Showing posts with label motorcycle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label motorcycle. Show all posts

Monday, October 14, 2013

K2K - Soul of Solo Riding

In September 2013, I did the Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) SOLO motorcycle road trip. A journey from Himalayas to the Indian Ocean all by myself on a RE Thunderbird covering 5,043 kms in 14 days. (read more)

Most people are convinced that long distance SOLO biking is a colossal-bore and that such an endeavor interests only the lonely souls. They say, “Why would anyone go out ALL ALONE while you can go out with family and/or friends”.

But, very little do they know of finding peace in silence or the bliss in discovering oneself. Far less do they understand that biking is a two way journey; you’re traveling further along the road and at the same time delving deeper into yourself. People whose sense of SELF is defined by materialistic things and other people do not very well comprehend the metaphysics of biking.

So, this post is not for them but for you.
Here are some of my learning along the long road.

1. THE virtue

If I were allowed to pursue one and only one virtue of biking, it’d be this.
“Ride slow. For faster you ride, less you witness and lesser you’ll experience”.

Let me highlight the technicality; the bliss of self-actualization trumps the fun in burning adrenaline any day. Hands down!

Now, let me elucidate the same in layman’s tongue.

If you’re riding too fast, all your attention & energy is spent on NOT falling down than on actually enjoying the ride. You’re gripping the handle too tight, you’re pressing your legs into the fuel tank; you’ve lowered your head and forced yourself to see nowhere else but the road ahead. So, instead of a fulfilling and enriching experience, you’ve merely managed to come out alive from a self imposed risk.

I’m told that there is a certain degree of sportsmanship, competitiveness, discipline and focus required in motorcycle racing. Well, I say that this situation is akin to drowning oneself in alcohol and then competing to remain focused. There are competitions that drunkards play and there is motorcycle racing. They are guilty pleasures in self inflicted chaos. I ride my bike for another thing altogether.

I seek an endearing & liberating experience. I ride for a blissful journey through clarity & awareness; not a survival mission through danger and chaos.

Also, think about it. Faster one rides, sooner he gets tired and distracted too. If you’re riding at 120 kmph, you’ll hardly notice the paddy fields along the road. However, if you’re riding at 80 kmph, there’s a good chance you’ll smell the moist air, notice the different shades of green and even spot a farmer or two aging about their chores.

Needless to remind, if you ride responsibly; you’ll live longer and actually get to ride lot more.

2. Absolute reality; the here-now

 For long man has been a confused creature. Every single one of us has a mistaken identity. We form a complex idea of who we are based on what we were yesterday and what we dream of being tomorrow. We’re struck too badly in the unforgiving past of the dreamy future. Little do we realize that both of them don’t matter and ruin our present with the burdens of the past and the uncertainties of the future.

The faculty of living in the absolute reality; the here-now eludes most of us.

However, I think there is a close approximation to this absolute reality. There is one thing in life that treats you to your face value. It does not care who you are, what you did, or where you’re headed. It’s the open highway.

On an open highway, you’re judged not by your past and weighed not by your intentions. The open highway does not discriminate; you’re handed just as much luck as the other guy. Nothing less, nothing more! You’re tested for awareness & responsiveness every moment. It’s funny that the punishment and reward is the same – life!
Couldn’t it be that one lives in the here-now on an open highway?

3. Reset your senses
K2K ride helps you discover the multitude shades of green and blue that you did not know existed. It’s a full blown awareness of the entire color spectrum. The interplay of colors is so amazing that it’ll make your 1080p television look like pencil sketch.
Keep your eyes open, ears attentive and smell the fragrance of the fresh air. Lose those goggles and iPods. You have something more majestic to experience here. It’s the ultimate reset option for the five senses.

Did you know that the air smells differently while you ride along the sugar cane fields and paddy fields? The air always smells of dampness over the paddy fields. Did you know why? Or more importantly have you ever cared to notice?


One more thing that you can’t miss on K2K ride is the TRUCKS. In a matter of 10 days or so, you’ll see more trucks than you’d have seen in the last 10 years. Trucks in India transport everything and/or anything than needs transportation gets dumped on a truck. While you’re struck with the great Indian truck rally, might as well get some laughs out of it.
Tractors on truck
Trucks on truck
140 feet truck. Notice my bike in the pic?
Railways on Roadways
Thoda kam pee meri rani, Mehanga hai Iraq ka paani

I wouldn’t comment on their driving sense, but truck drivers surely do have a good sense of humor. Next time you’re bored, try reading the quotes inscribed on them. You’ll sure in for some enlightenment and entertainment.

