Lord Shiva, Jyotirlingas, Versys 650 and me

I love practicing yoga as much as I love riding my motorcycles. It’s also true that I love playing cricket as much as I love riding motorcycles. Of course, I occasionally ride to my practice sessions but that’s never enough, isn’t it. Also, carrying a heavy kit bag doesn’t make it a pleasurable experience.

The better option would be to ride to places of spiritual significance. That being said, it’s important to also find something so mythologically significant it will add to the spiritual experience.

Shiva and yoga are inseparable. Just like Shivalinga (the perfect ellipsoid shape Linga) and science of energies. I’ve been doing yoga for a few years now and can safely say that my experiences have made me believe that there are some high energy places and some places that are devoid of it completely. These days I am far more aware of these energy experiences and long for more of it.

Surprisingly one of the most intense energy spaces I’ve been to was the 9/11 memorial in NY and one of the places I walked out most disappointed was the  Murudeshwar Shiva temple in Mangalore. What an irony!

I have to be honest: Immortals of Meluha gave the much needed fresh lease of life for Shiva. Probably the only way that our generation would find it appealing. To see Shiva as a human being and imagine him as I wanted to brought him that much closer to my heart as my yoga practices and other stories of Shiva did.

I wish to see how Shiva is revered across this fascinating country and what better way than choosing to traverse the country to visit the Jyotirlingas. 12 Jyotrilingas that are located at certain geographically and astronomically significant points. And when my guru puts it across this way, it’s even more tempting to visit them and experience the energy in these spaces.

“These temples were consecrated according to the science of energizing forms. This is the science of using life energies to enhance human life in a phenomenal way”

So, I made a small promise to myself when I bought my Versys 650.  To visit all these 12 Jyotirlingas on it. Ambitious? Nay, it’s exactly the kind of adventure this motorcycle is made for.  Would it be too much to think or believe that somewhere on one of these rides I may discover the purpose of my life or that my life has no purpose at all?

Needless to say that the first road trip I did was to Srisailam to see the shrine of Lord Mallikarjuna. I was still coming to terms with the motorcycle and it wasn’t even registered. Goes to show how serious I am about this idea of riding to the 12 Jyotirlingas. 

Ride to Srisailam - Jyotirlinga .jpg
After conquering the Nallamalai Hills to visit the first of the 12 Jyotirlingas (Mallikarjuna temple)

Reading about riding.

A fractured ankle can only bring your riding to a halt but it can’t prevent you from reading about riding. What I realized pretty soon was that it’s as much fun reading about riding as it’s actually riding a motorcycle!

While it was 6-weeks long ‘stay at home’ path to recovery, I went (figuratively) on a few hundred rides with author, David L. Hough and learned so much about riding that I probably wouldn’t have had I continued to ride without this break.

It’s very easy to get carried away thinking that in the years of riding, I’ve probably mastered all the skills required to be a proficient rider for life. However, all it takes is one small article or a conversation to realize how little I actually know. These are learning I’m more than happy to learn from others’ experiences and mistakes than my own.

I’m grateful to have read these two books that will hopefully improve my riding skills when I get back from my longest riding slumber.

There is no way I can do justice to the books but the table of content remind us of all the areas of riding we need to master to ride safely for as long as our soul wishes (and live a long life too by not getting killed on the road either due to our own mistake or someone else’s)

  1. Canyon bites – basics of riding in the twisties 
  2. Motorcycle dynamics – don’t be surprised at how little you know! 
  3. Cornering tactics – corners always bring a smile, don’t they?
  4.  Urban traffic survival – because this is where we end up riding for most part of our lives
  5. Booby trap – nay, it’s not what you think it is. I’ll leave it to your imagination though.
  6. Special situations – oh yeah, most of these are common situations in India!

Isn’t that a comprehensive list? What makes it better are the photos that show what the author is talking about. Makes understanding even the complex situations pretty easy.

hough-proficient-motorcycling-more-delayed-apex

Some quotes just to get your started:

“The self-balancing action of a motorcycle front end is a result of the combined effects of a number of details, including rake, trail, steering head rise and fall, mass shift, contact patch location, and tire profiles.”

