The problem of evil in the world of motorcycles



“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed, everything else is public relations.” ― George Orwell

It goes without saying that this article, like most on this website, is about a problem that isn’t really a problem. If somehow we were able to solve this problem, it wouldn’t save any lives, it wouldn’t make any difference to world peace, it wouldn’t give food to starving babies.

It is also important to understand that the only reason I call this problem “evil” is for aesthetics. An article titled “The minor inconveniences in the world of motorcycles” is unlikely to go viral.

In short, this is not journalism. I used that quote to start this article because I liked it.

This article may be considered as an extension of this one, and this one, and this one, although the emotions behind all 4 of these posts are shared by this entire website. That’s just a complicated way of saying that I bitch a lot.

The problem of evil in the world of motorcycles can be stated as follows:

In spite of all the emphasis on acquiring skills with a motorcycle, against the popular ideology of using motorcycles in a safe and responsible way in public, and despite the general belief that motorcycles are a tool for good, the world of motorcycles is full of people who do not deserve the motorcycles they ride, do not deserve the status they enjoy in certain circles, and do not deserve the wider fame they gain on social media.

There are so many popular social media riding personalities who are utterly useless with a motorcycle. There are so many automotive websites which show an exceptional lack of skills with two-wheeled automobiles. There are so many superbike owners whose ownership of a superbike is nothing less than a tragedy for the society in general, and that superbike in particular.

And yet there they are, posting, growing, breathing.

The aim of this article

The aim of this article is to identify the reasons behind the evolution of the global motorcycling scene in general, and the Indian motorcycling scene in particular, in light of individuals, brands, PR agencies, and news websites, and why it is the way it is.

I would like to explore the reasons behind the popularity of certain individuals, the moral critique of certain news websites, and the system by which motorcycle manufacturers have gained immense control over the people who are supposed to judge their creations, while also getting fooled themselves into flushing money down a toilet.

The overall tone of this article is negative, since I feel that things are not the way they should be. I believe that by a combination of circumstance and lack of principles, brands have created an ecosystem centered around them that attempts to influence a consumer’s choice in an unethical fashion, and fails spectacularly. I would try to explain how this ecosystem warps the way people look at bikes, and how people look at other people.

As much as I’d like to be just an observer, to be objective in my decisions, be unbiased in my words, we all know that’s not going to happen. Hence I’d like to shed all pretense of my honesty, and make it very clear that the ideas that appear in this article are my opinions, unfiltered ones, most of which stem out of my jealousy at not being a celebrity who gets stuff for free. I don’t get called to bike launches, I don’t get sponsored trips, I don’t get review toys, and if I can’t have these things I can at least be an educated, honorable gentleman, and shit on someone else’s party.

As always, the attempt here is to organize my thoughts in such a way that they can be easily understood, and more importantly, argued against.

The current hierarchy of the motorcycling world

Let’s begin with an overview of how this ecosystem is organised, what the food chain look like. Here are the components of this system, in decreasing order of power.

The brand

These are the top dogs, the masters who pump money into the system, with a hope to convert those marketing expenses into sales profits. The marketing budgets for brands depend a lot on the type of products they are trying to sell. Honda can’t even be bothered to lift a finger, because they know their products have inherent value. Royal Enfield makes TV ads, organizes giant events, and spends money to maintain this whole bullshit of brotherhood, because they know they are selling typewriters at the price of iPhones.

The PR agencies

Most brands do not handle their marketing activities themselves, they hire “expert” PR agencies whose core competency is repackaging the shit they get from brands to make it smell better. PR agencies achieve this goal by the following methods:

  1. Creating fancy marketing material that’s impossible to consume without vomiting
  2. Organizing events, usually in Goa, where innocent motorcycles get molested for no good reason
  3. Paying “influencers” to reach their vast followers, who usually happen to be horny college kids with one hand on their phones, and the other down their pants

The news websites

These are your Rushlanes and Motorbeams and Autocars, websites that get their hands on new and exciting toys every single day, and have an entirely unique talent to convert those experiences into cringeworthy, unimaginative, dickless content that makes you want to go on a killing spree. These “journalists” are experts at asking all the wrong questions, spawning an army of clickbaits, and predicting the upcoming bike launches based on how much of their forearm they can squeeze inside their ass on any given morning, all SEO optimized.

The influencers

Mumbiker Nikhil, Bikewithgirl, and Dhinchak Pooja are a few influencers who have contributed immensely to the Indian motorcycling scene. Social media personalities like them have a unique and rare combination of the following qualities:

  1. Complete lack of knowledge of the field they are supposedly in
  2. Complete confidence in their lack of knowledge of the field they are supposedly in
  3. An ability to give teenagers raging erections

With these potent weapons in their arsenal they are able to deliver exactly what the PR agencies expect from them, high-quality, engaging, viral content that doesn’t make any fucking sense.

