This ‘straight-from-the-heart‘ user review is shared by Khailendra Singh. You can also get featured on BikeAdvice. Write to us.
The last time I wrote something resembling an essay with a pen on paper was probably in high school. I can confidently state that writing is not my cup of tea. After clocking more than 1 lac Kilometers on my Odometer I felt it was important to share my journey of 11 years relationship with my FZ. Now I feel it is time to take a break and meditate on how far life has come riding bike and lessons learnt on road.
I have grown up in the hills of Nainital, Uttarakhand. My first memory falling in love with motor bike comes from my childhood stories. My MAMA (maternal uncle) owned a Royal Enfield Bullet that he had purchased during his teenage years on a spontaneous decision (for which he got a lot of flak) from a hippie who was returning home and had to sell his bike as soon as possible. Every morning the voices of disapproval were drowned in the sweet thumping sound of the thunderous revs of the Bullet’s engine. I could hear the sound of the bike from miles away and used to get excited to see it every evening when he returned from work. I can recall the beautiful memories of riding to my school on his Bullet not only as a pillion but also as a rider, that is, if you consider sitting on the tank and mock driving it as riding. The sheer joy I used to get from the Bullet rides with my uncle made me aspire to become a biker like him.
Like most kids my age, I didn’t wait for the legal age to learn riding a motorbike, but kids don’t try this at home! Or on second thought, only try this at home, not the streets. The credit behind my motorbike learning goes to my loving TAUJI (uncle). The first time I rode a motored two wheeler was a SUNNY scooty of Jeena uncle, a friend of my Tauji. Tauji and his friends including Jeena uncle used to play PAAPLU (cards game with coins) on Sundays and holidays. I started learning a two wheeler when I was in class six. My elder brother Bhupi Da was given a new Chetak 4 stroke scooter to commute to his school and coaching centers when he was in 12th standard. The scooter was a golden opportunity for me to learn two wheels so I started riding under adult supervision on an empty ground next to our house.
As i grew confident, I started riding on the neighborhood streets, even though it was probably illegal. My legs we too short to ride the scooter on my own so there used to be an adult rider with me at all times who helped me to balance it in stop position. Over time, my height and skills increased and I started riding on my own.
When I was in class 8 my brother bought a PULAR 150 DTSI with alloy wheels, one of the most prominent performance bikes in the market during that time. I have a lot of memories of the Black Pulsar riding it all through the streets back home. When I was in class 9th, my brother bought Bullet Electra (old gearing pattern / left side gear), giving me an opportunity to ride the old classic beauty. I made lot of memories on the ENFIELD but found it a little heavy on pocket for fuel and maintenance.
During my class 10, I was known as the Biker Boy and was singled out for getting scolded many times in the class by teachers as I was often spotted riding bikes in school dress when I would borrow bike from my uncles Santosh Mama and Harish Mama after school.
When I was in class 11th I was finding it difficult to attend my coaching after school and as I was always desperate to have my own bike, I begged my mom to get me one. After having a lot of quarrels, fights and giving up food for few days, finally my mom relented.
Entry of the Hero – My FZ!
My adolescence had been spent reading more Autocar and Moto sport magazines than comics. And I used to save money to frequent cyber-cafes and spent my weekends lurking on biking-enthusiast forums to update my knowledge on bikes. As Yamaha had launched two new models R-15 full framed sports bike and FZ-16 naked street fighter, which were catching sight of the crown with their new styling. On 19th January, 2009 after much deliberation, and crossed fingers (it was my first bike after all) I settled on the Yamaha FZ. I had few doubts even when we went for the test ride, but then I saw it in the showroom, and it was love at first sight. And a lifelong love too, because it has been a great partnership ever since.
For first few years, I promised not to go on longer trips and stuck around to visiting nearby places around Nainital. My first long ride was an impromptu trip to Delhi from Nainital in August 2010. The purpose of visiting Delhi was to meet my sisters on the auspicious occasion of RAKHI. I told my mom that my friend Prakhar needs my bike during my visit to Delhi and convinced her for the bike trip. My friend studying in Delhi advised me to leave the bike and helmet in the nearest metro station parking lot before visiting my sister’s place so as to convince my mother when she inquired from her sister about not finding me with a bike and/or a helmet. The trip was fun and rather uneventful except for the jam on the way back to Nainital, when it took me more than 3 hours to reach Hapur Tool booth Ghaziabad, which generally takes minutes.
