Thursday, June 05, 2014

Bangalore to Mumbai on a Thunderbird 500cc - Part 1

Yep - Did a crazy ride from Bangalore to Mumbai.

Here is the full story.

On May 23rd ( the night before we released the new UI - product plug 1 - ), I was doing QA on the site.

I stumbled upon this Classified on Buzzar ( product plug 2 : an open post-it area for buy / sell related stuff for ApartmentADDA Users ) about a Bangalore dude trying to sell his MH Thunderbird. As part of testing on the new UI I clicked I am interested and sent him a message. Immediately I got a call from him - and we started chatting.

If you know me - I am not a biker. A biker is one who grows a thick moustache, has a beer belly, has a tattoo on his biceps, can explain to you what the C in CC is in layman terms, and can fix his own motorcycle. I am none of the above.

I love the idea of riding a cruiser - like a Thunderbird, or a Harley or a Triumph. I drool on all the pictures in Top Gear, or Team BHP. I would read the stories of solo rides, long rides, crazy rides and imagine.. some day.. some day I can do these trips.

And then I  read about the horror stories of the bikes from Royal Enfield. Oil leaks, clutch cable getting cut, vibrations above a certain speed - and the fanatic RE fans.. who like Apple fanboys phoo phoo any criticism of their bikes - and I would drop the idea and go back to my life.

Now the dude I was getting the bike from is an avid rider. Has gone to Ladakh, Bhutan, Mum to Goa and in this very bike he was selling - had just done a trip to Kanyakumari. The bike was well run and he offered a good price. I thought this is like buying a trained puppy.

Not only that - the bike was in Bangalore - and I had to go there to get it. I was bit by the idea of a long ride.

It came to convincing San, the wife. Actually it was easy. I told her - I am getting old - there will come a time when I have the time and money but I will not be able to ride a bike. And my soul wants this badly. Sold.

Bike guy came to office the next saturday, he gave some useful tips and we signed the papers.

I booked a bus immediately to Bangalore. But then the forces who love me started working against me - send it through packers, you crazy or what to ride it back? Thankfully San was behind me. We had to move some equipment to Bangalore and back and also wanted to checkout the new office the Bangalore team is moving into - so it was decided that we will drive down - and I will ride the bike back,  and San will escort me in the car.

Started on a Sunday morning and when we stopped for lunch - around 2PM I had my devil1 creeping into my head. You sure Venkat? - this is so damn hot. You will get cooked in this heat and you have never ridden a Thunderbird before. But again another devil2 whispered - isn't this a nice challenge? Should you not push yourself to the limit - how will you know what is your limit then? Throughout the drive I kept listening to the arguments of these 2 devils.

Reached pretty late on Sunday night - and couldn't sleep. Was listening to Queen title song full blast on the way - and it kept running in my head and the thought of Thunderbird and was imagining how it will be to finally ride it.

Woke up pretty groggy.. and planned to go to Cramster shop first - this was a brand the bike guy had suggested. The wind hits you pretty hard on long rides and if you do not have a good wind cheater -  it tires you out. He swore by this brand - said it also has elbow, spine protection. Decided to check it out. This shop was in Cunningham road, and had to wade through Bangalore Traffic from Bannerghatta Road - from San's sisters place where we sheltered - a Route drawn in hell.

We go there and the shop is closed. I had checked the website twice before going. Luckily the cleaning lady said - Bharthaarae ( they are coming ).. so I waited and kept avoiding the question San asked - did you call to see if they are open? which I hadn't. The shop guy came finally - and tried out the jacket. 5k - worth every paise. Picked up gloves too.

Then went to Whitefield to pick our colleague and also meet the bike - it was parked in at her home. And it was disappointment at first sight. The Thunderbird I see in Top Gear and all auto magazines look stunning. And here was this dusty bike with no glitz or glamour. I did not show my disappointment, but kept a fake enthu face - oh its just dust. Then went away to the office meetings and got sucked into it.

By 6:30 was out of all engagements and noticed it was raining really bad and all the roads were jammed. By 8 we reached her home and borrowed a cloth and dusted it off the bike and finally started it.

It did not sound like the heavy thump of a bullet - which I like and dislike ( when it wakes me up in the night ). But it rattled a bit. I am used to riding Japanese bikes  ( Sleek, Splendour and Unicorn ) - and they are all silky smooth. Felt perhaps this is how REs are - very rough and unfinished.

Then went to the Petrol Pump ( the E was blinking in the digital display - you bike guy... grrr.. ) and took it for a spin in AECS layout. It was dark and was raining. I did not know what gear I was in, did not see what speed I was in - tried to change gears and it was clunky - my disappointment grew. It was really hard to ride it at low speeds.

Then started from AECS Layout to Bannerghatta road - via Kundalahalli gate - Route drawn in Hell just got revised -  on a rainy day around the time all the 2nd shift ITPL shuttles return,  on a bike - which does not ride well slowly. It was an inch by inch traffic. And to make matters worse - I did not have the gloves - and the rain and gripping clutch made my hand numb and the palms started itching with all the vibration. I never touched more than 60 kph. Doubt if I went to even 5th gear. It was not fun. Devil1 was laughing its head off.

At home everyone was asking - how is the bike. Said could not really ride the bike well, there was too much traffic. But did say that the bike feels rough - and gave some explanation of how cool this is or whatever. I think they all felt sorry for me.

Depressing so far right - hope things will turn for the better tomorrow. ( To be continued...  Part 2)


  1. Venky, this is just fantastic writing! I'm reading it just now, redirected from your second biking adventure post :)