By Vijay Maninathan
A road trip is something any self-respecting biker will never say no for an answer. It is in bare minimum, an annual ritual for bike enthusiasts to gear up and ride to a favorite destination, or for the adventurous, an unknown location. An exciting road trip can ring up worthwhile memories over a beer on a Sunday afternoon by the fireplace.
India has just warmed up to the largely Western activity of long distance motorcycle trips. The Saddle Sore / Iron Butt rides are becoming very popular among the Indian biking community. The driving force has been the improvement in transport infrastructure and the availability of high-capacity motorcycles with good ergonomics to help ride long distances with less stress.
With better road connectivity and improvement in communication tech, enthusiasts are able to help each other through various online forums and biking clubs, be it helping get spares parts, modifying their steeds and organizing rides.
If you are a biker and itching to take your favorite motorcycle out for a tryst with nature, read on!
Riding gear is of paramount importance be it riding on the street or the highway. Remember ‘what cannot bend, will break’. The human body can withstand only so much. To prolong your wonderful life on two wheels as much as possible, safety should come naturally than be told, or worse, learning with a crash.
Riding gear also helps when you ride to higher altitudes, protecting you from the cold, during night rides by improving your visibility to other road users, and preventing your fingers from getting numb over extended riding periods.
A good helmet, gloves, jacket, jeans and hard boots are a minimum requirement to swing your leg over. Good riding gear are available at affordable prices. Some manufacturers are selling their branded riding gear too, if you are lucky to own such a motorcycle, then it would be a good combo. For bikers who can afford to go the extra mile, riding pants, back protector & knee guards will complete the list.
Getting your steed ready for the ride
Prepping your bike up for the ride is very important. Follow basic pre-ride checks to ensure all cycle parts are performing up to the mark. Depending on the magnitude of the trip, various parts have to be inspected.
A clean bike is a good starting point. Basic checks should include:
If you've planned for a really big ride, something spread over multiple days
Planning the trip
Now, this is something some bikers will frown over. While one group will plan out their rides, stopovers, fuel stops, the more adventurous group will suggest to randomly pointing to a place on the map, ride there, taking care of any requirements & challenges as they come. Nowadays, it’s very easy to book hotels even on the move and check for fuel stations en-route. Many of us have smartphones/ tablets with which getting lost is not very easy. Every biker has his comfort zone, some can adapt to any situation, but it’s always better to go with the opinion of the majority in the group.
First time riders need to plan the trip carefully, and keep family and friends informed whenever possible during the ride. With more kilometers under the belt, they can start being more adventurous at a later stage. New riders can start with shorter trips to get accustomed to their bike, and with experience and a better understanding of the motorcycle can begin to expand their horizon. Commuting in the city even for relatively long distances is very different from gathering miles on the open road.
Selecting the route
Choose a route that offers a variety of riding conditions. Long hauls on an open expressway can be boring, as there is not much fun involved riding on arrow straight roads. Try to balance runs on National Highways (NH), State Highways (SH) and countryside roads, so that you get to taste a variety of riding conditions.
While the NH can provide a super quick cruise to the destination, the SH or B-roads (as the Europeans call it) turn out more scenic, and are more fun to ride. If conditions permit, try indulging in some off-roading too! While it is not possible to try explore all riding conditions in a single trip, having a good variety helps.
Essentials to carry
Preparing a checklist would be a good idea to ensure nothing important is left out. It should contain the following, apart from any other personal requirements:
On the move
Now that you're all set, it's time to swing your leg over your bike and head on for that dream ride.
Choose a comfortable speed for cruising, where the engine is relaxed. Riding at top speed puts a lot of stress on the engine and eventually, the rider. A powerful motorcycle can help in riding at a good clip without much engine stress and also allow you to enjoy Mother Nature, which is the whole point of a road trip!
Moving around in the seat every once in a while can help prevent the body getting numb and can extend saddle time.
A highway can be equally dangerous as city roads. Try not to take it too easy even though there are lesser vehicles on the road. Watch out for cattle and careless road users.
While riding in the rain, ensure all the electronic gadgets are well protected. Visibility and grip can be low during rain, hence it is better to slow down and be gentle on the inputs, be it acceleration or braking. Pullover if riding conditions worsen.
Riding in a group
Riding in a group with like-minded people is a great experience. Group riding requires a different riding style, where the rider needs to be adaptable to stay in sync with the group.
More variety betters the riding experience
Motorcycles of similar class, displacements are easier to be ridden in a group. A commuter is going to have a hard time keeping up with more powerful tourers, sportbikes and would have to be screaming its lungs out all the time. This also stresses out the rider and they will be the first one to put his hands up for a break.
Trying to reduce that disparity will certainly help for a better riding experience. If the group has bikes of similar category and power under a variety of makes, the diversity on offer can provide a great experience to all riders who want to switch bikes en route.
Useful tips for group riding
Riding in a group will bring lasting memories, as there will be riders from various backgrounds but with common passion for biking. Listening to fellow bikers over a campfire, sharing their knowledge, be it technical or an exciting adventure encountered by them, can make for an enriching experience that cannot be expressed in words.
That pretty much sums up how to go about a road trip. Hope this article has helped if you were planning a road trip or even better if it has been an inspiration to get on the bike and ride into the horizon. Enjoy the ride!