Some of you may be aware of my disdain for numbers – birthdays, new years, festivals and shit, overrated concepts invented by lazy sobs not unlike myself, primarily designed to gift themselves another excuse to postpone something important. Anyways, since we are stuck with them, why not make some use out of them eh?
As stupid as they may be, these numbers CAN be a useful tool to gauge progress, progress that is an eternal part of the ever-evolving science of biking, a science that treats all bikers alike, no matter what the experience. So as another year passes by, and 2015 is here to stay, here are my 6 recommendations to make you a better biker for 2016, and life.
1. Do a track day
I have done only 1 track day till date, KTM Orange Day at Buddh International Circuit, for which I rode all the way from Mumbai and back! It was a completely different experience from what I had imagined it to be, but those 30 laps taught me more about the technicalities of riding than probably the 30,000 Kms of trips before that.
I have never been that scared in my life! I had imagined track riding would be so much more easy than the road since all the distractions are gone. What I hadn’t factored in was the sheer adrenaline that comes with pushing yourself and your machine to the limit on every corner. I was gargling my balls the first 5-7 laps, spectacularly missing each and every corner. There were 3 sessions planned for the day, I wanted to run back home after just one. Here’s a video of 1 lap of mine around the half loop.
It was only in the last 15 odd laps that I found myself, and there was a moment after which it all made sense. After that I scraped my foot-pegs a few times, leaned in more than I ever had, and became a different rider altogether. Track riding is important because it teaches you the limits by taking you beyond them, it’s important because it removes your fears. I can’t wait to go back again and crap my pants!
There are 3 tracks in India, Buddh in Noida, Kari in Coimbatore, and MMSC in Chennai. Most of them have open days every month in some form, days on which you can just take your bike and go ape shit. There are entities like Apex Racing and California Superbike School also that charge some fee (25,000 for Apex, 50,000 for CSS) and teach you to become the next Rossi. In my opinion it’s always good to have guidance, but just a track day in itself is more than sufficient to take you to the next level, unless you wish to become a professional racer.
2. Do a long distance unplanned solo ride
I can’t stress the need for this enough. If you are looking for a life-altering experience that will not only change your riding but your personality as well, this should be the number 1 item on your bucket list for 2015. By long distance I mean anything that goes on for about a week, roughly 3000-4000 Kms. By unplanned I mean no hotel reservations, no fixed destination, just a general direction to explore. By solo I mean just you and your motorcycle, no one to wait for, no one to talk to, and no one to be held back by.
I have done plenty of these, and always try to go back to them from time to time. I’m actually in the middle of a long distance unplanned solo ride as you read this! The beauty of such trips is the sheer chaos, the unpredictability that makes everything so interesting. For some insane solo travelogues, check out Rohit Upadhyay’s website. For just plain fuckery and stuff that’ll make you want to quit your job this instant, check out Ed March’s Youtuve channel.
Solo is the way it is meant to be, the way it makes the most sense, the way it’s the most fun. Is it dangerous? Absolutely. But if danger was not really your thing, buying a 2 wheeled death machine wasn’t a very bright idea to begin with was it you dimwit? I’ll like to quote my all time favorite comedian George Carlin here:
Hey, where’s your sense of adventure? Take a fucking chance, will ya? Take a fucking chance, bunch of goddamn pussies!
3. Go to a different country
For me the most important aspect of biking is the spirit of adventure it inculcates. You can travel cheaper, safer, and faster in a variety of other ways, but riding would definitely be the most honest to the journey. You are not protected against anything! The good and the bad all hit you right in the face. So it’s nothing but natural to yearn to see other countries after your own.
Not that I understand the concept of countries! I don’t get it why you need to put up borders and say this is mine and that is yours, but fuck politics In November 2014 I got the opportunity to see a different country, and that has affected my life profoundly. I’m not a patriotic man, but after returning from Bhutan I was in depression for about a week. I didn’t want to come back to India.
Life is all about travel, to see new places and to meet new people, to make horrible mistakes and to laugh about them, to give yourself completely to something you don’t even understand with only a little hope and smile. We Indians are kinda lucky to have a few countries around us with easy access. For people in Europe I guess things are even easier! Go see how others live in “their” countries, you’ll be surprised how much difference an imaginary line can make.
4. Do a rain off-road session
Got some slushy mountain near your place that becomes a mudfest in rain? Call your biking friends and go ride in the dirt, it’s one of the most stupidly fun things to do! You’ll slip, slide, most likely fall, but it’ll teach you a lot about traction, something that you’ll never even begin to understand on the road, unless you crash.
For people around Mumbai, Rajmachi in Lonavala is the perfect destination, I’m sure you have something similar around you. I’ve been there twice and it’s just madness. I’ve tipped over 3-4 times, gone sliding out for meters, and once was almost crushed by an open Jeep driven downhill by 4 totally drunk assholes. Obviously, don’t take your best bike out there, it’s not about horsepower or torque. Cheap naked bikes are the most fun, and knobby tires would make it slightly more safe! These insanity sessions are a lot like track days, they teach you to overcome your fear, although in a much more crazy stupid way.
5. Stay away from commercial events
Riding is a very personal experience, it’s like painting or poetry. Picasso wasn’t boozing with 100 other painters when he created Le Peintre, Robert Frost wasn’t out in a fucking orgy when he wrote Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. I don’t understand the point of these giant biking festivals, or these rides for causes, or any other event whose final purpose is making money for the organizers.
If you go to these events, you are wasting precious time you could be spending painting with 2 wheels, or writing poetry with your machine. Over and above that, such commercial propaganda adds NOTHING to your biking, not one single strand of pubic hair of knowledge or experience.
This of course doesn’t hold true for “bikers” who ride just because it lets them get together with other “bikers” and drink till their liver falls off. There is a huge population of people out there who use motorcycles as a way to hop from one binge party to the other, with 4-5 sutta breaks on the way. So if you are one of those “bikers”, go have the time of your life waving your dick in everyone’s face. You can find me riding as fast as possible in the opposite direction, if you’re interested.
6. Upgrade, or not
Riding is like a constant lecture, a test that never ends till you are dead. Through the course of this learning you may find that your motorcycle is holding you back, stopping you from getting out of that B- territory onto the hallowed land of As. If you felt that was the case in 2014, it would be wise to upgrade to something better in 2015.
Do keep in mind that bigger the bike you get, the longer it will take to fully master it and move up. I’m not referring to super rich brats here that wear gold diapers and start their riding life on an R1, I’m talking to the people who start on their mom’s scooty, then grow up to their dad’s scooters, then get some experience on a friend’s Passion before finally saving up enough to buy their own Pulsar.
To upgrade or not will also depend a lot on what kind of riding you see yourself doing in the future. Will you tour? Or will you become a track junkie? Or will it be the occasional breakfast ride with your missus? Whatever it may be, find your options, research, test ride, and go for it. Trying new things and taming new dragons is part of the charm.
Here it is, my 6 ideas to be a better biker in 2015. I’ll surely try to act on all of these, since they are kinda my own ideas, but don’t let my imagination stop you from following your own mind. The most important thing is fun, the moment something stops being that, something’s wrong somewhere.