Imagine hiring a bike and riding across the vast expanse of India. The wind blowing against your face, the bike vibrating under your weight, the noise filling up your ears, the world dark through your shades, the sun upon your skin, the rebel in you howling – freedom from everything that you believe ties you down. What would you give up to go on this adventure?
The issue in our country is that there are very few people like you and me who would want to go on a long distance bike ride across India for the sheer pleasure it affords. Then, of course, here potholes are the rule rather than the exception; cattle rest in the middle of the road, and kids play cricket on busy streets while vehicles are zipping past them. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t stop the enthusiasts like us!
Once out on the road, you can get away from it all, riding into a feeling of serenity and tranquility. You can stop at some small village, where the locals will almost always be welcoming. You are your own transport. Everything else can be taken care of.
There are certain things you have to keep in mind before making a majorly hassle-free bike trip across our incredible India:
Alone or with company?
This decision rests solely on what you are comfortable with. There are a number of tour companies that arrange for such trips, starting from creating your itinerary to renting out bikes with permits and all other spares and tools. These tours also pre-book accommodation for you at your rest-stops. However, if you are willing to deal with all the hassles associated with planning out your cross-country bike ride, then get on to your bad boy and let the roads decide the course for you. But, this doesn’t mean you can be lax about planning the details of your trip.
There are enough bikes available for rent, if your own is not in a condition to rage against the heat of the highway to hell. Pick up a bike well within the 100-180cc range since they are also excellent where the mileage is concerned. It’ll be more than sufficient for you to both cruise and ride at a considerable speed. Even a 250cc can be your pick, if you are comfortable with it. Your best bet, if you don’t want to put in much money, is a used Royal Enfield. If your pocket is deep enough, the high end market entrants of Ducati, Harley Davidson, Honda and Yamaha’s true sport bikes are also available. The smaller bikes will not only be sturdy enough to be thrashed all across India, but serviceable almost everywhere that you can imagine (and servicing is a major concern for such long distance rides).
This is the tricky part. A bike road across India, though insanely glamorous and appealing to the biker in you, doesn’t come dirt cheap. There are ways to get sponsorship through existing contacts, but for the ones who can’t find such means, personal funding is the only option
A used Royal Enfield will cost you between INR 30,000 to 60,000 depending on the state that it is in. You can either load all your belongings on o the bike or buy a saddle bag or a magnetic tank bag for up to INR 4,000. Never underestimate the importance of a good quality helmet and ensure that you invest at least INR 2,000 on a good helmet for you trip. Motorcycle spares such as a clutch cable, accelerator cable, tubes, battery fuses, headlight bulb, etc. can be bought within INR 10,000. A heavy duty first-aid kit is equally important, packed with all basic medicines, painkillers, burn ointments, cotton and bandages. Don’t freak out if it costs you up to INR 2,500. Your personal gear should include an armoured jacket, riding gloves, knee guards, riding boots and a pair of sunglasses, adding up to INR 12,000.
Accommodation will cost around INR 300 and upwards per night depending on your comfort requirement. Same goes for food, which will be INR 200 and upwards. Petrol refills will cost INR 500 for an approximate distance of 200 kms. per day.
The best season to be riding across India is November to February, since the weather in the south will be pleasant and up north will be cold. The March to June seasons will be dry, dusty and hot, with the temperature only getting hotter as you ride away from the cost. Riding in such conditions may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Again, July to October is far from ideal due to the monsoons. The rains are not a bike’s best friend (surprise, surprise). It’s what we can call, mildly put, the worst time to be taking a two wheeler across the beautiful Indian subcontinent. So yeah, in a nutshell, November to February is when you should be taking a long unpaid leave from work.
Papers and permits?
Make sure all your documents are in place. You don’t want to pay fines to policemen or bleed profusely in a private hospital while they ask you to fill out a form explaining how you plan on paying them back for their services. All-India permits, health insurance policy papers, driver’s licence and a permanent address proof should be in a designated folder in a designated pocket of your luggage.
Routes and directions?
Make sure you have a map with you of all roads and highways. They are very easily available at travel depos and magazine counters. You can’t depend on google maps in all areas. Some remote places may not have a mobile network and some remote places may not be mapped out at all. Also keep in mind that bikes aren’t allowed on certain expressways connecting major cities and your only option in such cases will be older, longer and not-so-well-maintained highways. Everything else is up to you. The roads are a biker’s oyster.