May 31, 2006

Leh Manual 5: The packing list

Biker brotherhood at Moray plainsOkay, so I decided to make that packing list for a Ladakh ride. I'm not including items you might need while you're in Leh (as in touristy stuff, normal clothes and stuff) for I reckon you can figure that part out on your own... what? You can't? :-D Oh, and I've left out the most obvious things... helmet, spare visor, toilet kit, cash etc.

Cold Weather and Motorcycle Wear Stuff (CWMWS)

  • Thermal pants (1 or 2 pairs max)
    You won't need more, because once it gets cold, you'll be loathe to change no matter how unhygienic or dusty it feels

  • Thermal top (1 or 2 pairs max)
    Same as pants. I find no difference in actual riding between half sleeve and full sleeve jobs, so take whatever you're comfortable with

  • Track pants (2 pairs)
    Look for thin material, like polyester (shiny stuff). With or without mesh liners. They can go over the thermals, and work as a windblock and warmer without restricting your movements

  • Jeans (1 pair)
    Ideally get ones with lycra. They stretch and allow more movement than regular denim once you're packed with 2 track pants and thermals

  • Motorcycle riding pants (1 pair)
    If your pants are proper cold weather stuff, you won't really need the jeans, except off the bike. However, if you have mesh, or breathable stuff, the coldest weather will require the use of both. Again, lycra jeans will not feel restrictive. Your pants do have hip and knee armour, right?

  • Gloves (2 pairs)
    One pair of unlined leather gloves will keep you warm enough for most of the work. The very coldest part will need the other one. Make that one a waterproof, cold weather one if possible. Prefer glover with long gauntlets

  • Gardening/Kitchen rubber gloves (2 pairs)
    If you can't manage the warm, waterproof gloves, try the latex rubber ones. They're waterproof and turn quite warm eventually. Carry two, because you will usually rip one in the process of putting it on... don't ask how I know. Check that the size you bought (I bought medical overgloves, orange XXL. Rs 45 a pair) is big enough to slip/stretch over the leather gloves your intend to use.

  • Balaclava (1 pair)
    If your helmet (you are wearing a full-face, right?) is good, you won't need a woollen one. Get a good one. They're hard to come by, but try

  • Riding jacket (1 pair)
    Get a full winter-spec jacket with a removable liner. If you get a good one, you won't need more than a thermal and t-shirt underneath. If not, layer it. Winter jackets are usually waterproof, so that takes care of any rain as well. Again, your jacket is armoured, right?

  • Crossing waterRain liners (2 pairs)
    I carried a pair of cheap Rs 300 PVC/Plastic rainsuits with me. I'd wear the pants most of the time (rain, splash, water crossing protection and warmth). But it kept getting caught in the pegs, burning on the pipes and was in tatters by the time I got to Leh. Used tons of duct tape on the return leg...

  • OPTIONAL Fleece pullover/jacket (1 pair)
    Can be a great thing to wear off the bike. Can also serve as a ultra-warm inner layer should it get really cold. The great thing about fleece is that it stays warm even if it gets wet.

    • Woollens
      Take forever to dry. And are useless, heavy and bulky when wet

    • Seriously expensive items
      You could ruin them beyond recognition, it's a tough ride

    • Brief/thong undies
      Tremendously uncomfortable over long rides. Switch to clingy, soft boxer type undies. Boxer shorts are to be avoided, because they crumple inside and form seams, result is same as thongs.
    • Water
      Keep drinking, its the best way to keep mountain sickness at bay. I was doing 5 litres by lunch. Had a two litre bottle in each pocket of the saddlebag, and one litre in the tank bag. Refilled it at every opportunity.

    • A small towel
      You never know when you end up washing your mug in a mountain stream

    • Sunglasses
      Keep the glare off!
Motorcycle stuff
  • If you're on the Himalayan Odyssey, you won't need anything, because Royal Enfield takes care of all your spares and service needs

  • If you're on your own, however
    • A multi-tool (like the Victorinox Auto-Tool, or a Leatherman Charger)
    • Set of screwdrivers (if you don't have a multi-tool)
    • A few pieces of wire (to lash broken things, connect frayed wires, floss...)
    • Electrical tape (do not buy Bohr's branded tape, is completely useless)
    • Tools specific to your bike (figure it out... like C-spanner for suspension adjust etc)
    • Duct tape (hard to get, but priceless. Fixed EVERYTHING)
    • Replacement cables (clutch, throttle)
    • Fluids (if you are really paranoid... some brake fluid)
    • Tandi, the last fuel station before LehIf you're alone, carry a 5 or 10 litre jerry can. Tandi-Leh is 365 km without a sinple fuel station in the middle
    • Bungee cords (to right drooping luggage, or tie down annoying co-riders...)
    • Replacement bulbs (headlight, tail light)
    • Spare spark plugs (2 pairs, I think)
    • Torch + batteries (batts run low in the cold, take spares along)
    • Knife (if not in multi-tool already)
    • BIKE PAPERS! Keep attested copies handy
    • The strongest sunscreen you can find

  • It's a good idea to check the plugs for the air-fuel mix at Manali. As you go higher, your bike will begin to run rich. Do you know how to adjust the mixture?

  • Learn how to a) get a tyre off the bike b) how to fix a flat

  • Are you the sort who needs to keep a spare key handy?
    If yes, consider putting the key on a carabiner. And ALWAYS hooking the carabiner to your riding jacket BEFORE you dismount. If you lose your jacket, take a bus home, you're not ready for the ride yet.
  • Diamox
    Check with your doctor. Start taking about two days in advance if doc says okay

  • Lasix
    Works instantly, makes you want to pee EVERYWHERE. Check with your doc

  • Aspirin
    Altitude sickness will give you a serious headache. Carry something for it

  • Avomine
    For the vomiting that follows the headache

  • Diarrhoea/loosy meds
    Check with your doc. Its rare, but shit happens. heh heh

  • Moov/Sensur/Iodex

  • Any other meds your doc recommends

  • Moisturizer
    I prefer gels to lotions (can't spill gel). Vaseline works

  • Mosquito repellent
    Self explanatory

  • Full first aid kit
    • Bandages
    • Antiseptic cleanser (I prefer Savlon)
    • Gauze
    • Medical tape
    • Scissors
    • Torch
    • Painkiller
    • Something to put on the wound, Neosporin works brill
    • Crepe bandages
Experience recording equipment (EREs)
  • Digital Camera plus accessories
    • Camera (with fully charged batteries installed)

    • Loads of memory (1-2 GB if you're shutter happy)

    • Spare batteries (charged already before the trip)

    • Battery charger

    • Waterproof storage space (zip locks work)

