I did try sleep for a long time, but my trouble was excitement again. Getting ready, I topped up and checked the air pressure. I made a quick trip to the Chennai office and shared the good news with people there. During my return from the office, I called one of my cousins in Vellore and told her I would visit them for lunch. But then I warned her I would be really late and would take more than 3 hours to make it.
With just one tank bag in hand, I chose to take the most vital things that I would need for the next 3 days. With a heavy and hug tank bag, I went around the house searching for and old piece of soft cloth to place on the tank before resting the tank bag on it. Setting things in place, I slowly rolled through the busy roads in the hot sun. It wasn’t long before the radiator fans started spinning and I had a nice hot air treatment from the space around the handlebar and from beneath the legs. I had to bear with it until I moved out of the city and exposed the bike to a little more air flow on the highway.
I was strictly advised to follow the engine break in rules, failing which I may have undesired effects on the engine. With these conditions in place, the vehicle wouldn’t do anything more than 58 (to be exact) on 6th gear. I had a great company of slow vehicles all along the way. If you had ever seen a really slow lorry overtaking another pathetically slow lorry, that is exactly how I performed every single overtake. I was also conscious not to ride in a single speed and had to vary the RPM within its limit, as much as I could. On top of this, I had never ridden a superbike every in my life time and I had no clue how to tackle the sporty position of the saddle. In less than half an hour’s time, I started developing pain in various parts of the body. About 100 kms from Chennai, I was even considering quitting this ride and placing it in Vellore. At that point, I stopped by a shady location for some tender coconut. Quenching the thirst, I went around the bike mentally judging the distance between the saddle and the handlebar.
When I got back, I tried different positions to understand how they reacted on the different parts of my body. I tried various postures until I finally managed to figure out a comfortable enough posture that caused minimal stress. Learning by myself, I reached Vellore, where a delicious meal awaited. It took me slightly more than 3 hours to cover a distance of 130 kms. The heavy meal demanded enough rest before I could start again. Back on the road, I realized there are 3 common things one can expect with the Ninja.
- People ask you the cost.
- People want to know the mileage.
- People coming in the front signal that the lights are on. This vehicle is a sport model and does not have a separate switch to control the lights. One the engine is switched on, the lights will glow, you get to only control the high or low beam.
It was becoming a common sight for me when cars zipped past and suddenly I saw its brakes being applied. They would pull over and wait for ‘the super slow Me’ to pass by and admire the bike. The Ninja has an amazing road presence and gives everyone an impression that it is certainly a bigger bike than what it actually is. It was yet anther patient 3 hours before I reached my brother’s place in Krishnagiri. I called up my family and my friends updating everything that happened since the last time I met them the previous day. This was the first ride where I started after telling my parents and secondly they knew where exactly I was heading to. I refreshed myself and waited for for my brother, Prithiv to arrive. He walked in from the gate and I didn’t have to tell him where the bike was parked. He went straight to the bike and had just a few words to say. “Ooh… Sexy… Sexy!” I told him about the bike and he took it for a spin. He came back and told me that he couldn’t feel anything special within the 4k RPM that was to be maintained. I had to agree to it as that was simply the fact. We joined the rest of the family for yet another fantastic pasta dinner. I checked my mails after the dinner and promptly went to bed.
4 AM. I slowly opened the door to ensure that I wasn’t going to wake anyone at home. But I had mistaken. A small squeak from the door was enough to wake my Aunt, who was already expecting me to wake up. I heard he walk into the kitchen trying to make something for me to drink. I took some time to get ready and walked down with a packed bag. Drinking the chocolate milk she had prepared, I bid farewell and joined the highway.
I was constantly searching for a fuel station that sold octane fuel. The bike required a minimum of octane 91 and anything below that was going to hurt the engine. I managed find one just before Hosur, where I realized that the tank was still full. The bike had run close to a 300 kms with 9 liters of petrol and that was amazing mileage. Of course, not to forget the fact that the bike hadn’t even started walking. It was still limping on one leg. I sent a message to Praful telling him about my whereabouts since he had promised to meet at the entry to Bangalore. It was quite bright when I reached the place and Praful took a few more minutes to arrive.
When I saw him stopped the bike and got down, I stepped towards him and stretched my hand for a shake. He grinned, winked and said, “Woo… Who wants to meet you anyway? I’m here to see the bike!” I laughed at him as made multiple rounds around the bike, stooping o
ver and under, making note of every detail the bike had. Back on the bike, he led me through the 6 lane Bangalore bye pass where he tested top speeds of his 220 and I was shamelessly letting TVS 50s overtake me. At some point, he pulled over to tell me that John was going to join us in a while. While I looked around the empty roads, Praful was busy clicking pictures of the Kwacker. After a ten minute wait, I reminded him that I had a few hundred kms to cover and that we could slowly keep proceeding and could ask John to join us on the way. Praful left him a message and we moved on. I left it to Praful to ride the Kwacker and have a feel of the bike.