The consumers

You are here, and so am I. We consume this deluxe, select, gourmet, prestige, premium, processed bullshit, and then wonder why we’ve been feeling constipated since 1993. We have the power to change this system, we are the ones who pay the brands in the end, but we are too happy to suck our balls, lick our assholes, and eat whatever breadcrumbs are thrown at us. We like chasing the ball that hasn’t been thrown, we enjoy being told to sit and rollover, and we love eating someone else’s vomit.

For those of you who may have found the above explanation a bit too verbose, below is a simple diagram that explains the whole story above in one little picture.

The dependence of websites on brands

One of the most beautiful aspects of our current biking ecosystem is just how much control the brands have over the people who are supposed to critique their products. When one of Kawasaki’s Mumbai dealers defrauded a large number of customers, none of the major publications published a single negative word about the Japanese giant, even when they threatened legal action against the customers. Their lack of a spine explains why we so frequently find them with their heads buried inside their asses.

A website’s main source of income is advertisement. Advertisement can be direct, like a banner within an article, or it can be native, like an article that looks like an article but is in reality an advertisement. Money can also be made through affiliate marketing, but that also requires content to begin with. Google ads are another source, but they mostly make peanuts when compared to other forms of ads.

If you’ve ever wondered why there’s never a single negative review about a single motorcycle, the above setup should give you an idea. It’s almost painful to watch these people review absolutely horrible motorcycles and try to make them look like Cinderella’s buttcrack. It’s painful because you can see they are disappointed, they know they can do better, but their balls are in a tight grip, growing purple with every negative word that gets typed.

The bullshit of “influencers”

The whole idea of social media influencers is a fraud, a ponzi scheme, a way for PR agencies to make more money by doing less work. Read Vir Sanghvi’s article to understand why this is so, I do not have the talent or the experience to explain it better than him.

What I can do though is take names and give examples, something that most people seem afraid of for some unknown reason. I would like to compare Mumbiker Nikhil with Powerdrift, more specifically their Youtube channels.

I realize this is not a fair comparison, Powerdrift is automotive artistry, Mumbiker Nikhil is a lifestyle vlogger, whatever the fuck that is. Powerdrift has a very specific niche, Mumbiker Nikhil is like the common cold. Powerdrift is a bunch of expert, talented, experienced dudes working together professionally, Mumbiker Nikhil is just one guy with some minions.

I also realize that talking about him is counter-productive, any publicity is good publicity in today’s time, and me wasting my words to dissect him and his channel gives him the oxygen of credibility that he needs.

However, this needs to be done, not because it’s going to change anything, but simply because it’s fun. I don’t know why people don’t talk about these things publicly, why all such conversations are done behind someone’s back, hiding in Whatsapp groups, moaning in Facebook chats. If someone claims to be a “public figure”, they also have to deal with the public humiliation that comes along with it, we have the right to laugh at their expense, and they have the right to ignore us. It does make them more popular, but there’s little we can do about that anyway.

It is important to note that I am no way making him look like an idiot, it takes balls, planning, and talent to be as popular as he is. As someone who’s never been disciplined enough to post content regularly, I have no right to complain why he has more followers than me. To do a subscriber meetup, you need to get out of bed, which is more than what I am willing to do. To post 3 videos a week requires tonnes of time spent watching yourself on a computer, which is tough if you look like me. Mumbiker Nikhil is a handsome dude, works hard and gives his followers what they want, it’s an entirely separate issue that his followers are fucking dickheads who can’t tell the difference between reality and reality TV.

Here’s a troubling statistic for you:

  • Powerdrift – 1033 videos – 754,040 subscribers
  • Mumbiker Nikhil – 521 videos – 891,427 subscribers

How is this possible? I wish I could tell you. It can’t be about the quality of content, it can’t be about the quantity of content, that much I can tell, but beyond that it’s all a mystery. It’s quite obvious that Mumbiker Nikhil, like Justin Bieber, has a special place in the hearts of pre-pubescent kids, 38% of his followers are between the ages of 13 and 24. Unlike Bieber though, 99% of Nikhil’s followers are males. That’s one hell of a sausage fest.

Compare this to Powerdrift, 55% of whose audience is between the ages of 25 and 44. Things get even more fun for Bikewithgirl, 72% of whose followers are between the ages of 13 and 24.

