Hildebrand & Wolfmüller came out with the first commercial variant of a two-wheeler, which came to be known as a motorcycle, in 1894. Motorbike design and production has come a long way since then. Even though engineers, designers and scientists are working overtime to better the quality and functionality of the humble motorcycle, some things haven’t changed.As my Machine Design Professor likes to say, we have almost perfected the basic structure of a two-wheeler. There is hardly room for an improvement unless it is radically different. I concur. Also, the spirit of motorcycle riding has persisted.
Every day, billions of people commute on their two-wheelers without giving it much thought. The average Indian rider doesn’t concern himself/herself with anything beyond this. To any sensible person, a motorcycle is a tool for reaching Point B from Point A without any physical exertion. I feel there is a little more to riding than meets the eye.
India has the highest number of two-wheelers in the world with homegrown Hero MotoCorp emerging as the world’s biggest player. Yet, we have failed to incubate a culture where riding is a way of life rather than a means to an end.
You will often find Motorcycle Riders’ Clubs in metro cities, which stake claim to being the most passionate flag-bearers of the art of riding. They are hilarious. Most of these clubs are about pot-bellied, middle-aged corporate workers with money to afford an engine with high displacement. They go on 400 Kms rides thrice a year and feel like conquerors.
Riding for 400 Kms is tough. No denying that. But riding is not about a group of people coming together for a party and taking photographs of them standing beside bikes. It is certainly not about camp-fires. Sometimes, I feel the activities of these Clubs are the male variant of kitty parties.
I am no Plato-in-Pajamas and I detest people who talk about how motorcycle riding is a spiritual experience that takes them closer to some form of supernal energy. It isn’t remotely as exciting as it sounds. Riding for any distance more than 200 Kms will cause you immense physical and mental agony.
Your body will force you to stop every 30 minutes just so you can stand up and seek some temporary relief for that unbearable coccyx pain. If you do manage to go any further than 200 Kms, you will begin to curse your decision to ride out because returning back to your starting point is no longer an option. Then there are the roads. If you are fortunate, all you will ever see is a stretch of first-class freeway that has traffic flowing in a single direction.
You won’t always be that fortunate. Idiots on the road will scare you to death and make you believe in fate and the purpose of life. Your body will beg you to stop, but you won’t be able to, for sunlight is fast slipping away and riding at night can be very dangerous if you are alone. When you do reach your destination, you will be so drained that exploring it is the last thing on your mind. Now, all you need is a warm and comfortable bed. Funnily enough, you won’t be able to afford one. Petrol doesn’t come for free.
Given this torture, why would anybody want to go on the fabled ‘long-ride’? The reasons may be different. You could be a convict who has escaped from prison and secured a bike and a fat purse. Or, the romantic lover who wants to ride out to his girlfriend living 6 hours away acting on a whim. Maybe you have lost your way and are so dumb that you turn a one hour journey into a day long ordeal of dealing with the road.
Whoever you are, chances are that you either decide never to commit such a mistake again or realize that long motorcycle rides are second only to coitus.
For those few hundred kilometers or more, your mind never shifts from the road. Yes, you are propelled by the thought of reaching the destination, but your focus is almost completely on surviving the journey. Not once would you think about your failures in the past. All that will go through your mind is that you must not fall. If you do, roads are mostly unforgiving and chances are that you may not live to ride any more. In spite of this fear, you ride and give it your best. This kind of clarity is rare.
Our modern ways of living have made most of us forget the reality of survival. We live each day as if tomorrow will definitely arrive. Until that day when it doesn’t.
Riding is not about cheap thrills that youngsters get in front of a girls’ school. It isn’t about the speed. It is about enduring.
There are many who ride for more than 12000 Kms every year. They may not be skilled enough to pull daredevil stunts on their bikes. Their expertise is more unique, experiences more fruitful and their endurance limits are almost super human.
What is common among all of them is the respect they have for the road and their ride. While their survival is foremost, they realize that their responsibility is also towards the person travelling behind their bikes. Such men/women make a difference not just on the road but off it too.
Riding is not a spiritual exercise. It is an act of passion. It is something that all of us can engage in. If you are a college student, riding will require you to save up for an entire semester before you can take your bike for a spin.
If you are a working man, you don’t need any push and are already looking for a way to set yourself free. If you are retired, it is a good way to lay off Sildenafil and experience a more organic rush that might not give you an erection but will definitely make you take pride in your physical prowess.
Whoever you are, wherever you may be. If you are bored with the regularity of your life, try going on a long motorcycle ride. It won’t solve your problems or add zing to your sex life, but it will definitely infuse you with a kind of confidence you have never felt before.