I hate Bangalore.
Not only it is an unplanned, polluted, overcrowded city, the citizens there are actually proud of the mess they call home. Regionalism by itself is a pretty stupid concept, being proud of being born at a specific latitude and longitude is like being proud of being born with a hole in your heart. However, regionalism for Bangalore is even more idiotic, because it’s the equivalent of being a proud citizen of Mordor.
3 hours to drive 12 kms, roads with more sewer than road, and that annoying tradition of everyone asking you to learn Kannada are not things to be proud of. Gotham would be a better city to live in, Batman in Bangalore would never be able to get anywhere in time, wouldn’t be able to afford the 6 month deposit for his Batcave, and his Batmobile would be fined and impounded for being out of state.
I mean look at their police department, they have recently decided that any helmet that’s not ISI marked is illegal. This means that someone wearing an Arai RX-7 GP, or an AGV K3 or an Icon Airframe can be legally fined for using an unsafe helmet. Show me another city whose citizens are so good at making bad decisions, and making them with total confidence.
If it was up to me, Bangalore would be emptied, nuked, and started from scratch. But, I recently did find one single reason to delay hitting that big red button.
Slideways Motoranch review: The experience
I am lazy, and I am cheap. These things don’t help when you want to experience new things.
I’ve always wanted to skydive, but who will drive all the way up somewhere to fall from the sky? I’ve always wanted to do a proper track day on a proper bike, but who will pay for it all? The point is that I want to do a lot of things, but I want the process of doing those things to be easy, and cost little. This is why my biggest achievement in life has been grabbing my wife’s skirt and dragging myself to the UK.
When I first saw the Facebook posts about Slideways, the thing that stood out was the fact that you just had to show up, find a way to make it to the place and they’ll take care of the rest. That’s all the inspiration I needed to drive 600 kms to Bangalore from Hyderabad, do a track day with them, and drive back.
One of the first good things is the location, it’s right by a main highway. You can bypass most of Bangalore’s traffic orgies, no matter which direction you are coming from, unless you live inside Bangalore, in which case you deserve to suffer.
Your park inside, get a look at the track, enjoy the coconut trees, and get greeted by the staff. Abhijith, the owner of the place, then gives you an overview of what’s about to happen, gets you geared up, and takes you around the course for a few sighting laps. Once he’s done, the real party starts.
Your time is divided into a few sessions of 15 minutes each, with rest in between. It took me 2 sessions to get used to the bike, and by the 3rd I understood the track a little. I had the most fun in the 4th session, and I wanted to kill myself all through the last one.
When I had booked the track day, I had expected it to be relatively easy. I knew that dirt is much more physically demanding than asphalt, but this track is small, and the bikes are just 140 cc. I had imagined it would be like a Go Kart session, fun, exciting, but not tiring. In that moment, I was almost as stupid as Bangalore Traffic Police is all the time.
The small track means a lot of tight turns, the small bike means you always end up riding it pinned. I hadn’t ridden a motorcycle for a year before this, I was completely unprepared for what was about to hit me.
I had almost no experience with dirt riding before this track day, all that I had done was slide a few millimeters on my stock 390 with Metzelers. This meant that not only did I not know anything about the body position and lines that are meant to be taken, I wasn’t even used to the more basic things like the boots and the goggles.
Riding with MX boots feels like riding with a plaster on a prosthetic foot, they are fucking heavy and you get no feedback for the levers. On top of that you need to lift those things towards the front tire on every turn, by the last session I felt like my thigh was going to divorce my hip and sue it for abuse.
The goggles took some getting used to as well, I am not used to stuff hitting my nose while on the bike, but they were surprisingly good at keeping dust away.
The Kawasaki KLX 140s are so much fun, they make you believe you are better than you really are. That thing weighs about as much as an average woman, unlike most bikes that weight more than a gorilla. Have you ever tried climbing on the back of a gorilla and pushing it in one direction? No you haven’t. Have you ever tried climbing on the back of your wife and pushing her in one direction? Of course you have. It’s the same principle.
The track is quite tricky, or maybe it’s that way only for noobs like me. You’ve got a few high-speed kinks, a few hairpins, and even a berm that I almost flew off of. There’s a scary back straight, I crashed at the end of it. I picked up the bike with one hand, and forgot about the crash by the next corner. It wasn’t scary afterwards.
I think the biggest reason for all the fun are the tires, they were some very interesting knobbies. You had good traction when the bike was straight, but they behaved very strangely when leaned over. If you are on the throttle, they held, but if you panicked and braked, they put you down. The rear brake was something special as well, I have never used one like what my bike had. When you pushed the rear brake lever, nothing happened for 2 seconds, and then it was completely locked. When you let go of the lever, it kept sliding for 2 seconds, before catching again. It was fascinating trying to control it all.
The most important aspect of the entire enterprise is the owner, Abhijith is a biker himself, although calling him a biker is like calling me a douche, those terms don’t do justice to what we really are. Not only does he understand the mentality of a motorcyclist, he also has the means and the business skills to get them what they need.
Before we started our sessions, he specifically asked us to push until we crashed, because that’s the only way we were going to find the limit. You realize how professionally run the entire enterprise is when after the sessions are done, you find yourself sitting by the track, a beer in your hand, watching a tiny road roller fixing all the damage you did. Everything is clean, everything works, you are free to focus only on the riding.
What did I learn from this experience? That I would like more of it. On an asphalt track day, my aim would be to be as smooth as possible, to figure out each corner, the best line, and then string it all together for the best lap. On a dirt track, the corners change with every lap. You can’t decide what you want to do, you have to make the decision in the moment. It’s much more raw, visceral, rough.
To be good on a normal track day, you have to be like a juggler, staying calm, knives flying in the air, poetry in motion. To be good on a dirt track day, you have to be like a pornstar in a BDSM fetish video, dominating, abusive, with a 13 inch dick. I’ve already got the last thing sorted, need to work on the first two.
I paid only 3000 rupees for all of this. All of this included the track, bike, fuel, all the gear, water, and Gatorade/beer afterwards. It’s hard to overstate the value you get for your money. They were planning to increase the cost soon, we got in on the introductory offer, but even at 5000 bucks, this is insanely good. I drove in my car, wearing my Batman shorts and a t-shirt, was given everything I need to almost kill myself with exhaustion, and then drove out and away. It was tough for me to drive afterwards, and I had an automatic.
Then again, don’t all good experiences leave you unable to walk, sleepy, and smiling?