    • Consider a spare film point-shoot, just in case. Means carrying film, batteries though
      If the digicam wipes out, you can still record. And film/batteries are available almost everywhere

  • Notebooks and pencils (pen ink smudges when wet)
Luggage ideas
  • Tankbag
    Carry spare layers, camera, identification, money and anything you'd need quickly/repeatedly. Cramster makes the excellent Turtle

  • Saddlebags
    Again, Himalayan Odyssey riders don't need this, they get a truck for the luggage. But everyone else should get one of these. Cramster makes excellent ones for about Rs 2000. But tell him what bike you're on (models differ). Remember to pack everything in individual, labelled plastic bags. The bags are almost waterproof, but you never know

  • Top roll
    If you're carrying a sleeping bag (recommended) or a duffel bag, lash it down on the pillion seat on top of the saddlebag pad. This allows you to lean back into it when your back needs a break

  • On the person
    Carry a box of matches wrapped in a plastic bag, notebook, pencils, digital camera, spare batteries on your person. Keeping matches/camera/batteries warm will prolong their useability

  • Other pieces of luggage
    What? You're shifting house?
Other stuff
  • If you're on the Himalayan Odyssey, remember to keep a change of clothes with you on your bike. The backup truck takes as much as three-five extra hours to arrive. You'll be able to change, refresh yourself as soon as your arrive at the day camp

  • Keep biscuits and chocolate bars in your tank bag. They're high-energy rechargers on sorts. Have one when you're feeling a bit weak.

  • Mountain sickness sucks. But eat despite the nausea and the headaches.

  • Stop often. If you take Lasix, you'll do this anyway. But take breaks often. The scenery is always worth ogling, and you'll have the time. Especially on the Odyssey. Take lots of pictures while you're stopped. You did carry loads of EREs, right?

  • While you will be wearing most of the CWMWS, keep whatever you think you might need handy in the tankbag.
Phew, that's it, I think. Check the comments below, I'll just add anything else that I come up with there. I'm not messing with this phenomenal list again... And say thank you.

Other relevant posts

Riding related

Himalayan Odyssey related
The high point of the trip

May 30, 2006

Riding Mantra #322.67

'Never be afraid to slow down.'

Yamaha Gladiator versus Honda Shine

This is actually an interesting, complicated post to write. I've put more than 400 km on each bike so far, and I am a bit torn between the two. I am as surprised as you are, because I was expecting to vote for the Gladiator, and I might, but it isn't a straightforward decision.

The Shine has the better engine overall. The Shine's engine feels more refined, no, more engineered, more fresh and due to its early torque peak, more gutsy than the Yamaha. The Shine vibrates more than Yamaha, and it's a noticeable difference. Purely because, the Yamaha does not vibrate AT ALL. Yes, no matter what the revs, the Yamaha is more or less silent and vibe free. It is an achievement, but as you will see, not without its pitfalls.

But, the Yamaha has the classier gearbox. The Shine's four-speed box shifts all up, which is a bloody irritant. If Honda were to pay me a dollar (why bother with a Rupee in conjecture, eh?) for everytime I've found myself in neutral when I should have been in first, I'd be buying Bill Gates hi-tech house... about now. The shift quality is good, but the pattern sucks. The lever was scuffing my boots as well, so I had it hacked right off. Also, my bike seems to make a 'zero' shift now and then. The lever moves, but gets no work done. No false neutral... you're just still in the same gear. The one-down, four-up Yamaha box is just butter smooth, always sure, ever positive. Perfect.

I' m going to focus on the 'feel' of the performance, rather than the stopwatch okay? The Shine feels quicker to about 50 kph, and then the engine begins to hunt for something, anything that would give it more speed. Revving it is useless, and the quickest progress lies in shifting early and not bothering beyond, say, 65 kph. Top speed is, of course, in the 95-100 kph region, but as I said, not worth exploring. The Gladiator's power is not concentrated anywhere and so, while it feels slow, especially if you've come off the Shine, it isn't. There is always power to be had by twisting the throttle and riding it becomes pleasant because of it. However, the utterly spooky refinement makes the bike feel much slower than it is, so you're almost always going faster than you think/intend.

Both of my bikes are disc models, and between the two, there isn't much to choose. The Shine is sprung harder, but has more travel in the brake lever, while the Gladiator dives more, but the brake is sharp and alert. It's a personal choice. My choice? Gladiator, I think it feels more er... up to the task.

Ride quality
A colleague rode pillion with me to his house yesterday and the Shine felt perfect. The road was smoothed out, potholes disappeared, serenity reigned. But that was not the case when I took the same route today. Today, the road is bumpy, jittery and bordering on the harsh. Why? Because like with the Unicorn, Honda is fixated on the fact that most Indian wifes are fat. And that they follow their hubbies around all over the place, always sitting pillion. Always sideways. You know this isn't the case. But the ride quality suffers when you're alone. Travelling light on the Shine is not the smartest thing you could do.

On the other hand, Yamaha have (finally) sorted the ultra soft suspension of the Fazer, and made it hard enough to feel good, without letting the road become too intrusive. The result is a well-sprung bike that feels firm, absorbs most of the worst and still does not interfere with road feedback. This is how it's done. Even two up, the Gladiator more or less retains its stance, does not become front heavy or too firm/spongy.

The Shine's handling, expectedly, is as you would expect it to be. It goes around corner. Period. That means no drama, no excitement, total compliance, you cannot complain. But that isn't how it should be, right?

On the other hand, the Gladiator is quite possibly the best handler in the country. With most of the Fazer's chassis carried over intact, its eye-openingly good. It's friendly enough for novices but you can seriously play with it. As a colleague put it, 'this is the bike to get your knee down on. I'm sure of it. No matter how much tomfoolery I do with it in a corner, it won't bite.' And that's exactly how it is. I'd wager that falling off a Gladiator would require some serious stupidity. Or diesel in the corner (and that's not hard to come by...)

The Fazer was the most comfortable bike in the country, so the Gladiator should be an automatic. But it isn't. The seat is good for short trips, but can prove too soft for two hours or more in the saddle. It does allow you to move around without a hitch, though. The Shine, on the other hand, is very comfortable even over longer spans, but the pillion perch sucks.

Shine all the way. Super bright light. Gladiator is waaaay better than the insipid Fazer headlamp (a Yamaha chap actually told be two into 25W equals one 50W head lamp ).

Switches and meters
Okay, Gladiator and Shine are even. Super switches on the Shine offset the missing engine kill switch, and the engine kill on the Gladiator makes up for the flimsy, spongy feeling ex-YBX switch gear. Meters contain nearly the same info on both, so no winners here.