I guess the reason he’s famous is the same reason why the Kardashians are famous, the incomprehensible garbage called reality TV. I don’t get it, but clearly a large majority of the population does. For some reason people want to watch other people’s faces telling them completely stupid things, it’s a very weird fetish, and even a porn-connoisseur like me can’t seem to understand it.

But that’s irrelevant, what matters is this: If Mumbiker Nikhil rides a Triumph, does that increase the sales for Triumph motorcycles? No, it doesn’t. His followers do not have the money to buy a Triumph bra, they can’t possibly contribute to Triumph’s revenue. If that’s so, why does Triumph seem to support him? The answer must be the PR agency.

Eulogy handles the marketing for Triumph in India, and I have personal experience of their incompetence. They are the same dudes who manhandled Triumph’s detuning fiasco, and then sent me a legal notice when I made fun of their CEO. Anyone with such a deep lack of understanding of the concept of humor can be safely assumed to have no knowledge of the concept of marketing.

To give you the absolute perfect example of what kind of followers these influencers have, take a look at this picture uploaded by Bikewithgirl. Notice the guy circled in red, look at him, look into his eyes, he’s the guy Benelli are trying to influence into buying their 502, he’s the guy TVS are trying to reach out to for their 310RR. He owns a Studds helmet, if he didn’t steal it from his roommate. Look at his head full of hair and his shiny smile. He couldn’t buy a packet of Hajmola if it was free.

The next question is simple, why is everyone making the same mistake? If all these influencers can influence are people with no money, what’s the point? I think there are 3 reasons for that:

  1. Managers like numbers, if they see they have reached out to 160,000 people with 1 picture, it’s easy to ignore the fact that those 160,000 people combined couldn’t buy one of their products if they sold everything they had, including themselves
  2. If one brand is doing it, it must be a good idea. When one brand works with an influencer, it increases their credibility, and makes it easier for someone else to take the risk
  3. It’s nearly impossible to find the conversion ratio of your investment on influencers, there’s no way to prove that it doesn’t work. As long as there isn’t a better/easier way to make impressive looking charts, why the fuck not

I often wonder what’s the difference between people like Nikhil and people like Van Gogh. Van Gogh was a genius, and he died in poverty, unknown, unloved, unappreciated. Clearly Nikhil is doing much better. I suppose it’s the difference between businessmen and artists, Nikhil saw an opportunity in the whole vlogging market and exploited it to perfection, Van Gogh became obsessed with painting and cut his damn ear off.

It’s the difference between people who sell themselves, and the people who sell their souls. It’s the difference between people who are remembered for centuries, and people who are forgotten in days.

Is this ever going to change?

Fat chance! Why would it? Nobody cares, and there’s no reason for them to.

I can’t think of a more dedicated enterprise than Powerdrift, a group of people who constantly churn out high-quality content, content that comes from the right people and goes to the right people, and yet they can’t seem to be a match against one wannabe actor. Bikewithgirl gets invitations to attend TVS launches, and Rohit Upadhyay has to vent out his anger on Facebook to get some sort of support from KTM. People who deserve it all seem to have none.

It’s like Plato’s metaphor of the Ship of State. People who are worthy of being the captain of a ship seldom become captain, because they are too busy looking up at the stars, while others scheme under their eyes.

Brands and PR agencies aren’t completely to blame though, they don’t have much options to choose from. They need someone popular, willing to do what’s told, and trustworthy enough to deliver what’s expected. People who actually understand the Indian motorcycle market, are real thought leaders in this field, satisfy none of those requirements.

In the end, you can’t control other people, you have no right to. There are no objective truths, my judgement would be incorrect from someone else’s perspective, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, no disruptive ideas for the future that would change this stalemate, no hope. I try my best to ignore the existence of this tumor, but every once in a while I notice the pus oozing out, the skin pulsating, and I rant my frustrations out.

It hasn’t changed anything in 5 years, it’s not going to, but it’s fun to release a little and slide back inside the foreskin.

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  1. Saurab shirke

    Superb .
    These fake farts need to be exposed.

