Guide to Solo Motorcycle Riding

Getting used to your inner silence as you embrace the totality of the world expressed starkly in being exposed and singular; just two eyes, just two ears, one man (or woman) and a set of two wheels cutting across a landscape in its nakedness. The epitome of independence as an expression, a meditation, a penance, a risk, an expedition, an escapade however you name it, matters naught but little since deep down it still is something you’d almost involuntarily do, something more resembling a need and less a mere desire.

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This post serves the purpose of sharing a few personal tips about solo motorcycle riding in India, assuming that you’ve done a bit of group rides and know the basics of riding out of town, here goes :                         if notclick link Loading up for your Ride…

  • Reliability of your machine is paramount when it comes to solo riding, all those normal bike niggles become the source of irritation and worry when alone. So try to eliminate any issues with your bike that you were accustomed to living with.
    • Avoid leaky or smokey old bikes.
    • Make sure engine oil is topped and fresh.
    • Spare clutch and throttle cables are a must.
    • Toolkit is essential.
    • Spare tyre tubes or Puncture repair kit and DIY experience.
    • Spare length of nylon rope and bunjee chords.
    • Med kit with bandage patches and medical tape.
  • Self tested rain wear for you and your luggage, especially if you’re travelling in the mountains.
  • Carry a spare BSNL sim card if you’re heading to desolate or off road locations, could help in emergencies.
  • If you are undertaking an expeditionary ride, it would be very wise to assign someone at home as your non-riding partner and report your movement to him/her.
  • Get yourself insured for accidents and emergencies, keep photocopies of it with your non-riding partner as well.
  • Research and keep a list of nearest authorized service centers for your bike in your travel zone.
  • Carry an offline or paper map of your travel zone.
  • Keep some emergency cash somewhere safe and not so accessible, you don’t want to get stuck in a place because the one functioning ATM in that town isn’t anymore.

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Some dangers that need be mentioned :

  • National Parks / Wildlife sanctuaries are home to a tremendous amount of fauna many of which are built for the hunt, riding through solo on a motorcycle on a desolate jungle road is dangerous enough not to be stopping to casually take a selfie. Keep your senses sharp and don’t become a professional hunter’s man snack.
  • Small time thievery is common sometimes in India, especially on the fringes of a developing metropolis so its wise not to leave anything unfastened, unguarded or flick-able. I’ve lost 3 good pairs of gloves to petty thieves till date, they love gloves!
  • Going to a public toilet when soloing in India means leaving your fancy bags on your fancy bike alone for a snazzy length of time. In a way its similar to shutting down your computer firewall and go click waltzing into dark-net, carry toilet paper or spare water and learn to use nature …deal with it!
  • Anger… yes anger is one of the biggest dangers while soloing, anger can piss off anyone; you don’t want to piss off hotel caretakers, fellow road users, village punks, waiters, mechanics etc especially if you’re traveling alone. Drop the anger in exchange for mirth, this will turn these very bunch of people into very helpful albeit overly forthcoming souls.

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They say the key to happiness is freedom and the key to freedom is bravery. This holds especially true for a solo rider, being calm and able to process your mind even in difficult situations is possibly one of the best things your mind can be equipped with while solo motorcycle riding.

Happy travelling.

Pip #5 | KAZA

Places in Pictures

Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, India

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Getting to Kaza involves riding through one of the most dangerous roads on the planet. Constant landslides lay waste to any attempt at feeble human infrastructure, after driving through what feels like two thousand kilometers on a rocky un-paved surface one reaches this place smack in the center of Spiti valley. The town is situated on the higher banks of River Spiti, an area where only a couple of hardy crops have the ability to grow during summer months.

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The floor of the valley still perched at a dizzy height of almost twelve thousand feet above sea level is as marvelous as the trouble you took to get here. The delicate designs that centuries of natural forces like water and wind create are in no small regard, masterpieces.

Kaza exists amidst these pieces of natural art, a central town to a dozen satellite settlements around with population pockets barely reaching three digits. Equipped with a fuel station and more than half a dozen hitherto hotels, it proves to be a good base for further exploration whilst serving you with whatever a little town like this can muster from around.

In Kaza it also never rains for more than a day, after hours of constant rain, temperatures drop enough to make it pelt ice and snow for the rest of the cloud withering duration. So be doubly warned and planned for any winters you plan to spend here.

People here are very kind and hardworking, it’ll surprise the hats off your head to witness the amount of work done by local women. Like I said, hats off!

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Hotels are well positioned to offer you a basic rooms with lots of caring warm food delivered in their tastefully decorated common room. Expect to see plenty of expedition stickers on room doors, mementos left behind by travelers to remind you of the many folk who’ve ‘been ere and donnit’.

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Beside Kaza flows one of the valley’s principal water givers, River Spiti, this clear, bubbling, pretty river splits herself into a dozen streams capturing a broad valley surrounded by towering peaks of brown and white.

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The town still retains that old world charm as most old architecture is still being actively used by locals. Walking into small pathways around town are rather educating as they provide a glimpse at their ways of life in this harsh landscape, apart from being a visual extravaganza that this town already is.

