Ride against Kawasaki – Day 1: Stories from the roads

By | September 12, 2016

The thing I hate most about motorcycles is that loving them forces you to be a morning person. I don’t like to be forced, or to be a morning person.

The alarms went off at 4 AM, and it was time to peel myself away from the bed. If you’re ever confused in life about what path to follow, find the thing that you can wake up for. There’s literally nothing else in this world that can open my eyes this early, and I don’t need any other proof of my love for motorcycle travel.

Drink water, eat a bunch of Chocos, finger yourself in the butt, no shit. Walk around the house, take a shower, finger some more, still nothing. Pack your stuff, put on full riding gear, take 1 step outside your door, shit emergency.

Finally hit the road at 5.30, a bit too early for my liking, but I wanted to be in Bangalore by afternoon. I absolutely hate riding in the dark, but mornings are a bit more bearable because there are far lesser high-beaming buttholes around, and also you know that things are going to get better in a few hours.

Took the ORR service road till it joined the main highway, and then we were off.

Roads shouldn’t be this straight

The first time I did the Hyderabad – Bangalore highway, I was in love. It’s a beautiful road with not a single pothole, and not much traffic either. I stopped a lot, took a lot of pictures, and did the 600 odd kms in some 10 hours.

Every trip after that, the road has progressively become worse. I mean the road is still the same, it’s just that I’m completely bored of it. There’s no character, no soul, you just pin the throttle and keep going. Most of the time I finish it off in less than 7 hours, this time things got even worse.

I find it difficult to stop the road from taking control of me. My plan is always to ride for an hour max, and then take a break, but it rarely ever happens, you get sucked into the good old “a bit more” vacuum, and before you know it, you’ve been riding for 3 hours and your ass is a glowing red mass of seething flesh.

This is where the tiny fuel tank of the Duke comes to rescue, it’s impossible to ride too far with it without stopping, the damn thing can’t hold a piss worth of petrol. When I rode the Mojo, I rode it non-stop for some 400 kms towards the end, simply because I could. It was such a stupid thing to do.

There’s nothing wrong with riding for too long, except the fact that it starts fucking with your senses. Your sense of speed changes, 120 feels too slow, 130 feels a bit better, 140 feels just about right. Your reaction time increases, more so because you are constantly distracted by your own thoughts, spending lesser and lesser time looking at the road. And most importantly, the faster you go, the slower the distances seem to be going away, so the only thing you can do is push even more.

Luckily our roads are so fucked up that every few hundred kilometers you  are guaranteed to be shaken out of this delirium by a near-death experience.

Just before Kurnool, I was in the zone, doing a bit more speed than I should have, riding for far longer than I should have. Around Kurnool, you have these psychedelic road markings before all major intersections on the highway. It starts with a big fat white line, followed a smaller big fat while line, progressively becoming thinner, combined with an obvious auditory input that you’re reaching towards a climax. I love these things, although they don’t really do their job of slowing down people, they’re quite an OCD satisfying experience to roll over.

There was a truck in front me, the road took a slight left curve, and the white lines were there. I was smiling as I went over them, and noticed that the right lane was empty, so planned to overtake the truck and get on my way. Slowly moved the bike into the right side, reached just before the back tires of the truck, and the dude decided to slide into my lane.

There was a divider on the right with plants and stuff, not exactly a soft landing spot. On top of that I was scared of flying right through the bushes and getting trampled on by someone on the opposite side. The first thought was “So this is how it ends”. I braked as hard as I could, but I was going far too quick, and the truck was moving towards me the same way. In that moment of sheer panic, I even forgot that horns exist, and kind of accepted that now was the time to die.

The trucker must’ve seen me, because he decided to give me some space, inches only, but that’s all I needed then. Pulled away, didn’t look back, and stopped at the first restaurant I found after that.

It was completely my fault. I should’ve been slow, should’ve honked, should’ve used my fucking brain, but this is what happens when you push more than you should. It’s all fun and games until something goes wrong, but when it does, you are completely unprepared to handle it. My respect for truckers only went up after this, man didn’t kill me even though he could, top bloke in my books.

After a coffee and a plate of Idlis, it was time to move again. I had decided not to look at my speedo anymore, looking at the speeds only makes you want to set an arbitrary number that you must always be beyond, irrespective of the road condition. I just looked ahead, and rode at whatever speed felt best. It was a beautiful sensation, until that fucker on the Pulsar decided to pull right in front of me.

It was a left turn again, and a small intersection. I was slow, and saw that a bike was parked on the left, with the rider speaking to someone on their left. I was in the left lane, my speeds weren’t quick enough to justify holding up the right. The biker suddenly turned right, without looking even for a second, saw me, and froze, with his bike sitting sideways, covering the entire left lane.

Fuck me.

