A motorcycle is more than transportation

Shubhabrata Marmar Updated: February 28, 2018, 05:50 PM IST

Wow, what a stunning bike! How much is it for?" And that, usually, is how the conversation begins. "More than 20 lakh rupees! Holy shit. I could get a car for that! Why didn't you get one?" And that is usually when I walk away shaking my head. But perhaps it isn't fair. Perhaps I do need to answer this persistent question. No matter how silly it is. You want to know why I would spend so much money on a bike? Read on.

Ducati Multistrada 1200S Long Term (1)

A motorcycle to me is more than transportation. And cars become more than mere transportation only once their power outputs, exotic-ness and usually price reach some incredibly high level. So will I ever be able to afford a four-wheeler that represents more than transportation to me? I think not. But even the most exotic of motorcycles is rarely that kind of stupid-expensive. And yes, before you say Confederate or something like that, let me point out that there are always exceptions.

Next comes utility. I can take my exotic motorcycle anywhere I want. Sure, I'm obliged to carry a cover for it, just in case. I will usually call ahead to ensure that I have a place to park it securely when I arrive and all that. And a car, to wit, wouldn't require so much planning ahead. But two things. First, the need to park it securely isn't about theft. It's about Indian parents never teaching their kids the freaking difference between what's yours and what is not yours. It very much is your (crappy) selfie. But that is very much my (beloved) motorcycle, so climb the eff off before I kneecap you. Aargh. But second, my exotic motorcycle will still get me to my destination minutes and minutes ahead of the car. Yes, even in the rains. I might be wet when I arrive, but I guarantee that I will be smiling.

Then there's matter of lean angles. Cars simply do not lean over to 40 degrees or more, and you cannot get your knee or elbow down. Worse, cars might only lean a few degrees but most disappointingly, they lean to the outside of the corner which, anyone will tell you, just feels wrong. This is why there are three- and four-wheelers that lean into corners by engineering but no two-wheelers that lean outwards, heh heh. And trust me, a motorcycle (or scooter) at a good lean angle is vastly more visceral thing than sipping a coffee while droning down the expressway towards a meeting.

And have you considered the power of being there, rather than passing through it? It sounds like a cliche but just consider, for example, your nose. In a car, you smell the tones of a freshener or that peculiarly specific smell-free smell of the aircon. On a motorcycle it's a buffet, admittedly not all of it pleasant. But a ride from Mumbai might be sewage, low tide, clean air, fresh grass, truck fumes, diesel spill, fresh grass, cigarette smoke (from a car up ahead), freshwater, forest, flowers... Also skin. A car ride is like stifling heat, cooling, cooling and now stable 24°C once the aircon has control. A bike? Mumbai right now is pleasant cool as you leave the city, refreshingly cold outside it and usually, baking, muggy hot when you return. Call me a person enslaved by the sensations I can see or feel if you like. But a ride on a motorcycle is just so much more sensory input than a car.

Yes, there is the risk. But I cannot just lock myself up in a room and never come out for the fear of getting hurt. Motorcycling comes with risk and it is integral to how much we enjoy the activity. On every motorcycle forum I know, riders discuss how to ride better. They're working out risk mitigation strategies. I wish I could say the same for car forums. Perhaps this is only because I am not on any, so I wouldn't know. But I imagine car forums deal more in memes than tips on driving better. The point is that everything we do in life comes with some risk. The risk
of riding a motorcycle is fairly obvious and it makes us motorcyclists (as opposed to bikers) work hard to eliminate as many variables as possible by skill, learning and sheer effort.

Then there is the concentration. I've said this before and I will say it again. Motorcycles are mutually exclusive to everything else. If you ride focussed enough, you'll realise your butt was hurting after you've parked the bike for the day. That focus, that concentration is therapy for me. It pulls all distracting thoughts away and helps me do one thing as well as I can at a time. It's life changing, I promise you. Every time I ride to work, for example, I find that I work harder, more efficiently. And I think I finish faster so that I can hop back on the bike and head back out into the real world.

And that's the final point I'm going to make. Why did I not spend that considerable amount of money and get a car? Because, my friend, motorcycles scare you and you won't ask me to take you for a spin. If I'd got a car, you'd want a ride and maybe even want to borrow it at some point in the future. But you won't ask the same of my motorcycle.

Because motorcycles are as intimate as bedtime conversation and underpants. You already know if you're in the inner circle or not.


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