Travel writer Rishad Saam
Mehta lives to travel and tell
the tale. But one moonless
night in Kargil in 2003, nothing,
not even the fear of death,
could keep him from riding out at
11.30 pm. He had to escape two Pashtun
men who were determined to buy his
350 cc Bullet motorcycle.
"The rocky road lit by the beam of
my headlight was my world. I could not
see anything else. But I had to get away
from those unsmiling men besotted
with my bike," recalls Mehta of his solo
trip from Kargil to Sonamarg via Dras.
Then he remembers a vantage point
en route: The spectacular view of the
Kashmir valley that lay 1,000 ft below
made the trip worthwhile, "My heart
wanted to burst with joy. I wanted to
share the moment with the world. I
actually ended up talking to my bike."
The world of motorcycle adventurers
is full of such tales. Like Bangalorebased
software engineer Praveen KM's
175-day long, 25,508 km odyssey along
almost the entire perimeter of the country
that ended August last year.
Praveen, 31, had a rough idea of the
route but no fixed schedule. "The trick,"
says Praveen, "is to take a day at a time.
And preferably do it solo because then
you can move at your own pace."
Five years ago, Preethi Jayapadhi,
28, bought a motorcycle on an impulse.
"For two days I stared at the instruction
manual. On the third day I tried to
ride the bike and fell down," says the
writer, who lives in Mumbai. A veteran
of many adventure rides, Jayapadhi
says that the varied terrain of south
India makes it a biker's delight. A
1,000-km ride from Bangalore in Tamil
Nadu to Valparai in Kerala a few years
ago, took her through sloping hills,
rivers, beaches and daunting dense
Talking of which, few can match the
aptly-named One Crazy Ride that
Gaurav Jani and his four friends,
Nicolitta Pereira, Vinod Panicker,
Sanjeev Sharma, Gursaurabh Singh
Toor, made through Arunachal Pradesh
in 2006. For most of the journey, they
were riding through rivers or what
passed for a dirt track between imposing
cliffs and steep drops.
A journey of discovery
For the more enterprising ones and
there is a growing tribe of them there
are any number of unbeaten tracks to
be discovered, says Santosh Kumar, 34,
of www.getoffurass.com, a portal that
tempts "executives in swivel chairs" to
experience the outdoors. Availability of
good bikes, riding gear and networking
sites has fuelled the passion for bike
adventure, says Kumar.
People like Vir Nakai, 30, art director
with an advertising agency in
Mumbai, need the smallest excuse to
take off, often solo, on his 500 cc Enfield
bike. "It is very peaceful, calming and
in a way liberating to ride alone." For a
safe ride, he invests in good riding gear
that is now available in India.
Contrary to the impression that
adventure biking is a macho thing to
do, most bikers will tell you that it is a
journey of personal discovery. As
Praveen KM says, "You never know
what you are capable of until you push
yourself. For me, the ride was a journey
of self discovery." So, what did he
find out? "I am more at peace with the
uncertainties of life," is his answer.
All you need to know
Learn enough about the bike to be able
to fix a problem if there is no mechanic.
Oil major bolts. Some bikers put adhesive
on the threads to delay loosening.
Change the acceleration, clutch and
brake cables. Carry extra cables, fuse,
bulbs, spark plug, a tube and a tool kit.
Keep luggage to a minimum and
distribute it evenly on the bike.
Wear loose cargos of heavy cotton that
can withstand the wear-and-tear.
Layered clothes keep the body warm
while riding uphill.
You will definitely need warm clothing
and a sturdy windcheater.
Invest in an armoured biking jacket, a
pair of gloves, riding boots, driving glasses,
and a quality helmet.
Start early and drive during daylight.
Eat light. Stay hydrated. Drink coconut
water when you can find it.
Carry energy bars and dry fruits that
pack in a lot of energy.
Carry fruits like apples and oranges that
won't get squashed in the bag.
At high altitudes, take a Disprin or chew
on garlic cloves to keep the blood thin.