what they do.

Now imagine a 19-year-old watching the same Powerdrift video, what do you think he thinks?

He has barely seen the world, his viewpoint is extremely narrow, all he can see are the knee-downs, the sparks flying away, the wheelies, the sound, the excitement. To him, Sagar was born like this, and if he watches enough of his videos, he can download his skills to his own brain right through Youtube. Since there are no crashes in their videos for obvious reasons, he never realizes there’s a different side to the coin as well.

I’m not blaming Powerdrift for anything, it’s not their responsibility to teach youngsters things their parents should, the society should, and what they should have an innate understanding of. If anything, their videos are extremely sensible when compared to retard buckets you can find all over Youtube, who sadly have far more viewership than Powedrift.

My point is that kids are easy to influence, and they naturally tend to look at the fun side of riding than the sad side, they tend to look at top speed runs, exhaust note videos, stunt videos, rather than near-misses, crashes, broken bones and deaths. This creates a version of motorcycling in their head that’s completely removed from reality, and the shock of knowing the truth comes with great risk.

Here’s another set of videos to help prove my point, all these videos are specific to Lavasa.

3. The fetish of Knee Downs

As someone who spent a large part of this and last year attempting to get my knee down, I understand how strong this urge can be. We watch a lot of MotoGP, we watch a lot of Youtube, and it looks so easy. Then you try to do it yourself, and the damn thing is so unimaginably uncomfortable.

I understand how important knee downs are to people, and I also understand how useless they are for a rider, at least one who isn’t taking part in some competitive racing event. But this fetish of scraping your knee leads to a lot of huge problems, as we’ll discuss.

I’ve been to Lavasa only once. I went there with a friend, both had their girlfriends behind them, and we were staying a few nights there. It was raining like shit. We went on a Friday, so on the way up there wasn’t much traffic, just a few random bikers with loud exhausts practicing their cornering. When we came back, it was a Sunday, and the entire twisty section, from top to bottom, was swarming with bikers, like an open wound attacked by maggots.

A few of the bikers were like us, caught at the wrong place at the wrong time. We just wanted to get out of there, had no reason to get involved in the fuckfest that was going on. Some of the bikers there were total dickweeds, there was a guy riding a yellow Harley V Rod without a helmet, there were plenty of others on loud bikes overtaking everyone all the time without giving a single shit about common decency and sense. Most of the bikers were reasonably geared up, on small to mid level bikes, and pushing their heart out to get their knee down to the ground.

We couldn’t help laughing at some of the poor sons of bitches, their bikes perfectly straight, both their ass cheeks out of the saddle, their body looking like one from a crime scene that fell off a building, contorted, twisted beyond recognition, and the knee stretched to the breaking point, just desperately wishing for a touch of asphalt.

The first problem with this uncontrollable desire is that it fucks up a biker’s body position. Their aim is no longer to balance their weight, to be comfortable on the bike, and have complete control over the throttle, they would sacrifice anything to have a few scrapes on their knee guards to show to others later.

The second problem is that doing such stupidity on a public road is crazy, I understand you are trying a few things, getting to know what works and what does not, but do you really have to do it at a place with absolutely no margin for error, with an oncoming vehicle waiting for you to fuck up, with the cliff waiting to embrace you and your bike with its bushy, thorny hands?

The third problem is that more often than not, such riders get into races. They watch someone else who looks faster and has his knee down, and they will do anything to overtake them, just to prove a non-existent point. If things weren’t dangerous already, now they are.

I will not tell you that there’s no reason to get our knee down, I still want to, and I still try to. However, it’s completely useless to make it happen on a ghat section somewhere, come to a track, be away from all the distractions, all the risks, and then do it. As with everything else, knee downs are just a way to understand your limit, and it’s quite possible you’ll rarely do them again once you know how, but to reach that point you’ll have to spend time practicing, making mistakes, crashing.

If you don’t have the brain to realize this isn’t something that’s supposed to be done on a public road, rest assured your brain would sooner or later be splattered down that same public road.

4. Lack of understanding about the Law of Personal Space

This is a cultural thing that has its hold deep in psyche. The Indian society has no sense of personal space, your neighbors know what size undies you wear, your relatives leave no stone unturned to embarrass you in public with intimate questions, and our public transport system mainly involves people pushing each other’s armpits into each other’s noses. The biggest reason for this is that there are too many of us, but there are a number of other factors too that need their own article.

