1000th Post – The BikeAdvice Story

Hi! Deepak Raj here. This is the 1000th post on BikeAdvice. I have decided to write a long story about myself and BikeAdvice. This is going to be about me mostly and also about BikeAdvice – I do not know how to separate BikeAdvice and myself. My life and BikeAdvice are so intertwined, it is hard to give separate stories.

I started BikeAdvice blog by August 2008. But we have to go a further behind to exactly know why and how I started BikeAdvice. Let us go to 2007, the 3rd year of my engineering studies. I was studying B.E. Civil in Sona College of Technology, Salem. It is a self financed college, a good one, affiliated to Anna University. I had opted for Civil engineering because I had plans of joining my dad’s construction company. But during my 3rd year, many IT companies visited our college for campus recruitment.

I did not know much about coding, nor had any plans of joining an IT company. But one company allowed students from all disciplines to attend the interview. So I had nothing to lose and I attended the interview so that I could gain some experience. There was no technical test and I did good in the aptitude test. There was a technical interview and I managed it somehow. The guy asked me to write a program in C to print “Hello World” and I messed it up… but still he forwarded me to the HR interview. I was confident I wouldn’t get selected but they called out my name that night! I was baffled. 

Now you may think why I am going so much into this placement thing. Because it plays an important role in the inception of BikeAdvice. Until I finished my graduation, I was of the mindset that I am going to work in that company. After completing my degree by July 2008, there was a big hollow in my daily routine. I was bored. I used to hang out with friends a lot but you cannot do it the whole day. I deseperately needed a hobby where I can focus my creative energy. That’s how BikeAdvice was born. If I was called to work immediately after graduation, I would never have started this blog.

I was passionate about bikes long before I started BikeAdvice. Now to tell about that we need to get to the second level of flashback! After finishing this, we will come back to July 2008, ok?

Ok, now it is 2003. This was the worst period of my life. I was studying 12th standard in the world’s most stupid school. (There are many stupid schools like that now!). They used to conduct exams for 3 hours every day! The teaching was crap and we had to sit in the classes for 12 hours a day. Almost. My only outlet was computer and automobile magazines. I was obsessed with both PCs and Bikes. I had a few friends who were obsessed with PCs but I was the only one with interest in bikes. Somehow those years passed by and in 2004, I completed my 12th. Great accomplishment. Not that I came out with flying colors… its just that I came out alive 🙂 Mission Accomplished.

I was about to enter the most enjoyable part of life – College. And like everyone I wanted a bike for college. It was already decided which college I would be attending and it was 10kms away from my home. My dad is very cost concious and as most of the dads he wanted to buy me a 100cc bike. My dad used to say Hero Honda was the best company so I chose Passion Plus. I was obsessed with the brochures and nearly 2 weeks went on decided which color would be the best. I was not able to see the color options in the showroom nor on the roads. Passion was recently upgraded to Passion Plus at that time and I did not have a chance to spot many.

The bike which I was about to buy. (Photo Credit: Chithran Raghu)

So we went to the only Hero Honda showroom at Salem at that time to book the Passion Plus. That was the time when Ambition also got a little upgrade – to Ambition 135. It looked a bigger bike and I instantly decided that I wanted that bike. I was already tall by that time and I thought this would suit me better than Passion Plus. My dad got convinced instantly because the bike looked solid and it was not too costly. We opted for the Black/Grey/Yellow color as shown in the pic here. It was my dream bike.

I also liked the fact that it was so silent than the others. If you remember, the TV ad also focused on it’s silence. A guy and a girl would be in a coffee shop and a group of guys would be making a lot of noise along with a TV where the volume would be full. The Ambition guy would go there and reduce the volume and then he would walk away with his girl friend on his ‘Silent Ambition 135’. I like that ad a lot because I am also a guy who likes silence.

We paid an advance of Rs.5000 and booked the vehicle. But the bike was not delivered for nearly 2 months. At that time my uncle was in the process of opening a Hero Honda showroom. His application for dealership got approved and he had yet to open the showroom et al. My dad requested me to wait a little longer and get the bike from my Uncle’s showroom itself.