Fuel economy
I have not measured it, but I think the Gladiator has greater fuel economy. It also retains this property across a wider range of conditions and riding styles. The Shine responds very well to low-rev running, but raise the stakes and the numbers tumble.

Don't even mention it to the Shine. It'll blush. Gladiator all the way.

Where? The Shine has no style. The Gladiator actually looks quite presentable when you see it in real life. But still, the Gladiator could have been even better looking...

After sales service/spares
Honda service used to be quite good when their sales volumes were lower. Now, they're busy... Yamaha's network has been going downhill for a while now...

If you're a regular at this blog, love motorcycles and need to choose between the two, you'd do well to test ride a Yamaha Gladiator and decide your next course of action. If you couldn't care less about motorcycles and just need a transport solution, take a bus. Or buy the Shine, whichever you prefer. Prices are almost even, though the Gladiator is cheaper by a notch.

Other posts about
All the 125s: Table
Hero Honda Glamour FI: Release
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

May 29, 2006

Crash boom bang

Was returning from dinner with a friend Saturday night, when something large and wet fell on my forehead. It wasn't warm, so I didn't worry. Warm means some living thing just plopped on you. Within seconds, large drops of water were cutting though Mumbai's gathering humidity and the darkness of the night was lit by the shiny slivers of water coming down like relief supplies.

We smiled our way into an autorickshaw and I mentally ticked off a night I wouldn't be out on a motorcycle in my head. We were discussing her studies and specifically, an alternative holographic internet paradigm that got subdued by the current format in the 80s, a sort of what-could-have-been.

Our of the corner of my eye, I spotted a young couple on a Kinetic Honda. They were stopped at a break in the median, about to take a U-turn. The lady was wearing a white t-shirt and an ineffectual hand that sat upon her head in a futile attempt to save her hair-do. Her husband/boyfriend spotted an auto coming down the top lane, and decided he had just enough time to make a tight u-turn before it.

He opened the throttle and the Kinetic Honda shimmied like a scared equine and became to snake about. The auto driver hit his brakes but his wheels locked and he soundlessly glided right into the back of the serpentine KiHo. Then, the noise began. A momentary spark flew and then it was all scraping metal sounds, two screams and an engine returning calmly back to idle. As the crash disappeared from the view in my auto, I saw the woman, now trailing the KiHo, ahead of the rick, scraping-paddling along, looking very panicked, and about to discover that while she was very much alive, road rash hurt big time.

The rain, in the meantime, had stopped coming down. My shocked friend stopped on the holographic internet. I paused momentarily and I think I said, 'shit happens. Especially when you tempt it.' And continued about the glories of the Internet and what lies ahead.

Parenthood Entrance Examination Tips

A college friend came over yesterday (we were meeting after almost three-four years, I think) and amidst the nostalgia, I've-been-up-to and state-of-the-nation discussions, the talk came round to parenting. Neither of us remembers how. Or at least, I don't.

However, this friend said, 'there should be an entrance examination for parents.' If you have exams/tests for comparatively trivial things like driving licenses and education, at the very least, something as daunting, and complex as parenthood should require a test. A test that eliminates psychotic, neurotic and other -tics from the gene pool, or some such.

I called it the Parenthood Entrance Examination, or PEE. And we built on that idea from there on. For instance, you'd probably need to study for that kind of exam, right? So you tell your boss, 'I'm planning to start a family. Can I get some leave? I need to PEE.' You would have to pass the PEE to be able to have a child, so that would create alarming and hilarious complications.

For instance, here's some headlines,

'Cinestar Skill-pa Sketty fails PEE; producer husband wants divorce, denies all alimony payments for failing PEE. Says wife was lax in preparing for the exam.'

'PEE paper leaked again. Late discovery means 30,000 children born in the past three months are illegal. Government considering action.'

'Government passes bill for lower passing marks in PEE for OBC/SC/STs. Upper class protests move saying, 'sexual discrimination.'

'PEE touts help you pass it. Rs 300 buys you the right to have a baby. Genetic and mentally deficient, physically able, guaranteed passing.' (advert)

'This year's PEE exam was too tough, say candidates. Sociologists worried about 'missing' generation.'

'Having trouble PEEing? Call us. Our experts help you pass all obstacles'

Er... enough.

May 26, 2006

How to overtake

I’ll divide the overtake into stages, although you’ll find that in real life (or in the matrix, if you’re that sort of person) they overlap considerably.

Stage 1: Assessment
This is when you’re basically concerned with just find out whether it is possible to overtake or not. What you do is to look forward, judge your speed, your acceleration in the current gear, the speed of the vehicle(s) you are about to pass, and whether there is enough space to pull the whole thing off and tuck back in or not.

Common mistakes: Many riders run right up to the bumper of the car ahead at this stage. It’s not worth it. First of all, running that close affects your sightlines. If you can’t see ahead, you cannot make an assessment. Second, if the car guy suddenly spots you, you might scare him. If he panic and stands on the brakes, you’ll be standing before the pearly gates with the expletive still coming out. Third, if the chap behind you also closes up, expecting you to overtake, you’re now completely out of space.

Look out for: Be clear that if you cannot see the space, it does not exist. No assumptions. This needs loads of discipline when you’re in the twisties, having fun, and end up getting stuck behind a truck. Be very careful. Mountain roads are fun, but unforgiving as well.

Stage 2: The prep
You have established that the overtake is possible. Now you need to shift to the right gear. This will be the gear that gives you the acceleration you need to get past. Ideally, you should not need a shift while overtaking. If you mis-shift when in the opposing lane, you could be seriously hampering your overtake, and crucially, risking a crash. Then you have to establish that you’re about to pass. This means an indicator blinking so the chap behind you knows what you’re up to. And for the chap in front, it means a flash of the headlamp, and if he still doesn’t notice you, a polite ‘I’m here’ honk. Personally, I just switch on my headlamp (its technically illegal to run your lights in India. I usually run the parking lights anyway) and leave it on low beam till I’m back in my lane.

Common mistakes: Remember you’re honking a ‘I’m here’ not a ‘OI JACKASS, WHY THE F HAVE YOU NOT CHECKED YOUR BLOODY MIRROR AFTER I SWITCHED MY BLEEDING LIGHTS ON?’ You want him to cooperate, remember, not speed up while you’re out in the opposing lane to teach you a lesson in manners. While you’re confirming that both drivers ahead and behind you know your intentions, you still have to hold you station. You can move into the right wheeltrack (for India) of the car ahead, but you will want to stay in the lane enough for the chap behind to not close the ‘escape’ space on your left. This will also allow him to see your brake lamps, and that of the car ahead of you, just in case.