The second trip was planned with Rahul Paladiya, a senior in college from school days. We planned a 4 day ride from the beautiful hills of Kumaun to the magnificent hills of Garhwal. We started the trip on 30th morning and reached Badrinath the same evening covering around 340 kms. We found cheap comfortable accommodations and biked to the temple after dropping our luggage in the hotel. The next morning we woke up early, worshiped the holy shrine, took a dip in the hot water spring and started our ride towards Hemkund Saahib.
While coming back from Badrinath we saw that a Scorpio was also struggling to climb up the last 10 kilometers and we understood the reason why our bike was struggling last night. We parked our bikes in Govindghat and started the trekking towards Hemkund. That day we reached Ghangaria and stayed in Gurdwara Sri Govind Dham. The next day started with a steep six kilometres trek. We took a holy dip in the Lake and worshiped the Gurdwara Saheeb. We reached back Govindghat the same day and planned to stay in Gurdwara Saheeb in Joshimath. We started early the next day morning and reached home by the evening. First official long trip over! Whew!
Quest for More Performance
During the badrinath trip, it dawned on me that while my bike was perfect for normal trips, it was not that great for mountain journeys with heavy bags. This is the point when I started searching on performance modifications. Rohit, a friend from college, was my on-campus bike-guruji who helped a noob like me understand and love bikes even more. As BikeAdvice blog has always helped me to learn on various biking riding and maintenance tips, I found a blog written on BikeAdvice about the performance upgrades from Race Concepts (RC).
RC was offering the authentic and best 4-stroke performance upgrades available in our country by Joel Joseph from Banglore. Joel introduced me to a lot of ideas that I hadn’t even heard of before. Along with Rohit, he helped me choose the best combinations in my budget to add the performance boosters from RC. I ordered the big bore kit, high lifted cams, free flow Simota air filter, large cone performance tuned carburetor and the free flow exhaust – it costed me around 25000 INR.
I received the ordered parts through shipments and the first order was received on 21st June 2011. I was really impressed with the mods of RC which transformed my bike into a real beast. I had always associated performance upgrade modifications with pure aesthetics, but boy was I wrong! Those of you who haven’t, should give it a thought and try some upgrades from a reliable source. Not only does it help in customizing your bike to feel like it is truly yours, it also helps you understand the inner machinations better thereby making you one with it when you hit the road. The improvement in the performance was such that I was easily able to compete with any 200 cc bike.
Ladakh – The Biker’s Paradise
It was in 2014 when I was about to complete my graduation in Engineering, it was the right time to play my trump card for a long awaited trip to the Paradise for all the bikers: Ladakh. A few days before my last semester exams I told my mom that I am planning a Ladakh trip on my bike with some friends. My mom disapproved at first but eventually agreed. What I hadn’t told mom was that the biggest thrill about the trip was that it was going to be a solo ride!!
I was well prepared for the trip before my exams and arranged everything beforehand. Rahul Paladiya and Prateek Dalakoti, a senior from Sem (my high school: St. Joseph’s College, Nainital), helped me plan the trip with their previous experiences of Ladakh. The trip started the morning of 16th June 2014 and I reached Dehradun the same day. I bought CRAMSTER saddle bags from a store in Dehradun and spent the night there. The next day I started early at 6 in the morning towards Manali, passing through Ponta Saheeb, Mandi, Pandoh Dam, 3 kilometres tunnel. I enjoyed the beautiful ride and the landscape all along the Vyas River. I reached Bhuntar before Kullu and took a right from there towards Kasol (mini Israel of India). Kasol is a beauty, with the chill in the air and the fragrance of the famous Malana Cream smoked around by many travelers. The next day was tough crossing Manali, Rohtang Pass to reach Keylong. I reached Keylong by the evening but it was hard to find accommodations around so I planned to travel further and found a tent accommodation. The next day I reached Leh passing through Bara Lacha La, Sarchu, Gata Loop, Nakee La, Pang, Lachung La and Tanglang La.
After reaching Leh I found a decent accommodation in Changspa. The next day was more thrilling as I was going to the Pangong Lake. I reached the lake view point but decided to travel ahead almost 30 kms more off-road out of curiosity. Eventually, I was stopped by a police check post as travelers needed extra inner-line permits to travel beyond the check-post. So I turned back and reached Leh late, at around 21:00 hrs. The next day I started for the Khardungla La and when I reached Khardungla, it was snowing there. I met a gentle man in Khardungla who has since become an inspiration for me. He was a 70 year old man riding a Bullet all the way from the southern part of our country. After Khardungla I did some sightseeing.
