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Adventure On Wheels

Friday, January 30, 2015

One of the best ways to discover a destination — Indian or foreign — is through a road trip. And, if you love riding a motorcycle, there several destinations in India that are perfectly suited to long rides. Dev Goswami & Shirley Mistry bring you a list and also give you a few essential tips that you should bear in mind before you head out for a ride 

Get on the road
If you’re planning a bike trip and want to explore the best that our country has to offer, take a look at our list of recommended biking destinations.

Untouched North-east
Narrow passes, snow-capped mountains, rocky roads and breathtaking valleys — this is just a glimpse of what you can expect if you ride to the north-east regions of the country. An unrestricted view of rare wildlife (think rhinos and rhododendrons), vast tea plantations and picturesque valleys along with warm hospitality, all make this region a must-visit. Head to Nagaland for the rockiest terrain, rope bridges and Indo-China border — the terrain is certainly best suited to adventure seekers. However, it takes around 17-21 days to tour the entire region, so we suggest saving your leave dates at work to get the most of this magnificent trip.
Distance from Mumbai: 2,000km (approximately)

Royal Rajasthan
If you’re looking for a royal getaway, we highly recommend travelling to Rajasthan by bike. Jaipur, Udaipur, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur merit a stop and you can even take a trip to Agra, especially if you base yourself in Delhi. The beauty of travelling to Rajasthan is the stunning architecture. Whether it’s the major cities or small towns that you will cross as you drive through, the forts and havelis are a stunning reminder of a bygone era. The food is absolutely scrumptious and hospitality is top-notch. Fourteen days is ample time to cover all the must-visit sights and to take meandering rides down the vast roads that cut through sandy surroundings.
Distance from Mumbai: 1,000km (approximately)

South Indian coast
If mountains and deserts aren’t your scenery of choice, take a trip down south and drive along the coasts of Chennai, Pondicherry and Thiruvananthapuram. Pristine, untouched beaches and small towns along the coastline make for a trip that offers lots of solitude, is comparatively less filled up by over-enthusiastic tourists than most other destinations and offers beautiful views of the endless ocean. If you want to approach the coast from the west, you can charter the coastline of Goa, Gokarna and Udipi, before reaching Kochi in Kerala. You only need nine days to complete this trip.
Distance from Mumbai: 1,300km (Chennai) and 600km (Goa)

Peace & Quiet
A popular destination for bikers across the country, Leh and Ladakh are must-visits if you love travelling as much as you love biking. The terrain isn’t always easy and can take a toll on both you and your bike. However, if you’re up for it, the destinations more than make up for the arduous ride. Barren land that blends into the horizon, pristine pools of water, biting cold and delicious butter tea — need we say more? We recommend saving a good 10-12 days to explore this vast region.
Distance from Mumbai: 2,400km (approximately)

Highest Village
Spiti Valley has been sneaking into the spotlight as one of India’s hidden treasures. Head to the valleys, which are filled with colourful blooms for a spot of solace and landscapes that you wouldn’t usually associate with a tiny village in Himachal Pradesh. Situated close to the Himalayas, the freezing cold is something that you should be wary of. That being said, visiting Spiti Valley is a spiritually enriching experience, since Buddhist and Jain faiths are touted to have originated from this region. The trip usually starts from Manali and takes around nine days to finish.
Distance from Mumbai: 1,900km (approximately)

Ride safe
Figuring out where you want to ride to is half the job done. To ensure that you stay safe,  make the most out of your trip and enjoy your bike ride, there are a few things that you should remember. We get experienced rider Kristopher Noronha (he’s travelled to destinations such as Dahanu, Panchgani, Goa and Leh) to tell us about a few important things that you should bear in mind before you set out on a long bike trip.

Get your bike ready
Making sure that your bike is good shape is the most important step. Kristopher gives us a list of maintenance procedures that should be seen to before your trip. These include checking and topping up oil if necessary, changing fuses, changing and/or adjusting the clutch and accelerator cables (if it’s a long ride, change them even if you don’t see any wear and tear — use the existing ones as your spare set), checking and changing your spark plug, cleaning out your air filter and disc breaks and checking and adjusting chain tension. It’s a good idea to ride around on your bike for a few kilometres to ensure that everything is working fine — if you sense something wrong, even if it is minor, make sure that you get it checked. Also remember that it’s a good idea to learn how to do most of these things on your own, because they can come in handy during a breakdown.

When it comes to bike rides, there’s no need to stick to your servicing schedule to the T. If a regular full servicing is scheduled for after your trip, Kristopher recommends getting it done before. Also remember that if you’re going to be riding for over 300kms each way, you should take your bike in for a full servicing, no matter what. Kristopher adds, “Make sure that you tell your mechanic/ service centre that you’re going on a long ride. This way, they will pay extra attention to things like the air filter and spark plugs.”

