On a very broad scale, there are 2 kinds of people in this world.
There are whiners, like me, who complain about every little thing, like a motorcycle being only 99.3% perfect for my daftly specific requirements. And there are doers, like the people mentioned in this article, who see a problem and immediately work towards solving it, rather than writing pointless, 3000 word rants that help nothing and no one in the end.
My introduction to the Motovation crew happened more than a year ago, when I first came to Hyderabad after moving out of Mumbai. Out of the 3 founders, Nikhil, Anoop, and Mihir, I ended up interacting far more with Mr. Mihir Chadha than the others, mostly because he dropped in quite frequently at the office I worked at, with his long hair and chiseled lips and interesting stories.
Gradually, I got to know Nikhil and Mr. Pamu as well. We once rode together to that shitty Xbhp OLX Collector’s ride, where I got a first-hand experience of just how mad these fuckers were. I got to know them far better when I started attending the track days organised by them, but there again Mihir was the one who I spent most of the time with, the other two were far beyond my level, both in riding and in humor.
During this time, I got to know a few more people in their crew, although not beyond the usual depth of a person you never have any deep conversations with. The fact that I’m a shy stammering awkward piece of shit didn’t help either.
The first contact at any track day was made with Tanya, a smiling girl with a wide variety of hair colors, and a student who always seems to be a part of everything Motovation does. I don’t think she is a biker, from what I have seen till now she’s a beginner at best. Why then, would a person who has no personal interest in an event, be present at the venue well before sunrise, sometimes even before all 3 of the founders got there? I don’t know, it could be friendship, it could be something beyond friendship, but I’ve never woken up this early to help anybody out, not even myself, hence I don’t understand the impulse behind such behavior, although I deeply respect it.
Next up mostly came Kyathi, another student in the final year of his engineering degree, who seems to have more interest and talent with 4 wheels than in 2. He’s skilled with go-karts, far higher than I am at least, and has probably raced them at some level too. He is one of the people who marshals on the track, keeps everything safe and running as per schedule, while also lapping in a few rounds of the circuit from time to time.
Then you move around and meet Johnny, who for the most part of last year I only knew by the name “Jesus”, which made him both instantly recognizable, and entirely confusing to me. He works with Amazon in Hyderabad, and has raced Nationals and One Make in the past. He also took part in that Bajaj Pulsar RS200 race series I think, finishing on the podium somewhere. He’s one of the people I regularly try to watch on the track, especially on the last turn, where you enter into the home straight. He also seems to possess this incredible talent to get his knee down on any fucking bike that he desires, something that I’ve never been able to achieve, even on the best of the best.
By this time Jason and I are usually shaking hands, and I always end up thinking “it’s hard to find a whiter guy than him in India”. I don’t know what he does off the track, he looks too young to not be in college, but I’m famously bad at judging people and their ages. He, like Kyathi, juggles riding and marshaling duties from time to time. I once made the mistake of giving him one of my pristine knee sliders for a few laps, it came back half destroyed.
There’s Luke, Biggie, Atif, Ryan, and maybe even a few more that I don’t know by name. If you found my descriptions of the people above to be a bit vague, it’s simply because they don’t care, and neither do I. We get together, have some fun, and then go live our lives. Although it’s always fun to get to know people better, such humans, who play a brief but important role in your life, without all the strings attached with close personal connections, are far more beautiful than most friends and even family you’ll ever have.
When Mihir decided to fuck away far too early, the most obvious question was “Could Motovation still continue?”. He was the youngest, wildest, fastest of the lot, although his teaching methods were hilariously bad and prone to disasters. More than anything, I think it’s about the desire to continue, or rather the loss of it.
