Click here to view some tit bits on how this video was made.
On a weekend
The fun began at four in the morning. When I reached the Chennai Trade Center, everyone else was already there. I could see Kiran out in one corner fiddling with something. I saw Apar and his brother. There were no other familiar faces. I handed over to Apar’s brother, the extra jacket I was carrying for him. Kiran came by waving, and introducing me to a new face who was to handle the cash for the Chennai gang. We gathered around in a circle with a round of introduction. We discussed some basic ride tactics before starting the engines are pushing off from there.
I was leading with Apar closely following by. After about ten minutes, I couldn’t see any of them on my rear view mirror. I stopped by and waited for them. Apar came by after a few minutes and told me that there was a stop for some cash. However, we couldn’t find the others. We waited by a junction for close to twenty minutes and were getting a little worried. Thats when Kiran called up and said that they’d taken an alternative route and we had to catch up. I had Apar and his brother with me. The three of us were quite fast hoping that we could catch the rest very soon. At some point, I lost Apar and his brother on the rear view mirror. I thought they had stopped by for some fuel and so I moved on.
I had driven for close to an hour, but there still was no sight of the gang. I was worried and got down to check if I had calls. I saw a message from Kiran asking me to meet them at Kanchipuram. When I checked the GPS, I had crossed that place much earlier. I decided to stop at the entrance of Vellore which was just ten minutes from where I was. I parked the Ninja on the corner of the road making sure it wouldn’t disturb the traffic. I walked to the tea stall close by to grab some tea and waited for the rest of the gang. They all trickled in, one after the other. Once everyone was there, we moved into the town to have breakfast at Saravana Bhavan.
Quickly after breakfast, we got back on the highway. There were three guys who were in the front accompanying me. Kiran swept as usual ensuring nobody was left behind. We made no stops until Krishnagiri. Being the first to reach, I went into the town to buy some duct tape. I was carrying a video camera this time to experiment with some videography. I made a quick visit to see my brother too. I got calls from the gang asking about each other’s whereabouts and I gave them instructions to regroup. I finally got a call from the Bangalore folks telling me that they had reached too. I got back to the Chennai gang and led them on to where the Bangalore folks where.
On the left side of the highway I saw the huge number of bikes parked on the service lane. There were riders clicking pictures, chit chatting all along the stretch. When the twenty bikes from Chennai made an entry, there was a huge noise, cheering from people and whistles too. Riders waved to us welcoming us with all due respect. It was a great feeling to see such a large turnout. I glided through the service lane as if it were a pit lane and finally made a stop somewhere close to the beginning. I saw a lot of unknown faces. I walked to the end where I could see Praful and John. We greeted each other and began to organize the group. We were about 75 bikes then and we needed a strategy to ride through the highway. Praful split the gang into a fast group and a slow group. He put me on with Santa, who had a neat looking Comet.
The group of fast riders assembled in the front waiting for the leader to start. With Santa and me in the front, we slowly started cruising at 60 – 70 kmph after which Santa decided to fall behind. I took the lead and sped up to a 100 kmph. I was being very closely followed by some of the other members in the group. I was quite unsure of what speeds where being followed before we regrouped. It appeared to me as if I was relatively slower and increased the cruising speeds to 110 – 120 kmph. I took overtakes with caution so that the group wouldn’t break apart. We decided to stop at A2B, which is a gas station with additional facilities. It took us about thirty minutes to get there. When we stopped and looked back, we had about 10 bikes of the 20 that started in the fast group. I waited on one side of the road while the rest moved on to the gas station to park the bikes and settle down. Minutes later, Praful and Santa showed up with the rest of the gang. It took more time for the others who rode pa
tiently to reach the spot.
While the entire gang waited at A2B, we gathered together for a round of introduction. We certainly couldn’t get to know all, but it was a good start. We tried calling up the Kerala folks and got to know that they were heavily delayed. We spent some time around the gas station chit chatting and then settled down for lunch. We stuck to the standard South Indian meals for everyone, which made the arrangements easier. Kiran took up the hard job of tracking all the orders that were placed and ensuring everyone had their lunch. I spent some time experimenting with the handycam, trying to fix it to the back seat of the Ninja with some bungee cords and duct tape. I was able to successfully mount it, but the seat was too shaky and the video wasn’t convincing enough. I quickly finished lunch and got back to my experimentation. This time, I removed my GPS from the mount and taped the camera to it. I used to mount to fix it to the bike. The test video I took was a little shaky, but I was happy with the result. I was now waiting to get to the ghats to get some nice videos.
