I’m sitting in a quaint resort in Rajasthan. It’s a beautiful old royal property complete with a full fledged lake, 10s of beautiful gardens all over, 100s of beautiful birds, and 1000s of beautiful trees. The sun is out in its full glory. The air is clean and crisp (a huge welcome for us Delhites). Some awesome rock music is playing in the background. Bangy is making us laugh our guts out. Doc has just got the most awesome military haircut ever, so we just can’t stop cracking up every time we see him. Vinny is eating coffee ice cream for breakfast. The mood is light, stress free and friendly. The topic of discussion is where will we ride to next. Shall we continue riding further into the deserts of Rajasthan or should we turn back and go up into the Himalayas or should we ride down further to Goa to attend the India Bike Week. We have been rambling on for hours now and just can’t seem to decide where we will go next, but we know we will go somewhere so it really does not matter.
Cut to a few days ago. I was dropping my kid off to school in the morning. He asked me a simple question. “Papa why do you love your motorcycle so much ?” It was a simple innocent question but I found it hard to tell a 6 year old why a 40 year old loves his motorcycle so much. The simple and honest answer is that I love it because it’s my toy and thats something a 6 year old would fully resonate with. But then his next question would have been “but papa you are big and old. How can you have a toy ? You are not a child ?” And that would have been a much more difficult question to answer. So I did the smart daddy thing. I told him we were getting late for the bus and I would tell him once he’s back from school. I was hoping that he would forget by the time he came back from school and that’s exactly what happened. But I have been thinking about it ever since then. Why do I love my motorcycle so much and why I love to ride ?
Now we are back to Rajasthan. Since we are not able to decide where to ride next, I decide to take advantage of this beautiful setting to pin down my thoughts on this rather simple but profound question.
The simple answer is that it’s my toy. I personally believe that everyone has a child in them no matter their age. That child is still drawn to childish desires – eating ice cream straight out of the box, wearing the coolest sneakers, watching cartoons, playing cricket etc. Our inner child is always looking for what he/she loves. But we are adults and our age acts as a shield and gets in the way of feeding our inner child’s desires. We all try to find simple ways to drop that shield and satiate our inner child. But the extent to which we can do it varies based on our means and will. I personally feel feeding your inner child is one of the best things you can do as an adult and everyone should do it. Of course we need to strike the right balance between our adult responsibilities and our childish desires. In my experience the happiest people are those who find this balance. So for me my motorcycle is the toy for my inner child. And that’s why I love it and love riding!
I love seeing it. I love cleaning it. I love fitting accessories to it. I love polishing it. I love taking it to the workshop and learning about how it works. I love researching about it on the internet and troubleshooting simple things (and sometimes even complex things). I love talking about it with my biker buddies. I love getting out on my Sunday morning rides on it. I love the trips and adventures I’ve had with it. I love the incredible people I have met because of it. I love the amazing memories I have through it. I love the fabulous places it has taken me to. I love how energised I feel every time I ride it. I love how it inspires me to work harder. I love how it encourages me to to strive to find the right balance between being an adult and a child. I love everything about it and that’s the simple truth!
The complex answer is, well complex. And that’s what I have been thinking about these past few days. I will attempt to describe it here. Pardon me if at times it feels overtly emotional and philosophical but trust me, it’s coming from the heart.
The first dimension of love for motorcycles and riding is the physical aspect. Think about an inanimate object that you absolutely love – a dress, a piece of jewellery, a watch, a suit, a tie, a pair of cuff links, a handbag, a pair of shoes, a piece of art, a piece of furniture – anything. One of the biggest reasons you are drawn to it is how it looks. Trust me, we are absolute suckers for good looks.
The same applies to a motorcycle. If you ask any motorcycle enthusiast, one of the biggest draws to the motorcycle is the looks. Some folks like super bikes. They are aggressive looking machines that look like fighter jets standing on the road. Just looking at them you feel like you’re going at 200+ kmph. Then there are cruisers. They look like pieces of art on wheels. The paint, the chrome, the aggressive macho looks and the rumbling sound from their engines and exhaust all give them immense physical character. Then there are the classic bikes. They are simple bare bone machines with an immense sense of nostalgia. Again a lot of steel and chrome, but simple no nonsense looks. Then there are adventure bikes. These are massive rugged machines – tall, mean and strong. They are meant to go anywhere and they look the part. So whatever genre of motorcycles you pick up, there is a distinct physical dimension to their appeal and it’s a big part of why we love motorcycles.
The second dimension of my love for motorcycles and riding is hugely emotional. For me there are 3-4 distinct aspects here.