  2. Akhil

    Good one! I was one of the jackasses who spent a fortune on a Triumph motorcycle and got conned! I tried all the influencers you’ve mentioned and a few more to highlight the issues I’m facing. None of them bothered to reply. I’ve tried most of the auto magazines to highlight my plight as well. They haven’t bothered replying since it is a conflict of interest with their ad revenue! Since I’m not much of a writer and my social media presence is almost invisible, I haven’t been able to raise the issue elsewhere. At the cost of looking cheap, I’m piggybacking on your article to highlight my issues so far. And will be more than glad if you can spread the word as well. Cheers!!
    My story so far…

    I finally decided to buy a Triumph StreetTwin after spending sleepless nights looking at and deliberating all the gorgeous looking motorcycles Triumph manufactured. Before buying my first Triumph, my Dad made me promise that I will dispose the old war horse in my garage – A 2003, Royal Enfield Thunderbird. I reluctantly had to comply with this condition.
    So, the new bike was delivered on April 1, 2016. This essentially was like starting a new life with a new partner, after all I’d spent close to 13 years with my old bike. I was finally moving into the big league!!
    My new bike looked gorgeous, worked like a charm and turned a lot of heads, it made me feel like a little kid all over again. My bike developed a snag when it had barely run 600 kms. The bike had to be towed to the authorised service centre, Keerthi Triumph in Bangalore. The issue was attributed to a faulty side stand alarm which took the service centre a week to rectify during which I was asked to get my first service done as well. The rectification wasn’t done by repairing or replacing the faulty side stand but the side stand alarm was by-passed electrically. A week later, after importing the side stand alarm, I was asked to get it replaced.
    The bike worked brilliantly for another 1000 odd kilometres. On 11.07.2016, I noticed a braking issue. There was a loud shrill noise whenever the rear brakes were applied. The bike was immediately taken to the service center, Keerthi Triumph. On examining the bike, it was noted that the rear brake pads along with the rotor were completed damaged. This was quite surprising as the bike had hardly run for 2000 Kms and the brake pads, I thought were meant to last for a longer period. I was advised immediate replacement of the brake pads along with the rotor which cost about Rs. 21,000/-. I was shocked and surprised and I repeatedly stated that the brake pads and the rotor were not worn out due to misuse but were faulty for the reason that it had hardly lasted 2000 Kms under normal usage. I even showed them articles in different Triumph User forums (TriumphRat) where the respective service centres of different owners replaced rotors and pads, sometimes even after 8000 miles on the Odometer. Mine after all was hardly 3 months old and run 1250 miles! In spite of all my requests to give it a benefit of doubt, the service centre refused to accept the same and I was finally asked to pay a sum of Rs. 18,467/- ( A full 10% discount, they said) for replacing the brake pads and the rotor. The service centre however did not have the brake pads or rotor in stock and took 12 business days to procure the same. I observed that even ordinary consumables like brake pads aren’t stocked at the dealership. The motorcycle was finally handed back to me on 25.07.2016 after over two weeks.
    Within 2 days there was a faulty clutch issue due to which it was almost impossible to change the gears of the motorcycle. The bike had to be towed again to the service centre for repair. This time it was promptly repaired and handed back to me the next day.
    On the 3rd of September, the immobilizer light on my motorcycle was glowing and it refused to start. The bike had to be towed to the service centre for a third time in 5 months. The engineer at the service centre assured me that it was a minor issue and the same would be rectified in a day. However, even after 10 days the ‘Engineers’ at the service centre were clueless as to what the issue was. After contacting Triumh India’s Customer Care repeatedly, they assured me that the issue would be sorted out at the earliest. This went on for a few more days. . I was finally told that the issue was with the Immobilizer (Duhh!) and a spare part had been ordered.
    I was slowly starting to repent the choice of motorcycle I had made. It was not only because of the different issues cropping up in the motorcycle but also due to the complete apathy shown by Triumph India to its customers. As a thumb rule it generally takes Triumph India about 15-30 days to procure spares and consumables for the motorcycle. My bike was returned to me after 2 weeks. After prodding more on what exactly was done to the defective immobilizer, the engineer confessed that they had salvaged the immobilizer kit from a Test Ride bike and that the same would be replaced once the spare part reached them. Cannibalizing parts is hopeless enough, but not disclosing it to a customer is a big deal breaker!