Unfortunately the waiting period was too long. I was very depressed. Just like any other construction project, the construction of the showroom had unexpected delays and I was the most disappointed person due to this delay. The college was about to start and I had no bike. I refused to go to college by bus because 99% of the students who used the college bus were girls. Going by college bus was not a ‘manly’ thing to do! And I couldn’t travel by public bus because there was no stopping near my home. We live in a farm house – the house which my dad built in 2000. The nearest stop was 2 kms away… and I can’t ask my dad each time to drop me and pickup. He was a busy guy.

In the mean time my mom convinced my dad to buy me a Maruti Alto. She is always afraid of two wheelers (who’s mom isn’t?). But I simply refused it. Driving an Alto to college would spoil my golden years. I was not ready to take that chance. Also, since my dad was cost conscious, it was very easy to talk him out of it.

All these constraints made me consider something which I hadn’t thought about before. I looked at my dad’s not so frequently used 1987 Royal Enfield Bullet! My dad had started using his WagonR since a few years at that time and almost never touched his bike. He used to love his bike and riding it but it was not appropriate for his daily commute to construction sites. So I talked my dad into using it for my daily commute to college and after a little struggle he agreed.

Me looking curiously at my dad's brand new Bullet. Circa 1988. Photo by - my Dad!

The bike had a lot of problems. Sometimes it wouldn’t start. Sometimes the kicker would kick back very rudely that you could hurt your ankles/legs. We took the bike to Mr.Rajendran, our long time local mechanic with expertise in servicing bullets. We had to spend a little and within a few days it was fit to ride. The thump was awesome. It is much deeper and louder than the present day bullets.

My Dad in his Bullet

The very first day I took it to college. My friends were a little bit afraid about ragging… but I had no such fear. The Bullet with its each thump said – don’t mess with me! When you take a bike like Karizma or R15 to college, people turn to see the bike. They don’t see who’s driving it. But when you ride a bullet, people turn to see who’s riding it, not the bike. That’s a big difference between the thumpers and the other modern bikes. Right?

After a few months the showroom was ready. Though I loved the bullet, I wanted a new bike for myself for two reasons… some people started calling me by the name – ‘bullet pandi’ which was not so nice considering the way they called it. And I was not muscular at that time like I am now and the bike weighed a ton. I had a hard time handling it while parking and turning. But by now it was several months since I finished school. There had to be a price for so many months of wait. I couldn’t go back to the Ambition 135. I wanted a Karizma.

My uncle also convinced my dad to buy me a Karizma. So Karizma it was. Finalized. Now there was a big problem. What color do I choose? I thought of buying a silver colored one first, then my desires shifted to turquoise blue and it kept circling. Someday I would spot a turquoise blue Karizma on road and I would keep dreaming of it for a few weeks until I saw a different colored Karizma.

I searched online for pictures of Karizma but there were a very few pics here and there. The company website did show the color options but the images were not like you would look at a real bike. They were illustrations. Not photos. And you need photos to visualize. That’s one reason why I focus so much on photos for BikeAdvice articles. Even today I do not know why the companies don’t give away enough media content so that potential buyers can drool over it.

Finally the color confusion was over. I was about to buy a black Karizma. Not because I preferred it, but because only black Karizma was available in the first lot of vehicles which came to the showroom. After seeing the bike in person, I fell in love with it. My bike was the first delivery in that brand new showroom. The key was handed over to me during the inaugural ceremony by the chief guest. My happiness knew no bounds. All I could think of at that time was taking it to my college and showing it to my friends. (And of course, letting the girls look at me and my bike).

My First Bike (Our farm in the backdrop)

Life was smooth and enjoyable in college. Now let us end the Flashback 2 and come to flashback 1. I said I was bored after my college was over and I needed a hobby. I was spending a lot of time online at that time and one day I saw a Pulsar ad in YouTube. It had around 110,000 views. I was astonished that so many people have watched it. I thought, if an ad could pull in so many views, then a lot of people would visit my blog if I posted good content about bikes.

