I am a traveller, not a rider. I met riders who went to a place, spent the night and again travelled for 400 km on their motorcycles. I am not like that. I find pleasure in staying at one place for a long time. I ride because it gives me mobility, and also undeniably there is a joy in riding.
Traveling on a motorcycle is different in a way from cars. In a car you are in an enclosed space, it always feels like a compartment, you are in a frame and passively observe things. Motorcycle is different however. If your purpose is traveling, and not riding, traveling on a motorcycle is indeed a good thing. On a two wheeler, the frame is gone. If you’re a sensitive person, you can feel you are in the scene. In my riding often I felt a strange sensation of pleasure, especially when I was riding on highways surrounded by rural landscapes.
I had planned for a long ride on my newly purchased motorcycle, just 2900 km clocked in odometer and 3 months old. I had started my journey in the middle of December, winters suits me well and the tarmac roads are cool and less harsh on tyres. From Kolkata to Delhi, roughly it’s 1600 km. My plan was deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere. When I came back home (Kolkata) after 37 days of traveling/riding, my odometer measured 8900 km, so I rode exactly 5000 km in 37 days.
I maintained a journal where I put things in a diary fashion. Those are my kind of field notes. I changed engine oil thrice, and when I returned home, I changed it once again. I had an accident once, I did one full servicing once in Delhi, and one partial after the accident.
I don’t like Highways though. It is because of the simple fact that it robs the joy of seeing things. On highways you can’t help but to run fast. State Highways are better, especially I found Rajasthan State Highways extremely good. Due to my inexperience in twisty hilly roads, I found it difficult initially to manoeuvre the machine but after some time those twist and turns turned out to be extremely enjoyable. I liked paved rural roads; slow speed was very enjoyable on those roads, and gave me an amazing sense of joy.
To me, it was somehow a feeling of liberation when I was moving slowly on a road, fresh air and lots of greenery on both sides of the road. Roads free of trucks were enjoyable, though in the daylight trucks were far better than speeding cars. Roads where trees, green fields, meadows, lawns came almost to the shoulder, where people looked at me with curious eyes, I found it very exciting. I seldom used Google Map because I found it more enjoyable to stop to ask directions or information, and the answer tended to be longer than expected.
Long distance motorcycle riding is tough, and often rough, especially in Indian Highways. There are many things you need to understand or at least study first before you go for the first time. Most important things come with experience; still I am giving here some essential facts, tips and suggestions for beginner motorcycle riders who wish to travel in Indian Highways.
• First thing is to understand your motorcycle. It is important that you go with the familiar machine, not a new one or borrowed one.
Motorcycle Technical Tips
• Needless to say, before riding a long tour you need to go for a full servicing. I didn’t go for it but I checked all my parts and changed my engine oil. I double checked my brakes and understood very basic motorcycle mechanism.
• You should at least know the very basic of motorcycle repairing stuff. For example, how to change a flat tyre, or change your own engine oil because you can get engine oils in petrol pumps but most of them don’t change it. Also, carry basic tool box. That being said, do not overdo it. You don’t need to be an expert, and it is not possible also. You can accidently damage your machine.
• No matter how strong your motorcycle is, always take rest after two hours. It is better if you run 100 km/hr constantly for an hour, take rest for 15 minutes.
• For long tours, always rely on heavy engine motorcycles.
Personal and Safety Tips
• Always tie your luggage tight. Carry extra pair of bungee cords with you. Do not carry heavy load on your back, perhaps a small backpack with not more than 2kg of load. Carry ample amount of water even it is important.
• Whenever I stopped for a night, I immediately opened my laptop and started working. You don’t need to do that. The first shower after 10 hours of riding feels like heaven, so first take a proper shower, eat good food but light and hydrate yourself. It is better not to drink alcoholic beverage if you are riding back to back days.
• I always wear a money belt where I put all my cards, IDs and cash. Some cash I put it in my wallet. Before turn on my ignition key, I checked my wallet, phone and money belt, and this became a habit. Carry enough cash with you. I know it’s dangerous but most of the places in India don’t accept Paytm or online transactions, even in some petrol pumps they denied me card payments.
• Wear ear plugs. Trust me it is great. Or at least you can purchase a good balaclava, especially in winters when wind is cold and you ride fast, things are getting exhausting fast if you do not protect your ears.
• Wear full helmet, although for riders with specs full helmets are very uncomfortable. You can wear a half helmet but always careful to buy helmet that fully fits your head. Wear a decent helmet, a good riding jacket, knee guard and don’t forget to wear boots.
• It’s very important to make yourself visible while riding on highways. Make your bike on the path of the road that is visible to other road users. For example, if you are following a truck or van, don’t go right behind it. Get it the side of it, looking at the rear mirror, if you can see the driver’s face, he can definitely see you.
• Don’t follow other riders, and try to overtake or compete. Highway riding is very dangerous. A little mistake and you fall, and if you fall, you will hurt.
• Always take photographs on your road and send it your friends in WhatsApp. Always inform your friends where you are, where you reach even if you don’t like to do it. If you stay at a motel, send the photo of the motel with name and address.
• Finally, always expect the unexpected.
Tips on Riding on Indian Highways
• Indian Highways have this big advantage. You will always find dhabas (local roadside restaurants), petrol pumps after 5-10 km and people around. So, even if you unfortunately experience some problems with your bike or an accident, you will find people to help you out. That comes with riding in dark point. In the night, you won’t find around, and if anything bad happens, nobody will there to help you out.
• Indian Highways there is always a risk for riders who ride fast. There is always a possibility when you see people cross the road, not just people but cows, dogs, sheep, chickens etc., so be vigilant and careful about your speed.
• Even there are always petrol pumps after every 10 km or so, don’t let the fuel meter to reach the red line. Always fill up the tank before it reaches the reserve.
• Create space around you. Use your indicator when you change lanes. Keeping space is often forgotten, especially when you are passing a truck or a big van. Maintain a safe distance between your motorcycle and other vehicle until the point that you can accelerate to pass.
Tips for Solo Motorcycle Touring
• As I said before start early and finish early before dark. It is advisable to settle somewhere before sunset because changing light makes it difficult for other drivers to see you.
• Carry a small diary where you note down all your information for example, important numbers, addresses, emergency contacts, where you have stayed, which places you ate on the road, distance covered etc.
• I don’t use GPS but I am an oddball. So, carry GPS and use it often to track the road.
• If you are traveling alone, it is always advisable to eat smart, hydrate yourself well and sleep early. Remember there are no one near and dear one to look after if you fall sick. So, keep your health well, at least the best you can.
• Finally, in case of an accident when your motorcycle is totally damaged or partially damaged, but you are alive with perhaps a few scratches or a hairline fractures, don’t fret about your broken machine. Don’t curse yourself or mourn about your motorcycle. Thanks to God that you are alive, and learn what the lesson you have got. It is very important!
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