    Since buying the motorcycle, I had always wanted a café racer handlebar. I finally zeroed in on Triumph ‘Ace café racer’ handlebar for my motorcycle, but the same was not available with the dealer just like all the other parts! After waiting for a while, I bought one from an Authorized Triumph Dealer (M/s. Brit Bike Co.) in Thailand when I was on a holiday. I got it fit on my motorcycle by technicians from M/s. Keerthi Triumph, Bangalore on 29/09/2016 vide Invoice no 595 paying an amount of Rs.2,760. After the handlebar was finally fit, a peculiar problem arose. The motorcycle switched off every time the handlebar was turned to the right. After troubleshooting for a long time, they found that one of the cables was burnt and scraped. Since it was almost late evening by then, I was assured that the bike would be returned to me the next evening after due inspection. As promised, the bike was returned to me the next day. I raised concerns about the scraped wire and whether it was a good idea to patch the cable instead of replacing it since the bike relied heavily on electronics (ABS & TC). I was assured that it was not going to cause any issues and I would have a smooth ride henceforth. However, a day later (on 01/10/16, Saturday) when I was riding the motorcycle on a crowded Bangalore street and was about to make a right turn, my biggest nightmare came true. The bike switched off!! The bus driver behind me made a screeching stop, inches from my motorcycle. After serving me with a mouthful of choosy ‘Kannada’ expletives, the driver moved on. I was visibly shaken and thankful for the driver’s skills. I pushed the motorcycle off the road and called the engineer who had assured me a ‘hasslefree ride’ henceforth, he asked me to reach home safely so that the bike could be towed back to the service centre on Monday. However on Monday, the service engineer advised me to keep the bike with me until the time they receive a new ‘wiring harness’ kit. He said it would take about 15 days! And again it took longer. Finally my bike was returned to me on the 27 th of October, 2016.
    My bike was unusable for 4 weeks!
    This I thought had to be the last straw! Apart from the dealer, Keerthi Triumph whose service was pathetic, I was also getting more and more frustrated with the callous attitude of Triumph India. Emails to customer care were largely ignored and some were answered with the ‘Auto Reply’. I got hold of Triumph India M.D., Mr. Vimal Sumbly’s email address through a friend, and those mails were ignored too. I even tried facebook! Nothing worked. The whole idea of taking Indian customers for a ride is unacceptable. I think such complaints and safety lapses would be given far more attention in other countries.
    Users on ‘Triumprat’, a social media site for Triumph users across the world were surprised by the attitude of Triumph India. Some suggested writing emails to Nick Bloor, CEO of Triumph. I tried that and did not get any reply.
    After all efforts to get attention and resolve issues with my bike were exhausted, I took the final option of sending a legal notice. The legal notice explained the issues faced by me so far. There was absolutely no attempt by either Triumph India or the local dealer ‘Keerthi Triumph’ to get in touch with me and resolve issues. After spending 9 lakh on a luxury product, I feel ownership experience has to be better. After almost a month, I got a shocking reply from Triumph India. They tried to discredit the entire sequence of events and issues faced with the motorcycle. They tried to contend that the motorcycle was never towed for the side stand issue, but was taken up voluntarily during the first service. Triumph ‘Road Side Assistance’ vendors do not give us a receipt every time the bike is towed. On asking them confirmation for the times when the bike was towed, they said that their contract does not allow them to give written confirmations. However, I recorded the same when it was confirmed orally. They even tried to pin the blame on new handlebar for Immobilizer issue, when the fact is that the handlebar was not even changed then. So, they were basically trying to bulldoze me into taking back the case else threatening me with legal action for defamation.
    Recently, after over 14 months since filing the Consumer Complaint and the case being adjourned repeatedly I decided to get the motorcycle serviced. This was mainly because the motorcycle was not in a riding condition and warranty was going to expire in a month. The motorcycle still had lights popping on and off everytime the handlebar was turned to the right. If a wrong wire was pinched instead of the lighting wires, it could have easily have cut power to the motorcycle like the earlier instance. The parts that were replaced under warranty till then ran over a lakh and I did not want to wait till the warranty expired. Once I dropped my motorcycle for service, I was assured that the motorcycle would be serviced under 3 days and handed back to me. After 3 days when the status of the motorcycle was enquired, I was told that the bike could not be taken into service since there was an ‘Aftermarket’ handlebar installed. I was taken aback by this and explained that the so called ‘Aftermarket’ part was an original Triumph part, bought from an Authorised Triumph dealership and installed from your service centre. I also produced Invoice for the handlebar and installation. Even after that they refused to service the motorcycle for over 2 weeks. I finally asked them to return the motorcycle if they were not going to service it. I was told that they were going to hand over the bike to me the next day after servicing. When I went to collect the motorcycle, I was told that they had replaced the Wiring Harness for the second time and also replaced the instrument panel which would have cost me a lakh rupees. They were probably trying to force me into changing the handlebar, to pin the blame on the handlebar.
    After all these horrendous experiences, my biking spirit is almost dead. Triumph tagline is ‘For the Ride’. The more apt tag line for Triumph India would be ‘Taking for a ride!’.
    I am pretty sure Triumph India would have cared more if we in India had a more efficient way of handling consumer complaints and would have thought twice about getting into lawsuits especially ones where customer safety is compromised.

  3. Raj Kiran

    So true .Keep going

  4. Javed Anwar

    Keep rolling bud, You are Kunal Kamra of Motrocycle industry in India.