“less experienced riders look closer to the bike with a more fixed gaze, while skillful riders look farther ahead and frequently change their focus.”

“12 seconds represents about as far ahead as you can see details. If you’re not in the habit of looking that far ahead, then you should be working on that important technique.”

“it’s not only a matter of controlling the motorcycle you’re riding but also controlling the situation around you.” 

I really wish I had read this book around the time I was learning to ride. Although, I must admit, even 15 years later, it doesn’t seem to be too late to pick up some new skills, overcome few bad habits, and apply the right technique – especially if it promises to help me ride more with less risk and obviously has the potential to avoid a few accidents that the world has already learned from.

If you don’t have the patience to read the entire book, then read the part on braking – may reduce your braking distance significantly and even save your life one day. Of course, all of this is assuming you are wearing appropriate protective gears. Ride safe.

Are there other books you know of? Do share it in the comments.

 

When it rains after sunset…

Rains are good. Especially, when you are sitting in your balcony and admiring how the place around you is turning green because of the incessant monsoon rains.  This is a view I’ve gotten used to recently.

Yeah, they are great when it’s a drizzle at 11am after a hot morning ride. They’re enjoyable when it starts pouring at 2pm and you have to take an impromptu chai, wait for bit and then ride again. My rides to Bangalore and Pune had it’s share of heavy rains and both didn’t matter because it was in broad daylight. Riding through strong breeze and into dark clouds always brings a sense of excitement.

However, rains aren’t fun all the time. They are deadly when it’s already past sunset especially when you wear prescription glasses. Then, the life in front of you will be a blur. Every time a headlight hits you, the only thing you end up seeing through your helmet and glasses would be something like this or even worse. You just realize your life (or someone else’s) is at risk for sure.

I’ve had a few of such dramatic moments when life became a blur. It scared the hell out of me. It also didn’t help that I’m usually the only one who wears glasses in my group.

Act 1 Scene 1: An unplanned weekend ride to Nizamabad went out of hand when it started to rain on our way back to city. We decided to wait until the rains stop – a terrible idea since the rains just wouldn’t stop. Eventually, we decided to ride and sun had set by then. It was raining so bad, that I couldn’t ride with the visor down or with my glasses on. I ended up asking my friend to ride slow, removed my glasses, and just tailed him all the way back to safety of the city lights. It’s then that I realized why the reflective stickers (white, red, and yellow) are a blessing.

Act 2 Scene 6:  We were doing the trip of our life – the ultimate riding wonder. It started drizzling around 3pm as we started our climb to Munnar. Our bad luck, the rains continued and as is the case in most of the hill stations, it’s accompanied by mist that reduces visibility to zero. Yes, I’m still wearing my glasses. This time, I tailed a tourist van for 2 hours before we reached our hotel safely.

Act 3 Scene 4: We had safely reached Bhimashanker on the Versys and for some reason, I wanted to see the temple that evening. I thought we had time and could come back before sunset – turned out to be a gross miscalculation (ps: I suck at any type of math). Add mist to the mix too along with bad roads. There was no vehicle to tail this time and I did the 12km ride back to the hotel on the second gear and almost went off the roads a few time.

Sunset + Rains + Prescription Glasses + Motorcycle  = Worst Idea. Avoid at any cost. 

Truth is, you can’t avoid such things when you keep going on rides. So some thoughts on how to overcome this mix.

 

  •  Glasses: A Lasik Surgery is the best option so you don’t need to wear glasses anymore. A cheaper alternative would be to just carry disposable lens in your kit that you can use if you are forced to ride in such situations.
  • Rains: Not sure how effective they are but I’ve come across these water repellent for plastics. I would love have carried this during all the 3 instances mentioned above to see how well they work. Pretty expensive though!
  • Hi-Viz: Do yourself and the word a favor by going hi-viz. Get some colors and get a lot of reflective material on your helmet and jacket. Neon is the new black when it comes to motorcycles.

Rule Book: Follow the sun – rise and ride with it and be sure to rest when it sets. Start your day as early as you can, you rider. Be safe!