Breakdowns can prove to be a hassle, especially since there is no pan-India mechanic-on-call service in India (some car manufacturers do provide 24x7 towing and repairing services — make sure you check whether yours does). This is why knowing basic maintenance and repairing such as changing cables, replacing spark plugs and adjusting chain tension and brakes can prove to be handy. Kristopher tells us that you should know basic first aid and that you should always carry a first aid kit with you, along with a tool kit that suffices for all the procedures that you know. Other ways to prepare for emergencies is to draw up a list of friends or family who may be located close to the route that you will be taking.
Make sure that your personal details (name, address, phone number and blood group) are printed and accessible to strangers in case of an accident. Do not make the mistake of depending on your phone to make calls — batteries die, so print out a list of family and friends’ number whom you can contact in emergencies. Also if worse comes to worst, Kristopher tells us that you shouldn’t hesitate before flagging down a truck — most of them will be quite accommodating when they learn of your distress and will help you to truck it out to the nearest city. Remember to carry cash (cash, not your ATM card) for such emergencies.

Top of your physical game
Long distance riding can be tiring and take all the fun out of your ride. So, it’s important to  get enough rest before you set out. If it’s a night ride, take a catnap before you start your ride; if it’s a day ride, make sure that you sleep well the night before. While riding, sit in a comfortable position and ensure that you have absolutely no load on your back — Kristopher recommends you use saddle or tank bags for your luggage. Make sure to hydrate before you set out on a ride, and take breaks every two hours. However, don’t waste time on your breaks to ensure that you are as productive as possible. Drink water, stretch, answer nature’s call, call your family and friends to provide them with an update, eat (if you’re hungry) and get back to riding again. Another mistake you can make is to sit down — Kristopher tells us that you should walk about instead, this will stretch your muscles and boost blood flow. He tells us that he prefers a 20-minute break, unless he is eating a meal, for which he takes an hour-long break. He further adds, “Avoid stimulants such as energy drinks or coffee, unless they are absolutely necessary, as they will only make you sleepier once the effect wears off.” If you feel sleepy, stop at a dhabba, and take a (short) power nap.

Emergency breaking
Sadly, we can’t teach you about emergency breaking in an article — when you spot an obstruction dangerously close to you, you aren’t going to get enough time to apply a specific technique — your body will just jump to its natural reflex, which will be how you normally break. If you follow incorrect breaking techniques on a daily ride (even if it is to stop at a traffic signal), that is what you’re going to do in an emergency. So, it is important to follow the correct procedure every time you break — use both breaks progressively. In emergencies, you should use your arms to push down on your handlebar, but make sure that you weight stays behind it. Don’t be afraid to pull the breaks in as far as they go, as long as your tyres don’t lock — if they do, then release slightly and break again. You also need to ensure that your luggage is firmly fastened and balanced equally over both sides. If there is a pillion, instruct him/ her not to move too much when you’re breaking and to avoid putting any pressure on the sides or on your shoulder. Kristopher also recommends that you if you’re even slightly unsure about what’s happening in front of you, you should start braking.

We spoke to a few avid bikers and asked them to describe their best biking trip and the one place that they would really like to go to. Take a look:

Tanveer Taj, a 23-year-old advertising copywriter, is a passionate biker and has travelled all over the country on his bike. “I recently returned from a trip that involved covering 10,000km across India on a motorcycle. Needless to say, the trip was amazing! I met so many interesting people, tried food that I had never tasted before and discovered places that I never knew existed! It was the experience of a lifetime.” One piece of advice from the young biker is that it doesn’t hurt to take detours and explore off-beat roads. “Sticking to main roads and highways will definitely get you to your destination safe and sound. But, it won’t give you something to take back from the trip.”

Cawsi Dhanbhoora is a 56-year-old aviation professional, who has been on several bike rides. His favourite  however, is a trip back from Goa. He tells us, “My most memorable biking trip was the return journey from Goa to Mumbai. We started early morning with fog all around us as it was in the first week of January. We had to break journey by 6.30pm, not because we were tired, but because we wanted to prolong the experience.” He also tells us that the one trip that he really wants to go on is a trip to Rajasthan, where he would love to be part of a desert biker group, camp in the outdoors with a bonfire and good old Old Monk to warm him up. We didn’t think of this before, but it sure sounds exciting!

For 24-year-old IT professional Ankit Arora, a quick weekend trip to Daman makes for a relaxing ride. He tells, “The road from Mumbai to Daman is a really good one. Traffic is usually sparse and so, it makes for a great ride. It isn’t too long a journey and can be completed in one stretch, with a single break. It’s the perfect biking destination near Mumbai.” The one trip that he’d really like go on is a trip Diu and one to every rider’s Holy Grail — Ladakh.

Kristopher’s Picks
We asked Kristopher to give us a list of his favourite riding destinations. Here’s the list:

  • Weekend trips around Mumbai: Dahanu, Aamby Valley, Pune, Malshej Ghat, Matheran, Nashik/ Igatpuri, Panchgani, Kashid/ Murud, Kolad, Nilshi.
  • Off-roading or trail biking:  Rajmachi, Naneghat and Purushwadi.
  • Long rides: Malvan-Goa-Gokarna via NH17, Goa via NH4 and Amboli Ghat, Hampi and Jammu-Leh-Manali-Mumbai.
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