Look out for: Indications for either of the drivers advising you not to pull out. The driver ahead may be planning to overtake as well, or you may be about to be passed. Always follow these indications. Don’t rush overtakes. Going down too many gears in the ‘box. It’s a common problem for those of us who ride a variety of machines, rather than just one. For all the bikes that have all the shifts in one direction (all up or all down) consciously check that you haven’t landed yourself in neutral. Also, scan his mirrors to check he has seen you. Eye contact is best.

Stage 3: The pull out
Now you are actually going to pull out of your lane and make the overtake. Begin with a mirror scan, followed by an over-the-shoulder lifesaver check. This is your last check to ensure the way is clear. You will want to accelerate as hard as possible past the cars. But remember, first the steering input to reach the opposing lane, and then the gas action. Most motorcycles (especially 11 bhp and above) have enough grunt to get past most car traffic, so don’t sweat it.

Common mistakes: ‘Gassed it first and bashed into car before I could reach the other lane,’ is a common one. You want to reach close to the middle of the opposing lane, not squeeze by with inches to spare, so the steering input needs to be calibrated to that need.
Don’t go too close to the car ahead at all. They could have stuff sticking out that you haven’t spotted that can be injurious. Lifesaver is done, but lip-serviced it. Turned the head but didn’t actually look. This is very easy to do to yourself. You’ve been warned.

Look out for: Gravel, mud or potholes in your path to the middle lane, they can cause your overtake to go awry.

Stage 4: The overtake
This is the stage when you are running in the opposing lane. Keep the headlights on, the indicator blinking and throttle as far open as you can. Don’t dawdle or make slow, long overtakes. They’re hazardous to you. Even in tight traffic, you may not go full throttle, but you still do don’t linger parallel to the other car/traffic. Remember, you’re in their death zone! And keep your eyes peeled for cars about to pull into your path (especially from your lane) and oncoming traffic.

Common mistakes: Stages 1, 2 and 3 weren’t properly executed and you need to abort the overtake. Roll off the throttle/brake gently and pull back into your gap. Most cars will give you space on the highway, in traffic, you will be honked down ignominiously. Too much throttle, bike spins up! Won’t happen unless you’re riding in the wet, or on a 100 bhp machine, but it can, so be smooth with the throttle.

Look out for: Trees/hedges on the other side of the road obscuring traffic/hazards/sightlines. Cover your brakes now, you’ll need it soon.

Stage 5: Pull back in
The overtake is done. You return to your lane. Sounds simple, but be careful. First of all, if you’ve just passed a string of cars, you need to verify that the last guy you passed knows you’re coming in ahead of him. Whenever possible, give him space. You want to pull in at least two to three car lengths ahead. So that when you brake down to the cruising speed, you don’t spook him. I normally plan to roll back into the lane on the trailing throttle, shedding speed gently down to the cruise speed. Once there, check that all indicators are off, lights are off (in India. I come back to the parking light mode).

Common mistakes: Come in too hot, and too close to the car ahead and stand on the brakes and cause a pile-up. It has happened before, you know.

Look out for: The last car you pass can sometimes be accelerating to close the very gap you’re planning to tuck into, so make sure he knows you’re coming. Honk, light and hand indications are all tools to use if needed. Be polite. A middle finger is not going to encourage him to accommodate you.

1. Traffic comes up on you suddenly.
Don’t panic. Brake, and tuck in as close as you can to the car you’re passing, still going a bit faster/slower (depending on which gap is closer to you) than him if possible. Usually, the driver on the other side will pull away just enough to give you space. It helps to get noticed in these situations… you did have your lights on, right? Tuck back in, take a deep breath and continue in your lane, until you’ve calmed down. If need be, stop for a coffee break. Or call it a day, find a place to stay, park the bike, have a beer and continue tomorrow.

2. Surface changes between your lane and opposing lane
I’ve had to make a dry-wet transition on the pull-in once on my RD350. The front was fine and the rear was spinning. I was crossed-up for almost a hundred metres before the rear found enough traction to tuck in… There isn’t much you can do except be smooth in the first place. If it is spinning, shift weight backwards, rather than close the throttle first to try and sort it.

3. Vengeful cagers
If they resent you overtaking, and many do, they will try to block the pass. If the car ahead or the car behind pulls out while you are too, pull back in, maintaining their speeds roughly. Let them get on with it. Back off or even stop to let them go away. If the car in your lane speeds up to block the gap you were planning to pull into, look for a gap ahead and whether you have space to get to it. In not, roll off the throttle, brake if you have to and drop back.

Parallel attack

More often than not, I see motorcyclists out there, who're just running with the pack. Of traffic that is. They'’re not passing, not being passed, they'’re just hanging around, running more or less as the same speed at traffic. And they'’re not even in a clear lane of their own. They'’re scattered about in a random pattern that only nature can come up with. I see a problem here. No, not of discipline, but of a life-threatening nature.

Motorcycle Roadcraft, the book many police departments around the world regard as the manual for motorcycle cops, says travelling at 10-15 per cent higher speed than the traffic around you is the safest way to handle traffic. That means if the cars are doing 40 kph, you do about 45-50 kph, roughly.

There is a solid reason for this. Think back to the last ride you can remember in details and analyse it. What portions did you feel most 'in control'’ in? Whenever I do this, two situations come up. One is the sections where my knowledge of the road and conditions is near perfect. These are familiar stretches of road, where I know the surface, camber, ambient traffic behaviour, changes weather makes to all three, where the pedestrians usually appear… the entire routine. There is always the unexpected, of course, but the rest is covered. Two, and the relevant one for this post, is when I am overtaking.

This is the move that I have planned. (I'’ll post up on the how to overtake later, okay). I'’ve got the chap up ahead aware that I'm about to come past, and the chap behind also knows that I'’m about to pull out. Why do I feel most 'in control'’ here? Because I have cmaneuver the manoeuvre. The chaps around me have nothing more to do than sit, and wait for me to complete it.

Travelling 10-15 per cent faster than traffic, makes you overtake people almost constantly. If you do it well, overtakes come naturally, you flow through traffic like water and youĂ‚’ll enjoy that sharp edge of concentration that makes motorcycles so enjoyable.

But what does this have to do with the people lounging in traffic? A lot. You see, every street strategy and street survival book eventually comes back to the same point: – Don'’t hang about. Running parallel to bigger vehicles is dangerous. Pass them, or be passed by them. No status quo. The reason is that if you'’re running parallel, you'’re probably in the driver'’s blind spot. If he swerves, he will take you out. Nick Ienatsch calls it the death zone, and I'’d have to agree. Every time a car has come close enough to cause bodily injury to me, it was because at that time, I was running parallel to it.

