6 Things Nobody Talks About Those '10 Roadtrips Every Biker Must Do'

So you read that '10 roads in India every biker should ride on' post on some travel site with beautiful pictures of bikes on road and scenic beauty of nature to get your mind going there already. May be you commented 'bhai let's do it' and tagged some of your friends in the comments section. Now you are ready to go. But the experience you expect, that Facebook DP with 200 Likes of your arms wide open on smooth and silent More Plains, or the world's highest motorable road selfie, is, wait for it...only a fraction of what you will experience on these 'road trips'. Off late I have seen many travel sites listing out some of the popular road trip destinations and encouraging us to get on the road and ride. That's great! But through this post I just want to bring out some very practical issues which you WILL experience and most importantly, these are some of the important things which nobody talks about these rides, or 'road trips' (for ZMND fans) and mostly only the visually/verbally good part is focussed upon. This is not a rant, but my attempt to give a reality check to all the 'bikers' in making.
1. Traffic
Such a common and most natural thing to expect, right? Let's talk about it. Say you plan to start you ride at 6am on a particular day and you assume you will take 4 hours to reach point B. Traffic is here to kill all your plans! I have found city exit traffic to be such a mess and cause a delay in my rides. And this happens most of times when I am entering back to Delhi/Gurgaon at the end of the ride too. This is a difficult and frustrating thing to take specially when you have ridden in heat and sun for the whole day and now traffic jam is here to make things worse when you already want to get home at the earliest. No, not every single minute spent on road is a 'blissful experience'. At times you just want to rest your ass in the comfort of your bed after a long day on road.
The traffic on highways can be bad too, if not as fucked up as city traffic. You will find some guys driving very rash and paying no attention to road etiquettes. This creates a risk to your safety on road. I have personally faced this, that if I overtake a car, it hurts their ego so bad and they begin of the Game of Overtakes. Let them go quietly. And on those occasions when you miss a bypass and enter inside a city by mistake, god bless you my friend, you just added a 20-30 min delay to your ride. This is bound to happen on roads being ridden for first time and if you are not good at reading signboards on highways. Oh and did I mention about the incoming bus drivers driving IN YOUR LANE and no, they don't care if you exist. Just look in your left rear view mirror, move aside and let them go, because they don't care and don't expect them to stay in their lanes and give you way.
Riding in hills is a different game altogether. You can't be a Marc Marquez here and go leaning on every corner, no matter how much fun and tempting it looks or sounds like. One- there are always assholes who do not stick to their lanes even on blind curves, thus creating a risk to your safety already. Two- Make sure to honk on all the blind curves on hills, while slowing down at it. Three- Follow traffic ettiquetes, which includes giving way to incoming (uphill) traffic and waiting for the other guy to pass in case he uses the dipper flash before you do. What? You don't use the dipper at all? Please start using it, it suprisingly works sometimes when the sound of the horn fails to reach them. And lastly- absolutely no overtaking on curves!
Special mention to riding behind a bus or truck in a slow traffic zone and there is absolutely no space to ovetake. In such times, it really helps if there's interesting quotes written on their back. Out of many such quotes, I remember "Dum hai toh pass kar". It doesn't matter if you ride a Splendor or a Tiger, dum hai toh pass kar? (overtake if you got guts?!)

2. Problems in Bike
Technical, mechanical, whatever you call it, you have to know your bike to know its limits and how much you can push with it. Without the reliability factor its bound to fail on your expectations at some point in time. Simple problems like puncture, cables breaking etc. become big problems when you are riding to remote places and there is no sign of mechanics or help around. Kudos to you if you can fix it yourself, more respect if you can fix a puncture of a tubeless tyre. But just dreaming about a destination and hopping on your bike is not recommended without giving a good check to your bike. And carry tools and recommended spares with you, spend time with your mechanic/at service center to understand fixing basic problems which your bike might encounter.
So please keep this factor in mind while planning for your dream rides. You are also likely to run out of petrol on your long rides so you should have the solutions for this already sorted.

