Hey guys, as usual, it’s been a while since I’ve come up with an article and it’s mainly due to my unconventional work hours which takes a hit on my internal clock every month when my shift changes. Though not to worry this time I do have something special(I doubt if my fellow riders, especially the ones stuck riding behind me, would approve me using the word unless it’s coupled with ‘Abled’ as in ‘Specially Abled’, pun intended).
What did I do this time around? Well there’s this thing called ISG2G(Interstate Get-together) which has been going on for a while now, it’s an event funded and hosted by like-minded riders who’re part of the xBhp motorcycling community, xBhp is an online forum where motorcyclists of all genres come along to share their experiences, be it about their motorcycles, their trips, their adventures, their mishaps and what not. It’s an awesome place if you ask me, though it’s believed to be India’s best motorcycling community, I’d say that it is definitely more than that. What many people are not aware of are that most indigenous motorcycles manufactured in the country are sold in a many other parts of the world, such as Indonesia, Singapore, Colombia, Vietnam etc, these are the only places I know of for certain as I have biker friends there, but I bet they’re available in a lot more places. The people who own these ‘Indian’ motorcycles also make it a point to be part of xBhp to share and learn many things about their beloved motorcycles. So back to the ISG2G, once a year xBhp’ians plan to ride to a particular state, the respective riders from the chosen state would fix and plan a location which would be equally accessible for all riders from all states participating.
This year it was Ooty, Tamil Nadu.
Though the destination and particulars were made available before the registration end date, I was only able to register myself after the registration had closed, which was mainly due to poor leave planning on my behalf. Once my registration was confirmed the next thing I had to get in order was my motorcycle, the beloved ‘Batmobile’ my interstate tourer, Bajaj’s once ‘Fastest Indian’ the Pulsar 220F DTSi, at barely 18,000 KM’s on the ODO and with the front end having been recently overhauled, I had nothing much to be bothered about, but just to be certain I had to drop her at the SVC as I do not DIY much these days, did I mention that I’m also getting some adventure/touring mods done? (An articles about the best cross-touring fabricator in the country would be out shortly)
Long story short, nothing panned out as planned as there was a delay at the SVC which along with a chain of events resulted in me having to ride my Daytona(TVS Wego 2015) for the ISG2G.
On 26th Friday, I had woken up at 5 AM so that I would be able to start riding at 6 AM, my pessimistic assumption was that I would require a total of 12 hours to cover 300 KM’s assuming that my average running speed would be 30 KM/H, at 5 AM, it was raining heavily but I presumed that the rains would settle by the time I’m all set, at 6 AM, it was still raining so I thought I’d doze for a bit longer but at 7:30 it was still raining and I was certain that I would not be able to make it for the ride, so I unpacked my stuff, repacked the usual stuff I would need when I’m at home and started riding towards Kollam which is 160~200 KM’s from where I stay depending on the chosen route, I decided to take the NH47 route as I am familiarised with the route and riding in the rain is not much of a threat as I’ve calculated all the places where extra caution is required. 15 minutes into the ride when I’ve just about entered the highway the rainfall’s intensity had considerably gone down, and that was it! I was not properly dressed for a long ride, neither was I carrying the required stuff for an overnight stay nor did I have my action camera in place. But all that did not matter anymore as the decision was made and I was turning around before my brain could process the pros and cons of what was about to happen.
As per the original plan I had notified the Alpha Team(Trivandrum Chapter, xBhp Kerala) that I would meet up with them at Coimbatore, en route Ooty, but as I was 2 hours behind schedule I felt that it would be really unlikely that I would be able to catch up with them, in spite of the fact that their total distance is almost double of what I would have to do, and their average riding speed would be anywhere from 100 ~ 120 KM/H as they’re a group of 3 with 2 Ninjette’s and a Royal Enfield Himalayan. So I had to gun it! And also ensure that I do not end up dead cause the Daytona being TVS comes with TVS tires and its still raining, plus the brakes are not up to the mark in spite the motorcycle being fairly new with only 7000 KM’s on the ODO, so with the intention of maintaining a decent average I was riding within a speed limit of 70 KM/H. About an hour into the ride the rains stopped and that was it, the next downpour wasn’t until I reached Ooty so you may say that I was a little lucky on that front, once the roads started to get dry I upped my speed limit to 80 ~ 90 KM/H which is the maximum I’ve done on the Daytona. All was fine until I reached Mannuthy, after which it was pure hell for the next 50 KM’s, usually I get sidelined to the mud when an overly enthusiastic bus driving bastard coming from the opposite direction decides to take over my lane, but I guess that wasn’t enough because one bastard went to the extreme of taking up all of my lane including the muddy pavement! I was praying to god almighty but not with folded hands, with one hand on the rear brake and the other flipping the bird with all its might. After that everything was back to normal, I’ve covered most of the journey and I was just about 50 KM’s to my destination and Daytona started losing power as the altitude started to climb, this was expected considering that she is Carburetted.
