Friday 8 May 2015

Packing For A Weekend Solo Trip

An impromptu video recording, while I was packing for a solo motorcycle trip for a long weekend. Made the recorded clips into this video and hope it to be of help to new long-distance riders to identify and pack the essential items for their rides. A bit of dubstep was thrown in, to make it as much fun to watch as I personally had while making this video. Enjoy!!

Here is the summarised version of my checklist:-

1. Toolkit for motorcycle and wheel/ tire removal (e.g. tire iron, valve remover, patch stickers, etc)
2. Motorcycle Spares (e.g. headlight/break-light/indicator bulbs, extra tube, spark plug, clutch and throttle wire, fuses, electric insulation tape, a small torch/flash-light, engine oil (if old RE models
3. Air Compressor (e.g. Electrical, hand pump, foot/pedal pump, etc)
4. Good quality multi-tool (e.g. Leatherman, Gerber, Swiss Army, etc)
5. Bungee cords (either 2 simple ones or 1 X-shaped), for the luggage/emergency scenarios
6. First-aid Kit, hydration solutions (e.g. ORS, etc), and prescription medicines (if any)
7. Photocopies of documents (e.g. Driving License, Vehicle Registration, Emission Certificate, etc)
8. Toiletries, sunscreen, and a pack of wet tissues
9. Clothes for on/off the bike use
10. Climate-specific clothing (i.e. Rain gear, Thermals, etc) based on the weather and climate of the region of the ride
11. Gadgets: cellphone, camera, spare batteries, earphones/headsets, charging cables, etc (If the cellphone is used as GPS, keep a spare charging cable)
12. Water in bottles/hydration pack
13. Energy/Nutrition bars, energy drinks, chocolates, or other snacks [Optional]

Few points to remember while stuffing your things in the saddlebags. If you are like me and enjoy cornering and leaning on, in the twisties, then the bike must be well-balanced at all times, especially with the luggage tied to it.

A bike without luggage is well-balanced for the most part and is aerodynamic to some extent. However, when we add things like big saddlebags full of stuff or even a tank bag, we are not only affecting the center of gravity of the motorcycle but also changing the vehicle's dynamics. Without going too much into technical details (like the direction of shift of the center of gravity, aerodynamics, etc), if you ensure the following things, you would be just fine:

1. Keep heavier items (e.g. tools, spares, filled water bottles, Engine oil bottles, foot pump, etc) as low in the saddlebag as possible and split evenly into both sides.

2. Keep heavier items towards the center of the bike (i.e. towards the bike/wheel instead of outwards) as much as possible.

3. If you use a tank bag along with saddlebags, then it's a good idea to keep frequently accessed items (e.g. Camera, sunglasses, spare gloves, small towel, tissues, the mobile charging cable in case you have a charging point on your bike, etc) in it. This will help you avoid opening and shuffling items inside your neatly organized saddlebags, while on the road.

4. Ensure that the saddlebag and tank bag are completely secure and firmly tied to the motorcycle and there is no possible play when the bike leans to the sides or pushes up or down on suspension. Also, you wouldn't want the belts/buckles to get into the motorcycle spokes/alloys when you are rolling, that would be dangerous. So make sure there are no loose ends. If required use additional bungee cords to secure the bags on the motorcycle.

5. Try not to let your saddlebags bulge too much laterally, as that may touch other vehicles while maneuvering through tight spaces and especially in the traffic in cities in India. If you slot in the items smartly, the shape of the saddlebags will remain symmetrical (rectangular) in shape from top to bottom. Use the compression straps on the saddlebags to tighten them, after you have put them on the motorcycle.

6. Double-check your bag setup from time to time for your peace of mind and safety. Be attentive to any change in the handling after every sixty to hundred kilometers or so, as something might have come loose. If you get such a feeling, slow down, pull over to the side into a safe spot, and do your check. Tighten any strap/cords as necessary and then continue with your journey.

Hope these tips save you time and keep you safe on the road so that you can focus on enjoying your rides.