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Kaza is an ideal place to stay over if you intend to check the numerous monasteries in and around which have been expertly crafted into this dangerous yet beautiful landscapes by masons of old. The history that these monasteries encompass is breath taking and dates back to almost the 12th century, even such a hard and unforgiving landscape has been fought for since longer than anyone today can even imagine.

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That about sums up this expression of a post about Kaza, a pip that I just couldn’t stop myself from doing.

Cheers to all my fellow travel bugged souls and happy exploring indeed. 

Loading up for your Ride…

Motorcycle Pre Ride Preparations – Roadtripping

Your Ride and its essentials.

Roadtrippin prep.

Riding for me is a place where the past and the future dissolve into the now. Fellow riders will understand how deep our love for riding and the attachment to it goes, maybe because historically as humans we have always ridden… We’ve riden Horses, Ponies, Oxen, Bulls & Buffaloes, Camels & Carabao, Mules, Elephants and any other equine that even remotely gives us the impression of wanting to be riden on. So to me the feeling of mounting up to ride and facing the wind almost naturally beckons and captures my soul.

Long distance riding is a kind of meditative venture. I’d say people who are comfortable being with themselves usually tend to be comfortable with a long distance rides. I for one have my moments of ‘are we there yet’ but in its eventuality I swear I’m short-changed for time – no matter how long the ride.

Riding though isn’t about just fun and thrills, but is often a balance of hardships and niceties. The passion for biking however determines how much you want to get back on the saddle to ride. What we look for as riders is how not to turn a bad incident into the bane of your expedition.

The Bike:

One of the most important aspects to a ‘Biking Expedition’, having a bike that you love and love to ride will make a world of difference to your approach to it. For example when I bought my first Enfield Bullet, I really didn’t have to try too hard to ride out long, the bike will tell you through its RPM-Gear relationship that it wants to head out long and that is enough of a push usually to get going for at least day trips. For Indian riding, I would suggest a reliable bike that can give you fair latitude with milage, being a large country with tonnes of inroads and bike-able terrain, you’ll surely be left stuck gauging the fuel gauge in some interesting moments. I find most new generation Indian bikes capable of doing good rides if run at optimum RPMs. I personally prefer liquid cooled engine bikes since it provides that extra latitude for pushing the RPMs and one can be pretty sure of the engine not heating to the red zone at high RPMs. I currently use a Honda CBR250r for all my flying expeditions and it hasn’t ever disappointed me, although I did get Leh’d on a Bullet and love it with equal vigour. I’ve seen plenty of Pulsars and even Splendours take on challenging rides and coming out very successful… It’s all about the rider and how well he can communicate/push/handle his machine. Whatever the case, I suggest falling in love with your bike anyways, because it helps.

Planning to Ride:

Warning:

Do not take on massive rides before you experiment and practice short distances on your bike. Short rides will tell you a great deal about riding. Here are a bunch of things you need to keep in mind on practice rides or short runs;

  • Ride for 100kms non-stop to gauge which parts of your body are likely to come under strain.
  • Experiment adjusting positions to come to the most comfortable ride position (your ankles, foot, butt, back, neck, hands, head… Everything matters).
  • Test out optimum rpms on the bike and get comfortable with it since you’ll be spending most of your time riding in that rpm.
  • Buy a good comfortable certified helmet and get comfortable in it. A bad helmet can mean the difference between a good ride and a bad one.
  • Yoga or stretch exercises can massively aid in keeping your joints and muscles strong, supple and trustworthy for a ride.

Clothing and Luggage:

Riding unlike driving a car is very much in touch with all the natural forces on offer out in the open.

I find having a good biking jacket which is padded serves a multitude of purposes. I used to follow a basic rule of layers which would mean I would either peel off or put on a layer depending on the heat/chill factor respectively, but before the last ride I found www.cramster.in and liked what I saw… This was just before my solo journey across India from Bangalore to New Delhi so I was looking for something reliable, has good build quality and is designed by a biker… And that is exactly what I found at Cramster, apart from the positive about this company being an Indian SME. The all-weather Jacket really caught my attention; built with  peelable anti-rain and thermal layers it also featured a mesh outer construction that kept my body cool with wind circulation while riding the sweaty Coastal middays or the hot middle lands of India. Carry lots of socks and two pairs of footwear that you can ride with incase one gets wet in the rain.

As for luggage, what I normally did was fasten two duffle bags to the sides beside the pillion seat with hooked bunjee chords (readily available in local auto markets). I also kept a small bag fastened on top of the pillion seat – this was also to provide a backrest when needed (I always needed it in a Bullet). Of course this comes with its mental baggage of worrying about the bag sagging or an unhooked hook… Especially after the innumerable number of potholes and rattle rumblers you fly past in our beloved country. Fortunately again I depended on Cramster for it… Bought the saddle bag and that proved to be one good decision, it meant a 15 min overall prep time instead of a 45 min overall prep time every morning, it meant clamp on – tighten up and forget it, it meant the right pockets for the right things and the right places, it even meant giving a drop to an old man for 27 kms and most of all it meant I didn’t have to look back or help hold it in place for the entire 13 day ride.

