Motorcycling trips are a unique way to solo-travel and get into the recesses of the hinterland – to engage with locals, wave to the mighty mountains and raging rivers from up close, and a much more organic way to get a taste of the terrain that you are coming in contact with. A motorbike also affords you the provision of altering plans, taking detours and engaging with the world around you better.
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Our hunger for adventure and exploration can’t really be subdued, and with the coronavirus having impacted the way we travel, the time is just about right to turn your motorcycle road trip dream into reality.
For our two-part first-timer's guide to motorcycling, we spoke to renowned motorcyclist and world record holder Deepak Kamath, and others within the motorcycling fraternity, to answer questions for those who have, for the longest time, wanted to go on a motorcycling trip. Read on.
How physically fit do you need to be to do it?
Riding a few hundred kilometres takes stamina and a fair amount of physical endurance. You will need to maintain the correct posture at all times — an upright back, with the hips and the shoulders in a line — and that cannot be ensured with zero physical conditioning. This is all the more important since you will get sweaty, itchy or uncomfortable.
Start an aerobic training routine (under supervision, of course) to build endurance. You will need flexibility when you are on the road, so a stretching routine (yoga or Pilates) is in order. These exercises also help build basic core strength, which is something you will need for better stability and balance on your motorcycle.
Should I start off with a group ride?
To be honest, starting off as part of a group sounds much more comfortable for a first-timer. You have the security of fellow riders, who, on most occasions will have zero long-distance riding experience, just like you. Then there is the confidence of having ride leaders, trailers and coordinators by your side.
As a group member, however, says Kamath, “You should be accommodating on the road, and open to having roadside food. We might have to sneak into any kind of a hotel, but we ensure that the beds and the toilets are clean. People may be accustomed to sleeping on a nice, soft, cushioned bed, a noiseless fan and AC and all that. But that's all to be kept back at home – when we are on the road, we take what comes. We might get a creaky fan or the person sharing your room might be snoring away, you have to adapt.”
What do I have to remember if I take a solo trip instead?
Starting off solo can be challenging and even overwhelming, but it is certainly not out of your reach. Kamath weighs in: “When it comes to going solo, you are your own master. Get up at 4 or 4.30 in the morning, hit the road at around 5.30 so that you are in time to catch the sunrise. In my rides, I always I usually encourage people to catch a sunrise and wind up by sunset. In any ride that you do after the sun goes down, you are only munching miles. You are not adding any value to your travel.”
The other thing to remember about solo bike rides is planning your day well. “Think about how many kilometres you can do. As a newbie, you start off with 150-200km. Identify places that are in the 150-200km from your hub. Those will be your spokes. It is a progression – I encourage people to progress instead of having the I-got-a-bike-so-I-want-to-do-a-10,000km ride attitude. Don’t. First you’ve got to understand your machine.”
Stopping whenever you can’t go on further is very important. Kamath says, “If you feel you are drowsy, just stop. Nobody’s going to push you even if you are in a group ride. You need to be connected with whoever is leading. Just make sure that you are not late.”
What kind of practice is needed before I ride?
Learning the ropes of long-distance biking is done in the short daily trips you do within the bounds of your city. Teach yourself to stick to lanes, determine the right speed and when and how to overtake — all these are essential skills.
Riding regularly also helps you become proficient at staying in control of the bike when the traffic is high, or slow-moving. If you are aiming to get to the mountains, maneuvering the machine on upward and downward inclines is going to be crucial.
But before you down that road, says Kamath, “I encourage people to explore the Type B and C cities or towns or villages where there is so much to enjoy. You don’t have to go to Leh and Ladakh. Unless of course if you are looking at landscapes that are breathtakingly beautiful, but then, for that, you also need additional time at your disposal. Now, being a newbie, chances are that you may not be able to ride more than 200-300km a day, so you must be used to taking frequent stops to stretch your legs. Chances are high that you might doze off at your handlebar, so to avoid that kind of a situation, it's important to get enough rest."
Next week: Watch out for Part II