5. Nostalgic Moments

Well, what’s wrong with indulging in a little bit of humor coupled with Bollywood stardom? Here’s some to get started.

Rajesh Khanna Moment: I was riding along Malegaon-Shirdi highway chasing a goods train all along. I couldn’t help humming, ‘Meri sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu’. 

SRK moment: The sunflower fields were in full bloom. But then, Simran was missing. So were the cows and the bell. 

Sunny Deol moment: That is a fine handpump along the Indo-Pak border. I wasn't Bollywood-enough for uprooting it with my bare hands. But, I did stare at that innocent structure laughing for a while. 

Dhoom Moment: A Govt of India safe was being carried with minimum security. I was on my bike, tempted, followed it for quite some distance. In the end, I told myself, "Sour Grapes" and moved on. Maybe another day, a fancy mask and a faster bike; things could've been different. Dhoom..Dhoom..

Don Quixote moment: I am not Quixote-enough to charge windmills. But yes, did manage to see a lot of them along the ride.

6. Be spontaneous

If you come across a river bed like this; don’t be a douchebag and ride along. Get down, do some dirt/sand biking and convince yourself for some cleansing. In scenarios like these, people don’t really care for the right costume.

Once you get past the customary broken beer bottles, you’ll actually realize that the water is lot cleaner than you thought and definitely more rejuvenating than your swimming pool. Spend some more time. Try swimming against the current. There’s a good chance, you’ll find some kids playing in the vicinity. Teach them a trick or two of yours. Learn one of their own.

I’ll assure you, by the time you get out, you’d have lost whatever little back and neck ache. You’ll even come out with a big grin plastered over your face.

7. Discovery of India

Nothing can be more boring than being handed out a tourist brochure to explore the place. Pleasant surprises are a better idea. Here's my top 3 discoveries/realizations along my ride. 

  • Cricket bats town: There this little town/village along the Srinagar-Jammu highway. It seemed as though all the shops in the road sell one thing only - Cricket bats.
  • Pathankot, PB (Camo Goods): There's a particular street in Pathankot, where you get plenty of camouflage gears - the whole range. You name it and they have it. All at wholesale prices.
  • Kumarapuram, TN: This little town is located at an hour's distance from Kanyakumari. It seemed as though this is a town of windmills with few humans and not the other way around. It seemed as though there ere more windmills in the town than people and cattle put together. The localities told me that the blades of the wind mills never stop rotating in this town. Quite a place, I tell you.
Wishing you a long and blissful ride. May the force be with you.
Let me know your thoughts about the post and solo riding in the comments section.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

K2K - The Journey

In September 2013, I did the Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) solo motorcycle road trip. A journey from Himalayas to the Indian Ocean, covering 5,043 kms in 14 days on my RE Thunderbird.

Click here for ride pictures and additional info.

View Larger Map

K2K ride took me through nine states and the rich pluralism all along. One can’t help feel the fragrance of the terrain, weather & culture all along. The good thing is, some of that fragrance clings on to you for the rest of your life.

Next time you think about a particular state/region of India, you’ll recollect and remember with absolute clarity, what it meant to be there. How the air smelled there, the landscape, the crop fields, the weather, how the local language sounds.

Here are my observations about the terrain, roads and traffic in each region.


This is undisputedly the most scenic and beautiful landscape in the entire trip. Let me put it this way. Kashmir is lot more than the amplified version of the most scenic dreamland you can imagine.

Baglihar Hydel Project, Kashmir
This terrain has pretty much everything that you can stare and awe at. Kashmir has mountains, valleys, waterfalls, gardens, lakes, rivers; and all of them unlike anything else you’ve seen before. As you’d be aware, these mountain ranges are the biggest in the world. The rivers are mighty and lakes so big that you’ll feel like a Lilliput in the Eden Gardens.

The road from Srinagar to Jammu (NH 1A or NH 44 of about 300 kms) is replete with the most awesome view possible. These roads built by Border Roads Organization (BRO) takes you through valleys, dam, waterfalls & tunnel (Jawahar Tunnel is 2.5 kms). The view is so good that I was tempted at least once every minute to take pictures.

Contrary to my expectation, it’s a very busy road with heavy traffic. Army convoy forms the most ostensible contributor to the traffic.

Jammu – Pathankot - Amritsar

Dream over. Kashmir has passed. Wake up. 
Wake up to the great Indian TRUCKs.

This stretch gets you on a psychological overdose of trucks. I swear, I saw more truck in 5 days of my ride than in the last 10 years of my life. Trucks of all brands, age and size carrying just about everything. You name it - Food, Cattle, People, Cargo, Construction material & Automobiles. For several hours you’ll find no other vehicle other than trucks.