In case you missed it in my earlier post, the Law of Personal Space states the following:

The Law of Personal Space states that you are free to do whatever you wish to do, as long as it doesn’t affect someone else’s personal space. 

With an entire culture that doesn’t give a single fuck about personal space, that permeates every walk of our life, it’s quite easy to see why our road sense is as warped as it is. It’s even easier to see then why riders feel no issues at all with using public spaces for personal fun.

I have no issues with you breaking some of the laws, it’s impossible to follow all of them all the time. However, when you put your thrill in front of someone else’s safety, that’s where the problem comes. You crash, you die, no issues at all, great fun. However, you make a dick move that makes someone else crash, then you are in trouble. Most of these riders don’t give a single shit about the locals who are just living their lives, riding their scooters and small bikes to and from home. They overtake them like they don’t exist, or matter.

You can have fun on twisties, as much as you like. One of the advantages of crappy law enforcement in our country is that it’s mostly your own responsibility to be a good road user.

It’s very simple to be one really, as long as you are alone and there’s no chance of someone else getting affected by your actions, go ape shit, wheelie, then stoppie, then do a rolling burnout, while scraping both your knees, shoulders and the bloody helmet. However, if there’s someone in front of you, someone who is not aware of the party inside your pants, don’t involve him in it, be respectful, overtake them when there’s space, tell them you’re doing it with a horn, and then go live your life.

I understand when you are pushing yourself, you tend to get into this zone where you want to get rid of all distractions as quickly as possible. If you are looking for the ultimate version of this, go to a track. If you still do want to do it on the roads, you’ll have to control yourself, wait for your moment, and give space to everyone else.

Here’s an excellent example of what I mean. 2 riders, with obvious wealth but not so obvious brains, sucking each other’s cocks in broad daylight on a public road with people around them who have no part in it.

5. Lack of safe environments to improve

This is the most obvious reason why a lot of us find ourselves forced to do what deep down we all understand is wrong.

There are barely any tracks in India, especially if you live in the West or Central part of this country. People of South have 2 tracks, Chennai and Coimbatore, Hyderabad has a tiny one, and then there’s Buddh. 3 major tracks to serve an entire nation of over a billion people is hilariously inadequate.

On top of this, roads are free, tracks are not. Going to a track not only involves spending some 10,000 bucks per day just to register, but you also must spend on proper riding gear. It’s just easier to ride in your chaddi to the nearest ghats and corner the shit out of them, not to mention enormously cheap, hence that’s what a lot of people do.

A small number of smaller tracks have cropped up at places like Bangalore, Kolhapur etc., but a lot of people have this misconception that small tracks are useless.

“What’s the point of taking my Duke 390 to the circuit in Hyderabad when I’ll never be able to take it above 3rd gear?”.

This is wrong on so many levels, but I’ll try to answer a few of them.

Small tracks are great for beginners, speeds are low, so if you crash, nothing happens, you just get up and crash again. Small tracks also tend to have a lot of tight corners, which teach you a lot about throttle control and lines. Most importantly, small tracks are dirt cheap. A track day in Hyderabad costs roughly 1500 bucks. Based on the value you get out of this experience, I’d say that’s money well spent.

Not only do we not have proper places where people can try things out and improve, not many of us want to spend the time understanding the complexities of a motorcycle, to read books about cornering, to read articles, to ask questions and clear doubts.

The combination of these factors means that what you end up with is an army of frustrated, jacked up bikers, who are inspired by the internet to push beyond their limit, ready to break every rule, without even the basic understanding of how to go about it in a safe and responsible way.

6. A burning sense to belong

This is, in my opinion, one of the biggest factors at play. Like girls have this weird compulsion to look beautiful, no matter how many layers of horse jizz make-up that takes, boys have this compulsion to be cool, to be associated with important people, to have some excitement and adventure in life. Motorcycles seem to be an easy way of doing this, and they dive in, head first, with no sense of direction.

It’s so common to find college dudes riding superbikes nowadays, how do you think that affects an average middle-class teenager? If he can’t have a bike that goes quick, at least he can compensate by going quick himself, taking a few risks on the way.

The group riding culture doesn’t help either, there’s always that one twat in every group who takes the most risks and looks the fastest, consequently everyone tires to keep up with him, which obviously ends in disaster. If you are quick, people respect you, if you are not, you are looked down on.

Humans will do anything to be appreciated, self-worth is the biggest motivator on this planet.