The next day I started towards Kashmir, before reaching Srinagar I came across Drass war memorial, Gata loops and Zojila Pass. The new day started with the sightseeing of the beautiful Kashmir. I started towards Udhampur and reached there by evening. My aforementioned friend, Rahul, had arranged the stay in Air Force station in Udhampur. I visited the Vaishno Devi shrine and returned back to Udhampur. The journey was now towards Amritsar, Parade at Attari Border, Golden Temple visit and Jaliyanwala Bagh all the while sampling the delicious food of Amritsar and from there to Dalhousie and then McLeodganj.
From McLeodganj I started towards Shimla, reached Shimla at 4 in the evening but found it hard to find a budget accommodation so decided to travel directly to Dehradun instead. This was the longest single day ride I had traveled till then with approx 480 kilometres all in the hills. The next day I rode to Tehri and from there back home. I covered approx 5000 kms in 18 days covering almost 4 northern states. Financial sponsors of this trip were my friend Swapnil Joshi and cousin Bhupi Da, as they contributed the most.
College got over, and I started working. Gotta earn them greens to keep the fuel tank full. My first year was as a fresh engineering graduate in an FMCG industry job. I slogged my ass all week to get those precious hours of road trips on weekends that I could get. But life had other plans.
In 2016, I joined a tea estate near Siliguri as an assistant manager. It is considered as one of the most fun jobs by many people including me. Though the work was tiresome but the living in the scenic beauty of the Eastern Himalayas more than made up for it. The food, the tea planter life-style, the folks were great in themselves. But for the one whose life is on the road, all you need is petrol in the tank and a clear sky over head (though the latter bit is more of a guideline).
Given the hectic job schedule and added responsibilities, I had a tough time going for long trips. I tried to make up as much of it as possible in smaller trips around the place over weekends including Darjeeling, Mirik, Kalimpong, Gorumara, Kumai and Lava in the North Bengal. I explored few parts of Sikkim Gangtok, Namchi, Ravangla, Pelling, Gazing and Yuksam during extended holidays (specially during Puja Chutti). Over the next two years, I had made friends in every tea shop, and eaten momos at every restaurant around the place. Even managed to visit Bhutan on an extended trip of 3 days in 2017 during Fagwa Chutti (Holi break) and wanted to stay longer but had to go back to work the next day. All in all, it wasn’t so bad, but the road kept calling and eventually one day, I quit my job.
Well that was not just for the trips, because even I am not that crazy. But between you and me, it was a big factor in my decision. Now I was a (relatively) free bird as I planned over the next step in my career. In February, 2019 I made it through an interview for my further management studies in a prestigious University in Bangalore. My trip plan was to travel all south following the coastal route starting from western coast in Gujarat and ending on eastern coast somewhere in Bengal. As I was already moving south for at least two years of my business studies I made a change in the plan.
Next BIG Ride…
The next BIG ride in March 2019 was all the way from Nainital to Allahabad to Varanasi to Bodhgaya to Deoghar to Siliguri. I reached Siliguri, my previous work place a day before Holi 20th March as a surprise to everyone there. The plan was made so that I could attend the Holi celebrations in Danguajhar and celebrate the birthday of a lady who always looked after me like a mother when I was away from home.
The next day we celebrated Holi with loads of fun (beer) but somewhere around 14:00 I got a call from mom that my Tauji has left us all..!!! He had been the father figure to me all my life and naturally this unexpected loss was a big shocking news for me. But I had to respond quickly to the situation. So I left on flight to Delhi from Bagdhogra and reached home next day at 3:00. Few days after my Tauji left us, my friend Swapnil gave me a call informing me about aunty (his mother) and that she was in her last stage of cancer and I should see her soon. She also left us all after few days but luckily I got to spend some time with her before that.
After a month when things got somewhat normal in the family, I planned to get my bike back because biking is the therapy that calms my mind most. As things were not okay at home I planned to not go further in the north eastern region and come back through Nepal. I started from Siliguri, paid all Nepal Road taxes on the border at Kakarbhitta.