This stretch is also an overdose lush green crop fields. I’d never witnessed such lush green spreading as far the eye could see. Also, when in Punjab, drink lassi instead of the tea.

Amritsar – Jallandhar – NCR

The assault of the trucks continues. However, the intensity reduces. Roads are good all along; the highway occasionally crossing through the irrigation channels. However, the terrain gets increasingly devoid of vegetation as you get close to the National Capital Region (NCR).

NCR – Jaipur – Ajmer – Chittorgarh – Indore

Don’t bother asking anyone. Every hillock in this region seems to either have a shrine or a fort atop it. And they are somehow linked to Ramayana, Mahabharata or at least, Indian independence struggle. Explore as many as you can. At times, the stories can get real funny and interesting.

Needless to say, look out for the camels too. The roads are as good and wide they can get. By now, the amount of trucks on the road too comes down to a psychologically healthy number.

Indore – Shirdi – Pune

Welcome to the lands of Misal Pav, Kanda-Poha and Bhaaji-Pav.
You’ll come across some interesting terrain; gorgeous valleys with steep incline/decline of the roads. This stretch also takes you across some of the big rivers – Narmada, Tapi and their tributaries.

The Malegaon – Shirdi stretch is a single road with two-way traffic and NO divider. The roads aren’t too good and drivers too aren’t very courteous. I have a hypothesis that drivers of pilgrimage cabs everywhere have too much faith in their deity. So much so that they put it to test with passengers’ lives over narrow curves.

Pune – Bangalore (NH 4)

If Kashmir-Jammu highway has the best view, this stretch gets the distinction for the ‘best maintained divider’. The NH 4 is perhaps the most scenic highway in central-south India wherein even the divider is competing for your attention.

Among the highlights are beautiful one-way curves, a tunnel and in a certain stretch, road that is dead-straight. One can literally see the straight road ahead for upto 5 kms (or until the horizon).

Bangalore – Madurai – Kanyakumari

Master Yoda says, “May the Idli-Sambhar, Dosa and Pongal be with you”.
Around here, coffee and tea will be served with sugar. But, thou shall stir it yourself.

TN is the homeland of Rajnikant and Royal Enfield. Thou shalt pay thine respects to both the Superstars.

Coming back to our ride; one can’t ask for better roads. This stretch is also temple and pilgrimage fest all around the year. As you get close to kanyakumari, even though you cant see it yet, you can hear the ocean. That damp and moist smell of the sea rings those jingle bells in the head.

I couldn’t help recollect the golden words of RED from the Shawshank Redemption and make few of my own customizations.

“I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it to the very end. I hope the Ocean is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

The Big Q.

Every biker has this question. I’d hoped to find my answers along this ride. The question was, “What will break first? My Back, My Bike, or My spirit.

Fortunately, none of them did break. Unfortunately, the elusive question endures. I will to seek my answers another day.

Also read, other posts related to my K2K ride:

K2K - FAQs

FAQs & Best Practices

In September 2013, I did the Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) SOLO motorcycle road trip. A journey from Himalayas to the Indian Ocean all by myself on a RE Thunderbird covering 5,043 kms in 14 days. (ride pics)

This list is a compilation of answers to the questions I had prior to the ride. While the specifics relate to the K2K ride, the ideas/opinions holds good for any long solo bike ride.

1. How far is Kashmir from Kanyakumari by road
Of course, there is more than one route. Hence the distance will depend on the actual route you chose. Google Maps suggests that the shortest distance between Srinagar, J&K and Kanyakumari, TN is 3,618 kms. However, if you’re exploring and improvising the route along the journey, the distance can significantly increase. My K2K ride was for 4,331 kms; K2K and back home (Bangalore) was 5,043 kms.

2. What is the ideal time for the K2K ride?
I’d suggest August – September (soon after the monsoons). The monsoons will make everything look lot more pristine and serene. At some point along the journey be prepared to be enlightened to the truer meanings of deluge.

3. How long does it take?
This will depend on a lot of factors; your endurance level, your bike, the weather conditions and of course, personal priorities among others. Some people do this ride for the record/milestone. I urge you to be a explorer/traveler and relish every moment of the ride; not just the podium finish.

It took me 12 riding days (14 days in all) to complete K2K and return to Bangalore.

4. How many kms should I cover every day?
I personally believe, “Faster you ride, less you’ll witness and lesser you experience”. The idea is to ride at a pace you can enjoy every moment. On an average I would ride for about 8 hours a day and cover about 400 - 450 kms.