The sad fact is that young people generally tend to connect their self-worth to external factors, what people think of them, how many likes they get on social media, how do they look. This connection takes them on a dangerous path, lead by deranged, irresponsible assholes who themselves don’t have a fucking clue what they are doing with their lives.

This is one of the reasons why I don’t like people who give too much importance to motorcycles, you know the type who say “Ride or die”, “Live to Ride”, or share memes like “Ride, eat, sleep, repeat” and shit.

As a man who has built an entire unsuccessful career on motorcycles, I can tell you for a fact that they are nothing special by themselves. Motorcycles are just a means to an end, to get you to places, to give you that thrill, to fulfill your sense of adventure. People who tell you otherwise are frauds trying to sell you stuff.

Don’t buy into this delusional idiocy.

I understand young men want to belong, they wish to have a purpose in life, something they can sacrifice for, to fight for. Go ahead and follow this hobby, make it your life, but don’t get sucked into the elaborately dark minds of others, make your own damn decisions.

What is the result?

The question can be raised that the last 3700 words have all been in vain, that I’m just jacking myself off for nothing. Let me give you a few examples of how easy it is to influence riders, and make them do unbelievably moronic things.

There’s this penis spasm on Youtube called MaxWrist. All he does is race random people on roads, some of whom don’t even know they are racing with this jizz pudding. Although I always try to not give a single second of my time to such ass lickers, I would like to show you an example.

Now that you’ve seen what the life of man continuously unhappy with the size of his dick looks like, let me show you what it does to youngsters thousands of kilometers away. Here’s a video of some tit hair near Bangalore.

Do you see the influence? No? It’s OK, I have more examples.

I’m sure you’ve seen the video of this ballsack riding through traffic like the ballsack he is. In case you haven’t here it is.

Now that you know what the life of a man who got hit on the head with a shovel at birth looks like, let me show you how it affects youngsters. Here’s the video of some nosebleed from Kolkata.

Still not satisfied? No worries, let me show you one of the most popular motorcycle videos online, something I’m certain you’ve seen, and probably shaken your head to until you passed out.

Now that you know what the life of a man whose penis has never been touched by anyone else’s hand looks like, allow me to show you the result of this stupidity in India.

If you still don’t see what I mean, this article has been a waste of your time, apart from mine. Having said that, there’s just one more thing I would like you to understand.

I get it that people watch foreigners do stupid shit, and they want to do it themselves. What they don’t understand is the level of medical support you get in those countries, they don’t realize that these people have a giant safety net around them, something that we simply don’t.

Here’s an example, a dude crashes, and within minutes there are trained professionals helping him, followed by a helicopter, a fucking helicopter to fly him to safety.

What happens if you crash at Lavasa? Or Lonavala? Or Kasara? Or Chorla? It takes an hour for an ambulance to arrive, if it does, and then the police come to fuck your day up even more, followed by the struggle of finding proper medical attention and fighting the law that’s supposed to help you out.

A friend once crashed near Amby Valley, I was with him. We had to go all the way to the city, fetch an auto, bring it back up, pick him up, and then ferry him to a hospital. He was just lying by the side in dirt all that time.

You think you can do what someone in USA is doing, but you can’t. You are not fighting on a level playing field, your world is completely different from theirs, the things you don’t even know exist are a common part of their life.

Get your fucking head out of your ass.

How do we improve this situation?

I don’t know. I’ve realized over the past few months that I’m a thinker, not a doer, so I’m far better at spazing out than actually helping someone, far better at having a ragegasm than making a difference.

In some ways, I don’t think there’s much that can be done at all. Young people are complete dicks, I was one too, and they seldom learn a lesson without reality smacking them flat in the face.

My writing style doesn’t help either, if there is some teenager out there who might be influenced by this article to change his ways, he will most likely be put off by my language and insults and not understand the idea behind them.

What we need is a vast system of sensible people telling beginner riders what needs to done. Parents and teachers are THE most part of this pyramid, what they say and what they do has a massive influence on what the kid grows up to be. The society, law enforcement, and licensing authorities are big players too, but there are far too many other important things to fix before they can get to this. Our popular automotive sites could help out as well, but I don’t think such articles fit in their business strategies.

Why would someone waste an article telling people about safety that only a few would read, when you can use that article to talk about the instrument console of the upcoming KTM Duke 390, which everyone can masturbate to?

The silver lining on this dark cloud is that this article is done, so I don’t give a shit anymore. I have vomited the idea out my head and onto the internet, and that’s all I care about.