Mar 29, 2006

Riding Mantra #266.90

Smoothness is a quality that makes great riders and lovers.
Jerks, on the other hand, aren't smooth at all

Como estas, Colombia?

I've been visiting some friends in Colombia and guess what was the first thing I saw there? Yes, yes, a Pulsar. In fact, my two days in Bogota would bring home that strange feeling. The background was completely alien. Clean streets, mountains in the distance, stunning girls, ladies and women, brilliant public transport systems, almost anachronsitic bicycle lanes, no paan stains... and Indian cars and motorcycles all over. From the ubiquitous Bajaj Pulsars, to the Boxer/CT100s, Hero Honda Splendors (few), HH CBZs (one). Cars? Esteem two-door hatches, Opel Corsas, Ikon hatches, Camrys... It'd make you light-headed. There were of course, all manner of dirt bikes and all also.

I spoke to one chap who told me that the Pulsar 180 (sold there) was an admired bike. It was cheap, fast and reliable, in that order. Sounds good to me. And accurate.

Mar 11, 2006

Et tu Zeus?

Suzuki HeatSuzuki Heat

And this is the Suzuki Heat/Zeus duet, 125cc motorcycles due to be launched in India by the end of March 2006. Scroll down and look at the Honda Shine, do you spot a similarity? Yes, they're both extremely pedestrian to look at. The spec levels look low and value perceptions are going to be skewed against them by their natural bent towards premium pricing. What do these guys think? That they're in Vietnam? That Indian riders will swoon, fall on their knees and chant hail marys because the badge comes from Japan?

Two flops then?

Other posts about
All the 125s: Table
Yamaha Gladiator: Images Launch Expo photos Expo text Compared to the Shine
Suzuki Heat: Expo text Expo photos Zeus Ride Report
Honda Shine: Mumbai launch TVC criticism Launch Compared to the Gladiator
TVS Victor Edge/GLX: Launch

Mar 10, 2006

The Shining

Honda Shine 125
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the new 125cc motorcycle from Honda for India. Named the Shine (Jesus, what's with the name?). Honda's press release says the motor is all-new and at the very least, it will be refined. It uses the 'Air Jacket' system like Unicorn for better cooling and has the extra long exhaust system as well. People who have seen the bike in the flesh say it is a mini-Unicorny sort of machine, quite substantial for a 125 but otherwise not even slightly anything to get excited about.

A dealer friend I spoke to said it's a non-starter. Honda intends to start sales with the kick/drum bottom version, which is bad news for dealers. They are going to have to turn away excited prospective buyers saying, 'no, it does not have electric start, disc brakes, or even alloy wheels.' To add insult to injury, the price announced appears to be in the top end of the 125cc segment.

Specs, then. The Shine displaces 124.6cc and makes a class-standard 10.3 bhp (@7500 rpm). It also makes 10.9 kgm (@5500 rpm) which is a fairly high number, no doubt the power delivery will be like the Unicorn, with a strong bottom end that comes with a slightly out of breath top end. It gets a four-speed gearbox, three-step adjustable twin shock rear suspension (What? No monoshock?). Ignition is via a multi-map digital CDI (they won't say how many maps yet). The bike is supposed to be quite quick, managing 60 kph in 5.3 seconds from standstill. It gets a puny 2.75-18 at the rear. I guess, there isn't much more to say. More after I get to ride it.

Other posts about
All the 125s: Table
Yamaha Gladiator: Images Launch Expo photos Expo text Compared to the Shine
Suzuki Heat: Expo text Expo photos Zeus Ride Report
Honda Shine: Mumbai launch TVC criticism Launch Compared to the Gladiator
TVS Victor Edge/GLX: Launch

Yellow Fever Vaccination Information

This is for those of you who have been searching high and low, and in google, for information on the hows and whys of Yellow Fever Vaccination (with international certificate) in India. Well, I got it done yesterday, so, still stinging from the needle prick, I thought I'd post up.

When you search for information for Mumbai, you'll always come up with detailed addresses and phone numbers for Delhi, but for none of the other Indian cities. Thumb rule, if it has an international airport, it probably has a immunization centre for yellow fever as well. Specifically, Mumbai has two centres. The less crowded one is at the (Sahaar) International Airport (call +91-22-26828991. Currently, Dr Tambare administers the injection). You take the road to Arrivals 2A, and look for a faded yellow board (it's the only one on this wall) on the flyover (which leads to Departures above) wall. This will be about two hundred metres down the road on your left from the flyover beginning. The other one, far more crowded is at Ballard Estate (call +91-22-22612256). The address I have given over the phone is Naubhavan Building, Third floor, Ramji Bhai Kamani Marg, Ballard Estate, Mumbai. That's the phonetically correct address, so a few spellings might vary. There's more. The centres are open roughly between 14:30 and 16:00. But queues start early. The Airport lines begin to get drawn by about 14:00, while the Ballard Estate centre, the chap tells me, has people standing from 10:00. Pathetic.

You only need to carry an attested copy of your passport, but like all Indian government offices, the rules vary with the predictability of women's minds. Some people in the queue told us that just yesterday, a few people were turned away for not having passport copies they could submit, others because their copies (to show only) were not attested... Also, they immunize in batches of five, so if you're left at the end in an odd group, tough luck. Having an original passport is a HUGE bonus.

The process is quite quick. So if you're not careful, you won't have the time to notice whether or not the doctor drew a fresh needle for you. You've been warned. I'm saying this not because the doctor means harm, but that you won't have the peace of mind about it later, if you don't watch out for it. Tambare, for instance, is reassuring, always smiling and as quick as a darting honey bee.

I think you can take it from here...