The first is the feeling I get every time I ride my motorcycle. It’s a magical cocktail that has 3 portions of adrenaline, 2 portions of freedom, 5 portions of happiness, 1 portion of anxiety and 2 portions of fear. All topped up with you being one with the elements – the fresh air, the beauty of nature and the intoxicating sound of that engine and exhaust. A couple of hours of riding does wonders for me in terms of helping me destress and be ready for the week ahead.
The next bit is the fun and adventure of going on motorcycle trips. I have been to some incredible places in India in the 10 plus years that I have been riding. Many of these are simply inaccessible by any other means of transport and even for the ones that are accessible, the joy of riding there (rather than flying or driving or taking a train) is immensely more pleasurable to me. Even after doing 100s of outstation trips and covering over 100k kms doing these, I am super excited before an outstation trip.
The 3rd emotional aspect is the friends motorcycling brings to you. I can honestly say that some of the best friends I have made in the past 10 years have come through motorcycles. I have this bunch of amazing guys who I mostly ride with. We have absolutely nothing in common in our backgrounds, but everything in common when it comes to our love for motorcycles and adventures. These are not friends but more like brothers. No ride is a ride without them. No adventure is an adventure without them. The random things we do on a ride – this is another one of those childish fetishes that motorcycles feeds.
I have met 100s of incredible people through motorcycling – passionate riders across the length and breadth of India, legends who have given decades of their life to spreading this passion in a safe manner in India, artists who do incredible trips on a global scale and then capture them in the most incredible pictures so us mortals can get a glimpse of what they experienced, digital marketing geniuses who capture the essence of a motorcycle through the eyes of a passionate and talented rider and put it out on YouTube, leaders of marquee motorcycle brands in India (at least 2) who are deeply passionate about their brands but also about riding and the community, heroes who have achieved incredible feats over decades and are now making better riders of others by teaching them. If you are reading this blog, you all know I’m talking about you and I’m thankful and honoured to have gotten to know you through our common love for motorcycles. I would have never ever met you though my professional career – that’s for sure.
The last emotional aspect is the sense of accomplishment it brings to you. I’ve done some very difficult biking trips. The one that stands out is the recent trip I did to Spiti valley on my Triumph Tiger Explorer (I wrote a separate blog about it). This was some of the most difficult and desolate terrain in India. Doing it on a large capacity motorcycle is itself a big thing. Learning to ride off-road in this terrain and then enjoying taking a large capacity motorcycle there is a whole different game. It brought me tremendous joy and sense of accomplishment. Motorcycling is something that can be done with the intent of learning and developing your skill level even if you want to do it just for leisure. Ask all the track junkies who take their sports bikes to the Budh International Circuit (BIC) about how kicked they are every time they better their lap time, or improve their lean angles, or accomplish an elbow touch down. Their expression will tell you how much they value these. Ask any serious adventure bike rider about the joy of sliding the rear end in dirt, of crossing a river, or jumping their bike 10 feet in the air and the sheer happiness on their faces will answer you. In any genre of biking, there is this opportunity to improve your skill as a rider. It enables you to enjoy your motorcycle that much more and fills you with a sense of accomplishment that’s unmatchable.
Ok so this is where it gets a bit philosophical. I won’t blame you if you decide to shut off now (trust me, if I was not a biker, I might too). But if you have the patience to read on then I really appreciate it.
We are saddled with incredible stresses in our daily lives. We are pushing ourselves as hard as we can and hardly have anytime for ourselves. We all need some inspiration from time to time. Inspiration to work harder and be better at what we do. Inspiration to make tomorrow better than today. Inspiration to take all the stress of daily life with a smile. For me that inspiration comes from only 2 places – the first and foremost is my family (my wife and my kid). They mean the world to me (as I’m sure yours mean to you).
My other source of inspiration is my motorcycle. The joy it brings to me instills me with positive energy and inspires me to be a better person. No matter how difficult my life gets, every time I ride, I’m filled with a deep sense of joy and positivity. It lifts my spirits and enables me to face the challenges life is throwing at me with much more strength and confidence. It’s like my inner child is telling me – “don’t worry….be happy”. I can’t describe this in words and perhaps am now rambling. But what I’m trying to say is that we all need a little bit of emotional adrenaline for our mind to keep up with all the pressures of daily life. And for me strangely that comes from my motorcycle.
So to sum it up, my motorcycle is basically my toy. But given that I am now in the 5th decade of my existence, it’s not just an ordinary toy. It’s a toy with super powers. Super powers that take me to amazing places, make me meet incredible people , teach me new skills, calm me down to face the growing pressure of life, fill me with joy through their sheer presence in my life. Super powers that make me a happier, calmer and better person. Go figure!