I am a very lucky guy. I have done many stupid, life-threatening, downright insane things that would leave most people damaged or dead. I, on the other hand, end up living to do it all over again. I can’t say I believe in God, but there have been many situations where some invisible force changed my path from total destruction to total fun.
My latest ride didn’t really go that well. As you all know, I mostly run solo. I don’t care much for group riding, its waits and problems, and the fact that you have to deal with other non-dead people. This ride, however, would have gone a little better, if I had someone to share the sorrow with. Take a look at how a bike ride goes when everything that can go wrong, does.
Our story starts on 29th April 2014, a calm, rather hot Tuesday. I, as the king of the sloth-defying-lazy-assholes, waited till the last day to get my bike serviced, and get a new dark visor for my helmet. The service people at KTM Thane cleaned the chain thoroughly, but forgot to lube it. I rode it like that all the way till Oshiwara, and the bike started making weird noises at back. It was then that I realized the chain was drier than a Latino hooker’s vagina, so I bought a new chain spray, but it was too late. The chain had developed a horrible wobble, and sounded like someone was pushing a chisel through it at every rotation.
I had no option, I had no time. Went in to AH Hemlets to get a new dark visor, and was taken aback by the price, 1100 bucks! 1100 bucks for a fucking semi-transparent piece of plastic. I mumbled some expletives in my mind, and bought it. The guy at the store told me this is some special Iridium shit visor, and will work for the night as well. I took his word for it. Huge mistake. Got back to office, did my work, went home at around 10.30 PM. Packed. Slept.
Next morning, I started a bit late so that I could go to the Seawoods KTM service to get a second opinion on the chain. Those guys are even lazier than me I tell you! After much requests, the shop opened at 9:15 AM. The mechanic rode around on the bike and declared that the chain has developed a wobble, something that I already knew. He said there is no solution apart from replacing the whole chain set. So I picked up the bike and ran away from there as fast as I could.
I have no recollection of when I reached Satara, the Old Pune highway has become so natural for me, I just travel through it without much thought. Had a quick breakfast cum fuel break somewhere near Satara, and then continued on my way. The chain was giving me some nervous moments, it sounded like it would break apart into a million pieces at any second. I just carried on.
Bad Luck 1
The fuel that I put in before was not of good quality. Those idiots were anyways quite incompetent, as it was the first time in my life that I saw a fuel pump being shut because there was no electricity! Dude, get a fucking generator man, you run a gazillion dollar fuel pump, I am certain you can afford it. I don’t know how adulterated the fuel was, but my bike wasn’t going above 106 kmph, and that was scary.
During one of my past rides, I was with 2 more Duke 390s. One of the bikes suddenly lost power and it was later found that the engine had seized. I kept imagining that scenario happening to me, so slowed down, took a stop and looked around. The engine oil was there, no over-heating had occurred, everything was in order. I did give a thought about the fuel being bad, but I was too scared to just let my gut take control.
Found that a KTM service center was about 20 kms away, so gunned for it after eating some rice and daal. The Kolhapur KTM service center is the biggest one I’ve ever seen. It is also the most deserted. In the 6-7 service bays available, only 1 bike was being worked on. Service guy took it for a ride and said it’s the fuel, rest all is good. By this time I had lubed the chain so much out of fear of losing it, that the rear tire was painted black. The service guys cleaned it up, lubed it and I was on my way again. Or was I?
When I went into the service center, the weather was sunny. When I came out after 1 hour, all hell was breaking lose. There were dust devils all over the place, there was so much cross wind, I was leaning like a racer on a straight road just to keep the bike planted. I had to no time to lose, my plan was rather short on time, I had to keep pushing. So when all bikers and even car and truck drivers were pulling up to the side of the road, I was running at over 130 kmph.
Naturally, something had to go wrong. First it started to rain, I said to myself – fuck it, we’ll keep riding. Everything is waterproof, including the saddlebags. Why stop? Rode for around 4 odd kms and I met a hailstrom. I am not kidding you, in the middle of summer, on a fucking hot day, I had big chunks of ice being flung on me. I had no option but to stop, or my 1100 rupee helmet visor would have been broken to pieces.
Stood in a crowded bus stand for more than half an hour. The hail came and went, the rain stayed. It was already getting late, I had to go on. So while everyone else waited for the storm to pass, I went. There are 2 good things about riding in torrential rain – the engine always remains cool, and the roads are nearly empty. But that’s about it.