Full front brake, full rear brake, downshifting like a madman, ABS working overtime, rear sliding under the engine braking. I managed to miss the guy by a few inches somehow, but I wasn’t prepared for what was to come. He looked at me with such anger that I actually felt guilty, he wanted me to know this was my fault. At that moment, all I really wanted to do was turn back and smash my helmet in his face, but I’ve learned from experience not to do things when you’re too angry.

This is why our roads are dangerous. Our infrastructure isn’t bad, our road sense isn’t bad, but it’s these people who don’t mind dying that fuck everything up. Because of jizz farts like these, people are scared on our highways, and scared people make bad choices.

RATs on the road

The Pulsar experience broke my meditative riding session, and I was back at it, riding angry, too fast without any stops. It’s difficult to recognize you’re doing the wrong thing, I think this is one way in which group rides are good, there are others to tell you when you’re about to kill yourself.

Somehow regained my composure, and pulled up into a small trail by the side of the road. I generally don’t stop next to the highway, it invites other people to stop and talk to you, plus it’s not fun to watch others watch you pee. I understand that there’s no other option but to take a leak by the road, but you don’t have to stand there with your dick out in full public view when you can just go a few meters in and be completely covered by the trees and bushes.

All done, put my helmet and gloves back on, and heard a bunch of Triumphs pass by. It’s easy to tell a Triumph by the way it sounds, a very beautiful note of bass and high-pitched whining, unlike the mechanical drone of the Japanese monsters.

Not only do I personally avoid group rides, I also try to avoid others people and their group rides. Riding in a horde changes people’s mentality, makes them do stupid things, and a great example of that was about to come.

It was a bunch of Triumph riders, RATs as they call themselves, which in itself is quite an idiotic thing to begin with. The group was divided in 2 sub-groups, a bunch behind that was too slow, and a bunch ahead who were quick. I overtook the slower bunch easily, while trying my best to be as polite as possible. People in groups generally go ape shit on little things far too quickly, and I had no time to fight with anybody.

The group ahead consisted of 2 Tigers, 1 Street Triple, and 1 Bonnie. I liked the fact that all of them had their stock exhausts on, no super-loud attention whoring stuff, which gave me an impression that they were nice, well-educated riders out there just to have some fun. They were all doing around 110, with the Bonnie leading, which I guess made sense since he was the slowest bike of the bunch.

I was doing 120+ before I hit them, and even though I wasn’t much faster than them, I was getting held up. They had to completely stop at speed bumps to save the bottoms of their bikes, I didn’t. More than that, it doesn’t matter what bikes you are riding, a group will always be slower than a guy.

Still had to be polite though, they were all on bikes that were far faster than mine, and I didn’t want to start a RAT race. After a small intersection where they all had slowed down considerably, I overtook each one very carefully, and with quite a big enough gap. At the front I resumed my normal 120-130 march towards Bangalore, and then the stupidity began.

I was checking in the mirrors from time to time, just to ensure I don’t get in the way if one of them decides to take a tiny KTM overtaking their giant Triumph to the heart. And sure as hell, I saw the lights coming closer.

It was hilarious to watch the Bonnie guy fly past me, must’ve been doing some 150 odd, crouched all the way down, the bike groaning under him. Others followed soon, and I simply had to slow down to let them through. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck inside a group of bikers, much better to be ahead or behind.

Inevitably, they all slowed down again, and things started to get a bit annoying. I overtook them again, too politely, just before a checkpost where we all had to slow down. As soon as we were out of the traffic, the Bonnie guy was at it again, and for the second time, I found myself behind the group.

This was moronic. Their attitude seemed to be “We shall go no faster than 110, but anybody else overtaking us shall immediately be overtaken back again. No one must ride in front of the RATs, such the great Mr. Sumbly spoketh”.

I don’t mind following someone who’s going at more or less the same speed that I am. I don’t like it, but it’s bearable. Following someone who is slower than you is such a pain, you have to constantly keep an eye on the mirrors, keep an eye beyond the first guy in the group, all the while looking like a moron following a bunch of bigger morons.

I knew what had to be done, pulled to the right on an open stretch and gunned it, fuck politeness. They were all slowing down anyway, probably waiting for the group at the back, and I couldn’t have been happier. It was eye-wateringly beautiful to not see any bright headlights in the mirrors, but then I saw a group of total imbeciles and the happiness suddenly burned away.

Picture this, it’s a 4 lane highway, 2 lanes on each side and a divider in the middle. On the extreme left there are 2 guys on Bullets with those obnoxiously loud exhausts. On the extreme right there is a big fat Harley. Initially I thought the Harley was just overtaking the REs, but no! This was their actual group riding formation.

Think about it, there’s no possible way to overtake this bunch riding at 65 kmph on the fucking highway without breaking at least one rule of law. You can’t go to the left of the Bullets, for the same reason you can’t go to the right of the Harley, too little space. In the middle, there’s just enough road for a small car to go through, but if you do, you’ll be too close to both of them, and overtaking the Harley from the wrong side.