Motovation people, even till today, don’t exactly make a living out of these events. All of them are volunteers, who take the booking amounts, use them to pay for the logistics and the refreshments and the ambulance and the gear and the bikes and the fuel and the damages, organize the whole thing, and then go home to their respective jobs. In some sense, it’s just social service, and it’s hard to justify doing it if it ceases to be fun.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I’d have stopped at this point if I was in their situation. Not only did they not stop, they moved higher. They organised more track days, exclusive track days, a tour of the Himalayas, dirt track days, and then even one at Chennai, featuring bomb riders like Rajini Krishnan and Sandesh Sandy. After the first place where they did the dirt track days faced issues with local Police, they recently moved onto a new location, where an event is happening in 2 days time.
Nikhil and Anoop
Nikhil used to work at Amazon, now he works at Uber. He has also raced in Nationals and One Make in the past, and might return to them in the future, although he once told me he was too old for that shit, and that I simply had no chance. If you look closely in his eyes, he seems to be in a constant state of mushroom high, or maybe that’s just the color of his iris. When he’s not riding or cracking embarrassingly sad jokes, he’s smoking, which might explain the eyes, although that does raise a lot of questions about what the hell is in those cigarettes.
He’s not a teacher in the traditional sense of the word, I’ve never learned anything from him directly, nothing that I’ve realized after he said something to me. He teaches by example, he asks you to follow him, if you can, or sometimes he follows you, if he’s in the mood. Most of the time, he’s just randomly sliding around the track, trying to defend against Anoop or Jesus, and that’s where I’ve learned the most from him.
I’ve always believed that copying someone who’s better than you is the easiest and quickest way of improving your own skill and level. It has worked remarkably well for me throughout my life, and that’s all I care for. When I first started riding at the track, for every lap that I did, Nikhil probably did 2. This was in spite of the fact that I was on a 390 and he was on a 200. After watching him, his body position, his lines, the sound of his engine, and more than a year’s worth of track riding, I’m happy to announce that I can finally keep up with him, although not if he’s on anything faster.
In my mind, this is beautiful. You don’t talk, you don’t waste time in needless discussions, you just get on with it and then quite naturally the rest happens.
Like with many things in life, you can read as much as you like about riding on the track, and then piss your pants once you do it in reality. With something that’s so visceral, that demands so many of your senses to work in coordination, there’s no alternative to experience, and that’s where Nikhil’s style, intended or unintentional, works fabulously for me.
Anoop is the opposite in many ways. His dad owns a custom signage business, where he spends most of his time off bikes. On the track, you can easily get into massively technical discussions with him, and he’s the guy you tend to talk with when following Nikhil raises some questions that you can’t quite figure out yourself.
He can be very strongly opinionated though, conceding to your point is not something you should expect from him. I’ve been annoyed a few times by his suggestions, which I felt were quite counter intuitive, but then as expected, quickly realized that they worked on the bike, which is all that matters.
For a guy of his size, and for someone who calls himself the Fat Flash, he is fucking fast. Part of this might be his tendency to frequently go far beyond the limits, something which Nikhil never does.
In my experience with Motovation till date, I’ve never witnessed Nikhil crashed. In that same experience, I’ve never seen Mr. Pamu not crash. I don’t remember a single track day when he didn’t lay his bike down. I recently went to check out the new dirt track that they developed, and even there he slid out of a friend’s old Karizma.
Needless to say, I’ve never lent my bike to him.
He’s rather famous for his talking sessions, which involve staying on the topic for the minimum possible time, and an unnaturally high usage of the expression “all y’all”. I love the way he laughs though, his damn eyes become tiny, even when looked through his thick glasses, and you can genuinely feel the laughter underneath, not just the disconnected and painful expansion of the lips.
Both of them have had their fair share of motorcycle related injuries. Anoop was once involved in a horrific crash at Chennai, you can still find the souvenirs on his wrist. Nikhil has fucked his knees over time, I remember him talking about an upcoming surgery a while ago.
Both are so deeply involved with motorcycles, despite every wreck they have brought in their lives, that it’s hard to mentally connect them with anything but leather suits, KTM bikes, and knee downs.
The value of Motovation
Apart from the obvious fact that their track days let you understand your own and your bike’s limits, make you faster, safer, and overall a better rider, the reason I’m writing about the people behind Motovation is that their events do so much more for the biking community than any shitfaced Ride For Safety does.