Before we started, Praful did the organizing again. But this time, we decided that we split the group into three; the hyperfast, the fast and the slow. I had a feeling in the back of my head that hyperfast was a diplomatic term used to refer to a hooligan group and very soon did I get to know I was to lead it. The first group started riding out closely followed by the others. I was leading the entire pack at a fairly fast pace. We passed through the small ghat section before Salem which had a few unexpected speed bumps causing some distortion in the formation. A few couple of bends down the road, I couldn’t see the others on my rear view mirror. Very shortly, I could see one of the bikes flashing the light, slowly approaching towards me. It sent a chill down my spine. I wasn’t ready to hear any bad news. I parked the bike and looked through the mirror waiting for the tiny object to become bigger.
The rider said that a blue R15 was hit by a dog and the others had stopped by. He assured that the rider was safe, there was no fall and nothing except the fairing was broken. It was a big relief to hear the news. The few of us who had overshot took a u-turn and proceeded back to the spot where the other waited. The R15′s right side plastic was broken by the dog that was hit and most importantly, a blue 220 that followed the dog ran over it, and managed not to fall. We patched up the R15 with the duct tape that I had and requested the rider to join the slow group so that the bike wouldn’t take much of a beating.
The plan was to regroup before Salem so that I could lead the gang through the city on to the ghats. Do to this small delay, the entire gang had passed us and were up ahead. With 20 odd kms left to Salem, we made our way through the slow riders group to catch up with the rest who were up ahead. I was so sure the slow riders were cursing us for cutting through the formation, but I didn’t have a choice but to make it to the leader. We stopped just before the entrance of the ghats to make sure everyone was around. Praful, myself and a couple of others started first to take our positions at some nice corners to click pictures and shoot videos. After a 20 minute wait, the riders zoomed past one after the other. I captured them on the video camera in various angles suitable for editing. When the last rider passed by, we started off from there and met the rest of the gang at the entrance of Yercaud.
We had booked two hotels at Yercaud. One was the primary place of stay, where we could accommodate 50-60 members. The other was Hotel Aishwarya where we could accommodate the rest. Kiran led an initial set of 30 riders to Hotel Aishwarya and came back to lead the rest of us to MM Holiday Inn, where most of the gang was to stay. When all of us had reached the place, Kiran helped allot the rooms so that there would be enough space for the Kerala gang when they would arrive. Folks who stayed in Aishwarya started coming in one by one after having dumped all their luggages in their rooms. Most of the riders chose to roam around the small place of Yercaud to visit view points, while some of us chose to stick in the hotel to keep chatting about bikes. Tea was served in the mean time, which was a treat to the grumbling tummies.
On one side of the hotel, the bonfire was being setup with chairs arranged around it. Music was played, but all of it was from the left over CDs the hotel folks had. We could connect our portable players since we did not have the cable for it. We went around hunting for one, but we couldn’t get hold of one, neither could we even buy a decent set of music CDs. Disappointed, we came back and rather chose to turn off the music. People were back by then and the crowd was having fun around the place. Around 9, dinner was ready. Most people were hungry and rushed to the buffet area, while some chose to laze around and have it a little late. By th
e time all the gala settled, it was close to midnight.
Praful on the other end was constantly in touch with the Kerala guys trying to help coordinate their route to the place. The ten odd riders were already split up due to various reasons including weather, bad roads, etc. Close to Salem, one of the bikes had also given up and they had to troubleshoot it right there. At some point when they knew it wasn’t going to work any longer, they chose to store it in a mechanic shop and proceed up hill. We waited for them and finally met them at the entrance of Yercaud. We escorted the riders to the hotel, helped them with the food and facilities. Once they had settled down, we went to our respective rooms and crashed.
I was too tired to even notice who else was there, sharing my room. I knew one was Praful, but only in the morning did I realize Kiran was there too. By the time I’d woken up, Kiran and Praful were already out. Kiran was busy getting the things ready for breakfast. while Praful I think was out taking pictures. I freshened up quickly and joined the rest of the gang for breakfast. When everyone was done, we grouped together in the parking area in the hotel to click some group pictures. We had a good time ragging Johny bhai as he tried setting up the camera and clicking group shots. Some riders decided to leave right after that since they had to reach their respective destinations sooner than planned. We bid farewell to them and moved to a small open area just beside the hotel.
This was an empty space where we could park all the bikes and take group shots. It took us a good one hour to park all the bikes on either side of the road. We had to make sure that the bikes were safe on the road that was in a slope. Once everything was in place, we spent time posing around in groups and clicking pictures. The Kerala folks had to cover quite a lot of distance that day and decided to leave quickly. Once we were done with the photo shoots, we got back to the hotel and started packing our stuff. Lunch was served in parallel. Kiran, myself and the financial volunteers from the different cities gathered together to do the accounts and settled it to the hotel folks.
