A mild rain sharp shoots my eyes through the air-vent of my Vega helmet. Its not supposed to happen, but Vega hasn’t met the Indian God of Rains. The headwind is slipping on my raincoat and creating whirlpools for the rider behind me who dashes the thermal ferociously. Baby Blue is doing 80kmph; as smooth as a hot knife through a brick of butter. The tarmac called NH4 is wet, slippery and painfully shy of touching rubber. Baby Blue carves grooves on the road as she goes. The sound between my legs at the juncture of my thighs vibrates, like the cough of a volcano. A regular staccato cough that lulls all civilized thinking. I soon slip into a comfort zone.
Son: Dad, why are you buying a bike? That too a Royal Enfield?
Father: That’s cause I want to complete my childhood, er teenhood, er young adulthood, Robinhood, whatever….whats it to you?
Son: Chill….Its inspiring. Awesome. I’m proud of you. Uh, have you made your will?
Father: Oh stop psyching me. I have made up mind. I need that bike my generation grew up with. The ultimate sign of middle class respect, when middle class meant family values, not an income grade.
Son: I get it. As I said, I am real proud of you. Have you got medical insurance?
Father: Get lost…Yes I have a med-cover. Listen son. It’s real simple. There’s a big chance that I may fall off the bike. If I do, it’s game over. But if I don’t? Imagine riding on a Royal Enfield Classic 500!!! I will beat the shit of my ageing process and I will get to create the life I want to see.
Son: Good luck Dad. And please keep the bike in good shape for me…..
A ride marshal pilots me back into inline tracking behind Position No. 3 as I had drifted two feet away towards the center of my lane. Oh hell. I steer left and tail the biker I am following. The Marshall vanishes, with video game predictability. We approach a tunnel. The howl of 16 powerful Royal Enfields all spread over a single file spaced out in a one Km track with their headlights and tail lights on is a visual of the banshees jetting through hell with fire on their tail. The tunnel vibrates and challenges creation. A mild rumbling starts a small avalanche overhead as The Bisons enter the tunnel.
Earlier at Bachoo Motors a bike accesory shop.
Someone: Hey, arent you Aditya? Hi I am Sheldon, we met at the Wedding Café…
Me: Yup. Hi Sheldon. What are you doing here?
Sheldon: I am a biker, but what are you doing here.
Me: Well, I have booked a bike and am having a look at the gear.
Sheldon: Wow, great news and when you do get your bike give me a shout and I will intoduce you to my biking club. Its called Bisons Ride Hard.
A chill comes over me. Some premonition of a future DNA game-changing procedure.
Me: Sure thing Sheldon, what a surprise meeting you here.
Sheldon: Yes Aditya its destiny on two wheels. It’s called adventure.
The chill stays as Sheldon leaves. I run away, with Bachoo Motors wondering what happened.
We shoot out of the 16 headlight jet black tunnel like a Bullet out of a gun. There’s sun on the other side and the rain has lost the toss. Position three is signaling me to keep up. I do and note that I am now at 103kmph……yeeeeeeehahahahahha. This is the equivalent of Shammi Kapoor saying Yahoo.
Paaji: “Aditya you will ride at no. 4. Which means you have to stay behind three. Ok guys, saddle up. We leave Panvel in 5.”
Then the Captain counted the noses and bikes and gave a formal talk and opened the ride. Every ride has a Captain. Wow!
Everyone gets to their bikes. They ride to their positions and in a single file they bike out to the Khandala Ghats. My ride to my future has begun. Its 6.45am. I have been up since 4 am, leaving my house at 5am to reach Panvel at 6.30am. 20 bikers had booked for the ride and 16 turned up with 4 pillions. The ride was captained by Sam – Ashvamegh – Bhagata. All of these words are his callsign! He has set up this ride and he calls the shots. A list of rules had been mailed to me two weeks in advance. One of them is that you can die but you can’t overtake the Captain. He sets the speed and tempo of the ride and steers clear of two fingers.
On the Ghat I realised that I am taking turns very cautiously and all are overtaking me as I am breaking the tempo. I try to speed up. When this happens more often, I get upgraded to the headmasters list. A Divine Bullet sides up with me and that’s driven by God Himself. It’s Gurinder Paaji, The Founder of Bisons Ride Hard. He matches my speed and comforts me with a smile and urges me forward. I begin to see why he is revered. He takes control of your life on the road and gives you his instead. I speed up. He vanishes. There are 3 other new riders as well and surely he is attending to them, on the road, in live action mode!
We reached Dehu road. A Vada Pav stop with steaming tea brings me back to my senses.
There is a thumping noise in my head that refuses to stop. I am not on my bike. It’s the post ride bike vibe that’s now shortly turning into a professional percussion instrument. I look at the riders and see the gear they are wearing.
While all are heroes surely, for this is a unique hobby, none dress like typical heroes. All have sensible biking gear donned on; kneecaps, elbow guards, knuckle protected gloves, waterproof and spine protected jackets that reflect in the dark, full face helmets…so on so forth. They are exchanging stories of the earlier rides and I am getting my health back.