It’s at moments like these that I feel good about the non-existence of traffic rules in this country. I honked, twisted the throttle, and went in the middle. If this was some other country, I’d have to either wait behind them, or honk them to change their position, and given the fact that it’d take a monumental asshole to ride like this to begin with, I am not too sure the honking would’ve helped.

Bangalore: The birth place of traffic

I was not aware of this, but I recently Googled it, and turns out that Bangalore is the traffic capital of the world. Little baby traffic jams are created here everyday, and then exported to countries all over the world. There’s even a little traffic zoo, where you can see different kid of traffic jams in their natural habitats. I always thought that Bangalore was the hub of IT, but I was wrong, it’s traffic.

I find it hard to believe anybody accepts life in such a hellhole. Unless each Bangalore citizen comes home from the 3 hour traffic jam to find a Government sponsored blowjob/tongue tornado session waiting for him everyday, I can’t think of any reason why anyone would want to live in such a place.

Filled up fuel near the Airport, and then went over the series of flyovers that take you inside the city. As one of them was about to end, the pace slowed down dramatically, until I noticed that the next flyover in front was completely crammed up with vehicles, none of them moving an inch.

I generally dislike Google Maps and its directions, they go too nice, give you too many options. A man on the road must be given as less information as possible, not told that there are 7 different routes I could take at one time and then have to choose between them. At this point though, this was useful. I noticed a road taking left under the flyover, with traffic that didn’t look like an overloaded elevator. This road was good, but there were far too many weird turns, and random one-way roads and shit, and it was surprising to me that I didn’t get lost anywhere.

The road infrastructure of Bangalore city is by far the worst of any other that I have ever been in, and I’m including the shit-stained alleys of Bihar and MP, which is why it’s even more amusing to watch the people there praise their “heritage” so fiercely and suggest stupid shit like others should learn Kannada if they plan to stay here for long.

Moto Store and Cafe

Found my way to Moto Store and Cafe, and sat down for some well-earned rest after a sadly exhausting ride. My only aim for this trip was to meet the SJCAM people. They had been nice enough to send me a camera for review, and were even giving me a different model to check out, I didn’t want to do this through the courier again.

Although most of the time meeting someone is highly overrated, sometimes it makes sense.

When I had begun, I’d messaged Roshan from SJCAM India that I should probably reach around 3. Then I got caught up in the highway fever, and was done with the ride 2 hours early. Luckily the store was empty, so I had space to put my head down and get my brains sorted.

The store is a nice place to be, there are large wooden tables, with a few smaller ones outside, with all sorts of riding gears and accessories in front of you. I ordered a banana shake, and it turned out to be quite tasty as well, followed by a similar iced tea. The best part for me was the beautiful washroom. I had taken far too many liquids since morning, and it was a divine place to pee in.

Out of nowhere, Mojo wale Baba Mr. Sarath Shenoy walks in. Apparently he knew I was in, so came to say Hi. Talking to him personally gives you an idea of how he’s able to ride so much for so long, the dude looks like he’s in a constant state of sugar rush, or maybe a bit of cocaine. I don’t have this kind of energy about anything, not even sex, but talking to him made me realize that even a guy with his superhuman riding abilities can get tired.

Don’t get jealous of anybody’s job, you have no idea what it takes.

A few other people came in as well, and we all started talking about random stuff. Most people seem to remember me due to the Triumph scandal, and it’s fun to remember that time. The talks ranged from Mojo to Himalayan to VS400 to BMW G130R, and pretty soon Roshan joined us too.

I am not much of a talker, in fact talking gives me headaches. I was in two minds about what to do for the night stay, should I take one of the OYO rooms that were close by, or should I couchsurf again. Couchsurfing is always fun, and free, but it always involves a lot of talking, and I wasn’t sure I was up for it.

A quick look at the account balance, and I put up a post on Facebook for a place to stay.

A lot of people offered places. Sagar, a friend from the time I used to stay at Mumbai, told me I could come stay with him. Rahul, a guy I’ve never met, offered one too. Preetam Bose called up and told me the same, while Candida called up and told me to fuck off for not directly asking her for a bed.

There were a lot of others who commented and messaged, and I thank you all. For me at that time, it was very important to find a place close to Moto Store and Cafe, I was sleepy, my right eye was in pain, and I had a blazing headache. Many of the people were too far away from my location, so I told Rahul I’d come stay with him when he got back from ride sometime by 7.

Then, as it always happens, all the plans went to shit. I’ve been trying to get a racing suit for quite a while. I can’t afford Alpinestars or Dianese, and I would prefer to ride naked rather than buy a BBG one. This leaves only the TBG suit as an option, but they’ve been out of stock for months. Sukesh told me to come and at least check my sizing, and then I could pick one up as soon as they were back in stock.