A lot of the riders were losing patience since it was well past noon and decided to start by themselves. We had roughly 70 bikes left when we started the return leg. I spent quite some time with the video camera again trying to mount in to my helmet. I used a bungee cord to first strap it tightly and then used duct tape to adjust the angle to the desired level. I left a few minutes earlier so that I could test the setup and also find a sweet spot to start the shoot. I was followed by another rider and we managed to take the wrong route and get lost. We waited for about 20 minutes and later realized that the bikes were obviously not going to come that way. We went all the way back from where we had taken a detour and then took the right path. I was slightly racing down so that I wouldn’t miss the ghat section shoot. The rider behind was having a hard time catching up with the Ninja.
We were done with almost 16 of the 20 hair pin bends in the hill. I was slowly losing hope that I would find these guys. Suddenly just before a corner, I saw Kiran and some bikes standing with a black 220. When I stopped, Kiran came by and explained that there was a small fall and that he was trying to fix things. He asked me to proceed and alert the group waiting down, since there was no signal in the place these guys were standing. I chose to send the message with the rider who was with me, and came back to help these guys. The fall had caused the fairing of the bike to shift out of place, but the handlebar and forks were in tact. The front mud flap was scraping with the wheel and the guys broke it apart to let the wheel move freely. After the small tinkering job, Kiran took it out for a spin to ensure that the bike was ridable. When he returned, he nodded signing positivity. He asked the rider of the bike to take his ZMA and rode the broken bike till the downhill. I managed to shoot a small video around the very few curves that were left.
All the others were eagerly waiting for us down there. I saw a sign of relief in some of the faces when they came to know there was nothing major that happened. Kiran and I chose to stay back to take the bike to the mechanic shop to completely remove the mud flap. We asked the rest of the gang to move on to A2B and wait for us there. Back at the mechanic shop, we couldn’t remove the nuts since they were too tight. We rather chose to chop them off with a blade to save time. I asked Kiran to lead and offered to follow. I expected him to do somewhere around 60 or 70, but this bugger opened the throttle wide to take it to 120. I was starting to wonder what exactly was wrong with the bike! We entered A2B in no less than 40 minutes, only to find that the rest of the gang had just made it there a few minutes back. We were close to Dharmapuri then. The Bangalore folks had about 130 kms to cover, whereas the Chennai folks had close to 300. We decided not to waste time and quickly gathered the Chennai folks. We bid farewell to the Bangalore gang and got back on the highway.
There were two Chennai groups now. One was us, while the other was the slow group that started an hour before we started from Yercaud. We were planning to meet them at Vellore for dinner. I indicated all the riders that I would be going up and down the line for a few minutes just to grab a video after all the hard work I had put in to mount that camera on to the helmet. I shot a good five minutes and finally parked the bike by the side to find out how the recording had come. I was shocked to see that the shakes caused during the ride had corrupted the current recording as well as the one recorded on the ghats. I was left with the small clippings I had taken the previous day. Well, all I could do was just smile and start riding again. I had a group to catch.
At Krishnagiri, the road splits towards Chennai, where the gang waited. We took a small 5 minute break and moved on. I was constantly on the watch since riders are prone to getting tired after so much stress. Most riders had got the hang of the others in the gang and the chemistry between them was becoming slowly visible. Apar was leading the gang with Kiran sweeping. Kiran also had a couple of slow riders with him and patiently rode with them to ensure their safety. Just after Ambur, we synced up with the other group that was ahead. Calculating the timings, it was clear that we could catch them at Vellore. Just as planned, they were waiting for us at the entrance of the town. When we regrouped, we chose a hotel on the highway to have dinner. We got a separate A/C hall and we ordered stuff that was ready to save time.
Some riders went into the town to top up while the rest of the gang waited on the highway. We chose to stick together as a group from then on. Our only checkpoint was Kanchipuram before finally parting off just outside Chennai. We stuck to average speeds of 85 kmph that was comfortable to everyone. I was leading the pack and was happy to see the entire group on my rear view mirror most of the time. 80 seemed to be the magic number, since anything more than that, some of them at the end were lost. When we stopped at Kanchipuram, some even complained they were falling asleep. I reassured them I had the same problem too, and so chose to dance to the tunes playing between my ears.
I checked my mobile to find that John had left a message saying that the Bangalore group had reached safe. It took us slightly more than an hour to finally reach the Poonamallee bye pass where we all agreed to finally meet. Kiran was still the patient guy at the end who rode with the slower bikes. When they arrived, we all thanked each other for the wonderful time we had spent in the last couple of days. I left John a message saying that we had all reached safe. One bike after the other, we slowly cleared out the place.
Close to 90 riders, this was the maximum turn out an xBhp G2G has ever had (as on June 23, 2010) and I’m glad I was a part of it.
Links: Flickr album