One last thing you’ll need to account for is heavy rain… The kind of downpour you’re water resistant stuff will not be able to resist. You will have to think of a way to completely cover yourself and the luggage secured on your bike individually. An oversized ‘Company: Duckback’ style rubberized Raincoat/Rain Jacket & Rain Trousers should be adequate for yourself and maybe a camera bag. Buy think grade sheet plastic and get it stitched to cover your luggage items or use different things like the bike cover, and other plastic bags to fashion individual rain covers. Using provided raincovers that come with branded saddle bags and other bike luggage items however offer the best protection and ease of operation when it comes to rain.

Bungee chords used to fasten a backpack.

Bungee chords used to fasten a backpack.

Bike Service Checklist:

  1. Engine Oil Change
  2. Brake Fluid Top-up
  3. Brake Shoe Check
  4. Brake Cable Check
  5. Clutch Cable & Clutch Play Check
  6. Gear Oil Check
  7. Accelerator Cable Check
  8. Chain Link/Chain Play Check
  9. Wheel Balance Check & Tire Air Pressure Check
  10. Carburetor Clean & Idling Check or Fuel Injection Check with Idling
  11. Timing and Point Check (In older bullets its advisable to waterproof the point in some way).
  12. Check for leakages worn out parts and
  13. Service and Wash
  14. Chain Lubrication post washing

Spares to carry with you on the ride:

  1. Clutch Cable
  2. Accelerator Cable
  3. Brake Cable
  4. Extra Engine Oil (Enough to top it up on long rides – not too much)
  5. Chain Clean and Chain Lube (I find these very useful. One instance I had a plastic cover squashed between the chain gaps and sprockets, couldn’t stand the ‘Kweeetch Kweeetch’ sound while riding)
  6. Fuses
  7. Chain Link Lock
  8. Head Lamp
  9. Tubeless tyre repair kit or spare tube.
  10. Spark Plug
  11. Bungee Hook Chords (Good to take them in whatever case)

Things you just cannot afford to forget:

  1. Helmet
  2. Original Bike Papers; Registration, Insurance and Emmision certificate (all up to date) kept safe where you keep your money and other important stuff.
  3. A copy of the above to be kept in the bike.
  4. Original Driving Licence
  5. Spare Key
  6. Provided Toolkit and your personal set of tools if you use any.
  7. Hand Sanitizer (when something goes into your eye, you’ll need clean hands and water to wash it off)
  8. Mobile phone (for emergencies at the least)
  9. List of Authorized Service Stations and their phone numbers (applies especially while soloing)
  10. Research about the area you will travel through, our country is diverse and sometimes extreme in both ways; common sense, respecting local cultures and etiquette, Adaptivity, kindness and gratitude are key traits to have in yourself while travelling. You will find that most people return the given respect with a smile.
  11. Update your antivirus… uh… i mean get yourself vaccinated (consult your physician and tell him your plans he’ll know what to do).
  12. Get a basic First aid kit.
  13. Mosquito Repellant.
  14. Water Purifying Tablets.
  15. Flashlight, Matches and Pocket Knife.

Some generic medicines that you’ll want to carry with you for unforeseen uncomfortable eventualities, please remember that these meds are India centric and available in India (Disclaimer – These are medicines that I normally make a kit of, I am no doctor – Please consult with your family physician to verify, check recommended dosages and take other specific medicines you might need).

  • Tablet – IMOL PLUS – For headaches, body aches, throat ache, backpain etc.
  • Tablet – ONDEM MD 4mg – One tab on tongue to stop vomiting or some such sensation.
  • Capsule – ELDOPER – For loose motions, watery stool.
  • Tablet – DOLO 650 – For fever and headaches.
  • Tablet – NIMEK SPAS – For stomach pain, menstrual pain.
  • Tablet – STEMETIL – Take one tablet with DOLO 650 at onset of migraine.
  • Tablet – AZIWOK 500mg – Antibiotic – once a day for sustained cough, cold, throat pain and fever.
  • Tablet – PAN 40 – For Gastritis, heartburn.

First try something natural like taking a good sleep, eating fibrous meals, practicing yoga or flexibility exercises etc that balance your body’s natural levels… most often than not its this imbalance that is experienced as various illnesses when you’re just out of balance not ill.

Update to NRIs/Foreigners:

  • Follow the crowd when it comes to clothing in different parts of India. It maybe acceptable to wear/not-wear anything in Goa but that doesn’t apply in every place.
  • Banish those old notions – India is changing, you cannot just bribe a cop everytime, the central Data Center is on and can track you, there are cameras stationed at many Indian Cities at signals/junctions etc, the village is no more a land where its people haven’t the slightest clue of the cities… They’ve got TVs and Internet… Innocence and patience are a fleeting virtue just like any other place in the world. Bollywood is the movies, real life is quite literally much more drastic, the weather a lot hotter and people more ogle-some.

For the brave, enterprising and adaptive traveler, this country can blow your mind with its rich diversity in experience, terrain, foods, people, accommodations, silent interactions with fellow travelers and much much more.

Happy Riding folks.