Two-wheelers Old and New

May 20, 2007
Ok, I know I’ve blogged about my “new” bike quite often already, but somehow I just can’t get enough of it. It’s just crossed its one-and-a-half year non-birthday, and at over 5500 km, it has averaged a little more than 10 km per day. Every day. I just got it serviced and tanked up and now it’s purring like new. It’s a vastly different riding experience from my previous two-wheeler, largely because it has an engine that’s twice the size and the power it generates is fantastic. After 5500 km, I still can’t get enough.

I never loved my previous two-wheeler, primarily because it was a Scooty. Ever since I became aware of such things, I’ve wanted to ride a big bike – and I mean BIG as in Harley Davidson, or perhaps one of the Kawasaki mean machines. As far as I’m concerned, every biker – those who really love to ride, as opposed to those who do it merely to get from point A to point B, which is actually a secondary by-product, if you ask me – every biker secretly dreams of a big bike. After all, biking is all about power, and power is all about size.

I started demurely enough with a Kinie when I had just passed my eighteenth milestone. I would have started earlier, except that there wasn’t a two-wheeler in our family and one had to be bought specifically in my name, which required me to be all of eighteen and not a day less. It was bought, after a great deal of talk and consideration, with a big chunk of my parents’ savings, and a small chunk of some money that had been put aside for my “education”. In those days, 25 K was a big deal, but, as far as I was concerned, education wasn’t.

Needless to say, I loved my Kinie. For a start, it was red. Red is absolutely the only colour for anyone who’s passionate about any vehicle. Not blue, not black, not yellow – it’s got to be a bright, blazing red.

Then, since it was a Kinetic, and in those days it was a Honda as well, it was an easy ride and required almost zero maintenance. Getting from my home, in Panchkula, to my college (GCG) in Chandigarh, a full tank would last me exactly a week. Other than tanking up weekly, I did practically zero maintenance on it and it worked well, despite me dropping it a couple of times when it was brand new (I seem to make a habit of that).

That Kinie gave me a great sense of freedom, independence, adulthood, “hep-ness” and all things good. I might have been the only girl in the whole of Chandigarh wearing a helmet (it was the only condition my parents laid on me when they bought it), and every other college girl (and guy) might laugh at me for it, but for me, if the price of riding a Kinie was wearing a helmet, I was ready to wear ten of them!

That red Kinie went with me from Chandigarh/Panchkula to Delhi and later to Bangalore. It saw me through my abortive attempt at college, my first few jobs as a journalist, and the early days of my married life. It took me to distant and unwholesome corners of Delhi (which has many distant and unwholesome corners) and saw with me many things that might have been better left unseen. Through sizzling heat, numbing cold, and drenching rain, it never let me down.

I was practically heartbroken when I sold that Kinie – at a throwaway price, too. I only did it because at the time I thought we were leaving the country for good. As it turned out, we were back in less than a year, and I needed another bike. That’s when I bought my Scooty.

I never loved my Scooty. For one, it was blue, and it didn’t even have the luxury of an electric start. But mostly I never loved it because it was a step in the wrong direction. If you want to ride a Harley, you don’t go from a Kinie to a Scooty. But, it was all we could afford at the time, and I rode it for six years, the longest time.

Buying my bike – my Unicorn, I mean – was a completely irrational, impulsive, indulgent decision. It isn’t a girl’s bike, it was too big and too heavy for me, and I didn’t even do a proper market survey of the other bikes in its category. I ruled out Pulsar purely because its tagline is “Definitely Male” (talk about irrational!), Yamaha and Hero Honda because they seemed staid (!) and didn’t even consider any of the others. I did the briefest of test rides, during which I managed not to drop the bike, and, still doubtful that I could really handle the beast, I signed away upwards of 60 K. By my standards – cautious, careful, sensible – it was a crazy thing to do.

Now, 5000-odd km down the road, it doesn’t seem quite so crazy. After all, riding the bike is a major incentive to go to office (!) especially when the traffic is not too maniacal. Oh, and my bike loves to go fast! The Scooty hated it. But my new bike, when I put it in second gear and crank up the throttle, zips off as though it’s got a train to race.

Of course, it’s not a maintenance-free bike – I’ve had a few small problems with it already; nor is it red. It could have been red, but my neighbour had a red one already, and I didn’t feel like being a copycat – a frivolous reason, considering that I don’t even see that bike around any more. But it just goes to show – colour doesn’t really matter.

Best of all, I finally sold my Scooty to a colleague and guess what – she loves it! She’s never had a two-wheeler before, and she doesn’t drive a car so it’s given her a huge degree of independence that she relishes. The other day she came up to me grinning and told me that the mechanic had adjusted a screw on the Scooty and now it was “the best Scooty ever!” – this for a rattletrap 7-year-old vehicle that needs servicing practically every month just to get her from home to office, a distance of about 2 km each way. But, the Scooty finally found an owner who loves it, and I finally got a bike I adore, so everyone’s happy.

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Bike-o-mania

December 27, 2005

img_1293_small.jpgI must confess that even after 350 km, I still get a daily thrill out of my new bike. It is just the thought of riding it – to tennis or to office – that makes me get out of bed in the morning with a measure of energy and enthusiasm.

One thing is clear after 350 km – riding a “guy’s bike” is not a question of physical strength or even of stature. Not really. Ok, you assume a certain minimum of both, but if you consider that I possess sufficient quantities of both, then obviously what’s required is a very nominal quantity indeed. What you need, really, is willingness: the intention, the determination, and the conviction that it can be done. And really, it can be done.

