In a few ways, this was a Deepawali to be remembered. The interest towards crackers almost dipped to zero this time, but the so called ‘Ganga Snanam’ or my mother’s glare had me light up one early at 7 AM. The rest of the day was one boring holiday at home. I had even suggested a family reunion for the next year. The main reason for the Deepwali flop was this : the first Deepawali without my sister. She was in Chennai with her in-laws. I never knew that one animal in our family could make such a difference.
Now, why it could be at least a little interesting Deepwali this year ? I rode all the way to home in the Royal Enfield Desert Storm 500. That’s 840 kms folks ( round trip of course ! ) . My sister and her husband had almost demotivated me as they felt riding in NH doesn’t qualify as a ride at all. Partly, true ! But I thought one should travel to his/her home once. It might be the road you took a 100 times before – but on bike, it may be a new road to your heart.
I started at 5.30 AM on Friday from Perungudi. I was a little groggy because of the last minute preparations. Though the riding gear was ready, the bike wasn’t. It needed a small health check and I had collected the bike at 8 PM on Thursday. This is a clearly one of the ” Don’t “s when it comes to planning a ride. When I made it till Chengalpet toll, I thought the majority traveling for the festival had started on Friday. I could only maintain 70kmph average when I reached there and there was my first stop. You can’t help noticing that people stare at you – when you are geared up with a riding jacket, gloves, knee guards, a baggle saddled neatly with a bungee cord. A little boost to me actually at that point.
The route was simple : Chennai -> Chengalpet -> Ulundurpet -> Athur -> Salem -> Namakkal -> Velur.
So my next stop was at Ulundurpet for breakfast. My hands were trembling since my second stop was late. I should have planned to stop every 70 kms, but the bike was so good that I was averaging 90 kmph. I overtook some of the cars seamlessly. After a 20 minutes break, I geared up again and was on the bike. I had stopped after Chinnasalem and sat somewhere in NH. There was not a shop where I had stopped and I just sat on the ground watching the cars and vehicles pass by me. The sound of high speeding vehicles on tar – this is some sound a rider might love. A silence was often interrupted by a vehicle which resembled a loud breathing. You could try this when you are on a solo trip – but make sure you sit in a safe place and park the bike properly.
At 10.45 AM, I was almost at Salem and decided to stop again. I had a tea and some water. Since this was a solo trip, there was only a little talk – only with the shop-keepers and the curious ones who enquired about the trip. I reached home at 12.15 PM. It had taken me roughly 6.5 hours to cover 420 kms. I had averaged somewhere between 70-80 kmph. After a satisfying shower and lunch, I fell asleep. I deserved and earned that deep sleep. I hadn’t slept like that for 2 months. When I woke up, every inch of my body told me of a few mistakes. I had made only three stops during the ride and the fourth was at home. This is definitely not advisable for novice riders like me.
The festival, crackers and after devouring enough sweets and a day later, I tried to get the bike ready for the return trip and to my shock, the battery had died. A complete death where I thought of giving it a proper burial. EFI wouldn’t get the bike to life again without the battery. This burnt my hands for 3000 rupees. Yeah people ! This is where you get to say ‘ouch !’ or giggle.
So after I got the battery ready, I started off at 5.30 AM on Tuesday. Tyre pressure was perfect, bungee cords taut around the bag and I rode enjoying a pleasant sun rise.
Everything was good till 10.30 AM – I was only 90 kms to Tambaram. To my second shock and fury, I had found that the battery cover had flown off somewhere. The battery was exposed bare and it was even slanting loose from the hold. Imagine my horror – if the battery fell somewhere in the 90kms in the middle of the ride, I would have to spend another 3000 rupees and an extra 3000 to tow it to Chennai. This was the place for a jugaad, a 10 rupees cello tape had to be stuck and wound across the battery. It looked like a miserable bandage and I felt sorry for the bike and it must have felt sorry for me. ( Giggle again morons ! )
I managed to cover the next 90 kms in 90 minutes. This part was the terrible one in the ride – filled with fear, anger and fatigue. Somehow, I managed to get it to the service center in Chrompet and got a cab back to home.
And the top speed hit in this so-called-trip was 125 kmph. At least one thing to gloat.
The End !
Here are some take-aways-of-sort to novice riders :
You should have your bike ready at least two days prior to the ride. Don’t rush up on the day before the ride. Your confidence level will drop a little which is not good when you start.
Check your battery – Especially when you are riding on a Desert Storm or Thunderbird 500 that has a EFI Engine that needs a boot from the battery. When your battery is dead on these two models, you have successfully ruined your trip.
Pack at least 12 hours before the ride. I packed 6 hours before the ride and I had missed a lot of things. Still, I managed to have a spare Bungee cord, hand pumps for tyres, a power bank in the bag.
Your tyre pressure should be the recommended psi or even one unit lesser. I had 22/32 for front/rear. Do this 12 hours before the ride ( I did it at 9 PM and I had to start at 5.30 AM the next day – Don’t )
Fill up at regular intervals. Royal Enfield, trying to maintain the Retro feel, has no fuel gauge placed in Desert Storm . You can notice an Orange blink on the tank symbol but that is not doing you any good. You need to fuel at least once in 250 kms and maintain 90 % fuel capacity when you fill.
Avoid the NH if time isn’t a concern. This will make the ride less boring or I should say, State highways will make it more interesting.
Change your leg position when you are at 70 – 80 kmph. This will help you stretch a little, reduce the aching a bit. Don’t do this when you are over 80 kmph which is risky.
Carry a water bottle always. I had left mine somewhere in the middle but thankfully , I only needed battery replacement and a cello tape.
Don’t let anyone demotivate you. Trip or not, as long as you are up to it, it is one. You are riding at 100 kmph + and putting yourself through a strenuous process that is risky and border-line crazy. It counts…