From the place where the good stretch of the bye pass ended, we had to fight through really horrible traffic for more than half an hour until we finally stopped by a decent hotel on the highway for some breakfast. Our first round of food and John arrived in sync. I was real glad to meet John after quite a long time. He was so excited about the bike and I could see that happiness all over his face. He borrowed the key to move the bike a little to click some pictures. Praful and myself spent a long time eating and discussing the route I was going to take. Along with John we noticed people surrounding the bike admiring it with a million questions in mind. In the middle of this, I got a call from an unknown number. The person on the other end was none other than our dear Mr. Narayanan who had called to enquire about the bike’s performance. He assured that things were fine and also gave me the contact to the service engineer in Pune. He added that he had already informed the person in Pune about my travel and that I would be arriving there for service very soon. Just after the call, he sent me a message with all the information to contact the Pune folks. Now, I started wondering if I had purchased a Kwacker or a Mercedes.
Bidding farewell to the two riders, I got back on the saddle to continue my patient journey. I was promised by Praful about great roads till Chitradurga, after which it might be quite unpleasant until Hubli, which was my target for the day. I was making a lot of lorry driver friends on the way as they waved to their superbike pal, and rocked their heads with me to the music I was listening to. Shortly before Davangere, I was joined by a ‘Bajaj Discover’ friend who requested to ride beside me. I chuckled and nodded to him and to this moment I honestly didn’t expect that level of courtesy from him. Just before Davangere, my throat was dry and I pulled over at a small snack bar for some Pepsi. It was coincidence that the guy pulled over as well and that his shop was the one just beside the snack bar. He took the initiative to buy me everything that I needed and even before I could pay, he settled the bill. When I tried to pay him back, he refused to even get a penny from me. Man, is this the power of a superbike in India?
A little after Davangere, I saw really long stretches of road that went on and on as long as my eyes could see. I stuck to the leftmost side of the road fearing to be hit by even the slowest moving traffic. Good cars were doing 140+ speeds comfortably and I couldn’t risk moving to the right. I stopped by a hotel for a mini lunch, with nothing but curd rice and a cool drink. I continued my ride after this as the sun was slowly setting. The bad roads Praful was talking about had started. I had to wade through mud patched and had to also ensure that I wasn’t going to hit this bike with very low ground clearance. I crossed every speed breaker with extreme caution and avoided every possible sharp stone. I remembered some of these places and we had ridden this same highway at pretty much the same time, some time back. The only difference was that the direction was right opposite.
It was certainly a pain to fight the dirt every lorry contributed to and to find my best possible path in the turmoil. The hard exercise continued for about an hour when the happy incident happened. My bike reached 800 kms on the odometer. I was now licensed to cross the 4k mark on the RPM but again, had to limit myself to 6k. I had been thinking about this milestone for the past 100 kms. It was now time to take it on. I waited until the mud patches came to an end and the highway began. I chose to rev it 4th gear on. So made sure I had enough clearance on the road ahead, advanced to gear 3, then twisted the throttle with anxiety. I was stunned by what I heard. It sounded nothing less than every other bike till the orange needle crossed 4.5k. Immediately beyond this point, I heard a sizzling ‘VROOM’ sound from the engine that comes out of a superbike and I was glad all those money that I had saved didn’t really go for a toss. I shifted gear after gear until I reached top gear on 6k RPM. I looked at the speedo and found that I was doing slightly less than 90 kmph. Now that, was amazing. I was so happy about how much surprises the bike held for me in a matter of 2k RPM. Though the baby Ninja started its roar, I couldn’t let it scream beyond that point. Well, what’s life if you get everything one shot, right?
Happy with what I had got at the fag end of the day, I crossed Haveri and almost reached Hubli when I passed by a good hotel on th
e left. About a km later, I realized that maybe that hotel was the right spot to halt. Should I have entered Hubli, I would have had to hunt for a secure hotel with good parking, etc. So I turned the bike over and entered the place. I was really glad at the parking setup and the security guard there. There were rooms available for the night and I inquired for the price. Looking at the hotel, I was expecting a tariff of 1,000 bucks, but the guy gave me a slick deal, just 350! He didn’t have a single occupancy, so gave me a double occupancy. I thought the good times were really rolling! I ordered some food, went do to clean the bike’s chain, tipped the security chap a 50 bucks and hit the sack right after dinner.
I was up on time for once. Packing all the things quickly, went down and switched on my bike. I left it idle for a while for the engine to warm itself up. The hotel was in the middle of the highway and most of the lights were switched off so early in the morning. I looked up to see the dark sky with stars decorating it to perfection. It was pretty cold and I paid attention to properly tucking my jacket sleeves under the gloves to avoid the rush of cold air.
The highway was literally empty at this point. The major traffic was the route buses that ply across cities. Some of the Volvo buses were really fast. They can be spotted on the rear view mirrors as those monster size vehicles with numerous lights in front. When I was doing about 80 kmph, they nearly zipped pass at speeds higher than 110. It made complete sense on how one such bus could take me from Pune to Bangalore in a matter of hours. I passed through small ghat sections, but I couldn’t appreciate the beauty around as it was still dark. As the sun slowly came out, I was nearing Belgaum, which was the first major city I wanted to cross that day.