Now lastly, I am not an expert. The tips and tricks shared above come from my limited experience of riding my motorcycle. Every single day, I too am learning something new about packing and motorcycling in general. So if you have any suggestions for me as a fellow rider, or want to discuss something, or have any questions on this post, feel free to leave a comment below. I shall get back to you as soon as possible.

Until then.

Ride Safe & Ride Far,


Tuesday 5 May 2015

My (almost) Solo Trip to Valparai

Howdy Riders/Readers/Viewers,

It's been some time since I went out on a solo trip. So I had been thinking for a while and was waiting for an opportunity to do one. The May 1st holiday just before the weekend offered exactly that and who am I to say no to riding ?!! ;) However, a friend was eager to join as a pillion, so took him along on days 2 and 3. I really would love to sit and write about the experience of being on my own on an open road, but maybe some other time. For now, let the pictures take you through the journey. Hope you like it.

Wait for a second. Some of you might appreciate a summary of the distance covered, the time it took, fuel consumed, etc, etc and not much into reading texts and watching pics (Really?!?). For them here are some rough* stats:

Total Distance Covered: 1300 km (including detours and roaming around, etc)
4 Day ride split up      : 389 + 196 + 184 + 366 (distance shown on google map, between points)
No of days                  : 4
Fuel consumed            : 35 litres of petrol
Average Fuel Economy : 35 km/ltr
Average Riding Speeds on-
Highways                    : 85 km/h
Mountains                   : 40 km/h

Food                           : 1200 INR (appx 300 per day)
Fuel                            : 2700 INR (Petrol rates vary a bit across states, so this is a rough figure)

Accommodation           : 

800 INR for the non-ac room we found near Periyar at night. In Coimbatore stay at home and in Anaikatti stay at the resort, both were taken care of by my friend Shiva. Thanks a bunch, buddy for the food and it was a great time I had with your family.

Breakdowns (if any)     : 

Nothing really. A wire came loose and was touching the rear wheel during ghat roads, so tidied it up with electric tape and then it was all good.

Lessons Learnt            : 

* Mountain roads too may close for the night, so do enquire when on a tight riding schedule. The best still, is not to have a tight riding schedule ;) 

* Don't miss out on small things on the way which might be more fun than you might have assumed. E.g. morning bath in the river in our case :)

* Check and correct tire pressure for the vehicle load (with/without pillion/luggage) while riding in the twisties

* Keep the bike tanked up always and keep cash (not only card) when riding

Day 1 : Bangalore > Hosur > Krishnagiri > Dharmapuri > Salem > Erode > Coimbatore (break/rest/lunch) > Anaikatti

 Ride route map for the first day

Leaving the concrete jungle via Electronic City road at morning 5:30.

One of my favorite experiences is always, sunrise on the horizon :)

It is always exciting to get a glimpse of mountains, while still being on the plane. Just the mere thought of being on those ghats excites me.

Taking a break on a beautiful morning next to a beautiful road. Too much beauty, ain't it :D

Two different generations of the breed.

One of the most dangerous patches of roads with sharp curves is a collection of crashed vehicle parts. Here the whole car is still lying abandoned. Initially, I didn't give much heed to the warning sign, but after seeing the numerous vehicle parts on the roadside, I slowed down to a safer speed.

I was getting a bit drowsy, so took a break here to have an energy drink.

Day 2 : Anaikatti > Coimbatore > Palakkad > Chalakudy > Pariyaram (Athirappilly Falls Road)

Ride route map for day 2

Two up, started late in the mid-day sun, of Tamilnadu Summer. The view of those misty mountains helped me feel good, despite the heat.

Tea break! I was so happy to find a shade for my steed. Actually, between Bangalore and Coimbatore, it's kinda rare to find some shade to take a break, solely due to the service roads being on both sides of the highway.

Finally reached Chalakudy. Inquired about the route to Valparai as my mobile data connection was very slow.

Sun went down and still had a long way to go.