Ok, I know that I confessed to dropping it three times (and counting). But what the heck. You can’t learn anything worth learning without getting a few scrapes.

Anyway, my bike is the best. I took it for its first servicing on Saturday. At last, it has had its brake handle replaced, so it is whole now. Oh, and it’s shining again (I’m such a slob about cleaning it).

What I like best about my bike is… second gear! It’s really a fun gear. If you want to putter along slowly, you just slide into second gear and it purrs along with a deep, throaty, satisfied sound, like a big fat cat full of warm milk. In my office campus, there’s a speed limit of 15 kmph. (Yes, 15! Can you believe it?) I used to find it funny, all these big fancy vehicles crawling along at 20-25 kmph (nobody can really do 15) as though they’re in a procession or something. Now, I look forward to it. My bike loves it!

Then, when you’re out on Ring Road and speeding away from an intersection, you step into second and go, boy, go! The engine gives a subdued roar and the bike leaps forward like a race horse (and you know I know what I’m talking about, right?). The idiots in their fancy cars are left standing still. My bike loves this too!!!

:d

Ok, so I’m bike-mad. It’s good!


New Bike, Old Bike

December 11, 2005

My old bike is feeling neglected. It stands under the trees marking the car’s parking place and gets covered with leaves and dust like it’s always done. But now it feels neglected because the new bike, which is bigger, stronger, and shinier, is the one that stands close to the building, and gets taken out for a ride at every opportunity. Over the weekend, I parked the new bike next to the old bike under the tree. I’m sure they exchanged words. Now the new bike is equally dusty, but it still gets taken out for a ride and today it is going to be parked in the pride of place near the building again. Poor old bike, it’s going to have to remain resentfully under the trees, guarding the car parking space, while its former glory turns to rust.

My new bike is now three weeks old. It’s still only got 160 km on the odometer. But now I’m getting used to it. I no longer feel so shaky and I don’t have to spend all my energy concentrating on which gear I’m in. It’s almost become automatic to shift to a lower gear when I brake, and shift to a higher gear when the engine begins to pull. I don’t even have to really listen to the engine, I can just feel when it wants to move up.

It does feel good to ride a bike that has some power – after six years on my old bike. This fellow goes purring up to 50 without a thought and won’t allow me to use the fifth gear until I’ve exceeded that, which I very rarely do. My old bike use to struggle with all 60 cc of its engine, to hit 45, and then it would behave like a bucking bronco even on a relatively flat road.

Oh, and I’ve managed to keep my new bike on the vertical in the last few days. Wish me luck!

PS: My new bike is temporarily christened Bluebird, because it’s blue and it’s not a Thunderbird. I’m trying to think of a better name, but it might not happen.


I Bought a Honda Unicorn!

November 22, 2005

Why Unicorn?img_1293_small.jpgWell, I always wanted to ride a bike – I mean, a motorcycle, with all its steel and power. 150 cc seemed to be the way to go, because it might be able to take both of us – a formidable 150 kg combined! And besides, with bikes, bigger is always better. Of course, we should have gone for a 350 cc or bigger, but I thought we should work our way up to that, rather than jumping from a 60 cc Scooty straight into the big league.

The Unicorn came highly recommended. Apparently, it has a revolutionary approach to suspension, with a mono suspension instead of separate front and back suspension. It is more powerful than other bikes in its class, developing higher power at lower revs. That means you don’t have to change down to low gears so often, which is a good thing given Bangalore’s driving conditions.

Oh, and its ad line is “Real men never lose sight of their goal,” which is somewhat better than Pulsar, which is “definitely male”! (For more info on the Unicorn, check the Honda website: http://www.honda2wheelersindia.com/unicorn/ )

Besides, Unicorn had one particularly convincing review, which is not, strictly, relevant to me, but interesting to know anyway. If you want to know what on earth I am talking about, click this link: http://www.indiabike.com/readfeedback.asp?id=987836497&bc=010&model=Uni…

(Keep in mind that this feedback is not mine, nor of anyone I know, and I am not in a position to either confirm or refute it.)

So anyway, during my long sojourn in the Himalayas, I decided that it was so much fun to do the things that you really really want to do, that I decided I would finally be brave and buy a bike. I also had a little left over from my travel kitty – enough to buy a bike after a couple of months’ earnings and savings. Luckily for me, Amit was kind enough to spare me my meager savings and happily bought the bike for me.

Not knowing much about bikes, I didn’t do many test drives. I just rode the Unicorn, found that my feet would just about reach the ground, and decided that that was good enough to start with. Two days later, the bike was delivered home without incident. I immediately took it for a spin and, ambitiously trying a u-turn, dropped it. I got a few scratches on my elbow, and the Unicorn lost its brake lever. That seemed a good way to get to know each other better.

The next day, we finished the petrol and had to roll it down to the nearest petrol station. Amit said it was too low for him to roll it comfortably, so I did the hard work. Luckily, the nearest petrol bunk is only 200-300 m away from home. I got some strange looks as we rolled up at the petrol bunk, and after filling up, when I got on the bike to start it, several men hurriedly got out of the way (which was probably a smart thing to do).

The next day, I dropped it again, while parking it. There were extenuating circumstances (I thought I had lost my wallet and was rushing back panic-stricken to check if I had left it at home, which, thank goodness, I had!) but the fact remains that for the second time, the unicorn found itself resting ignominiously on its side.

I guess things can only get better. Today evening I will get its legally valid number plate, and tomorrow this mean machine is going to hit the road (hopefully in the vertical)!


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