May 24, 2006

Rossi: Spirit Of Sport!

Rossi erm happy with the Laureus AwardROSSI HONOURED AT LAUREUS AWARDS

Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi was honoured at the annual Laureus World Sports Awards in Barcelona last night, receiving the ‘Spirit of Sport’ Award for raising the profile of MotoGP during his five-year World Championship reign. The defending champion flew immediately to Barcelona after concluding a day’s testing with his Camel Yamaha Team in Le Mans yesterday and entered the ceremony on board a Yamaha YZF-R1 motorcycle. He accepted the award from Yamaha’s first World Champion, Giacomo Agostini and Formula One Director Bernie Ecclestone.

Rossi was a nominee for the third year running in the ‘World Sportsman of the Year’ category, but lost out to Swiss tennis player Roger Federer, who collected the prize for the second consecutive year.

Speaking after the ceremony, the 27 year old from Tavullia said “I am very happy to have received this award tonight, and very proud to be considered such an important ambassador for our sport. It’s also a big honour for me to be nominated once again for the main award alongside such great sportsmen.”

Bajaj Auto 2005-06 results in full

Ever seen a full year's worth of summaries from a major two-wheeler maker? This is the full text of what the full thing looks like. Minus the irrelevant sections like three-wheelers, other assets and subsidiaries (like life insurance and stuff). I haven't tried to simplify what follows for two reasons. 1) it removes the flavour of the original. And 2) I wouldn't know how to. What is EBITDA anyway, eh?

Sanjiv Bajaj and K Grihapathy at the results announcement


A meeting of the Board of Directors of Bajaj Auto Limited was held today to consider and
approve the results for the financial year 2005-06.

  • Motorcycles sales – 1.91 million – 32% - well above industry growth of 19%
  • 2 & 3-Wheeler sales – 2.28 million – 25%
  • Turnover Rs. 81.06 billion: 28%
  • Operating EBITDA Rs. 13.69 billion – 47%
  • Operating EBITDA margin 17.9% – 220 basis points
  • Profit before tax Rs. 15.81 billion – 45%
  • Net profit Rs. 11.23 billion – 47%

The summary of audited results of Bajaj Auto (not consolidated) is as under:

Rs in millionFY 2005-06FY 2004-05
Turnover (net of excise81,06463,228
Gross Profit after interest but before VRS, depreciation and taxation17,94313,208
Compensationpaid under VRS226490
Profit before taxation15,80710,864
Provision for taxation (including deferred tax)4,7913,196
Profit after Tax11,0167,668
Tax credits of earlier years, prior period expenses, net217-18
Net profit for the year11,2337,650
Earnings per share (Rs)11175.6

The Board of Directors recommended a dividend of Rs. 40 per share. (400%). The total
amount of dividend and tax thereon amounted to Rs. 4,615 million. Dividend paid in the
previous year was Rs 25 per share (250%).

  • Turnover for the year - Rs. 81.06 billion v/s Rs 63.23 billion –increase of 28%.
  • Sales (net of excise duty) - Rs. 74.69 billion v/s Rs 57.24 billion in 2004-05 – increase of 30%.
  • Operating EBITDA - Rs 13.69 billion from Rs 9.3 billion in 2004-05 – increase of47%. Operating EBITDA margins improved by 220 basis points to 17.9%.Improvement in margins for the year is due to increase in sales of motorcycles,favourable mix change – higher number of motorcycles in the value and premium segment, higher exports and tighter control over material and fixed costs.
  • Profit before tax Rs 15.81 billion – increase of 45%.
  • Net Profit after tax Rs 11.23 billion – increase of 47%.
  • Pre-tax return on operating capital rose to 174%.

SALES (Nos.)2005-062004-05Change
Motorcycles1,912,306 1,449,71032%
2-Wheelers2,029,176 1,602,64627%
Total 2,281,2301,824,69925%
Exports(out of the above)250,204196,71027%

  • Motorcycle sales continue to outgrow the industry – 32% growth v/s industry growth of 19%.
  • Market share in Motorcycles improved from 28% in 2004-05 to 31% in 2005-06.
  • During the year a cruiser bike Bajaj Avenger DTS-i and Bajaj Discover 110cc were launched. Bajaj CT 100 was upgraded with ExhausTEC and SNSsuspension while the Pulsar 180 was upgraded in terms of looks.
  • ‘SEGMENT LEADER’ in the performance segment. Bajaj Pulsar twins crossed cumulative landmark sale of ‘ONE MILLION’.
  • ‘SEGMENT LEADER’ in the new 125cc category of the value segment. The Bajaj Discover DTS-i sold over 330,000 vehicles during the year. In the valuesegment the new Bajaj Discover 110cc that was launched in December 2005 sold over 113,000 vehicles. To combat the intense competition in the value segment and to set new style benchmarks, a new bike the ‘BAJAJ PLATINA’ was launched in April 2006.
  • ‘SEGMENT LEADER’ in the price segment. Bajaj CT 100 sold over‘ONE MILLION’ vehicles in the current year.
3. Two wheelers : skipped!

  • Exports in volumes and value are tabulated in the table given below:

Total 2-Wheelers174,907130,94534%
Total 3-Wheelers75,29765,76514%
Grand Total250,204196,71027%
Value Rs in million8,9906,94929%

  • Bajaj Auto continues to be the ‘NUMBER ONE’ exporter of 2&3-wheelers.
  • Over 100,000, 2&3-wheelers sold in Sri Lanka. Market leader in Central America accounting for over 50% of motorcycles sold.
  • Joint Venture Company with majority equity holding to be set-up in Indonesia in Q2/ 2006-07.
  • Assembly operations by Distributor in Nigeria established. Significant volumes expected in the coming years considering the one million per annum motorcyclemarket in Nigeria.
  • Sales of Bajaj motorcycles in Iran expected to commence from July 2006.


Sanjiv Bajaj
Executive Director
19th May 2006

Annexure to Press release dated 19th May 2006. Click here

May 23, 2006

Where have I been?

Yes, all six of you who do return regularly to this blog must have noticed a sudden deflation in the new matter at the head of the blog. And have you been wondering if the initial honeymoon full of enthusiasm and thought (and consequently prolific blogging) has ended? Well, you'd be wrong to jump to that conclusion. The one thing I never run out of, everyone I know agrees on this point, is words.