Twenty minutes and a pee-in-the-wild-later, we leave.
Son: My bike is called Talon. What’s yours?
Father: I like the color and the RE guys call it Teal green. I think its turquoise. So I am going to call it Baby Blue!
Son: Isn’t that a girlish name?
Father: Guys like girls, son. You need to get married.
Position no. 3 is signaling two fingers up. Either he is rude or wants to crap. We are doing 100 kmph and I wonder what’s up. Soon I see a herd of buffaloes on the side of the road and No.3 reduces my speed with a gentle wave of the hand. The two fingers were for a horn alert. Wow! Who needs to talk after this? I really wonder how they leave their hands to communicate at this speed, when all parts of my body were glued to the bike. I guess I will learn this responsibly. The ghats of Satara were picturesque and soon we entered Satara city and then went into an off-road mode to get to our night halt, a lodge on the side of the hill, overlooking a valley.
The mist rolled in to greet us as we dismounted and I walked to my room in the same position as I was sitting. I still had to learn Motorcycle yoga on the way back.
A quick lunch, ordered by Sam and a short rest and we saddled up to get to the Kaas Plateau. I would have been happy to turn back to home from here, as the view was really great. I didn’t tell this to anybody.
We rode in the same formation to the plateau and took some group pictures against a breathtaking view of the valley, a lake and eternity.
Someone pointed at the lake and all decided to ride there. Along with us came the mist and rain. We couldn’t see the single path, off-off-road. I was beyond nervous, there were inclines and declines. Steep. Two way traffic. Buses as well.
The hazard lights of the bikes ahead were like runway landing lights. It all looked so awesome. This was biker’s haven. The roar of the Bisons challenged the mist and we heard and followed.
The lake was pretty when the mist rolled of it. Someone wanted to take a dip in it as well. I was ready with an excuse. No one dipped. We rode back in silence. The off road was easier as the rider in front of me had taught me how to turn and ride. All I had to do was watch. It’s a learning class-in-action.
As we came to the Hotel gate, my main fuse blew and Baby Blue stalled. So I entered the gate, footing the bike down a decline, braking through the front disc brake wheel and sure enough I got a shout from Paaji. He told me to use the rear drum brake. He stood in front of me to catch me if I couldn’t handle the shift from front to rear. He put his life in front of mine. This man has guts. A short lecture followed and I learnt my first lesson. I quickly changed the fuse. The guys thought I wouldn’t know how…city slicker….chikna hai…etc. Since I had a similar incident earlier on a solo to Lonavla, I had passed that milestone. I opened my plastic pouch within a plastic pouch. All gathered around me to see as in an Indiana Jones movie. I had 6 spare fuses. The word went around, this guy has lots of spare fuses. Just as well, I had to repeat this activity twice more.
We rested a bit and then gathered around a table to chat together. Everyone introduced themselves and after short career talks, bike ride talks took the lead. Four lady pillion riders who had been with us from Mumbai, added to the charm of the evening. A Bison T-shirt was presented to Kaka, a veteran Inddie Thumper moderator and the Respected Guru of our Paaji. Kaka had honored all by accompanying us on this ride.
I began to look at the riders more seriously. They came from all walks of society. Banking, blogging, media, architect, tourism, corporate, logistics, hotel management, even USA Derivatives, pharma, mobiles, and Kingfisher and AirIndia! A Banker had gone solo thrice to Ladakh before he went again with the Bisons. Of-course, Paaji has ridden hard from the past 20 odd years. Each rider had done well on the bike.
Post a finger licking-eat-all-you-can-masala chicken dinner, we assembled to see a really well made film by Vineet-Signals, of their earlier ride to Ladakh.
The ride was called Ice-candy; and spanned over two weeks, showcased their hunger for adventure.
I went to sleep in a 3-in-1-room. My eyes shut before I hit the pillows.
Breakfast on hot poha with tea is refreshing and we gathered around a new day. I was one day old. The riders met me warmly, as probably I had stuck to the ride. We saddled up and rode out to a pump and tanked up for home. The ride back was on dry road. More silent for me, as by now I was used to the adrenalin pumping that was constant anyway. I learnt motorcycle yoga from Deelux as I was behind him. He does hand and foot stretches. I didn’t attempt. A fisted hand in the air stopped the ride along the route. The Captain assembled us close and formally closed the ride. We all went our own ways. Some of us went to Panvel and still lesser to the Eastern express highway, lesser to Dadar, and then just me to home. It was no fun riding without these guys. It wasn’t just biking, I had got a firsthand lesson in humility and societal co-existence. One for all and all for one.
Son: Dad wow! The pictures are cool. Is that you or did you morph that pic?
Father : Ping
Son: Joking sorryyy. It means your keeping the bike?
Father: Yup I want to saddle up for the next ride at Kumbharli. It’s called The Face Off! I have to qualify for the club!