Our residence ‘Palve Sughavasam’ was a bit hard to find but the TN team who was in charge of planning and making arrangements had everything sorted out, and I must say that they really need to be appreciated for going the unconventional but innovative extra mile, Kudos! Team.
When I rode into the place it was party deserted, only about a quarter of the total populous had arrived and it was brought to our attention that the Chennai team would be a bit late due to a minor incident. Though my plans were to ride with the Alpha team I had to leave them behind as the NH7 route really pulled a number on them and they had to take enough breaks to get away from the scorching sun. Now coming to think of it, there’s no such thing as an ideal route for a biker, either its wet(NH47) or its hot(NH7) and that’s where I’ll put a stop to it because I am yet to experience other extremes.
With not much to do, Varun Sumedhan an xBhp’ian originally from the Trivandrum chapter who rode along with the Bangalore chapter and myself decided to go out and source some liquid forms of entertainment. We got back after an hour after procuring what was required, and in my case, it did not just end at entertainment, other than a couple of spare underwears a T-Shirt and a Lungi I had nothing else to wear as I had packed to go home rather than be at the ISG2G.
After it started to get dark, the remaining groups arrived one at a time, there were so many hence differentiating them was hard, though my ZMA senses were tingling when one of the teams rolled in, and that’s when I got the opportunity to meet a friend and brother for the first time, Harish Kumar, though we’ve known each other for a really long time, it was the first time we were meeting face to face, and let me tell you what happened then and there is the beauty of being a biker in this modern world, you meet thousands of people online, but rides like these strengthen the bond and transforms it from a casual online encounter to a stronger personal bond which lasts a lifetime.
Another notable incident was that as soon as a group from the Chennai chapter entered the premises they went past the parking space and had to be called back, Varun and I got out of our rooms due to all the commotion and that’s when a biker mid turning around in an incline lost balance and dropped the motorcycle, the motorcycle was a Bajaj Pulsar 200NS, which is notorious for its inadequate low-end performance, and climbing an incline in idle with luggage from a stand still puts a considerable amount of strain on the rider, couple that with the tiredness from doing a 500~600KM’s run would be enough to disorient anyone if not at least me, and having had similar experiences of completing a really long run without even a minor mishap only to come back home and drop the motorcycle inside my parking lot has happened more than a handful of times. So the moment the motorcycle was on the ground we all went to help out, and assuming from experience that fatigue may be the cause, I insisted that it would be better to come inside and sit down. And that’s when I realized that the Biker was in fact not a He but a She, MAN! Errr or rather WOMAN!
Though we advocate women empowerment we seldom act on it which is a pity, and being raised in a family where women have been independent contributors not only now but even for the past generations the thing that really gets on my nerves are petty minded Feminazi’s who find it ideal to live by the guidelines set by a male-centric chauvinistic and misogynistic society, who then ‘expect’ preferential treatment in exchange for their obedience, this Biker is a living, breathing example of what an independent and self-empowered woman should be like, if you feel that I’m saying this solely due to her riding a motorcycle then I can say with absolution that you are wrong, I say so because she chose to do something which she has a passion for without considering how our self-acclaimed cultured society would label her. Kudos comrade! You have more balls than most people I know who literally have them.
When we thought it was all over, there comes our Alpha team, after going through every possible detour on the map they’ve finally made it, being my first ISG2G I’ve heard from the rest that the Kerala Chapter has a reputation for being fashionably late but nonetheless they did arrive in style. 2 green Ninjette’s and a Royal Enfield Himalayan, the Ninjette is a machine which has withstood the the test of time throughout its generations and in green, there’s nothing much that can rival its sexiness. But that was not it, though we expected the Kerala chapter to be the last ones rolling in, a group from the Chennai chapter won the honours, and they were not behind when it came to rolling in style, among the motorcycles there was a behemoth, or rather a Tiger, the Triumph Tiger XCx, and when I thought that was majestic their sweep car rolls in, an Audi A6. Though my excitement was at its peak, I was tired as well so I thought it would be best to call it a day and I did.