The most fascinating aspect for me at any track day is to watch the different kinds of people, some of them with their bodies completely out of shape just to get their knee down, others with their bikes barely tipped in, far too scared of touching the limit. There are the beginners, the experts, the experimentalists, the extremes, the smooth, the rough, the beautiful, the quick, the racers, the learners, and the few guys on Bullets.
I realized after just one track day how different it feels to be on the bike from watching someone else be on one. When you watch MotoGP, it all looks so easy. When you’re on the track, you think your shoulder is so close to rubbing off the asphalt, you look at other people and think what a bunch of losers they are, and then you finally find your own photos, looking like a retarded crab, your knee a few galaxies away from the Earth, your toes pointing awkwardly to the ground.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so embarrassingly disappointing.
When you look at other people, normal people on normal bikes, and not Rossi or Marquez on prototype missiles, you get a great deal of understanding about how the human body and a motorcycle work together. The best part is that every track day brings different kinds of riders, all with their unique styles, body positions, and personalities. It’s impossible to gain this knowledge by watching a race thousands of kilometers away, or by reading a book written by an obvious genius but someone far removed from your present situation.
The other brilliant aspect of any Motovation track day is the sheer variety of bikes that run. You always have the KTMs, you have a few Ninjas, 300s and sometimes even 650s, you also have FZs, R15s, Bullets, Continental GTs, Daytonas, Bonnies, Z800s, Mojos, Dios, Navis, CBRs, Benellis, and if you’re lucky, Nikhil’s old Kawasaki Caliber 110.
Even among the KTMs, you have stock bikes like mine, all the way to crazy contraptions with Metzeler M7 RRs, piggyback ECUs with traction control, Ohlins suspensions, a wide variety of fork oils, many kinds of disc pads, and one crazy fuck who actually sawed off his stock RC390 handlebar and made something even more committed.
You can clearly see the strengths and weaknesses of different bikes, how the riders cope up with them, how they adapt to use the package they have between their legs. The variety of tires is staggering, you can learn so much just by looking at their tread and wear patterns.
Above everything, the sheer diversity of sounds is a pleasure. You get to hear everything from the groaning singles, to the whining doubles, to the crying triples and sometimes the screaming fours.
Complementing all the above, the value of Motovation to me is this, their events give you an opportunity to watch other people do stuff, things you thought couldn’t be done, things you thought certainly couldn’t be done on that bike, especially not with those tires. When you watch someone else open throttle so early, when you see the sweet sweeping line they take, when you understand you can brake that late because they can, it’s all about the power of possibility.
The human experience can be incredibly narrow, even with the massive amount of exposure to foreign ideas that the internet brings in. We naturally tend to prove our own beliefs, to progressively provide evidence against those we don’t. Watching other people destroy your misconceptions is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.
With extremely limited resources, in a city not as loving to motorcycles as Bangalore or Pune, and with little in the name of monetary or human support, Motovation has created a vast infrastructure for motorcycle enthusiasts like me. Without them, I’d have long killed myself by slashing my wrist with a cardboard box.
If not for their track days, I’d have slowly but surely moved away from motorcycles, solely because there wouldn’t have been anything I could’ve done with them. As much fun as touring can be, you can only go with it so far before there’s nothing left to ride to anymore. Off road is fun for sure, but how many lakes can you circumnavigate before it starts feeling like you’re a dumb and broke version of Columbus?
They’ve steadily built up on the base that was created. Their latest plan involves creating a giant motorsports and camping complex near Hyderabad in association with Yash Motorsports, which’ll include a drag strip, a dirt track, and a 3+ kms long asphalt track.
Irrespective of what you might think of them, or what might happen to them in the future, Motovation has been an extremely important part of my riding life for the past year, and I can’t thank them enough for the brilliant fun that time has been.
If you’re around Hyderabad, come meet the people behind Motovation at the dirt event happening this Saturday. I might be there too.