Roshan said he was heading to HSR layout, and could take me along if I wanted to go. Preetam was at Let’s Gear Up as well, and I’ve been attempting to meet him since years. Even though it was a really bad idea, I decided to take a deep breath and ride.

Let’s Gear Up

The ride from Moto Store and Cafe to Let’s Gear Up was quite a messy one. The traffic was there as always, but then the Sun was about to set, and the damn thing was so bright I could barely keep my eyes open in some sections. The good part was to not have to look at my phone for directions, and to be following a beautiful Yezdi 350 twin. That thing sounds like a superbike while accelerating, but has that beautiful 2-stroke sound at idle.

“It smokes a lot, doesn’t it?”

“It’s OK, that’s the good kinda smoke”

Made it to Let’s Gear Up, just in time for the MotoGP qualifying. By this time I had realized that there was no fucking way I could ride to Rahul’s place from here, and asked Preetam if his offer for a couch was still up. It was, and I messaged Rahul that I wouldn’t be able to make it. The dude had apparently ridden till Moto Store and Cafe to pick me up. An apology was the least I could do.

It was fun to watch Sapna and Preetam go about their business as the customers walked in. I actually saw them refuse to sell a jacket to a guy because it didn’t fit him perfectly. At that moment, the dude would’ve happily picked it up even if they had said a single positive thing to him, but they didn’t. Good people.

I also saw a girl refuse to buy a beautiful HJC helmet because she didn’t like the colors.

By this time I was sure I was causing my right eye more damage than recommended. Asked Preetam if could head on out, and then tried to take the lens out, blow on it, and put it back again in a stupidly vain attempt to get rid of the pain. It was also at that point that I wished I smoked, it’s weird to sit around people who’re doing it and just rub your bloody hands together. Smoking might be sucking on a little white dick that eventually kills you, but it also is a catalyst for some really deep conversations.

Finally Preetam got free, and I followed his Alto down some amazingly disgusting roads to his place. I was relieved to know that it was a short-cut, and not a road you HAD to take every day to get back home.

Whiskey, orange juice, and some deep conversations

The first thing I did when I got to his beautiful apartment was take my lenses out. A lot of people don’t realize just how lucky they are to be able to ride around without worrying about little bits of plastics in their eyes. Don’t whine about little things, understand that a simple thing like riding with the visor open and feeling the breeze on the face is simply not an option for me.

As it always happens, Preetam was surprised to know that I was a vegetarian who didn’t drink or smoke. I think the way I write, it must look like I’m constantly puffing on a cigarette and drowning in Rum, while headbutting a roasted chicken leg, before writing every sentence. It’s almost scary to imagine how my writing would be if I did that, it’s already disgusting enough while I’m fully awake.

Preetam Bose is the guy behind Project Upshift, one of those rare individuals who understands both the business and pleasure side of motorcycles. We have thought about collaborating on a number of things a number of times, but it has never worked out for a number of reasons.

We sat in his man cave, with his giant Apple computer sitting in front, a cigarette in his right hand, a glass of whisky in his left, and me with a glass of orange juice, like a fucking school kid. This is the part of couchsurfing that I absolutely love, the part about meeting new people where the small talk ends and real conversations begin

I will not bore you with the details of what we talked about, in any case you wouldn’t get it. There are very few people in this world who are stupid enough to do what they want to do, and their thinking and their actions don’t make much sense to a lot of others. For me, every time he said something, I knew exactly what he was talking about, far more than the words expressed.

I’ve said before that talking gives me headaches, but not of this kind. It’s so easy to connect like this, you speak without filters, without concern for hurting anyone’s feelings, without the fear of making mistakes. The talk we had with the cold breeze swirling away the cigarette smoke might turn out to be something that you look back in life and say “That, that’s when it started”.

It was time to sleep then, Candida had organized a ride next morning where people were apparently looking forward to meet me. I don’t get that, at all, but more about that later. For the first time in my couchsurfing expeditions, I slept on a real couch, and an unusually comfortable one at that.

As expected, sleep was a just a few seconds away.

In case you are wondering why there are no pictures or videos or anything except words here, it’s because I had decided before the trip began that I wouldn’t bother about any of that shit this time. I enjoy taking pictures and making videos, but most of the time they are just a distraction.

I did not want to think, I just wanted to get lost in my head, with the wind noise telling me things I didn’t know about myself.

  • I’ve met Sapna and Preetam a few times at Let’s Gear Up. Great folks! Helped me pick out my first jacket, when I knew jack about what to look for. Been a while, I should go say Hi soon.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      🙂

  • twizy

    deep shit.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      🙂

  • I’ve been silently reading most of your posts without commenting. Something was different about this one, though!

    • Akhil Kalsh

      🙂