I was exercising early in the morning when the sun abruptly disappeared. I ran to the window. Surely, there were dark clouds headed in my direction. I got ready quickly and was on the highway by 7:45am.
I studied the sky. The clouds were coming in from south east. So technically, I could outrun them as my destination was North West. I opened the throttle and cruised along. Mind you, this is not one of the roads where you can have those conversations with yourself. Philosophy will have to make way for caution keeping in mind the numerous rikshaws, tractors, etc..
If the winds yesterday were termed as annoying, today they were threatening. I saw a Maruti 800 sway furiously as it passed through a gap in the hills. Along with the driver, others following it were also visibly shaken. Speeds were reduced immediately. The struggle of lighter bikes such as the HH splendors and the TVS Victors was also quite apparent. The riders could be seen being suddenly pushed violently by some invisible forces time to time. Well, having a heavier vehicle: be it a non 100Km/L one is not that bad after all.. And this also factors in for the not so great fuel efficiency yesterday. Though at this moment, I seriously wished I was riding an Avenger. The numerous rides on Gogo’s & Vikram’s machines have instilled a lot of bottom heavy, low riding, splendid cornering memories. If I were to wage a war against the winds- Avenger would be the bike I’d choose.
There is a lot I could write about the wind as this was my first revelation with it’s power and continuity. After I finished the 5 hour journey, I noticed that my arm sockets were hurting pretty bad. I am familiar with the dull ache that comes in after a long ride, but this was different. And then I realized the difference between yesterday and today was quite clear. Yesterday was a 13 hour drive with occasional 2-3Km/hr side winds while today; although just a 5 hour ride featured continuous head on brutal winds..
The tunnels before Pune turned out to be interesting. I saw a tunnel coming ahead and thought “Tunnel! Nice! Sunglasses.. um.. Uh oh.. Tunnels and glasses don’t go well together”. I blindly followed a car ahead of me which was kind enough to switch on it’s tail lights to guide me. The first tunnel had no illumination and no board to declare it’s arrival; so be careful.
I crossed Pune around 10:15 and now I had to stay on the govt. maintained NH-4. The much celebrated Mumbai-Pune expressway does not allow bikes. Heights of stupidity! You can allow slowpoke cars like Matiz, alto, A-Star but not a 2 wheeler capable of outrunning them all. The NH-4 is in pretty good shape upto Lonavla and Khandala. Beyond Khandala, the markings mysteriously vanish and take you on and off the expressway as well. Khandala provides a view of the valley which I think is overrated. Today, I could see hundreds of vehicles clogging the expressway. Irony isn’t it? Everyone in Mumbai seems to trying hard to get out of the city while I was the sucker heading towards Mumbai.
The clouds closing in from the South East caught up with me and sprayed some rain. This was to be repeated an hour later in Mumbai as well.
I saw a board at a crossing in Panvel stating that Mumbai was still 50+ Kms away. However, direction was conveniently not mentioned. Just to confirm, I stopped and asked “Is this the way to Mumbai??” The fellow to whom the question was addressed was visibly insulted. “THIS IS MUMBAI!!” came the reply in an icy tone. Not to offend our desi ‘THIS IS SPARTA’ hero, I re-phrased my question and asked him directions to PrabhaDevi/ Siddhi Vinayak temple. After Navi Mumbai and the Eastern Expressway, I was able to recall the roads and was at my destination by 12:30..
The conclusion brings us to the question that many people may have in their minds. Is Bangalore - Mumbai or a Bangalore – Pune ride doable in a single day? On a bike? Yesterday, my answer would have been ‘probably’ or ‘I honestly don’t know’ for a Bangalore- Pune ride. However, after my experience with the NH-4 of Maharashtra my answer is ‘please avoid such a stunt’. The 770 Km ride yesterday was a pleasurable experience with sparse and organized traffic of Karnataka. The 300 Km odd ride today witnessed a lot of tractors, pedestrians, bullock carts with a majority of illiterate/ junglee drivers. Attempting to cover this leg late in the evening yesterday would have been not such a pleasurable experience. It would also mean unnecessary pressure. At the end of the ride yesterday, I could feel my senses dulling and the concentration level dropping. So riding a clearly annoying traffic in such a state of mind is questionable. In case you are a seasoned rider and have a better ride (Ninja/ Harley??), you could cut down on time a bit and make it to Pune.
A good car, a disciplined start at around 4am should get you to Mumbai the same evening.
Distance covered :1073 Kms
Fuel used :28.1 L
Fuel Efficiency :38.1 Km/L
Toll paid : Rs 0.
Hee hee hee. I crossed at least 10-12 toll plazas.
@ Car owners: pity u! ;)
Here are a couple of old school rules of biking:
-Maintain a good relationship with your machine. I say this time and again: know your vehicle’s strengths and problem areas. Strictly operate within this range. For eg: the P-200 has a partial oil cooled engine. You can rev it hard but do not abuse it like a fully liquid cooled motor. I used the age old method of keeping my engine cool: taking a break after every leg of a 150km. Occasionally, I even sprayed some water on the fins. The instant vaporising of water with a fizz is highly gratifying. But be careful, don’t do this unless you know what you are doing. We don’t want water in the spark plugs. Neither do we want to promote rust on the hot exhaust pipe.
-Carry a tyre patch/repair kit. There were a couple of stretches where I couldn’t find habitation for 20Kms or so.
-Be aware of your own limitations. Follow a routine to exercise your back, legs and arms a couple of days before starting for a long journey. Most importantly, be aware of your state of mind. There is no bravery in subduing those apparent signals and continuing. If you find yourself switching lanes, indulging in unnecessary or risky overtaking and deviating from your cruising speed; it can’t be more obvious: take a break!
Go- Discover your country, and ride safe!!