Waking up the following morning was no biggie, guess that’s what excitement can do to you. The plan was to ride out to Emerald Lake after breakfast everything went as planned and we set out in groups based on our riding speed and as expected I was among the last groups to leave the resort.
A couple of minutes into the ride I realized that I was at a real disadvantage, the altitude, and uphill climbs were really taking a toll on the bike not to mention on what the broken roads and garbage left on the roads did to my poor 12 Incher, I shit you not there was a white garbage bag left in the middle of the road that almost got me good but was oblivious to my brothers running off 17 ~ 19 Inchers. In the past Nevin Ben a.k.a Fazeroid, my childhood friend and fellow rider on many occasions have told me that it is hard to keep up with me in spite of me riding the Daytona, but little does he know the reason I had the advantage was because of calculated decisions I made regarding when to brake and when to keep the throttle open so that the motor would always be in the sweet spot in ‘Power Mode’, but that did not work out as planned mainly due to me being new to the place, I ended up holding up most of the riders riding alongside me, in some uphill corners I was crawling at a snails pace and my fellow riders who had the misfortune of riding behind me had to suffer a lot, being xBhp’ians we follow a code ‘The group is only as fast as the slowest rider in the group’, and I can personally warrant this as it was not the first time I’ve been the slowest rider of the pack, a couple of years ago while I was raiding Kollam to Bangalore and back on a bi-weekly basis on my Bajaj Discover 100 I joined the Alpha Team and Kochi chapter for a ride to Athirapally waterfall which I’m yet to write a travelogue about, I guess now you have a fair idea of how far behind I am.
Having reached Emerald lake, we all settled it to enjoy the scenery and snap a couple of pictures, a couple of the adventurous guys tried to bring their bikes as close to the lakes as possible in spite of them being told not to, after all motorcycling is all about freedom and they carried on nonetheless and were successful in their endeavors.
The return run was the same, I was holding up everyone and I had a hard time trying to keep the throttle open and signal them to overtake me. At this point I would like a special shout-out to go for ‘The Celebrity’ and the ‘Track riding R15 dude who managed the roster and handed out the stickers’, (I am really sorry man my memory sucks and neither for love or for money can I recall your name.) The reason for the shout out is that they insisted to ride along in spite of me signaling them to move on, well having been on both sides of the coin I can say with definition that it takes maturity to do so, maturity which I’ve lacked at times, in this fast paced motorcycling world where people believe that being a biker is all about owning a fast motorcycle, guys like these uphold the true essence of being a biker which is ‘Brotherhood’, having considerable experience riding BTL motorcycles I’ve got the opportunity to experience and learn this emotion towards one’s fellow rider first hand.
Once we were back at the resort we had lunch and soon after we split into groups to explore Ooty, the first place we hit was ‘Pykara Lake’, and soon we were popular among the locals for two reasons, our guys who were on then Speed boat were fully geared, and I mean all the way from gloves to helmets to riding boots, now you might be wondering if the second reason we were famous for because we leaned in when the speed boat cornered, Nope! That wasn’t it. Due to our guys being heavy and to the added weight of the gear they wore the boat had trouble climbing speed, which left our brothers totally dissatisfied considering the 900/- fare they paid for the experience.
The next thing on our agenda was to have the best ice cream in Ooty, and we had to wander around a bit to find the place which was near the ‘Botanical Garden’ and that’s when it hit me! I’ve been here! A half decade or so back while I was still in school, the memory of sneaking out of the group to buy cigarettes and faking an asthma attack when caught by the school faculty is still there somewhere in my brain crowded with a lot of adult crap which has piled up over the years, I bet this is why it is always better to ride/drive by yourself than be driven to a destination, you tend to remember the details considering your active role in the whole event, another point jotted down to the pros of riding over public transport.
After having the best ice cream in Ooty we headed back to the resort to rest for a bit and also to participate in the ‘Self Introduction’ session, but little did I know that there was a surprise waiting for me, an old comrade from the ZMA clan, the one and only Sriram from Chennai for whom I hold a special place among the bikers I’ve met, the guy knew me from my initial days at xBhp when I was 18 and edgy, not to say that I’m not edgy now at 24 but back then I was ‘edgy on steroids’, good times.
So being from different parts of the country and having only reached out to each other via the online forum or social media, the ‘Self Introduction’ session was a wonderful experience getting to put a face to many you’ve only read about. My introduction did not go out as expected, considering that I was flying a little higher than usual I’m totally content that I did not make a total fool out of myself, or did I? I guess I’ll leave that to the guys who witnessed it. Not soon after the introduction I was fast asleep, not on the couch like the previous night but on a mattress with blankets and stuff! Wow! What more can a man ask for, right?