The plan was to take shelter in Valparai at night. But when we reached the Kerala checkpost in Periyar (near Athirappilly Falls), we got to know, that the mountain road has been closed at 6pm for vehicles (both cars and bikes) and will only open the next day morning at 6am. This was a shocker, as I had plans to be back in Bangalore by Sunday night. Staying back for that night means I had to ride around 525 km the next day, which wasn't a good idea, considering out of that total distance, around 100 km is mountain roads. First of all, it's not safe to ride fast on the twisties, secondly what is the point of riding fast through such beautiful roads when that's what I have come all this way to enjoy. So that night was long and I decided to add another day and have some fun on the way. Glad I took that decision and we actually had more fun the next day, as we had a lot of time to spare and no rush. The non-ac room we could find at the last minute was a bad idea due to the hot and humid climate but the morning shower in the river more than made up for it:) Had we not been stuck on this road at night, we would have totally missed it.

Day 3: Pariyaram (Athirappilly Falls Road) > Valparai > Polachi > Coimbatore

Ride route map for day 3

Morning surprise! Got to know about the Chalakudy river being very close to the hotel.

We took a lavish shower here and enjoyed the flowing water on the rocky bed. It was way better than a bathtub, or wait, it was actually the best-of-its-kind natural jacuzzi. Really!!

Locals taking bath

The beautiful 'Athirappilly Water Falls

After this fall the Chalakudy river continues down streams and finally meets the 'Periyar River' after 50 KMs.

Left the luggage in the hotel for a ride around the place

This route is simply beautiful with such lush green trees, it's so shaded even in the mid of summer.

I could never have had enough of this view.

Some of the not-so-twisty stretches of the 'Athirappilly Water Falls Road'

Not famous, but there are many other tiny falls we came across on the way toward Valparai

Like this one!

Shiva munching on some cashew on a break.

It was a bit hard to believe the greenery, despite the hot and humid weather.

A landslide of sorts had the road damaged. Repairing work going on as seen in this picture.

Just after crossing the Tamilnadu check post, suddenly the view around changed and we got to see the mountains covered with tea plantations.

Sholayar Dam in the background

Roads surface in this stretch was a bit rough, but still manageable.

The 'T' junction is on the way. 

Right we go !!

Can you see the woodpecker duo doing some headbanging on that tree?!! :)

Trust me, I live for such scenic views! No words!!!

My bull basking in the beauty, that this terrain had to offer.

It's always the arguable detours, which always led me to the best of views. This was no exception. See the next photo to know what I mean:)

This place was beautiful. We sat here for some time. As sunlight was fading away fast and we still had miles to cover before the night, we decided to come back to the main road and continue with the descent.

Shiva was in the mood to shoot and we (me and my steed) got a chance to pose together :) Am not complaining at all ;)

While leaving Valparai, the mountain roads and the view just start getting exotic.

The scenery was just breathtaking.

Notice the snaky road we rode through, total bliss if you love twisties.

While entering Coimbatore local festival was going on to celebrate the 'full moon'.

Thanks to the bike for reminding me to switch to reserve. This made us stop and chanced upon a few moments of the cart festival happening there.

Day 4: Coimbatore > Bangalore (same route as Day 1)

It's hard to find shade on the highway side in TN. These bus stops could come in handy at such times.

Took a break, and had water to stay hydrated.

Taking a break on the way back to Bangalore

Some hills on the way like this one, do look interesting.

Just checking out my bike's road presence at night. Reflectors doing a good job of keeping me visible on the highway. Still, it could do better with some more reflective stickers.

The last 100 till home.

The return trip was a bit boring initially, as the thought of being back in the office after such a great weekend of riding, wasn't all that exciting. Hey am just being honest here, so don't quote me for this one. Still, I wouldn't be traveling so much if I wouldn't know how to change my mood for the better. A good playlist on my headset and opened up the cruising foot pegs, that did the trick. It was a new ride am in, which took me across 350kms, right back to my doorstep. This was a long day and a hell of a long weekend. The moment I got to the bed I was so tired, yet so happy having enjoyed my time on the saddle. I am simply grateful that I get to do things I love and wish the same for you too.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?" 
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to." 
"I don't much care where –" 
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.” 

[~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland]

Hope you enjoyed this journey.

Ride Safe and Ride Far,