Sorry guys, was terminally busy with designing a new piece of motorcycle luggage. The timely installation of Google's free SketchUp 3D modelling tool didn't help at all. I've been using the Cramster Turtle tankbag for almost an year now, and while I have no complaints with it at all, I now want more. I made a list of the things I usually carry and then surfed every tank bag site on the net (okay, I must have missed a couple of million give or take) to make a list of desirables. And now, I have the perfect tank bag all shiny and attractive on my machine. Except that Keerthi, the Cramster man is too busy right now to make it... Drat! Will just have to wait some, then... Obviously, I refuse to divulge the details, but the key word is versatility. It will be a storming tour de force in the nascent world of Indian motorcycle luggage, and will be the a supreme thing of beauty on the bike, and off it. And then some. Or maybe, the whole thing will cost me the earth to purchase and turn out to be complete crap. More on this later...

Blogs of note

Just jumped into the blog world, in terms of communites, that is and found a couple of mates who blog as well. Check out, which belongs to Sac. Known for all round grubbiness, shiny, sparkling writing and a penchant for girls, booze and cigarettes. And not necessarily in that order either. He's in the UK now... hell, just read his blog. He puts it far better than I can. Slightly psychedelic his prose is, I warn you, but very entertaining. Oh, and he's far freer with F-words than I am...

Then there is a dreamy friend of mine, who scratches away at He is another dreamer, and is tall enough to have his feet firmly on the ground and his nostrils full of the clouds. But somehow, manages to float just above terra firma. All round nice guy. And another old hand at sparkly, dreamy, wispy writing. Can be brilliant. As always, click now.

May 18, 2006

Riding Mantra #412.99

'It's not about how fast you go, really. It's about how you go fast.'

Honda Shine Ride Report

I finally spent a good deal of time on the Honda Shine yesterday. And I have good news, and I have bad news. What shall we start with?

The bad news? Okay.

  • a) the heel-end of the gearshift nearly took a chunk off my shoe yesterday. Since I only use the toe-shifter, I got in hacked off. Anyone want the heel bit? Looks like an effective cosh.
  • b) Like the Unicorn, ride quality is still on the stiff side. A journalist would say firmly suspended (what is that? A chap in traction?). It shoves fair spikes over concrete joints and only gets comfy when you load it up with a pillion.
  • c) The motor is quiet but, when you get to 70-odd kph or higher, you keep wanting another gear, because the motor sounds just too busy. It's gonna suck on the highway big time.
  • d) No electric start, yet.
  • e) The bike I borrowed was maroon in colour. In that shade, the bike looks about as dull as most of today's TV programs.
  • f) Mirrors don't have screw tighteners at the top-end of the stalks. So when they droop, they droop. My left one was flying half-mast throughout. On a 150 km example.
  • g) No engine kill switch.
  • h) No alloys. In the face of Bajaj's Discover, that's almost the equivalent of a slit wrist.
  • i) Where is there a piece of pipe where my grab rail is supposed to be?
  • j) The clincher for me. I'd never have an emotional connect with this machine.
The good news, then?
  • a) The motor sounds very refined. But there's a fair bit of vibes in the grips at mid-range. I think a thirty-odd km city ride will numb/tingle your fingers. Oh shoot, that needs to go into the bad news section, right?
  • b) The motor does sound quiet, and very effective.
  • c) The motor makes lots of torque and feels very robust. So when you suddenly run out of puff at 65 kph, you feel frustrated and cheated. Below that, though, the Shine feels very, very happy.
  • d) It feels okay as a handler. Not exceptional, but stable and friendly.
  • e) The seat is comfortable for short hauls.
  • f) Handlebar feels a bit wide, but is very comfortable.
  • g) Love the new switches on the left side. Did keep messing with the high/low beam toggle switch a bit, though.
  • h) Disc brake feels superb.
  • i). Er... that's it.
Doesn't look good for Honda yet. This products will, basically, fail to Shine. I'd zero in on a Disco or a Gladiator, I think.

Other posts about
All the 125s: Table
Hero Honda Glamour FI: Release
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

May 16, 2006

Suzuki Zeus Launch

Girls, Suzuki Zeus and Suzuki India Md Katsumi TakataAs promised, I went. It was quite a laugh, actually. First of all, they'd already showed the Zeus at the Auto Expo 2006. So the bike under the white veil was not a new sight. Then they had a couple of Ukrainian/Caucasian chicks in skimpy non-Suzuki coloured lycra thingies come and do a fifteen minute ta-daa session for the Mumbai press photogs. That was too funny. Even despite both the girls being very nubile and all of that sort of thing.

Girls, Suzuki Zeus and Suzuki India Md Katsumi TakataHad a chance to speak with Takata San later. He said Suzuki intended to breach the 5,00,000 unit sales mark by... wait for it... as soon as possible. Right. Big bikes? Not anytime soon, said the man, very clear that Suzuki intends to consolidate market share before it does anything else. I think the bike will sell in small numbers but this is not going to be a commercial success that will threaten Bajaj or Hero Honda. Suzuki are claiming that the high torque engine (10 nm at just 3500 rpm) will deliver 70 kpl in real world conditions, give or take ten per cent, so that is in the ball park. Below is the full press release, verbatim.

Girls, Suzuki Zeus and Suzuki India Md Katsumi Takata

Suzuki Unveils Zeus
~ 125 cc bike to be targeted at the youth ~

Mumbai, May 16 2006: Suzuki, the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer, today launched Suzuki Zeus, 125 cc single cylinder bike. Katsumi Takata, Joint MD, and Deepak Pandey, All India Head, Sales and Marketing, Suzuki Motorcycles India unveiled the bike in Mumbai today.

Zeus is introduced with the objective of providing the Indian consumers a refreshing new feel in the commuter market category (100-125cc) and is targeted towards young college students and executives, who want contemporary styling clubbed with excellent performance.

Girls, Suzuki Zeus and Suzuki India Md Katsumi TakataSpeaking at the launch, Mr Katsumi Takata, Joint MD, Suzuki Motorcycles Indian Pvt Ltd said, 'Suzuki motorcycles have been indigenously developed and bear the stamp of quality and reliability that the brand is globally known for. These technological innovations are made available to our customers resulting in superior ride quality, with amazing fuel-efficiency at an affordable price. With this new generation of motorcycles, Suzuki promises to meet every expectation of consumers in terms of technology, styling and performance.'

'Zeus is an indicator of our efforts to offer world class technology adapted for the Indian conditions that offers maximum value to our discerning customers who can certainly look forward to more offerings in the future,' he added.

