Post Contributed by Mini.
Halleluiah! I did it! I went on a maiden road trip with a biker club gang.
It all started with me signing up on multiple Meetup adventure Bangalore groups to check on week end happenings in and around Bangalore to spice up my life. Bored with my own company in the absence of my husband and son, I needed some excitement without too much of a mess up with my schedule. Underlying the need was also the recently cancelled tour to the Valley of Flowers.
What caught my eye was the ad on Meetup – “single girl wanted to join the biking tour (apologies for the title)” followed by an explanation on why they needed a single girl. I liked the openness and courtesy extended to explain the reasoning as a first thought. The second was the location which I had never heard of before and the third of course was the adventure of a biking trip which would be a first for me.
But there were mental blocks to be overcome, how would the parents react, what would my friends say- I was already known as a mad hatter when I was younger and had worked on a more sober and mature image which I did not want to disrupt.
Was it done to join a biking trip? – Biking is not for the girls – or at least that is the sagacity installed and girls who do go along are known as biker chicks- would I be labeled such? Was it safe to go? Would my reputation take a beating if I went? How many more girls were joining up? Who were the others in the group?
More importantly – how would the bikers react to a 49 year old woman wanting to join? Was I not too old for such a recreation?
After debating extensively with myself, I decided to at least call the contact up and check on the details. The person at the other end of the phone sounded very nice, courteous and open minded when I introduced myself. They had no issues with an older women coming along if I was mentally prepared for the hardships of doing a 300km ride with 70 hair pin bends one way. Instinct told me it was fine to go ahead.
My interest was caught- but Nils was to return a day earlier- what would the parents and others say if I just up and left immediately after. Should I or should I not was the question. Finally the heart won- I wanted to go and I did.
Since my decision was last minute, I realized they had already found another girl to join up, but yet I was welcomed. The detailing and protocols had to be followed- I was made to share my blood group, emergency contact and other co-ordinates. The itinerary and budget was shared. All this made me realize how organized they were, making me even more comfortable.
The trip was even more of an eye opener, the nuances keeping me interested and alive. It was a group of Bullet (Road King – Royal Enfield) enthusiasts from Bangalore- all professionals mainly in the IT industry though there were others from the construction side, aeronautical marketing etc. 9 bikes and one car in all and 15 of us travelling together.
The team was a grounded, disciplined and alert. This, in-spite of most of the organizers not having had much sleep. I was to be picked up at 4.00am for a meet up at 5.00am at Silkboard. The organizer said he would give me a reminder call at 3.45am. I initially declined as I knew I would keep time, but he insisted (maybe due to past experience.)And lo! We started at sharp 4.00am, collected others on the way and were ready to move by 5.00am from the collective meeting point.
The briefing defined the Leads, the Sweepers, and the Marshal of the team. The destination, distance and rough breaks on the way. I was made aware of the protective and safety gear- hand and leg guards, helmet, scarf/ Tube face mask, Jacket, sunglasses, gloves. I had only the jacket and scarf, but was fortunate as I was lent all the rest by the others collectively.
A lovely pleasantly chill morning, it was an interesting start. I was a pillion to the organizer I was in touch with and he was also the sweep turned lead. I noticed him signaling all the time and was curious to know the logic of the signals – Learnt about single file, double file , speed up, slow down, do not overtake command signals. I am sure I missed a lot of others but these were a few I registered.
Lost in the beauty of the ride, I was never mindful about how many bikers were ahead or behind us, were all following as required etc, but the lead was very alert on these points and was always conscious when there was a lag or someone had stopped in the line behind. I was always surprised at stopping to enable the team to catch up. What alertness, how did the leads know when to stop and check?
Also impressive was the Marshal – who kept zipping up and down the line to check and take videos of the line up multiple times. I remember him zipping past us, but would then forget only to see him positioned at a corner ready to take the video of all of us moving past. He also observed the speed limits at different points and conveyed it down the line.
Having no knowledge about bikes, I had a hundred questions for the team– why the passion for Road Kings? Were they superior? What were the other options? What were the key differences between the KTM Duke model (the next bike passion) and the Road King? Why was one advised to fill petrol at the start, when the bike is cold rather than on the way when the bike is hot? What were endurance rides? Which brakes were superior? What was the function of the disk seen on the wheels? Why did a “brake fail observed not generate a serious concern? Spare parts carried? Puncture repair techniques? Horn etiquette etc etc.
Breakfast, hourly breaks and a photography session on the Ghats later we reached Kolli Hills and the resort, passing the 70 odd hairpin bends smoothly and without an effort. If in a car I may have puked, but not on bikes.
Beautiful rustic location, just right place to chill out, away from the city. After settling into our rooms which I shared with a pretty girl from Rajasthan and a little rest, we decided to go to the local waterfalls.
The others in the group were fun loving, mature about their limits but all bike crazy. The person who had brought the car had just sold his bike but was still very much part of the gang. It was lovely meeting up with all these new friends and getting to know them better. And I liked each one of them; all were very accommodative, helpful and courteous to each other with no hang ups seen. They never let me feel I was a decade or two older.
After a brief lunch and rest, we went exploring to see the local waterfall. Some had a great time under the waterfall. A couple of the team mates impressed with their climbing skills to the top of the waterfall before relaxing under the fall shower.
Overall was impressed by Tamil Nadu- the roads, the infrastructure, were far better than Karnataka or so it seemed. Even the waterfall we went to had good infrastructure to ensure that it was safe for the persons visiting and bathing there. The roads within Kolli hills were also remarkable.
Returned to a good dinner and an impromptu party which lasted late into the night. Woke early went exploring on my own initially and then with a couple of others who had also woken by the time I returned.
After a quick breakfast it was time again to hit the road. This was more interesting as I now understood parts of the drill. Also interesting was listening into the tech talks on the bikes by the team members. At the end of it all I am a lot wiser about bikes though in no way even close to being knowledgeable.
Bless the person who answered my initial call and helped me decide on the trip. Thanks to him I had a great time experiencing my first bike trip and making new friends who I know I would love to keep in touch with.