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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Art of Commuting

Well, 99% of the time if we are riding motorcycles in India, we are commuting and believe me it does not matter what bike we are riding,we are actually commuting on it. The fact is, we are commuting to get our beat up bottom from one point to another. Trying to scratch our beard from underneath the helmet visor, cursing the traffic as it gives sloths a tight competition for being the slowest on the planet, we spend most of our lives actually on the road, commuting.

When you are in a car, you actually do not have any choice, but to just wait, wait till the the guy in the car in front of you puts down his phone (as if he's convincing his girlfriend not to say anything to his wife) and notices the green signal, wait till the the guy in the car in front of you stops acting smart with the girl next to him and notices the green signal, wait till anybody in front of you is hauling you up due to zillions illogical reasons. But do you really have to wait if you are commuting on a motorcycle?

Ben Parker said to Peter Parker that - "With GREAT Powers comes GREAT Responsibilities", but he forgot to mention that that with great power also comes great fun... so enjoy your responsibilities and have fun, and when you are on a motorcycle, your responsibility is to vanish through the traffic like thin air, and this is were commuting becomes fun as it takes the shape of an art.

Well, I've always believed in two things -

1) Riding your motorcycle fast and safe makes you a good rider, but riding your motorcycle slow and flawlessly through traffic makes you an excellent rider

2) It's not that you are a rash rider only when you are riding it fast, you can also be a rash rider when you are riding it slow (which more dangerous and troublesome to the society)

It doesn't matter, what bike you are riding, of what Bhp it is, when you are in the traffic, you are plane and simple commuting. The small (but yet fun) city where I come from, you hardly get a chance to go over 50kmph, before you have to drop down to a halt because you ran out of tarmac or destination, so, one can easily imagine that life actually exists in the band of 20-40 kmph. Master this band and you would find yourself flowing through the traffic like blood flowing through veins. So, what do you need for this art? Good question huh!!

Your Bike
The tarmac below is your canvas and your bike is your brush. The tarmac is all yours to make an impression and your painting depends how good your brush is and how well you can use your brush. You are riding a 100cc Hero Honda CD Dawn or a Kawasaki Ninja 250R, the condition of your bike decides a lot how your commute is gonna be. Always maintain your bike to a good condition. It is also an art and like our signature, the maintenance of your bike tells a lot about yourself too!!

If your bike is in shambles and jittery, well you can kiss good bye to a good time on the road and say hello to frustration and agony.

Be confident of your bike. That's very important. You should know your bike's limit and play within it's limits. Traffic is no place to test your bike's limits. If you are keen to know that... well, then race track is your place to be and not congested traffic. Be confident about every aspect of your bike, the throttle response, the handling and that paramount aspect of braking. Your bike should be tuned to perfection to allow it to respond to every muscle flex of your wrist, fingers and toes. A badly tuned bike would only do best it can do best, that is, make you are other frustrated and mind you it's not the bike's fault. It's you who are to blame here. Every text book concept of motorcycle maintenance that's applicable during long cruising tours, is also applicable to commuting too. Talk to the bike, try to listen and understand what it's saying to you and you'll find yourself sifting through the traffic 9 out of 10 times like sand from your fist.

No matter how good and well maintained your bike is, if you are not sure what you want to do, well it's better that you switch the ignition off and start scratching your beard from underneath your helmet's visor and continue cursing the traffic. When you're on a motorcycle, your focus is everything, be it race track or the traffic tarmac, your have to be sure, what you want to do and how you want to do it.

Not all bikes are designed to squeeze through tight laced city traffic, and to think of it, nobody would love to take such bikes into city traffic. But most Indian bikes are and that includes the likes of Pulsar 220s, Suzuki Bandits, Honda CB1000Rs, Ducati Monsters too. Most Indian bikes are designed with moderate suspension settings which allow you to absorb bumps and jolts. With such potent traffic tools in your artillery, all you need is focus and determination.

Like I said earlier, be very sure of what you want to do and try to learn through your experience. Here, let me share some of mine which I've gather through the years of riding and crashing.

1) When you want to zoom off through a space and see that there's no one hurtling for the same space, just go ahead and zoom off. No second thoughts.

2) Always keep your eyes very vigilant about your surroundings. Any one or thing, jumping all of a sudden in front you, should be noticed well in advance, for you to react. Above all the traffic is full of idiots, you never know, which door is gonna open when, which wheel is gonna turn where and above all, what gonna come flying outside that window.

3) There are some specific types of vehicles, you should be always vigilant about. Sorry for such a blunt categorization but, from my motorcycle riding experience I know that, it's the pampering that these vehicles induce into the driver, that it's better be at a safe distance from these vehicles. These vehicles include mostly Maruti Suzuki Swift, Toyota Innova, small cars like the Maruti Suzuki 800 and Alto and the biggies like the Audies, BMWs and Mercs. But above all be very very vigilant about any vehicle which is actually a cab or a public transport medium. Along with some specific types/genre of drivers (I won't be naming them, you guys can understand), cabs and public transport vehicles create the most nuisance in traffic and are the most dangerous for motorcycle riders.

4) Be very cautious about blind turns. If you can't seen what's on the other side, then it might be a potential disaster waiting. Always slow down and counter steer in such blind turns.

5) Practice balancing the bike, throttling and braking at almost dead slow speeds, this would give you a lot of confidence to navigate through tights effortlessly.

6) Be very very sure of wet patches. If you can't avoid them, go very cautiously over them. Don't do anything over a wet patch. If you bike is having disc brakes, then a grab at 10kmp can easily lock your front and send you topsy.

7) Don't be rash while negotiating the traffic. It can attract very undue and uncomfortable attention.

Well, everything said and done, it's actually an art which can be perfected only with experience, and when you come to realize it, it would actually become your second nature like your signature, which you seldom falter. Commuting for me is.. now you are here, and now your are way up there... it's fun if you think of it and more when you take out the capacity and bhp factors from the scenario!!

Happy Commuting.
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  1. Loved this line: "Riding your motorcycle fast and safe makes you a good rider, but riding your motorcycle slow and flawlessly through traffic makes you an excellent rider"

    Reminds me that its how well you play a musical instrument at a slow tempo that makes you a better artist and not how fast you play

  2. True Bro!! It's always the dim and subtle aspects of life that define you and not the bright and flashy ones.

  3. nice one dude.

    assuming that you have all this extracted from your daily commute of home-office-home, which is what..like 15-20 KM max? imagine how much i have in mind after months of 100 Km daily round trips and still counting!! wish i can squeeze out some time to write them down..damn these 100 KMs!!

    One thing i can add right away is ..always flow with the overall speed of the traffic, most of the traffic glitches happen when any one of the vehicle is either too slow or too fast. slow ones are most interesting ones :)

    i like the being vigilant part but there are places where being vigilant is a challenge in itself, try Indian Gate circle in peak hour, its amazing when you find yourself being disected from left and right plus being bullied from behind by a bloody army truck. fun...real fun!!:)

  4. Noida up down daily on bike... you must feel a buzz in your figures when you reach home!!

    I totally agree with your speed input. It's very crucial that we understand the flow of the traffic before deciding what to do. At the end of it, it's we who want to have fun in the pain, so it should be our judgment which should be crisp.

    That whole area up until we cross CP has always remained a puzzle for me. I never understand that and that's why I either prefer going there in off hours or not go at all :) but I totally agree in some situations it cannot be avoided. Once I kept on circling that area for around an hour flowing through the traffic and reach Dhaulakuan from Naraina :o Nobody can beat me on that (being so dumb) ;)


Item Reviewed: The Art of Commuting Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sajal
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