So I decided to start a website about bikes. At that time I already knew a thing or two about self hosted blogs. Starting one was no big deal. The big deal was putting quality content in it. And in case if you are wondering how I coined the name BikeAdvice… It was an inspiration from CarAdvice.com.au. I read a story about the founder of CarAdvice.com.au about how he started his blog and how within 2 years he made it into a multi million dollar company. I was inspired and I wanted to make BikeAdvice the no.1 blog about bikes in the country. Considering the subscriber count and traffic, I can confidently say that I have achieved that goal already… but there is still a long way to go.

This was the first Design of BikeAdvice...

The first article on BikeAdvice was a review of Hero Honda Hunk. Getting the Hero Honda Bikes for test rides was easy for me since the showroom was my uncle’s. I took some photos of the bike after riding it and wrote an article about it the same evening. Next day I received 22 new visitors to my blog via Google search. Usually brand new blogs don’t get that much traffic on the first day without promotion… but the search volumes about Indian bikes was so high at that time and the number of websites delivering quality content about Indian motorcycles were very less.

I was happy that I found a good topic to blog about. Also comments started coming in which motivated me a lot. I started reviewing bikes one by one and the site started growing slowly. For the first six months I did not put any advertisements on my blog because I wanted to do it just for the hobby and not for making money. Apart from running this blog I also started getting into some other Internet projects from which I started making some money. I invested that money in BikeAdvice. I invested $150 for the design and $10 per month went into hosting expenses. (Now it is around $100 per month!).

My only motivation was the comments I used to get – it was the indication that people find my content useful. After nearly 1 year of starting BikeAdvice, I was called to join the IT company in which I got placed. I thought I could go there and work and also focus on BikeAdvice when I got free time. That company was in Bangalore and I had to relocate. I had a reluctant feeling about going to a 9-5 job because for the past 1 year from that time, I got used to a relaxed kind of life. To top it all, I also was making some money from online projects and BikeAdvice kept my days interesting. But I thought that I couldn’t be like this all life and I had to enter the corporate world.

I went to Bangalore, got a PG accommodation and went to join the company. The first day I was in high spirits and was enthusiastic. But the very first day they killed my enthusiasm by making me wait for 3 hours in the lobby. I was in Bangalore for a few more days and I decided that this was not my cup of tea 🙂 I ran back to Salem! Not literally. From that day till today, I did not go to higher studies, nor tried to get a job. All my focus is on BikeAdvice and my other Internet projects. Now I have enough confidence about the power of Internet and I have decided to be an Internet Entrepreneur for the rest of my life.

Though I make good profits from BikeAdvice via sponsors, my primary motivation is the daily growth of the blog and as well as the two wheeler industry as a whole. And from time to time I get really good opportunities from BikeAdvice. One was the fully sponsored China Trip which you can read about here: My Experience In China – The CIMAMotor 2009. Another good one was the invitation to Auto Expo 2010. Because of BikeAdvice, I also got a chance to appear in a TV interview. You can see that here: Deepak’s TV Interview. But it was only in a regional channel. The questions were in Tamil and so my answers had to be in Tamil.

A few months back I sold my Karizma to a relative of mine and 1 month back I bought a Yamaha R15. If it wasn’t for BikeAdvice, I would have gone for Karizma ZMR. It would have been the obvious choice to upgrade from Karizma. But after reading so many reviews from Yamaha R15 owners in BikeAdvice, R15 was a clear decision.

Almost 2 years back I did a review of Yamaha R15 and it was not a 100% positive review. I had commented that I would not go for it since it was a 150cc. It is obvious that no review is better than an ownership review. No one knows more about a machine than its owner, not even the company itself! At least not in the way that a owner understands it. So I will always try to get as many ownership reviews in BikeAdvice as possible. But expert reviews and news will also be there.

I would like to thank all my readers for keeping me motivated. You are the reason that BikeAdvice exists. The blog has life. It is alive. And let us help it thrive. Good days ahead 🙂

Hope you enjoyed my story! Don’t go away without leaving a comment 🙂 It means a lot to me!

Deepak Raj