5. Is it possible to ship the vehicle to Delhi/Kashmir
Yes. Trains and roadways are two options. I shipped my bike from Bangalore to Srinagar, J&K with NITCO Roadways. It cost me Rs. 7,000.

6. Should one start from Kashmir (North-South journey) or Kanyakumari (South-North journey)? Inconsequential. However, if it’s any solace to you, start from the farthest point from where you stay. That way, you’ll feel good for getting closer to home as the days pass.

7. Does the bike need any modification prior to the ride.
Not necessary. A general service and oil change will suffice. Truth be told, the Royal Enfield is built to outlast you. On the K2K ride, it’s definitely not the bike that you’re pushing.

8. What spares should I carry along ?
I’d recommend Clutch Cable, Accelerator Cable, Tube (rear tyre), Fuse and Chain link. A bottle of engine oil (for top-up) is optional.

9. Motorcycle maintenance along the journey
As the saying goes, “You take care of the bike; the bike takes care of you”.

Late evening (few hours after ride)
  • Inspect for flat tyre (Avoid early morning surprises)
  • Check for wheel wobbling/fork alignment
  • Inspect and adjust optimal chain slack
Morning (before riding out)
  • Inspect for Engine oil level; top-up if necessary
  • Chain lubrication
  • Adjust the brakes

10. Bag packing, riding gear etc.
  • I can’t overemphasize the need to pack lightly. Just keep to the essentials. You’re not going need those fancy clothes or accessories. Leave them behind.
  • Avoid jeans trousers on long rides. The fabric becomes annoying after long durations; worse still if it is raining.
  • Wearing that bag over your shoulders while riding is a strict NO-NO. You either dump all stuff into a 40-50 litre backpack (cover it with a good dust & rain cover) and fasten it with bungee cords on the pillion seat or use a double sided saddle bag.
  • I understand that you’re a photographer and all. But seriously, leave that tripod back home. The trouble of carrying it around far outweighs its actual use. I made that mistake; hope you don’t.

11. Best practices.

Start Early. 
  • Make it a point to get up early and ride out (preferably 6:30 AM). Idea is to beat the city traffic, enjoy the bliss of riding in the golden hour and putting about 100 kms before breakfast all at the same time.
  • Earlier you start, longer you can stay on the roads and more things you can explore along.
Avoid night riding.
  • It’s not that your riding skills fail you after sundown. It’s just an unnecessary risk that you don’t deserve when your body and mind seeks relaxation.
  • Also, managing a breakdown in the night (without light, mechanic on a lonely highway) isn’t all that fun.
Replenish and Rejuvenate
  • Make sure you eat healthy and get plenty of rest. Don’t get into that late night gossip or parties. Remind yourself, “Better things await tomorrow”.
  • The key factor determining the journey and the quality of experience is you. It’s not the roads, weather or the bike. YOU are the prime mover of this entire endeavor. Remind yourself, “Tomorrow, when rubber meets the road, YOU are all YOU have.”

Other related posts on my K2K ride,
Let me know your thoughts and/or post additional questions to the list in the comments section. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Biking is meditating

What’s the craze between a guy and his motorcycle? 
Now that the simple answer, “Biking is an attitude and a way of life” wouldn’t suffice, let’s complicate …

Don't get shocked. This is a democratic land (some are trying to privatize internet though) and we are all entitled to our opinions. Yes, I  believe that biking has the meditating effect. Before I can connect biking with meditation, allow me to break down the meditative state of mind for you. 

The human mind, with all its complexities still retains the beauty of holding just one thought at a time. Let us take an example for clarity. Suppose you are in the middle of a road and all of a sudden u hear the sound of a speeding truck. Now, the following things simultaneously happen.
  • You feel a shock wave running down your spine alerting all your senses
  • Your eyes tries to confirm the if the truck will indeed hit you or miss you
  • Your ears complement your eyes in ascertaining the time to collision
In the end it is left to the brain to assess the situation, revisit previous such encounters, evaluate options and take a decision. The drill is pretty much the same for most circumstances. It really doesn't take a speeding train or a truck to experience this. The falling glass of water, stumbling over a stone, catching a ball or even something as subtle a beautiful girl walking past you.

If you carefully observe, there are always three distinct forces at work determining our actions; our senses, sub-conscious self and the conscious mind. It would do good to draw comparison with the computing world to understand the role of each one of the forces. 

