Age 43, found me in India, jobless, relatively broke, with a tribal tattoo of a wolf on my back and very excited about doing a solo ride on a Royal Enfield Desert Storm through the Uttrakhand.
Of course, my excitement was a bit of a concern for my wife.
For one, I had never ridden a bullet before in my life. I had a Yamaha Rx 100 when I was in college which was given to me by my brother when he got a car from my parents for getting a distinction
All my trips were made on it.
Well, trips is perhaps not the best description. It was basically bike rides from Manipal to places close by like Coorg, Goa, etc. Not exactly the great touring experience.
Considering that I have a broken fibula and tibia in my right leg from one accident, a broken right arm and a broken nose from another, I would not even qualify myself as a good rider.
I can ride a bike, so I figured that is enough to manage something like this.
Oh, one more minor detail, I have never ridden on mountain roads.
And the last time I ever rode a bike was over 20 years ago.
When you buy a Bullet and announce in your testosterone depleted mid life, to regain a sense of gender comfort, that you plan to ride in the Uttrakhand, people assume that you have done something similar before. Which is a good thing because then, you don't have to lie about it and make up tall tales.
Truth is I liked the Royal Enfield Desert Storm’s looks when I first saw it on some website in UAE.
Yes, I am shallow.
I liked it so much that I went and saw it for myself in the Royal Enfield showroom in Dubai.
I loved it.
I could barely touch the toes of my feet when I mounted it; but hey, these are technicalities I could worry about later. I just had to own it.
So I had one of my blogger friends in Bangalore book one for me. Since the waiting period was about 6 months, I would have the bike with me when I got to Bangalore .
Once in Bangalore, when I was told the bike is on its way, I was in a mini state of panic. I didn't know a shit about a Bullet! The thing weighs a ton, my feet don't touch the ground and I wasn't even sure if I could ride the bloody thing. I was frantically looking around for some opportunity to have someone coach me, so that I don't manage to look like a fool when I try to ride it from the showroom to my house through Bangalore traffic and get myself killed in the process.
I Googled and found that there was this Bullet coaching school for girls in Bangalore called chicks on bike or something. Eating the remnant of my fragile male ego, I tried to call them, failing which I wrote them a mail.
It went like this
I am a 43 year old ex NRI male, who due to a moment of utter insanity is going to own a Royal Enfield in the coming month. I do not know how to ride a Bullet. My riding experience was on a Yamaha RX100 during my college years which, as you might already be smirking, is not a Bullet.
This is where I was wondering if your esteemed establishment can help me. I figured that I could probably make less of a fool of myself if you could allow me to learn how to ride a Bullet.
Please understand that this is no way an attempt to mingle with the ladies but a sincere request for help.
Thanking you and looking forward to a favorable reply,
Failing to get a reply to my email, for unknown reasons, I called up a number listed on their site, and got through to a woman, who very pleasantly told me that she recalled my mail and that they cannot make an exception - they cannot teach a man.
I was shocked by this blatant display of gender discrimination in my secular, ‘all Indians are my brothers and your sisters’, India.
Nevertheless, being a gentleman I understood that in her concern to protect the interest of her company’s policy, making an exception for me, no matter how charming, will be unthinkable.
Therefore, I was still left with a pending Bullet and no confidence.
When the day did come and my very discreet offers to treat anyone who can ride my bike back home failed, I was forced to take the bull by the horn.
I rode it home.
Apart from the initial uncertainty about my two wheeler skills, everything came back once I started riding. It was like swimming. You really never forget.
I was riding a Bullet through Bangalore traffic!
And I made it back home with all my bones intact.
My feet, of course, still couldn’t touch the ground.
Over the next month, I Googled, researched and read every single thread about lowering a Bullet so that a vertically challenged person can have the illusion of control by being able to plant his two feet on the ground with the Bullet between his legs. (OK, that didn't come out correct at all)
I managed to find a garage called the Art of Motorcycles, who lowered the suspension and unsprung the saddle seat . When that still didn't have the required effect, they shaved the foam from the seat by two inches. Beyond that, I would have had to sit directly on the engine, which can't be comfortable.
The end result was that it was better than before. I could now manage to have a large part of front feet planted on the ground when I stopped the bike.
This really helps.
Looking back , that was probably the best thing I did, since, when I finally came back from the mountains almost 8 months later, the place was getting a beating from the rain gods and whole sections of the roads were missing. The lowered bike had a much better center of gravity and while riding across chasms on ridiculously narrow strips of road that still remained, that 3 inches lowering made all the difference.
To my confidence that is. After all any thumper will tell you that height is not a big deal when you ride a Bullet.
Yep. That’s what they call a Bulletier - Thumper.
Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?