It’s kinda sad that I don’t get to ride to office everyday. I did that for some 5 years, and it’s fun to slide in through the main gate, all geared up and shit, looking like you directly came in after a week-long trip.
Indians are a weird bunch. Just an average quality helmet will get you stares like you’re riding around in a G-string, imagine the way people glared at me with my jacket, gloves, boots and all. With time I learned to enjoy the eyes, but it still surprises me to hear from people who don’t want to wear full gear just because others look at them funny.
A few weeks ago someone messaged me on the RiderZone Facebook page and shared the story of how a drunk guy magically spawned out of a bush by the side of the road, hit the rider, and broke some bones. He wasn’t geared up, I don’t know why. These are the thoughts that came to my mind after the conversation with him.
Commuter riding tips: Gear up
Yes, it’s not always easy. Most offices have some sort of dress code, formals and all, and it’s not always possible to waltz in with your dirty riding pants and full-length boots. Having said that, jobs come and go, life unfortunately doesn’t. Here’s how I used to work my way around my office rules.
- Jacket, helmet, gloves: Nobody cares about these, as long as you are wearing something under your jacket. In fact, many offices have rules about helmets, like you can’t enter or exit with one sitting on your mirror. These 3 items are the most basic as far as protection goes, and I don’t know of any IT company that has any trouble with them.
- Boots: This is where things get complicated. Corporates can be suckers for formal shoes, anything else gets their panties all twisted and sweaty. In my office, the security people were OK with me riding in with my shiny leather boots, as long as I didn’t walk around in them through the campus. I had simply kept a pair of formal shoes under my desk, and changed into them every time I got to my cubicle. If your HR people aren’t happy with this, you could always buy some sort of safety boot. They look like formal boots, but are heavy, with steel toes, and at least some level of ankle protection. Here’s an example, and another, and another and another.
- Pants: This is where things get even worse. You can’t just wear riding pants to office, they are pain to get out of, and doing it in front of your colleagues might bring in some sexual harassment cases. I usually just rode to office in my regular pants, although that isn’t the best idea. There are many people who wear knee guards, and they do work well, especially the not-so-cheap ones, but they can get rather uncomfortable with full-length boots on, and for some reason I’ve never liked knee-guards. There are some options like this that can be worn over the pant, and are rather short, the only side effect that I can see is that they won’t be as easy to put on/off as the normal knee-guards. Then again, knees are kinda important, so do the best you can to save them.
Commuter riding tips: Play games
You generally don’t go fast in the city, especially when compared to the highway, but the things that makes commuting that much more dangerous than touring are the surprises around every corner. An auto driving in the right lane on the wrong side, an aunty who has decided to randomly stroll through the middle of the road, 2 dogs who suddenly start fucking on a busy intersection, it’s things like these that catch you out.
Playing games, any kind of games, improves your reaction time. Also, these games help your mind get used to surprises, which means that when that truck suddenly pulls out in front of you, you will be less likely to panic and jam on the brakes, slide into the tires and have your guts spill out like an overfilled garbage bag.
I’ve recently been playing MotoGP13, and it’s pretty kick ass as far as understanding a motorcycle goes. You can change almost everything about the bike, steering angle, gear ratios, brake types, and the feel the effect on the bike. Counter Strike is a brilliant game to get your reaction times down, I personally prefer 1.6. Need for Speed, God of War, Mario, Valentino Rossi the Game, it doesn’t matter what game it is, play them often and watch the improvement in your daily rides.
Commuter riding tips: Adjust your office timings
9 to 6 is not the time to be, you’ll be stuck in traffic, which’ll force you to make bad choices, and at some point you’ll end up face-first into the ground.
Once I had to reach office at some 9 in the morning, and the road was jam-packed before a red light. Just by the side of the road, there was a small bus stop. The area in front of the stop was laid with paver blocks for some reason, and there was a big gap between the height of this section and the road.
Due to the traffic, I found myself on the left side, weaving my way through the standing cars. Just as I reached near the bus stop, the light went green, and people started accelerating away from me. I also picked up some speed, and wanted to get back on the road. Looking into the right mirror to make sure I wasn’t going to ram into someone’s side, I missed that gap between the road and the blocks.
Must’ve been doing some 60 odd when I hit it, and the bike almost slid out from underneath me. The steering had shaken violently, and my feet had gone off the pegs. No idea how I held on, but the immediate thing to do was twist the throttle and get away from the people who saw me fail.
Most importantly, this happened on a road that I went on every day for 4 years, a road that I thought I knew every inch of.
In almost all my time in IT, I worked in the second shift, 2 PM to 11 PM. This was a conscious decision on many levels. There’s no traffic at 2, nor at 11, and although I always prefer not to ride at night, the advantage in terms of lack of traffic outweighed the risk of riding in the dark. Because there is less traffic, you are less likely to get frustrated and do stupid shit. This strategy worked extremely well for me, try it if you can.
Commuter riding tips: Get a small bike
I did most of my commuting on my Duke 390, and that’s not a good idea. Anything above 250cc is overkill on our streets, and these bikes create bigger problems than they solve.
Everyday, at some point, I would find myself in a jam, and the engine would start ripping a hole in my pants. More often than not, such jams are accompanied by stop-and-go traffic, which completely destroyed my clutch hand. Things got so bad sometimes that I simply had to pull over and rest. Big bikes also incite our roadside Rossi’s into street races, and they are no fun.
You’ll never be able to use even 5% of what your bike is capable of inside the city. It’s fun to ride a big bike to office, but all you are doing is shredding the tires, straining the engine, destroying petrol, and fucking your body. A much better idea is to pick up anything around 150cc, and watch in amazement as that full tank of gas lasts an entire month.
Sometimes it’s not an option to ride something else, I simply didn’t have another bike, and would’ve preferred to strangle myself with a USB cable than use public transport. Whatever the situation be, think about the long-term. The amount of money you waste riding and maintaining your 390 to office everyday might be better spent on a Pulsar 150 and some weed, especially if you end up in a crash.
Commuter riding tips: Buy an adventure camera
Get a small, compact adventure camera like an SJCAM or GoPro, put a sticky mount somewhere on your bike and stick the camera in there. Not only will you get some really interesting footage of the Indian roads, you’ll also have useful proof in case someone decides to park their ass on your face.
You don’t really need to buy anything too fancy, 1080p is high enough resolution, anything more is just overkill. There are many options in the market, starting at some 7k for the Xiaomi and going all the way to 40k+ for the GoPro, get the one you like the most and get shooting. Even if you don’t want to start a Youtube channel, it’s an extremely useful thing to do on our roads. Who knows, you might even capture something that goes viral and pays for the next set of tires.
These are some of the methods that I tried over the years, and since I appear to be alive, I can say with some confidence that they work. Let me know if you have some other ideas.