Mar 6, 2006

Crash taste dummies

Saw the much-celebrated Crash yesterday. My, what a star cast! And let’s start with the wasted one. There’s the perpetually unpalatable Sandra Bullock. the whiny, paranoid urban wife. Yes, the character rings true and all, but Bullock only ever looked presentable in that Hugh Grant flick where the man who passed up Hurley (Idiot!) can’t do anything without Sandra’s advice. Jennifer Esposito is as usual very easy on the eye, but tell me again what is she doing in the film? Did Paul Haggis hire her only to be the subject of the Cheadle on phone to mum dialogue? And to declare her character’s exotic South American descent?

The rest of them are all super. Brendan Fraser is for once, not bashing chaps in cotton rags, looking very prim-proper just like a Grisham-spec District Attorney. Don Cheadle is is usual controlled, perfectly in his role. The Wild Things chap, is not likeable, but flawless, just like in Wild Things. Add good work bonuses (bonii?) for the two car stealing boys, Thandie, her husband, the young cop (Cruel Intentions). If I can’t remember any other people, that’s because they were all at least good, if not noticeable.

Again, not versed in film making technicalities, I’d say the film was well-made, but nothing exceptional. There are shots where the camera just takes too long to get to the shots next waypoint… must be some sort of cine-art thing that escaped me entirely. It’s happened before, my altogether more in-cinema-tune wife tells me.

The strength of the film is its story and probably the first real Hollywood look into the sort of subtle racial discrimination that goes on all the time. And it does, almost exactly as shown in the film. The whole WASP fixation of the redneck American junta, and the irritating, low IQ habit of branding everybody with a beard Osama, everyone with dark skin Saddam and that sort of thing. The fact that the counterpoint – reverse racism to coin a phrase – is also represented is nice. The braided hair car jacker, is quite right. The discriminated party can come to a point where everything seems an act of discrimination, almost.

Will it win at the Oscars in seven-odd hours time? I don’t know. But it should certainly be up for a clutch of acting and story awards. [NOTE: Since this review, the movie won Best Film] Now to the final test of its greatness: Would I buy the DVD? Er…. No. But, here’s the thing, the wife will.

Soldier of fortune

Just the other day, I was telling the wife that a DVD, I'’d love to have in the collection is Shah Rukh Khan'’s original blockbuster, Fauji. And just the other day after that, she happened to stumble into the last VCD copy at the VT Planet M in Mumbai. I say chaps, Fantastic.

Mar 4, 2006

Riding Mantra #318.23

'I always feel better after a ride than I did before.'
-Stephen M

Fair weather fiends

For those used to a year's worth of sweat, Mumbai has thrown a frozen-over spanner in their routines. It's been nippy these past few mornings and I can tell you, I've never woken up feeling more gloriously awake and in the immediate motorcycle. Which set me thinking. Would it not be perfect, if the weather were always to be like this, just a bit nippy, just enough to focus the mind? And surprisingly, the answer I came up with, was no!

Let us take the example of the British motorcyclist. Since everybody there seems to be deeply into riding, you have to be outstanding to command automatic respect at the coffee shop, or at the pub. For instance, you could be the guy who laps Donington Park on a stock litre class bike, within six seconds of the MotoGP lap record. You're god. Or, you could be the sort who rides a Honda CRF450R dirt bike, and there isn't a part of the wee isle that hasn't been under your wheels yet.

But both of those sort of motorcyclist pale in front of another sort. In the classifieds, his bike is always the bottom of the pile. It says simply, 'ridden the year round, rusting exhaust pipes, corroded wheels...' When a prospective buyer does come around to look at the bike, he bends a little more than normal into the handshake, and there is deep, if grudging, respect. Why? Because this madcap rides the year round. He doesn't slink guiltily into his car at the first hint of extreme windchill, sleet or snow. This is also the man who has the most riveting over-the-Guinness stories and the man who will usually find himself answering questions like, 'so how many times did you fall going to the shops last Christmas eve?'

We are blessed, in a sense, with round-the-year riding weather across most of our land. But I think it's the difficulty of the ride that makes it special. You only ever recall the ones you had trouble with when it comes time to regale friends with tales of derring-do.

So what's the big deal about riding in 47 degree Delhi Julys. I did it for years. And all I had to say was, 'Man, I sweated buckets and stank.' Not something to tell the grandchildren, eh?

It's that drenched to the bone ride from one end of Mumbai to another in the middle of the night. Or the sheer uphill task that is the Manali-Leh ride. Or the December nights spent apexing half of Delhi, ignoring the rapidly blue-ing fingers boosted finely by a rocketship of a Yamaha twin.

So we Indians do have the edge when it comes to the expanse of the riding season. But those of you who chicken out in the rains (in Mumbai), in winter (in the north) and at other times... You are missing the best part.

Mar 1, 2006

Doc Wong's Riding Clinics

Ever since I read about Doc Wong, I've been fascinated by the idea. It's simple. You need to be a motorcyclist interested in your riding. The man posts the clinic date on the website and you turn up at the appointed hour. He talks to you for an hour and a half and then off you go into the hills, practicing the motorcycle skill of the day. In time, the free clinic's popularity has meant emailed confirmations. And diversification into dirt clinics, maintenance clinics etc.

Inspired, I started a small riding clinic of my own here in Mumbai. Me and a group of friends would meet early Saturday morning and practice one skill that day for a couple of hours before going back to our usual schedules. It was fun. We covered body positioning, throttle control, er... that's it. Life reasserted itself, people (including me) had things to do Saturday, some Saturdays were just spent lazing in bed... the clinic more or less folded.

However, I've now resolved that as soon as I get back on the bike (Read about why I'm not riding right now), I'm off the restart the process all over again. Maybe this time, I'll expand the group from my close friends to a larger circle, maybe by posting the dates and times at this blog. Then again, I'm scared of trying to manage unknown riders on the practice sessions.