Dec 21, 2007

Ride preferences

'So what kind of motorcycle rides do you like to do?' asked this chap who'd been a blog regular for a while – but I was meeting him for the first time. The question left me a bit stumped. To be honest, I've never really thought about it. I've been on a few long rides, and I thoroughly enjoyed those. Except for the photography, loo, and refreshment breaks, that is.

I absolutely love commuting, no matter what the weather or traffic is like. I've no problem with the urban crawl either. I have fond memories of the time I rode some motocross bikes to destruction (mine, not the bikes'), and while I am still a bit cowed when the prospect of riding hard in the dirt presents itself, I don't really think I'll ever say no to that. So what is my ideal kind of riding, really?

It's a great question to start planning the new year ahead with, no?

I think the chap simply meant, 'Which kind of touring?' As in, 300 km days strung out in a row, Iron Butt Association style 1,000 km or longer riding day – a test of staying power, if you will, or... what other kind is there? I really don't know the answer.

Personally, touring on motorcycles is not about the number counts that go with it. See the fuel gauge drop to quarter tank, refill and keep at it. In the ideal world, when my head would say enough, say 450 km later, a clean, functional hotel would pop right up on the roadside and that, would be that.

Also personally, I think riding in the night on our roads, especially over long distances is sheer madness. At the best of times, we can't ride risk-free in broad daylight. To do this equipped with a pitiful headlight and against merciless truckers and pathetic road conditions is just too much. I wouldn't. So, while I'd love to a 1,000 km day, it won't be in India anytime soon from whatever I can tell. Let us just say, that my risk appetite is much lower than yours.

Not that a 1,000 km day is all that big a deal either. On a big-inch machine, it's not all that much effort given good roads and good planning. Really, there's nothing to it. And that would be true even in our situation. Big engines make a lot of difference. The difference between doing Goa, 650 km away in ten hours in a Maruti Alto, versus in, say, an Optra diesel or something. The former is tiny, buzzy and far, far more stressful. The latter can, at the same performance/speed level, relax, operating at some measly 30 per cent of its ability. On smaller machines, like ours, though, it's a lot of effort. I know there are those among you who have done it. Repeatedly. And I respect you for that. But it's not my flavour of tea, if you get my drift. When the right bike comes along, I shall join your elite club too. But dragging a small motorcycle into a stressful, near-80 per cent of performance potential all the time, 14-hour riding day is not fun after a while.

But the lion's share of my riding, it has to be said, is commuting. And that's a complex thing to be good at. Working out the complicated dynamic equations that are operating around you, selecting the fastest and safest lines from the scores of options, making those kind of 'right' choices on a continuous basis separates the men from the boys. I've had the privilege of 'demonstrations' from a couple of masters and I swear it's like magic. I think I'm pretty good at it, but in a true master's hand, it's voodoo. Seriously. They always look dead slow. And gaps appear in traffic for them. It's almost as if they can get into the heads of ten or more drivers at a time and literally hand-pick them into giving up generous amounts of space for them. Totally in awe.

But again, is there a kind of ride that I do really lean towards? Well yes, the ones which make me smile when I remember them later.

Wish you lots of those in the coming year!


EvolutioN said...

Dear Rearset,

I have been a regular reader of your blog for a pretty long time, and havent had the courage to comment on the kind of the posts that you make.

I mean, everytime I read your posts on riding skills, I understand something new, and apply it the next time I ride. I ride an Apache 150, and your control techniques are a real booster when it comes to commuting fast and hard... :)

Have linked you on my blog... and am really really impressed with your good work. Keep it up!

By the way, I really dont know which city you are in, Bangalore or Bombay? I think it is the latter. Just in case it is Bangalore, could we meet? (hope and pray, though they are antithetic to each other!)

Love, laughter n keep the Faith


Sankoobaba said... coz we are riding with a target(destincation!)
while touring...its just good thing for weekends.

Anonymous said...

I commute about 50 km almost everyday to work and back on my RE 500 (now 535), Some days I find myself in the zone, flowing through the traffic and some days I suck!

I like longer trips immensely, but I find the commute helps me sort out the bike and believe me a Bullet needs a lot of TLC when ridden hard. The Bullet is not a fill it, forget it kind of bike and on the commute I am always looking for ways to improve not only my riding skills but also the performance of the bike. So, while the stock 28mm Mikcarb is great for the cut and thrust of city riding and I prefer the Mikuni VM32 carb for the out of town riding sacrificing a bit of bottom end for the sporadic WOT moments on the highway. And tuning the carbs with the limited components that we have is always an illuminating and enjoyable exercise!

Now if you could do a post on the merits of fork braces...

gr said...

When the right bike comes along

how many times have i pondered sthg on those lines ~500 km from that dot on the map where i want to be ...

still waiting for The One :)

Happy New Year :)


theslayer said...

Fork braces? What are they? idea for a new post..

Love you stuff like always.. awesome photography on flickr too.. thumbs up :D

Anonymous said...

played the contra 4 for PSP yet??

Julian Paul said...

hmm, this post started me off on another tangent.

how/when/why does rearset do 3 or more wheels ?

Anonymous said...

As a frequent and regular reader of your blogs, I appreciate most of your material. They are good and thought provoking. Keep up the good work.

Though far from a novice at biking, I still do lots of cycling too and enjoy cycling for shorter stints up to 10 kms (round). Anything longer and I would prefer a bike.

Have ridden an Enfield Bullet standard (stock) for about 10 years in a row now and sold it off. Went ahead and bought a used Yamaha RX 135 5 speed (traffic has increased quite a bit now-a-days). I don't find the smaller bike enjoyable even though I do only short stints in this bike. Missing the low-end torque as well as the high-speed stability.

Totally agree with you on the big engine low stress and small engine high stress thing. Long rides, too are a question of inconveniences and irritations tolerated vis-a-vis the joy of riding. Still waiting for better roads, better machines, social acceptability, and so forth.



vibhu said...

A friend recently asked me, after people started doing the SS attempts - don't i want to do it ? I said no. No second thoughts about it. I got much more on my plate than having to think about riding 24 hrs nonstop. Some people find that fun, maybe even an ego booster, but for me, riding is about fun, a relaxant perhaps.

Night riding, again I dont do, but sometime it still happens - like chai at Lonavala.

So, in the end, I think what kind of ride is more about the mood. At sometime, its positively fun to ride in rain, at other times, you just wish it would stop raining. etc. etc.

harry said...

we want the rearset 2007 bike award ceremony!

Glifford said...

Hey Rearset! It's the new year already (Have a happy one!).

When do we expect the Rearset awards this time around?

Anonymous said...

'So what kind of motorcycle rides do you like to do?'

Well, i actually meant this only. Not just limited to touring. Also, one more clarification.. i dont hate commuting, just that, it would have been a lot more enjoyable if there was a little less traffic. There is only so much you can do when you just have a tiny shoulder to ride on, with people going mudgard to mudguard.

But yes, i hv also tried to change my attitude every morning. Things are changing, and i find myself taking the longer, but little free-er route home.