Saturday morning ritual

Tea and me go a long way.  People who know me are aware that I would go to any extent for a good cup of tea. I can smell or even see and tell how good or bad the tea is going to be. Although it’s nowhere close to being as complicated as wine tasting, tea tasting has it’s own charm. Sometimes, I even use Google Maps to keep track of places where I’ve had good tea.

bike-trip-ananthagiri-hills-015

Why did I just talk about this? Because, I have made it a habit of getting up early on Saturday mornings to ride about 100km to have a good cup of tea. No doubt, it’s best way to unwind after a hectic week at office and a fantastic excuse to ride the Versys regularly on the highway.

The first time I went on such a ride to one of my favorite drive-in cafe, Hill Park on the Bangalore Highway, I ended up seeing a bunch of riders from Pune riding their (loud) Harley on their way to Bangalore. It’s always nice to see proper riders – the kind that is fully geared up and well packed.

img_20160402_074335

But then, there are 2 type of riders: ones who want the world to hear they are riding and ones who want to hear the wind as they are riding. Now, clearly, these riders belonged to the former and me to the latter. The quietness and refinement of a motorcycle are probably the first two things on my list when I choose a motorcycle. I use the same parameters to judge other riders too. Sorry for the bias, gentlemen.

The second time I was performing this ritual, I ended up seeing something oddly familiar – another Versys but nothing about it was similar to mine. It was jazzed up, looked fancy and stood next to an extremely well maintained Triumph Tiger.

FullSizeRender 4.jpg

Meet Avi (mobike008), the person who wrote his first impression of the Versys in Hyderabad sitting on the display unit that was eventually sold to me. First and second owners  of Versys 650 in Hyderabad finally get to meet each other. Just as a perspective, a grand number of 4 Versys 650 have been sold in Hyderabad, the third I recently saw parked in the service center after it had  met with an accident (godspeed for the next ride). I’m still waiting to see the fourth one.

The third time was a planned one thanks to Avi. The weather couldn’t have been any better. Srisailam highway from Hyderabad is probably the best getaway road from the city. We were in for some pleasant surprises that included:

  • a brand new hotel which servers good tea & coffee along with tasty food.
  • catching up with fellow Hyderabadi bikers on Triumph, Harley, and a Moto Guzzi Griso
  • more importantly a trail to do some off-roading which was both fun and scary at the same time.

IMG_20160910_084759 (1).jpg

All I can say is that this ritual is becoming very addictive and hope I keep discovering more places that serve good tea and riders who like to hear the wind more than the thump of their own motorcycles.

Riding without a plan

Back in 1999 when I learned to ride, the days we’d look forward were weekends when we’d rent a motorcycle from Commercial Road in Ooty and ride on the Gudalur road that looked like this throughout the year.

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.00.26 PM.png

Our minds used to be our navigation units and if our mental GPS signal was lost, we’d stop and ask just anyone around how to get back to a place that we were familiar with.  The most beautiful part was that we never had a destination in mind. We could ride as long as our pocket money allowed us to rent the motorcycle for.

In 2009, we started getting bolder in our quest for exploring new places with the help of Google Maps. We knew that we’d be able to find our way back eventually, even with a very flaky GPS, GPRS, and battery life. However, one of the most memorable road trips I had was from Hyderabad to Goa, when we got lost and drove for hours together not knowing where we were going and having no one to ask. 22 hour later, we did manage to reach Goa.

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.43.49 PM.png

Slowly and steadily, Google Maps Navigation became a part of our day to day life and we kept reaching the destinations more consistently and without getting lost.  It also meant that most of traveling became a race against time. It eventually boiled down to how quickly did you reach or did you better your average speed.

I finally see this changing and guess who the agent for change is? The Versys 650, of course. The other day, I came back from office and decided to go out on a ride without a destination in mind.

When your ride is so good that the time you take doesn’t matter. When your ride is so good that the reaching the destination is not a priority. When your ride is so good that you just want to ride regardless of the quality of the road. That’s riding!

That’s riding because it’s just a beautiful experience and you are living in the moment. That’s riding because you’d rather be on the motorcycle than do anything else in the world. That’s riding because you just want to and there’s no plan.

Somehow, not knowing where you are going makes you be aware and live in the moment much more acutely.

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 11.37.18 PM.png