Wings on wheels

It has been close to a year now since I bought my motorcycle. Some pics are here: The Man, the Machine. But just those stationary pics do not tell the full story of having a motorcycle. The swings, the cuts, the 12 second planning ahead and the coolness factor. Yup, you guessed it right - this post will be my own "motorcycle diaries" :)

First of all, there is a difference between riding a bike here and in India. Most people in India learn to ride the bike before the car (and so did I). Naturally, most people get the motorcycle or two-wheeler driving license way before the car driving license. In the US, though, only a percentage of people who have driving license (which is almost everyone) have the permit to ride a motorcycle. Now, why is that? Availability, safety and usability of cars are the primary reason, I think. Tons of cars are in circulation and you will find a car dealership within 10 miles of any random place (I mean, inside a city or town) you pick. Cars are way safer than motorcycles on these roads. When you are going at 100-120 kmph (the "official" speed limit on highways), it definitely helps to have a cage around yourself with airbags and all. And finally, the usability: when you wish to get groceries from the market, our style of stacking up the jhola behind two legs in the scooter doesn't work... you will definitely get caught by a cop. Also, by comparison, fuel is cheaper (and I mean literally even if you compare the direct price comparison of dollars into rupees). Roughly, one liter of 87-octane fuel is about Rs. 37 here (3 * 47 / 3.875).

So, owning a bike immediately sends you into an elite smaller class of the population. And then there are bikes and there are bikes. The one I have: Suzuki SV650, is actually one of the beginner bikes. I know, I am saying that my bike has an only 650 cc engine (Maruti 800 runs at 800cc), but you ought to listen to the Harley Davidsons and Hayabusa-s with 1100 or 1400 cc engines to know what a roar of a bike can be. :D And how does this translate into the powering and acceleration of the bike? Well, on mine, I get from 0-60 mph (that is approximately 100 kmph) in about 4 seconds and 0-100 mph (about 160 kmph) in 10 seconds :D (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suzuki_SV650#Specifications). Oh the thrill of literally blasting ahead when a traffic signal turns green :) :)

Actually, there is more to it than just the signal turning green. Generally, people do not try to squeeze in a third car at a traffic signal when there are just two lanes marked. People will wait for long (and I mean as long as it takes) for their turn to come before they go through a signal. On a bike, on the other hand, lane-splitting is legal. Which means you can go between two cars  even when there are just two lanes(within a margin of safety, of course). What this translates into, of course, is that when there is a traffic jam on a road or a highway is blocked during peak-hours traffic with people going at 10 mph through a 65 mph limit highway, on the bike you can roughly zoom across them at about 45 mph. I wish there was also a microphone attached to my helmet when I could laugh at the cars as I went past them. :D :D

And then the process of acclimatizing yourself with the bike is a whole different story. Initially, managing a 160 kg bike is a problem - especially if it has tipped over a little too much. And then, going into a turn, you're not sure what is the maximum speed you can take. So I began slow; very cautious and slow: I would slow down to 5 mph from 40 and then zoom back up there. And then, like a friend, the trust grew more. That much extra lean into the turn, that much extra speed of the turn, the right line, the right visual accuracy. I started taking that old 5 mph turn at 25 mph - and yeah it works! In the coaching classes here, one of the big lessons is "look where you want to go". This means that even if you are leaned at 45 degrees due to a turn, if you are staring at the pavement ahead, that is where you'll land up sliding. Instead, if you are focusing on the road at a distance and scanning for the next car about to jump into your lane already - you will get safely out of the curve. And boy does it feel good to execute a tight turn at the right speed and turn - the elevation shift of the view as the head goes more and more towards the asphalt when you are leaning is a thrill of a lifetime, and equally satisfying when you have gone through it perfectly.

So finally, how is it to drive the bike in normal traffic? If I were to choose one word, it would be "freedom". The spectacular view through the helmet of the scenery all around. The stares you draw when you come to an intersection and do a little vroom vroom before taking off again. The air you feel flowing past you when the bike is zooming at80 mph. It all makes it worth it. Each time you gun the power, you can sing, "Up, up and away!"


Comments

  1. Oooooh HOW i could love to do that.. I am a bit of sucker for bikes to .. which one you got .. I had a bandit.. and I imported the APNA INDIAN .. yeh bullet meri jaan , manzilon ka nishaan.. :) still got the bullet, Thinking of buying a new one Dont know which one.. any suggestions.

    Good Article though loved it .. brought memories when we drove from Chandigarh to Mumbai on our bike .. thouhg we cud not make it .. trip finished in ahmedabad.. But fond memories :)

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  2. yeh you should go on bike trip with your friends, nothing more fun than tht

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  3. Bikram, thanks, mate! :) And welcome onboard.

    Uncommon Sense, thanks! And welcome aboard. Thanks for the reminder - I'll hack up something during the vacation :)

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