3. Weather
Are you really prepared for it? You are riding to an amazing and beautiful hill station, great. But you will not experience the mountain chill and pleasant weather until you actually reach there. Summers, you will face killing heat and winters the chilling cold.
Is your gear good enough to handle the weather? Oh the rains, our uninvited friend. Riding in rains can be fun sometimes when you do it for the heck of it. Otherwise it just slows you down, creates more risk on road in terms of braking and slippery roads etc. Waterproof gear will protect you from it to some extent. But ride for long when its pouring and at times in reduced visibility, its not advisable with respect to safety. I don't think we are trying to prove anything to anyone here by riding in difficult conditions. No one is going to give you a 'rode in rain' certificate here. Also, fog inside your helmet due to breathing creates visibility issues in such conditions. Know how to deal with it on road.
Freezing fingers/toes because your gloves and boots are not warm enough can drastically affect your pace and ride quality. Fingers go completely numb on a cold day in high altitude regions and you end up baking your hands on the exhaust pipes/cylinder heads. Invest in good gear and probably specifically for winter conditions.

4. Health Problems/Body Issues
Top of the mind thought on this, AMS. There are several blogs online which you can read and they will tell you how to deal with it. Apart from that, your body can react to the weather give you fever or cold. Sometimes it can get worse. I personally know cases in which the rider had to be lifted/returned back because his body was unable to take the AMS, so it can be bad. Take good precautions for this and stay fit. You can try treating basic problems with medications which you MUST carry ALWAYS. If not for yourself, they will be used for someone else if required. Also it would be very useful if you attend a basic course in first aid.

Skin tan- Those who go touring a lot will relate to this. You have your helmet, shades, balaclava, jacket and what not, but spend few days riding like this in mountain areas and at the end of day we get contrasting color schemes around our eyes and on our face, and even skin burns. You can try minimizing this by using proper sunscreen protection etc. After all, nobody wants to look like a ghost after they return back from their rides or with a face that your family refuses to recognize.
Body pain- Longer the distance you ride, more the probability of body pain, specially in your back and in your bum. People think that Royal Enfields are very comfortable for long distance touring but our Indian roads and specially the 'no' road regions in mountains can prove them wrong. In case you fall you need all your strength to lift that heavy bike and you might pull a nerve or two. I am not even talking about doing this at a high altitude when you are already running out of breath.
I tour a lot on my Duke 390. Its a great bike for long distance touring in some aspects, but very bad when it comes to the seat. After 250km or so there is this terrible pain in the bum and around the thighs. I have tried many measures to fix this. Soft foam under seat, used cycling shorts with gel padding, but I realized all these measures will just increase the range of no pain zone probably, after that its the same old story. So in such times I have to take frequent breaks to relieve my legs off the stress and accumulating pain. As the title of this post goes, I'm just sharing all this because you will not hear anybody talking about these things, or read about it online when it comes to touring on a bike.
Having said this, the ability to take the ride-pain is very subjective from person to person, and of course it depends on the bike you are riding. Person X can go 200km without a break on Y terrain, does not mean that you have to do it too and there is nothing amazing about it. Point is to realize your limit, and of your bike and take the breaks accordingly as your body reacts. There is no hard and fast rule here.

5. Importance of drinking water:
We almost forget this, staying hydrated on a ride.Specially in summers when you are bound to feel thirsty frequently on road, keeping a steady flow of water supply to the body will maintain your energy level and will keep you sane. I am not going in the scientific part of this and for that you can obviously Google the shit. I just want to bring out the importance of drinking water. Couple it with keeping some energy bars in your pockets to get the quick shot of carbs and energy. Try to get a hydration pack and you don't need to worry about running out of water on that remote stretch, yes, get ride of that bottle.

6. Handling Luggage:
Those long rides require hell lot of planning and packing. Making lists of stuff you have to buy including gear, clothes, medicines, equipments, spares. Then it comes to stuffing them all in those saddle bags. Then there is of course this category of 'Ladakh carriers' which look very funny to me for some reason. On a long ride, do you ever wonder and consider the time to pack, unpack, tying the bags on the bike, removing it at the end of day? Whether you carry your frequently used items separately in a tankbag and clothes etc. in the main saddle bags, the complete process of packing and mounting the bags on bike can take anywhere between 20-30 min. Not to mention getting the right setting with those bungee cords is quiet a task. Not even getting to the point of bags losing balance during the ride, that Ladakh carrier giving up on the bad stretches of high altitude passes and sometimes even falling too. So please don't be this guy:
(Image source)
or this one (image source):
Pack smartly, travel light but do not ditch the important stuff. Get proper luggage solutions from websites like Viaterra etc. which are good quality stuff and easy to mount and unmount.

Hope this post helps in bringing out some reality check to the beginners. If you have read this post till this point, do let me know your views in the comments and share it with friends who are planning that long ride for the first time.
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