There are 2 main routes for going to Goa from the Pune side – Via Nipani-Amboli section, or via Belgaum-Chorla section. I had already been on the Amboli ghats, so wanted to try the Chorla. Reached Belgaum city at around 7 PM, and started my journey across the mountains.
Bad Luck 3
I couldn’t see shit. I really couldn’t see the speed on the speedometer. If anyone ever tells you that a dark visor will work at night, punch their face and spit on their nuts. I have no idea how I was going on, the high beams of oncoming traffic made it look like I was wearing a huge disco ball right next to my nose. I stopped and tried to change the visor to the the clear one, but guess what, the dark visor just won’t come off! Fuck me.
There was still around 123 km section left, most of it twisty, and I had to do it nearly blind, at night, with rain pouring in whenever it pleased. I wear contact lenses, so I have to keep the visor closed at all times. If I don’t, dust comes in, and starts drilling into my eyes, and that is not a situation I want to be in. But I couldn’t see anything!
I managed by keeping the visor open at most times, but closing it when overtaking a truck or in other high dust areas. This was a very stupid gamble, even 1 tiny speck of dust would have caused permanent damage to my eyesight. But I had to go on. I had to go on not only because I had a really tight schedule, I had to go on because a good friend from Goa was waiting for me to arrive!
Bad Luck 4
I asked for directions every few kilometers. Everyone said keep going straight. I kept going straight. After about an hour, I asked for directions again, and the guy said you are 150 kms off-course. What the fuck? Did I just pass through some membrane somewhere to another universe? Did I just time-travel? How is it possible that a distance of 123 kms has become 150 kms after more than an hour of riding?
It was already 9 in the night. Peter, the good friend from Goa, was waiting for me, along with family. I knew it was getting very late, and it would be even later by the time I reach Goa. But he kept pushing me to make it, and that’s the only reason I did. I really would have slept anywhere on the side of the road, if not for this guy motivating me to be there.
I asked the locals for the fastest way to Mapusa, and then rode like a madman in the direction they pointed. I seriously rode on the limit, I have never ever done that. Every turn could have been my last. It was so dark, no street-lights, no moonlight even because of the fucking clouds, rain on and off, ghats, middle of the jungle and me on my bike wearing a dark visor. The locals advised me not to go through the jungle at night, but I had other plans.
The road was good to begin with, but became progressively worse. At one point, just on the Karnatak – Goa border, there is a 20 odd Km stretch that is just scary. It is a proper ghat section, but with potholes so big that it could swallow my whole front tire. I was riding rather quick, so it was time for hard acceleration and then super-hard braking. Duke 390’s rims are notoriously bad, but they certainly took this epic beating without much problems. After Goa the road becomes amazing, with reflectors all over the place making it look very psychedelic. Unfortunately, I had no time to stop and enjoy the beauty.
Bad Luck 5
It was now about 11 in the night. I was riding like a man possessed. I only stopped to ask for directions, hadn’t eaten anything since 2 in the afternoon, and just wanted this ordeal to end. But wait! Why not a huge traffic jam in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night? There was roadwork going on somewhere, and as expected, some moron had jammed up his car the wrong way and everyone was fucked for good. There was simply no way to go, even for a bike. Finally, I had to push through a very narrow ledge between a truck and a deep sewer to go through. Lost my way once more and entered some college somewhere. Kept riding, kept thinking about Peter and his family, and kept cursing my dark visor.
Finally, at around midnight, I made it to Peter’s place. Of course I lost my way in the vicinity of his house as well, but that is too small to mention in this context. That guy is just unbelievable, he and his son were waiting up for me. As soon as I got in, he put me into his car, and took me to a hotel owned by his sister. There I was served water, juice, piping hot food, and love. I was so tired, I don’t even remember what I said to those guys, or what they said to me for that matter. All I remember is that I stayed the night in a very comfortable hotel room, just because of him.
Goa – I hate rain more than anything in my life – Bangalore
Got up in the morning, was again served water, juice, piping hot food and more love. Peter again took me in his car to his home, where I picked up my stuff and the bike, ready to go again. But wait! Not so fast.
The rear tire was punctured. I was actually surprised that after last night’s ride through those ghats with abysmal potholes, the bike was still in one piece. I was let-off rather easy with just 1 puncture. Went to the local mechanic, and he couldn’t find anything! The tire had lost almost all the air, but it wasn’t punctured. What? I had no time to investigate, so pushed in some air and went on my way.
It was so weird, I was going on the exact same route that I did last night, but backwards! Everything was the same, apart from the misery. The same road continued for well over 70-80 kms, after which I entered a new section with very nice roads. The weather was awesome, and I was planning to make it to Bangalore before nightfall, or the dark visor would have made things worse again.