Just near a place called Sankeshwar, I went in search of a fuel station that has octane fuel. Surprisingly, none of them had octane fuel and I had to proceed 30 kms before finding one. I realized that it was getting close to noon, when I could no more have my jacket sleeves tucked in. I had to unbutton them to let air circulate into my jacket. At some point, I noticed a huge ‘M’ sign on the left side of the road. It was a McDonald’s in one of the fuel stations. I decided to stop by for some breakfast. The parking was literally empty so early in the morning and I parked the bike in a spot that would be visible from inside. I didn’t want to leave the bike unattended. The moment the security guard saw me, he came running and claimed it to be a car parking. I tried convincing him that I would return soon, but he insisted that I move the vehicle. Just as I pushed the vehicle to the nearby two wheeler parking lot, I saw a guy walking out with jackets, a packed shoulder bag, helmet and gloves. Then, I noticed a bullet parked nearby.
Not bothered much about any of these, I went in, removed my biking gear and placed the order. As I waited for the order, I picked up the camera and stepped out for a couple of pictures. I noticed that the guy was still there, staring at my bike. I picked up a conversation with him and in came into my story, Wilson Fernandes! We got to know each other a little bit and talked about bikes, when a lady shouted through the delivery window that my order was ready. Wilson left the place as he was in a hurry to make it to Mumbai by 5. I got back in and enjoyed a happy meal!
Back on the highway, roads were becoming a little irritating as they had minor bumps everywhere though they appeared to be flat, at least visibly. After covering close to a 100 kms in one stretch, I decided to take a break. I was slightly more than just a 100 kms from Pune. I messaged all my pals in Pune inviting them for a party that night. I called up my brother and asked him to get ready to cook some chicken. I got back on the saddle and started to ride. In less than 5 minutes, I saw someone on the left side of the road, waving a hand asking me to stop. It was Wilson!
I remembered him telling that his bike had a problem and I was suspecting that it was the same thing. When I took and turn and met up with him, he told me that the bike wasn’t starting. I have a pathetic knowledge on the technical details of a bike, but decided to give it a shot. After I heard the problem from him, I found it to be similar to what happened to Allen in the last ride. I tried to recollect what he did and we tried the same stuff. But it didn’t seem to work. I called up Allen and he asked us to try a couple of alternatives. Nothing seemed to work, when a man just walked by. To our luck, he was a mechanic and offered to help. Checking out the bike, he told there was a problem with the tapets and started work on it. In a matter or 15 minutes, he got the bike to start. He took another 15 minutes or more to fine tune things and also to ensure nothing else was a problem.
We decided to tag together from there on. I thought Wilson was going to be a little slow, considering that he had a bullet and it was an old 350 STD. But I must admit that he accelerated very slow, but touched good speeds of 80+. I had a hard time keeping up with him in some places. We stopped in a shop for some refreshments and clicked a picture together. Very soon, we passed through a small tunnel, after which Wilson pulled over. He asked me if something was wrong in the back side of his bike. I thought he was asking about the engine grunt, as said, “No.” He was actually pointing to the tires that had very less air. We were lucky again to find a puncture shop just around the corner. When the guy inspected, he said that the tyre had a problem and was because the tube being used did not belong to a bullet. Wilson later told me that on his way to Velankani from Mumbai, his rear tyre bursted, and had to replace it in the middle of nowhere. The guy he managed to find, put in a tube that he had and did not actually belong to a bullet. He also added that, he had to spent that
night in a bus stop on the side of a road in the middle of nowhere. This guy also had a fishing kit in his bike’s storage box and said he likes stopping by rivers, for a fresh catch and some live cooking.
I had already told all my friends about the evening party and it was already 3 PM. I made sure that Wilson was going to be fine, and I had to part with him at that point. I didn’t stop anywhere after that and headed for Pune. I skipped the first few entries from the highway and took the one through Chandni Chowk. The busy Sunday evening had a lot of Beemers and Audis filling the road. Inside Pune, I had the radiator fans coming back to life. More irritating were the people on bikes who wanted to show off by racing with me. How could I ever tell them that I had a really painful sore butt after riding for more than a 1000 kms, and that my intention was not to race? I did manage to touch Viman Nagar from Chandni Chowk in less than 30 minutes. The moment I saw the entrance to my apartment, I thought about the numerous days I had imagined about entering that very spot on the Ninja. And finally, it was actually happening. I slowed down for every single speed breaker and took a right around a corner, to head for the parking under my apartment. I was someone walking towards the life, who turned back listening to the engine grunt and ran towards me. It was Prathap. He had just arrived at the apartment. The moment I parked the bike and removed the tank bag, he had the same words as his brother, “Ooh… Sexy… Sexy!”
With a sense of accomplishment and excitement, I went up to the apartment, called up everyone and confirmed the party plans. As the food was getting cooked, I took a friend with me and went in search of a bed sheet to cover the bike. We bought one and came back, but the bike was much bigger than we expected it to be. We went back and bought a couple of those, to finally cover it up and tie them in place with thin jute ropes. The nights party went well, and I kept boasting about my new possession, the Kawasaki Ninja 250R!