Zeus comes with with contemporary styling, exhilarating performance, great sensory appeal, trust, low operative cost and excellent fuel efficiency. The motorcycle will be available in 3 vibrant colours (Candy Antares Red, Pearl Nebular Black and Metallic Titanium Gold) and will have special features like round crank shaft, all aluminium engine, hi-tech spark plug, advanced transmission (5 gears), disc brake, de-compression valve, primary kick mechanism and gear shift indicators.
Girls, Suzuki Zeus and Suzuki India Md Katsumi TakataThe futuristic air-cooled four-stroke engine, developed specially for the Indian customer, powers Suzuki's new offering. The contemporary styling, great finishing, plenty of quality chrome and thoughtful details touches like an engine guard which adds to the bike on styling front and rear foot guard for the pillion rider is going to position the new motorcycles as 'the preferred bikes.'

Zeus has been developed after extensive market research and it will reinforce the commitment and support from the parent company - Suzuki Motor Corporation, Japan.

Zeus is priced competitively and provides better value by way of performance - fuel efficiency, reliability, durability etc. Zeus is available at an introductory price of Rs 46084 ex-showroom Mumbai [for the disc Zeus. Drum to be introduced later. Heat is Rs 40623 ex-Mumbai. As of May 16, 2006. Oh and that is the girl (below) who looked prettier of the two, for the record]

Girls, Suzuki Zeus and Suzuki India Md Katsumi Takata Other posts about
All the 125s: Table
Hero Honda Glamour FI: Release
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

Suzuki Heat

Suzuki ZeusWell, ladies and gentlemen, I've managed to snag an entry pass to the press conference where Suzuki will officially launch the Heat and Zeus 125cc motorcycles today. So there will be pics, the full release text and stuff up here by afternoon, Indian time. Stay tuned. Meantime, you have seen my posts on the Gladiator and the headache of a table comparing the specs of all the 125cc bikes (Bajaj Discover, Hero Honda Glamour, Yamaha Gladiator, Suzuki Heat/Zeus and TVS Victor Edge/GLX), right?

Other posts about
All the 125s: Table
Hero Honda Glamour FI: Release
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

May 15, 2006

Pro grip!

Rossi sets up a corner on his Yamaha M1 motorcycle
A huge part of how well you can control the motorcycle is a function of what you're doing with your hands. If your pudgy paws are wrapped around a motorcycle like a pressure bandage, you are going to get hurt. Next time you're watching MotoGP, look carefully everytime they show Rossi's hands. Look how neat his hands look on the grip. Look how gently his fingers squeeze the brake, and how gently he open the throttle. These are quick motions, but there is a finesse to them. Rossi does not whack the throttle open to go faster. He opens the taps smoothly, quickly and makes smoking hot getaways.

But I shouldn't be talking. Not long ago, my hands were pressure bandages too. No longer. Now, I cover clutch and brake levers with two fingers and the other two digits are shrink wrapped around the grip, but not too firmly. Sometimes, like Rossi, I will use three fingers on the brake if I think the brakes require more effort than two can muster. Doing this also slows down any sudden moves you make and smoothens your inputs. Which is what you should be aiming at in the first place. A dirt bike rider told me once, that when you use all four fingers to cover the brake, a largish bump can eject the grip from your hands. A road rider told me once, that when you don't cover the brake, you end up hitting the person/thing you could have stopped short of. Get it?

Look how Rossi grip seems so relaxedThe other nuance is to keep your forearms parallel to the ground. There's a good reason why. Next time your bike's on the main stand, try pushing down on the grips. Or pulling up. As you will realise, not only does it not help the steering at all, it causes only the bare minimum of suspension movement. The most effective way to (counter)steer a motorcycle is an exactly horizontal push/pull. If your forearms are parallel to the ground, that's what you achieve. The result will be smoother, lighter steering and more accuracy as well.

These photos are from Camel Yamaha MotoGP Team

I'm not riding today

Yes, fanatical though I may be, there are days when I say no to motorcycling. I thought I'd put a list of the situations when I look at the motorcycle in the parking lot and wistfully keep the keys carabinered to the tank bag, and take the bus/cab/whatever.

Drinking out
No riding when you're planning a beer and bites with mates later. It eases your load in the bar (you should see how they look at you when you put your lid on the counter and order a fresh lime soda. Pity I cannot stand) and beer-soaked riding pants suck

Yes, there are a couple of days in the month when I feel exhausted. So I don't ride. I find that on these days, my concentration wavers and that can be dangerous/fatal

When I was younger, I remember there were times when I went out for a ride when I was upset or angry with someone. For a while, it really helped. A couple of hours of breakneck speed riding clears up the perspective like nothing else. No longer though. I'm married now. And more to the point, that sort of riding should be reserved for track days. That too, ideally, when you have the entire track (gravel traps and all) to yourself

The first rains
Call me chicken, but when it rains for the first time after a long gap, I keep it parked. Last year I got caught in an off-season shower and it sucked. Three bikes went down in a four km trip around me, and I nearly crashed more than four times myself. That sort of odds aren't worth it. If I lived in London/New York, I'd be the first to do all the year round riding as a hobby. Really. But even there, I'd skip the first days of the wet. The water causes all the oil/grease/diesel to float up and can really mess up your day

After the races
I used to do this as well. Right after Rossi/Doohan won their respective races on the telly, I'd be out on my RD350, tearing up Delhi's Sunday afternoon emptiness with some fairly lurid riding. Hindsight has since kicked in. This is probably the most foolhardy way to release the pent up adrenaline

After motorcycle movies
A friend drove me home once, right after we'd both watched the classic French film Taxi (Dir Gerard Pires). My knuckles still go white remembering that drive. Going to watch a good motorcycle flick? Take a cab back

Going out in groups
If the rest of the group is in the cab, being on a bike looks cool. But trust me, sooner or later, some drunk buddy's gonna ask to taken for a spin. Or you'll have a shunt looking for their cab rather than watching traffic...

There's more, of course
But you get the drift... right?

May 13, 2006

Lowest visibility rating

The failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents. The driver of the other vehicle involved in collision with the motorcycle did not see the motorcycle before the collision, or did not see the motorcycle until too late to avoid the collision.

-Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures, Volume 1: Technical Report, Hurt, H.H., Ouellet, J.V. and Thom, D.R., Traffic Safety Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles,

They won't see you. So it's up to you to be seen. If that means a helmet as bright as the sun with fake mickey mouse ears in red... too bad.

Chassis geometry is not fixed

You have heard of cars that have toe control and other passive features which allow the rear wheels to turn slightly in sympathy with the front wheels for greater maneuverability. But, the fact is that a car's steering geometry is more or less fixed. However, a motorcycle is a different creature. Racing motorcyclists worry so much about setup, for the bike is not a fixed entity. When the front suspension dives, it changes the chassis stance. Ditto acceleration. What I'm about to try to explain is that, this is not a bad thing. This is a tool good motorcyclists use daily. And so should you.