Bad Luck 7
But, obviously, things can’t go smooth can they? On a ghat section somewhere near Hubli, there was a very bad patch with a narrow bridge that had to be crossed. Halfway through the bridge a weird, clanky sound started coming from the rear of the bike. I thought the chain had finally gone off, but it was actually a nail standing tall in the center of the rear tire, and hitting the mud-guards at every rotation. Stopped by the side of the road and weighed my options.
I was carrying a puncture kit, but no air pump. I was in the middle of a fucking jungle, so didn’t expect any repair people to be around. I had to do it myself, but quick, because if too much air went out, tire damage could happen while riding. I parked on the side, brought out the tools, took out the nail and the air started hissing out with great hurry.
A local guy came to the rescue out of nowhere! He put his finger over the hole to stop the airflow, while I fiddled with the tools. This was the first time I was fixing a tubeless puncture, so I was a bit fidgety. Pushed in that sticky thing somehow, man it takes a lot of effort! Thanked the local guy and went on my way. Barely 100 mts away from there was a repair guy, who filled in some air and I went on.
Rain. Cold, miserable rain. Every time it rained, I had to stop to take out the rain covers for my Velox saddlebags. They worked well, but I just didn’t want to stop. It was raining heavily, but I just didn’t let up. Kept pushing on, and the good road helped. I tried my best to stop as less as possible, since the rain limited my average speed to around 80 kmph. Yes, on a Duke 390 that is very slow.
Soon it got dark, and I couldn’t see shit again. On such a high speed road, with rain and spray from other vehicles, I simply couldn’t open my visor. I just picked relatively fast cars, and then followed their tail lights, because that’s all I could see. Rode like this for well over 300 kms, and it finally got too dark to do that either. Fortunately, I had entered Bangalore city, and the slow moving traffic and street lights made life easier for me.
Bad Luck 9
You thought we were done? Hell no! With the high beams of oncoming traffic and almost zero visibility at some places, I had no option but to open my visor. Just 1 km before the friend’s house where I was going to stay, my left eye got ass-fucked by dust. There I was, barely able to look up, with immense pain in the eye and tears rolling down. I couldn’t do anything but wait for it to be over. Took about 20 minutes, and I got going again.
Just like last night, this one was also with deep sleep, the kind you get when you are tired to the bone and wouldn’t mind napping on a bed of thorns.
I spent 3 days in Bangalore, didn’t touch the bike once. The heavy clutch on my 390 leaves the left hand in great pain after every long ride, so I gave it ample rest. I also learned how to remove the dark visor and install the clear one, great success! Also removed the GoPro mount on the top of my helmet, left with a bald patch, not such a great success. GoPro sticky mounts are hard to remove! Put them on carefully, as you can’t reuse them either. Just before the day I was to start the return journey, had another brush with bad luck!
Bad Luck 10
The rear tire was flat again. No visible punctures, just the air was gone. I was scared that the wheel had broken somewhere and air was leaking out. Went to the mechanic and good news! Only 3 punctures and no other damage. The guy took about half an hour to fix up the leaks, and insisted I fill up 40 psi of air pressure. After some convincing, he settled at 35.
The return ride was very uneventful. I just rode. Blank thoughts, occasional swearing at random people, and breaking into spontaneous songs about nothing. Oh, there was one dude on a CBR250R, all geared up, who tried really really hard to race me. This was the first time a guy not without a helmet and not wearing chappal tried to make me chase him. I just kept riding at my normal speed, while he went up and down the road like a rabid dog.
I had fleeting thoughts about trying to do the Chorla ghats, which I seem to have completely missed the last time. But that would have meant another night stay somewhere near Ratnagiri. Plus I have had enough bad luck for one trip to push it once more, so I decided to ride on via the tried and tested Puna route, and make it home before nightfall.
No surprises this time, I stopped to witness sunset at Lonavala. A family of 4 saw me, and the mom wanted her kids to sit on my bike. I couldn’t refuse! Changed the dark visor to a clear one, and rode leisurely back to home. 13.5 hours it took to do Bangalore to Bombay this time.
All in all, this was the worst trip of my lifetime! But it was crazy good in some other ways as well. Whatever could go wrong, did, but I learned a lot about myself. I am a stubborn asshole, I have a lot of patience, and I am a lucky bastard. My thousands of kilometers of traveling has had some psychological impact, and I just keep pushing, no matter how many failures I encounter.
If only I could be the same guy off the bike!