Your 5 senses are like the peripheral data gathering I/O devices. They are in the business of sensing the external environment. Every waking milli-second of our lives, the senses are seeing things, capturing noises, smelling the surrounding and feeling the air. They are constantly capturing raw data and passing it on to the next stage. Raw data includes everything from the sound of the truck to unpleasant odor to sighting of a beautiful girl.

The sub-conscious self is into the business of conducting sophisticated big data analysis over the  information passed on by the senses. Our sub-conscious self specializes in finding patterns and trends in random data. For example, a shrill sound with a rapidly increasingly intensity could mean oncoming truck; your left foot not finding ground in time can mean that you've tripped and about to fall; a sudden burst of blinding light can either mean someone is flashing a torch at your face or you could be witnessing an atomic explosion. If you've been reading the newspapers, you'd know that IBM Watson does this very well. It literally read through (almost) all the digital garbage of the world (at least America) and posed meaningful and grammatically correct questions to random sentences on a TV show. Congrats Watson. Now that you have championed English grammar, I dare you with table manners !!

let's get back. The mind is your the ultra complex and turbo cooled processor (unfortunately single-core). It reads the information from the peripheral devices, evaluates possibilities and takes all decision. In the laymen lingo, mind is the king who collects intelligence from the pawns (read senses), gets counseled by the ministers (read sub-conscious self) and eventually takes a decision on what needs to be done. If it's bad odor, try not to breathe for a while. And if it's the hot chick in the red dress, forget everything and thou' shalt stare (Yea, this brain is definitely male).

Now to the question big question. Are the meditating and dreaming states very different from each other ?

Lets see. The eyes are usually closed in both cases. The heartbeat is steady. The subject (saint/dreamer) is relaxed and is in deep thinking mode. On a serious note, both the states demand suspension of senses and sub conscious self. Take a minute to mull over it.

In deep sleep, you don't feel your surroundings so you can dream for long durations. The moment there is a loud noise (alarm) or somebody alerts your senses (mom trying to wake you), dream is gone. Same goes with meditation, you will either have to suppress your senses or find a quiet place so that you can concentrate on one thing only.

As in dreaming so with meditation; the senses distract your concentration and the sub-conscious tends to bias the direction of thought. More you control the two forces, better can you meditate; delve into a singular thought. You know why day-dreaming was not as effective at the college. Your senses were constantly looking out for that possible chalk-piece thrown at your face.

Silence and a serene environment will reduce distractions and help dream/meditate better. That explains why the saints prefer to sit down at ashramas or mountain tops for meditation than at Bangalore International Airport or Kempegowda bus stand.

So, the point I am stressing on is that the deep meditative state is characterized by two things - lack of distraction from senses and interference into the thought process by the sub-conscious. Now munch over it for some time.

What happens with biking
Please note that commuting between work and home on a two wheeler does not qualify as biking. More so, if you are in Bangalore. Our senses are most active when navigating within heavy traffic. When I say biking here, I mean riding on a two wheeler for long distances.

Long distance riding is like playing a cricket test match. You can afford to forget for a long time where you are, how many runs to score and just play for beauty of the game. The first 25 kms of a bike ride is most painful. All your senses are strained, with constant interruptions to the brain. After about 50 kms, the traffic is sparse and you pick up speed. Your senses still has to be at their peak (making up for the speed), but the number of interruptions are less and far between. After 75 kms, your sub-conscious and and the five senses find an equilibrium. Even though there are no interruptions, your five senses are fully alert and transfixed on the road as you are cruising at high speeds. 

Voila! Your mind is now in the test match mode.

There are hardly any interruptions on the road; so senses aren't alarmed and hence your thought train goes on uninterrupted. It is as though your mind is detached from your body; inert to interruptions and prejudices (sub-conscious self throwing its weight around).

Now, lets compare the state of mind while biking and meditating

State of Mind: Senses do not interrupt/interfere the mind
Meditation: Saints either suppress their senses or find a calm place wherein senses do not get alarmed.
Biking: All senses are too busy monitoring the road and hence do not interfere in the thoughts in the brain

When I ride my Royal Enfield Thunderbird for few hundred kilometers without much interruptions; I find myself in this meditative state. I am sure most riders feel this way too. While others believe in rolling out their yoga mats in the morning, I prefer to taking out my blackbird (RE TBTS) on a long ride. Long distance riding has often helped me delve deep into a thought without interruptions. Given the time in this state, mind has almost always found its answers and resolved the conflicts.

In the end, but for a sore ass; long distance biking is a rejuvenating experience for both the mind and the body.

Meditation gurus, Fellow bikers, Yoga practitioners, Cricket fans and Dreamers at large... Please let me know your thoughts/gyaan in the comments section.