We are in conversation with Delhi based Vikram, a motorcycle enthusiast who believes in keeping his motorbikes inside his house! As part of #HomeIsWhereBikeIs we met this biker and keen track rider who walks us around his home and talks about his passion for motorcycles.
“It’s such a pleasure to welcome you home – thanks for coming over. Not only riding but just seeing my bikes gives me enjoyment – it is for this reason that I keep all my bikes in the house. In almost every room, a bike is present and these bikes are ridden regularly either at the race track or on dirt. Motorcycles are a very important part of my life – its my way of taking time out to relax and unwind, on a bike I am free”.
Vikram recently got himself the Ducati 1299 Superleggera, one of only 500 bikes to be produced and sold worldwide.
“The 1299 Superleggera is my latest addition and I have ridden it on track only twice. Once in torrential rain and a second time when the weather was kinder. As it’s still being broken in, I couldn’t get on the power, but it feels different to my 1299 Panigale S. The bike is incredibly light – in race setup, it weighs less than 150 kilograms and produces 220 horsepower. The extensive carbon fibre, titanium and aluminium make it lightweight but also the steering is very quick and precise without any compromise to stability. The carbon fibre swing arm, frame and wheels are works of art, typical of Italian designers. Ducati is moving to V4 1000cc bikes for the World Superbike Championship, so this will probably be the last of the V-Twin sportbikes that Ducati will produce. With this change, I anticipate that the 1299 Superleggera will have historic significance for Ducati enthusiasts and perhaps for motorcycle collectors. The Superleggera that I have is the 209th of the 500 produced. Advanced electronics on bikes are becoming both common and increasingly sophisticated. Ducati has introduced slide control for the rear wheel – on exiting corners it allows the rear wheels to slide with control, improving steering and corner exit speeds. It should be fun to play with this at BIC. On the 1299 Panigale I average 2.05 lap time around the track – on the Superlegerra I hope to shave a few seconds off this.”
We asked Vikram if his latest Italian acquisition is now his favourite motorcycle. Well not quite. “My favourite Ducati is a 1994 916 – nothing could come close to its handling in the 1990s. It changed the future of sportbikes and led to other manufacturers upping their game in order to compete.”
From the unique Superleggera we move on to the BMW HP4, another limited edition motorcycle that Vikram rides on the Buddh International Circuit.
“I have had this bike for a couple of years now. BMW make excellent sport bikes, very different to a Ducati which is more raw. They are slightly heavier, 185 kilos or thereabout. Probably a little easier to ride but not quite as exciting as the 1299 Panigale, it steers really well, is easy to go fast on and doesn’t move around as much as the Panigale. In my opinion, it doesn’t handle quite as well as the Ducati does. Since Panigales are trickier to ride, they take more time to get used to but if you ride them hard, they are much more rewarding on track than the HP4.”
With the Superleggera in the garage (or home!) why keep the BMW as well, we ask.
“The HP4 is a great bike too – when it was introduced a few years ago, it set a new benchmark for the 1000cc category – it was the first bike to have electronic suspension. It is also a limited production bike – probably around 5000 have been manufactured over its production run of two years. BMW which is an Inline-4 is very different to Ducati’s V-Twins, giving a different riding experience.”
From the German we move onto the Ducati 1299 Panigale S, the bike which Vikram uses the most on track, his automatic ‘go to’ motorcycle, when preparing for a track day.
“I have ridden the Panigale S for thousands of kilometres at Buddh – probably in excess of 5000. It’s very quick, has a lot power and it handles incredibly well. The bike is very light and great fun to ride. It moves around more than the BMW but it’s a fantastic bike on track, when ridden hard it is very rewarding. On the back straight at Buddh and through the corners, I carry more speed than I do with the HP4. It feels powerful, its front wheel comes up easily on hard acceleration and it’s got excellent electronics which help keep you safe. It is for all these reasons that I enjoy riding it most on track but this will change now with the Superleggera.”
From the racetrack we head to the dirt stable. The KTM 250 MX two-stroke sees as much use as the track bikes. Vikram tells us about his motocross background and how he believes it still helps in going faster even on the racetrack.
