“You’re mad!” is the first thing I heard when I told a friend of mine that I was planning to ride down home for Christmas. Alone. “You do know that Indian roads are unsafe and riding along 500 odd kms in one day on your bike is stupid, don’t you?”. I silently nodded my head. “What’s the longest distance you have ever ridden alone?” “A couple of hundred kms” I mumbled. “You will have to speak louder, did you say 200 kms?” asked my by now agitated friend. “So from a maximum of 200 kms you want to do 550 kms. What if something happens on the way? Can you fix any major issues on your bike? So why can’t you just hop on a train and go home instead of being an idiot and riding all day?”
To be honest, I didn’t really have any answers that day and if memory serves me right, I quickly made up some excuse and scampered out of there before my friend started shouting. One of those feet don’t fail me now moments in life. Now that I’ve done the same solo trip twice I think I might have some answers that are listed below in no particular order.
1. The chance to set your alarm for some ridiculously early hour.
Like most normal people, I enjoy my sleep. There’s nothing more enjoyable than waking up on a weekend, realizing that its the weekend and going back to sleep for another couple of hours. Which means that Ive never had to set my alarm for 4 AM. Just like I’ve never had to pick up the phone & dial the queen. Since I always prefer setting out for rides early in the morning (to beat the heat & the traffic) I do get the once in a bluemoon chance to wake up at the same time as when I usually go to sleep on a friday night. Come to think of it, it would be pretty interesting to give the queen a call & ask her whats up?
2. The chance to go on an insect killing spree.
Ever wondered what it must be like to run as fast as your legs can take you and suddenly find a wall in front of you? Maybe you should ask all the insects that you will find plastered on your helmet visor if they aren’t in insect heaven already. You can almost hear the words from that very popular video game ringing in your head – “Killing Spree!” as you take off your helmet and look at your polka dotted visor. Unlike the video game, here you really do have blood on your hands or rather .5 ml of insect blood on your helmet.
Depending on your luck (or rather, lack of it) you just might bump into something larger than an insect. Recently I almost headbutted a low flying eagle while doing close to a ton. Had that face to face encounter happened I might have been lying spread eagle (no pun intended) in the middle of the highway.
3. The chance to be instantly popular.
Try doing a solo long distance ride during holiday season and you are bound to find yourself riding with countless other families safely ensconced in the comfort of their cars. So much for the joy of riding alone. Anyways since family cars (distinctly different from cabs ferrying families) prefer to be slow and steady, you end up overtaking them on the road and they in turn overtake you while you’re on a butt break. The first time they pass you as you are busy trying to revive blood circulation in your posterior, they stare at you while probably thinking that you’re stark raving mad to be riding alone and even more nuts to be standing on a national highway & rubbing your rear end. The second time they pass you, they point excitedly like they’ve just spotted the abominable snowman. The third time they spot you, the kids are so thrilled that I’m scared one day one of them will jump up in excitement and bang his head on the roof of the car. If you’re lucky, people will take snaps of you as well. Like the paparazzi. Enough to make you feel like a celebrity. Even if it is only for a few seconds.
4. The chance to feel more alive in 5 minutes than you have in the last 5 weeks.
If it seems that work and the monotony of your day to day existence has smothered you into kingdom boredom, then a long highway ride is what you need. Preferrably a highway that includes (to borrow a line from Sabu) homicidal, suicidal and genocidal bus drivers. Like the ones in Coimbatore. Trust me, there’s nothing like seeing a fully loaded bus trying to overtake a slow moving lorry approaching you from the opposite side of a narrow 2 lane highway & then realising that the bus is not going to be able to overtake the lorry & doesn’t have any intention of making way for you either. Suddenly you’re less than 50 feet away from meeting your maker & your brain bursts into frenetic activity as you search for escape routes. A little offroading, a mild dose of abuses & a lot of heart pounding later, you’re relieved to be in 1 piece and suddenly the road seems enticing again.
5. The chance to discover new personal favorites.
Think about it, do you have a favourite bus stop? I do, its one nearly 60 kms from Bangalore where I usually take my first pit stop. Why favourite you ask? There was this one time when I was taking some pictures while resting at this bus stop when I realised that there was a nearly naked old man wandering about the fields oblivious to the fact that I had unfortunately and inadvertently photographed his bottom in all its glory. Each time I pass the bus stop I get a bout of the heebie jeebies but cant help but smile as I think of the horror that rang through my mind as I looked at the picture on my camera.
Or take this hill for example that is around 150 odd kms from Bangalore. I don’t know what it is about this but every time I ride past I have to stop, gaze at it fondly, take a snap and ride on with a grin on my face. Trust me, I have no clue why this happens.
6. The chance to turn the tide of a conversation with a woman you have just met.
Ok so you’re at a friends place and you’ve just been introduced to an interesting woman and predictably the conversation is going nowhere. This would be the perfect time for your common friend to pop in, make some light hearted comments and mention that you’re a nut because you’ve just ridden 500 kms alone. In these modern times, men do not have a chance to go hunt lions and carry them back on their shoulders or brave impossible odds and throw a ring into a volcano. Somewhere along the way, doing crazy distances on a bike while riding alone became accepted by women as a modern day feat of bravery. It’s obvious that in an instant you have been upgraded from “Oh, he seems nice” to “Hmm interesting”.
The key to getting into the “Very interesting” category lies in modesty & humour. For example, when she asks you “Isnt it difficult to ride such a long distance alone?” you’re not supposed to answer “I’m at expert at biking and I can do long distances in super short time because of my excellent riding skills & my physical endurance ….”. Instead joke about how dumb you are to have done the ride. Dismissing your riding feats like they were nothing is the easiest way to get a woman to add you on Facebook and get her phone number as well.
7. The chance to get new desktop wallpapers – clicked by you!
With their crazy schedules and balancing work, friends and family, the closest most people get to experiencing nature’s grandeur is through their desktop wallpapers. You surely don’t want to be one of those kinds now do you? Enough said.
Frankly you could have your own top 10 reasons for why you want to head out and explore our country (or ride home) on 2 wheels. So stop listening to your friends, do your travel planning, gear up and hit the roads. Unless, of course, one of your reasons is “I’m mad!”