The steering character of the motorcycle is largely represented by the rake/trail figures. Yes, wheelbase, chain angle etc play a part, for our purposes let us omit them from this discussion. The rake of the bike is simply put the angle between the vertical and the axis that runs through the steering head, measured in degrees. When the motorcycle is braking, it's chassis 'tips' forward, changing that angle. The exact opposite happens under acceleration. The second is trail. This is the length, in mm, between the vertical axis that passes through the front axle, and the axis that runs through the middle of the headstock (not the forks!). In general, the steeper (smaller) the castor angle, and the smaller the trail length, the quicker the motorcycle with turn, and the more unstable the motorcycle will be, respectively. Without going into the hows and whys, the trail is one of the components that makes a motorcycle want to center its steering. The more the trail, the stronger that force is. This manifests as an (un)willingness to turn, or a feeling of heaviness in the front. One of the reasons cruiser front-ends feel a fair bit heavier and ploddy than superbikes is the huge rake angle, and the solid amounts of trail that go with the cruiser chassis.

To return to our discussion. Let's look at a rider beginning his corner exit. As he opens the throttle, the weight transfers backwards, causing the rear suspension to squat, the forks to expand. This is accompanied by a slight rise in the castor angle and trail. Which causes the motorcycle to widen the line and the radius of the arc broadens. The more you open the throttle, the wider that line will become. Similarly, when you enter the corner off the throttle, you've just sharpened the rake angle a bit more than standard, and it becomes easier to steer or the motorcycle takes a narrower line. That is also the reason why motorcycles demand more effort when coming into corners with the throttle open. There are other ways to use this also. For instance, I prefer to roll into intersections off the throttle. It transfers the weight forward, so I can brake harder, quicker if I should need to. And the chassis is tipped forward to steering around an obstacle/cager is quicker and easier.

This chassis behaviour is why all race schools say the same thing. Brake before the corner, turn in with the throttle closed, maintenance throttle at the apex (rolled open just enough to hold the line/lean), and then smoothly roll back on to make a widening line exit.

Riding Mantra #318.98

'In false quarrel there is no true valour'
-Shakespeare. Much Ado About Nothing

May 12, 2006

All the 125s compared

Here are all the new Indian 125cc motorcycles compared. They appear to be in alphabetical order, but the first two are the ones I like the most. The Bajaj Discover 125 and the Yamaha Gladiator, I think, are the ones to buy out of this lot

Power (bhp) 11.51
Torque (Nm)10.8
Weight (Kg)125/129123/127121110/114119/118117
Bore (mm)5754 52.4-52.4054.5
Stroke (mm)48.85457.8-57.8653.5
Comp9.5:110:19.1:19.6:19.2:1 9.3:1
IgnitionDTSiDigital CDIDigital CDIDigital CDIDigital CDIDigi CDI
ChassisDouble CradleSingle cradleDouble cradleSingle cradleDiamondSingle cradle
Rake/Trail (deg/mm)-26/90-25/8926/91.2-
F.Disc (mm)No240240240240240
Front tyre2.75-172.75-182.75-182.75-182.75-182.75-18
Rear tyre3.00-173.00-182.75-183.00-182.75-183.00-18
Length (mm)20302065199520402014-
Width (mm)760730735770730-
Height (mm)10651100109510851070-
WB (mm)130513001265124012661240
Tank (litres)101312-10.511

Other posts about

Hero Honda Glamour FI: Release
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

Road blocked

I was out for a motorcycle ride with some people and one of them told me, over beer later, that he nearly had a crash. Because he came round one mountain road corner to find a rock the size of a helmet sitting on his line. He said he didn't know he made it around that. So I thought I post up some ideas about what to do in that situation.

First, don't look at it. A rock in the middle of the road should be treated like cleavage (borrowing this bit from Seinfeld, sorry). You get a sense of it and look elsewhere. This is important. Whether you like it or not, whether you realise it or not, target fixation does happen. Look at it and you probably will make contact with it (does not work for cleavage and girls. Well, at least it doesn't work out well for the looker, er... you). So where do you look? Look where you want to go. If you want to go around it, your eyes should zoom in on the new line that you need to take.

Second, what is your level of commitment? If you're riding a road you don't know, our man was, you should not be committing to any corner hundred per cent until you can see the exit. No exceptions. If you do know the road (my experience says you need to ride five or more times before you can), commitment levels can be higher. A full hundred per cent commitment works only at the race track. Which is an environment that rewards that kind of riding, and has physical precautions and safeguards (you hope) should you run out of tarmac.

Third, so you've come upon something in the road, and let's say it spans the road. That means there, basically is no going around it. In that situation, the one thing you do not do is arrive on top while still on the brakes. You want to give the front suspension a fighting chance of absorbing as much of the shock as possible.To do that, you brake as hard as you can, as long as can, but you must actually cross the say, tree branch, with the throttle opened, front suspension fully expanded. Dirtbike manuals say, wheelie over it. Momentum helps. If you don't have enough momentum, your rear wheel may not cross the log and you could get stuck. And find yourself flipped over the handlebar as inertia carries you over. Or worse. So, you need to consider how much you need to slow down. One factor in that might be where in the corner the obstruction is. At the apex? You need to keep the speed low, so you don't run wide, for instance.

Just like the front suspension, you need to give the rear suspension a chance too, right? For this, you need to roll off the throttle as soon as the front wheel is past the log. If you're agile, you should already be standing, now would be a good time to move your weight forward and 'lighten' the weight on the rear wheel.

Fourth, now that you have cleared it. It would be responsible of you to do what you can to remove the obstruction. Again, if the corner is blind, remember that a motorist coming around may not see you, or the obstacle in time. So be careful.

Fifth. Suppose the obstruction is not a log, but a hole, then what do you do? Surprise, the answer is almost the same. You still want to slow down a bit, but be accelerating when you cross it. If you're on the power, the front wheel should skim past the lip and cross right over without even a jar (the front suspension will expand once the road surface falls away). Stand up. For the rear suspension, unless you're going really quick over it, will expand and catch on the exit lip of the hole. This will result in a fairly large spike which you can dampen better standing up.

Sixth, in either case, before you apply the throttle/brakes drastically, it's always good to check who is behind you. If he has not seen the log/hole, he won't be expecting you to brake that suddenly. So give him some sort of warning before you grab one of the controls.

Seventh, this sort of obstruction can cause a crash. So you're best fully kitted out - helmet, jacket, gloves, boots and pants. Since we cannot predict where these obstructions lie, you might as well wear them everywhere. I do.