“I have had this bike for many years. I started riding motocross some time ago but I used to ride motocross as a child. I stopped then started again 7-8 years ago. The KTM is very light – it weighs no more than 90 kg. It’s a two-stroke single cylinder, produces around 55 horsepower and is just wild on a motocross track. With motocross, what is fun is that you steer not just with the front but with the back wheel as well. You go into a corner, the bike is leaned over and you accelerate resulting in a rear wheel slide. The adrenalin rush that comes from this is like nothing else you can imagine. With Motocross, the bike is always sliding or jumping around under you – to control the bike for sure improves rider skill and helps on a track as well. I recommend dirt to any rider who wants to improve his or her track riding skills. Motocross is a lot of fun – you can jump the bike, steer with the back wheel and experience the front wheel being constantly off the ground when you accelerate. The KTM allows you to do all this and more.”
With these extremely track and dirt focussed motorcycles, where does Vikram take them for a spin? His bikes get used only on the racetrack and the motocross track, no street riding for Vikram.
“I ride on track and because Buddh is so close, that’s where I end up going. I try to go there twice a month but I would be happy if they allowed me to come every day. On weekends when I don’t ride at Buddh, I take the KTM and ride at the motocross track which is not far from home. So, part of every weekend is spent riding motorcycles on track or motocross.”
Spending so much time on the track, inspiration must surely come from the MotoGP legends. Vikram tells us about his motorcycling idols and how they inspire him to go faster!
“Kevin Schwantz who rode in the 1980s, is the rider I admire most. He rode for Suzuki when they ran the two-stroke 500cc bikes in the World Championship. The Suzuki was never as good as the Yamaha that Wayne Rainey rode. Schwantz won a world championship on it against all odds. I had an opportunity to meet Schwantz – he came to India for the launch of a new Suzuki motorcycle. He is someone I have always looked up to. What he could do on a motorcycle, nobody else could.
Valentino Rossi needs no introduction. He has won more MotoGPs and World Championships than anyone else. He is now the oldest rider in MotoGP and is still winning races while fighting for the World Championship.
I also liked Wayne Rainey; he was incredibly smooth and a very talented rider. It is tragic that he had the accident that paralysed him. I think he would have won many more World Championships had it not been for this accident that tragically ended his racing career.”
Any dream track that Vikram would like to ride these fantastic machines on? And the Italian love continues.
“Buddh is a track I love and it’s a safe track to ride at. The team at Buddh have also become good friends and support us in promoting motorsport in the country. Mugello would be another track I would love to experience – it has so much history and is not far from the Ducati factory. I was supposed to ride there this year but I couldn’t go at the very last minute. I hope I will have an opportunity to ride there some day.
There is track called Willow Springs out in Lancaster – it’s in Southern California. I have spent a lot of time on that track going back many years.
Riding on any track is welcome provided there are good runoff areas which make it safe. I have ridden at the Chennai track. I didn’t think it was a particularly safe track. Very flowy, very nice to ride, but no runoff areas and therefore not forgiving if you make a mistake. I understand that efforts are already underway to address this – the track at Chennai has huge potential and I look forward to riding there again.”
Vikram on the dangers of track riding and how it stacks-up in comparison to riding on public roads in traffic.
“Riding on track is safe – with protective gear, if you fall, unlike on public roads where you may end up hitting a sidewalk or a vehicle, you don’t hit anything. You slide and the chances of any serious injury is minimised. Tracks are a controlled environment and are designed for people going fast – there is no safer place to ride.
I don’t ride on public roads – the risk of getting hurt is far greater if you fall or if you are hit by another vehicle. Injuries on the street are far more likely to happen than on a racetrack. On the street, one should not ride fast. There is other traffic, there are people and you put yourself and others at risk.”
Vikram tells us whether a rider should hop onto a big bike on a racetrack from the get go or is there a more gradual progression required.
“It’s always good to start on something small like the KTM 390 – an excellent bike for beginners at Buddh. A friend had a KTM which I rode at Buddh a few times – it doesn’t have the power that the bigger bikes have but it handles well. And because everything is slower, you have more time and chances of making an error are greatly reduced. Start on a KTM 390 and then work your way up to a more powerful sportbike. It’s getting used to the speed on track – the corner speed and braking points.”
It was great catching up with Vikram and talking motorcycles with him. You can find him zipping along on one of his fantastic motorcycles at the Buddh International Circuit, when he isn’t at work!
A few pictures of Vikram with his motorcycles in action