To be bluntly honest this was a driest day of my ISG2G experience, by the time we ‘adequately’ woke up at around 5.30 AM, everyone was packing up to leave, hence without wasting any(more) time I decided to go ahead and leave the place at the earliest considering that myself and the Alpha team would be taking the same route the decent option for me was to start ahead so that they would not feel held up, at least not too much. So at around 6:30 AM I was ready to leave and brought Daytona near my room considering the easy of loading stuff, I did not want to waste any fuel courtesy the smallest fuel tank in the world, hence I was pushing her to my room when Harish spotted me from the first floor and inquired out of concern whether I was facing any mechanical issues, to ensure him that I was fine I thumbed the starter (with the choke still off) and she purred to life, just like that! For my non-motorcyclist friends out there(if any!) irrespective of how much you love your motorcycle or how well you take care of it, it will embarrass you at the least expected instance, say when you’re on a date, or you’re trying to impress your crush or you’re among like-minded enthusiasts your bike tends to embarrass you a bit, though not by much considering the technological advancements over the past decade, but still anyone who has ever ridden/driven anything running off a carburettor would know the feeling, so when Daytona was up and running without skipping a beat I was uber proud of her, MAN! Let me tell you, these Indian motorcycles are something on their own level, you can use and abuse them but they would still be up and running like nothings happened, these machines are built to take anything and everything we can throw at them, doubt that? Go through my Facebook album, my Bajaj Discover 100 was a testimonial for that.
Almost nearing 7 AM, I started by return journey after bidding farewell to my comrades. Since it was a downhill run I was able to maintain a decent speeds, though it wasn’t all fine and well as there were multiple instances where I had lost traction, mostly when idiots coming uphill overtake on blind corners, a terrifying experience was when a few boulders rolled onto the road, luckily I had stopped a short while before to snap a photo of the warning sign depicting the exact same, what a coincidence eh?
Anyway, I was able to brake and evade without losing traction or composure, I think. My memory said that I had to follow the Annur road till I reached the main highway where taking a left would have me heading straight towards my destination, but things didn’t go as expected and I somehow managed to get lost, the mobile mount came handy, Google Maps redirected me through some crowded colony’s and a couple of backyards, but at the end of the ordeal it got me onto the L&T bypass road and after a little over 50 KM’s of wandering around I was more that pleased to be back on track, my major concern at the time was synching with the Alpha team, so I texted ‘The Celebrity’ and moved on, assuming that the detour had made me late for more than an hour I decided to skip breakfast and move on.
I’ve barely reached ‘Kuthiran’ and my ‘low fuel’ indicator was blinking, courtesy the smallest fuel tank on the planet! I found a refueling station but they did not accept cards and I had spent all the liquid cash I had, the attendant told me that the next bunk was 15 KM’s ahead, with no other alternative I moved on praying so that I don’t end up stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Finally when I reached the refueling station I was pleased to know that they accepted cards, because I was unable to find even a single ATM machine on the way, my happiness was short lived cause though they accept cards they only do so for those who refuel for Rs.500/- or greater, this ideally doesn’t qualify to be a concern when riding a motorcycle that gulps double the amount of fuel without breaking a sweat but with Daytona anything north of Rs.300/- worth of fuel and it overflows. Understanding my plight they offered to charge Rs.500/- on my card and refill fuel for Rs.300/- and return the remaining Rs.200/- in cash, it was the best deal ever and I was back on the road towards Kochi.
Everything was fine and well until I had to panic brake behind a car which had to do the same due a dumbfuck directing children returning from Sunday Mass to cross a fucking National Highway during peak time, what pissed me off was the fact that less than 50 meters from where the kids were directed to cross like cattle there was a traffic signal and a few meters after it was a Zebra Crossing, I’ve never been a fan of the Indian mentality to blindly follow everything that our elders tell us without question but now I’ve made it a point to educate kids to think for themselves, ask questions without a tinge of embarrassment, heck! Ask them to question every part of their existence for I doubt if even god trusts the credibility of the person who dictated the guidelines by which they’re expected to live by.
Moving on, I reached my residence at Kochi before 1 PM, covering a total of 751.5 KM’s, the Alpha team later crossed Kochi by evening but me being dead asleep at the time could not meet up with them. But there’s always the next time and I guess I’d be able to keep up with them on my Pulsarstrada(hopefully you’ll get to know more about this awesome cross-touring fabricator on my next post) so until then, Adios! 🙂