From Kakarbhitta I rode continuously till Barbidas and had lunch in Barbidas. The fun part starts from Barbidas, the hills start when you take right for Kathmandu. The roads are top notch, perfect for bike rides with a lot of bends to flick. The beautiful highway is made by the Japnese. I reached Kathmadu and stayed with Tilak Daju. Next day started with the sight seining and then towards Pokhra. I was little unlucky with the weather and could not see the Himalayas. The roads and scenic beauty in Nepal is great. I reached Pokhra in the evening stayed for two days there doing sightseeing and enjoying the lakeside. From Pokhra my next destination was Mahendranagar, the border town of Nepal towards its western border. So I finally completed the big ride crossing the NEPAL from east to west and reached home.
The Southern India Life…
Shortly after this I joined my management school in Bangalore. Too bad my bike didn’t come with me. So I rented bikes for my weekend and extended weekend trips. Bangalore has a great biking culture and I pretty much covered all the local areas around Bangalore in the first month itself. Then I took a trip to Pondicherry in September, 2019 on a rented Duke 390 making a big hole in my pocket paying for the high rent and fuel. Another on Pulsar NS a pocket friendly bike, to Chickmanglaluru, Agumbe, Udupi, Malpe, Mangalore and Coorg ending back in Bangalore and a third one to Coorg in early October 2019.
But 2019 had way more in store for my solo-travelling appetite. I filled all the cravings with trips down south and then even more south. I went back to Nainital during Diwali holidays and then rode my way back through Lucknow, Jabalpur, Nagur, Warrangla, SriSailam and Bangalore. I covered more than 2600 kilometers in 5 days with a longest ride of 900+ kilometers on day 2 from Lucknow to Wadki somewhere near Maharashtra border. I crossed several (maybe 5 or 6) tiger reserves. The best part in this trip was the jungle ride through SriSailam.
The first trip with my precious bike in Bangalore was to Kodaikanal with Ashish Pathak, a high school friend from Sem. It was followed by a solo trip from Bangalore to Chennai to Mahamalipura to Pondicherry.
2020 started with a big New Year bonanza. My semester exams got over on 31st December, 2019 and I headed to meet Ashish to celebrate the New Year eve. There we were joined by another friend, she is also fond of travelling and helped me add new places and plan my 5 days New year Trip to Kanyakumari.
The trip started a little late than scheduled at 8:00. I reached Dindigul at 14:00 and enjoyed my lunch at a famous place Thalappakatti Biryani Restaurant, Dindigul. I reached Rameshwaram at 19:00 hrs. The next day started with the holy dip in the sea followed by the 22 fresh water kunds in the temple premises. After worshiping the holy shrine I visited Dhanushkoti and Vibhishan Temple. I took the coastal route towards Kanyakumari and came across salt fields, a beautiful church town Manapad and came across areas with many wind mills.
The next day I did some sightseeing in Kanyakumari and rode towards north through the western coast. I added a few places while going up and went to Matur, to the longest bridge in Asia that is 1 kilometer long and more than 100 feet tall with water canal constructed to provide water for irrigation to the high altitude regions with less water in the Western Ghats. The next stop was Tirparappu fall followed by the beach sunset at Kovalam. The night halt was at Varkala known for its cliff beach. I enjoyed the momos at the Tibetan Restaurant with a beer. The next day was a big riding day as Kerala didn’t have wide roads making it difficult to clock more kilometers, I started the ride early at 4:30 and reached Alleppey at 7:30 to enjoy the beautiful sunrise with the mesmerizing view of the backwaters and the houseboats.
My next target was Muzhappilangad, known as the longest beach drive in Asia. As I rode my bike on the beach I made some videos and clicked few photos to document the experience properly. From Muzhappilangad I started towards Wayanad. Travelling on the roads between Western Ghats and western coast has always surprised me with the beautiful landscape and the unparalleled riding experience. After sightseeing in Wayanad I started my trip back to Bangalore after the lunch at 1980 Restaurant in Wayanad through Bandipur, B.R. hills. I reached Bangalore at night 21:30. This trip added a very different variety of memories in my biking journey. All in all, the best way to start off a fresh new year.
Biker for Life..
So what next for me? Well, the proverbial show goes on. Discovering a lot of not-so-famous places, meeting the nicest people, and others not so nice, but then that is life. I have had some good days, some bad, some really great. There have been many lessons learnt on my bike. Some happy, some bitter. But all this has made me a better rider and (I would like to believe) a better person too. The road is a ruthless disciplinarian but also an excellent teacher. And so despite having been through harrowing times on it, I always tend to return to it just one more time. Every trip takes me back to that first trip I rode the bike with the wind whispering in my ears as I sing back to it – The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep..