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Friday, January 17, 2014

Living with a Superbike - The Common Man perspective

Superbikes have always been my ultimate motorcycling fantasy (and I know every motorcycle enthusiast, who has taken birth on this planet, would have the same fantasy at one point of time or other). Everything around a Superbike, be it - the Alien looking design, the Exhaust Note, the Demonic speeds and last but no way the least, the Joy of owning one, Everything about a Superbike is orgasmic to say the least. The choice of a Superbike is a very personal thing, but there's no denying of the fact that nothing comes light years close to attaining Motorcycling Nirvana and Learning Curve than riding a Superbike itself... PERIOD!!

But then, we live a country were riding a motorcycle with proper riding gears on is a Taboo, so forget about riding a Superbike. In a country where the common mindset is forced focused on mileage/average, owning a motorcycle which might turn out to give an average of that of a car is plain simple sin. Having said that, if I can afford a Superbike and can live with it happily, then there's no galactic or inter galactic force in this universe that can stop me from doing that.

Big words there eh!! But really, for a "Common Man" what's it's like to live with a Superbike in India? Recently I got an opportunity to put a Superbike through it's paces in real world conditions, conditions like - choco block traffic, riding on streets with no street lights, super duper inquisitive folks around (and animals too), broken roads (pothole littered that is), water logged, slippery and then the best kinds too. So, basically I'm talking about conditions, where every vehicle, that has ever seen the daylight in this country, would spend 99.99% of it's life time. So, what follows, is a true account of the real world experience, no added preservative, just plane raw blam splam facts.

The Superbike
The Superbike I was given was a 2007 Yamaha R1. Old school Superbike, with brutal old school power delivery and old school handling and last but not the least, old school heat management. This cocktail then accounts for an un-adulterated learning experience of the first order. Nothing could have set the expectations clear and straight as this epitome of a motorcycle did. Electronics packages do make a motorcycle safe, but then, what exactly is a Superbike and what's riding it is all about is best learnt without the aids.

To start with, the 2007 Yamaha R1 is a very sophisticated and monstrous piece of machinery and demands a lot of respect, sensibility and maturity to operate and handle it. The Respect from the rider and the Sensibility and Maturity of the the rider comes into play all the more when you are riding a Super bike dead slow in packed traffic condition and when you crack open the throttle and go all out. The Yamaha R1, at one moment proves to be the rider's greatest teacher and friend, but in the next moment, at the slightest opportunity, it won't hesitate to kill the rider, it's that dramatic, and it's good if the rider is fully aware of this fact and respects it and to a little extent is a little scared of it too!!

Living with it
There's no qualms about the fact that owning and riding a 1000cc Sports is a very engaging affair. It demands 1000% concentration and dedication in order to ensure that the rider is able to ride the motorcycle for longer period of time.

Right from the time, when you get on the saddle, till the time you get off it, a Super bike would talk to you about every nut and bolt that's rattling, every pebble that it's running over, every inch of rubber that it's immense torque is obliterating, everything is communicated, and one would have to get used to that communication, while also concentrating on the traffic and it's reactions and handle the motorcycle accordingly. 1000cc Sports are meant for razor sharp handling, but then it won't handle itself. Starting to ride through the traffic and through the open roads, I realized that all that the kind of handling a 1000cc Sports promises, is something that needs to be worked upon and extracted.

For the first 5 km of riding, it was immense work for me to work on the motorcycle to make my way through the traffic. Then slowly I got more into sync with the dynamics, handling and above all the precise mix of Throttle and Clutch and Body Positioning, so that instead of the conventional way of "steering" my way through the traffic, I was learning to work on my Body Position and let the motorcycle do the rest.

Once the motorcycle and I were in sync with each other, things became a lot easier and comfortable even on a ballistic 1000cc Sports crotch rocket. Working through the paces, I was gaining more and more confidence on the throttle response, handling and braking. Knowing what to do on a Sports motorcycle is important, but then knowing what not to do is even more important, and that knowledge comes with time, the more time I was spending, the more I was getting confidence.

Remember the "Taboo" reference I made at the beginning of this article? Well, the biggest hazard that would haunt you while riding a Super Bike in India is that Taboo, because that Taboo makes people more inquisitive and attracted towards the Super Bike and believe me, people can go to dangerously hazardous levels to get close to the motorcycle while you are riding it (and even street dogs would do the same). Sometimes it becomes very un-nerving, and would test your nerves and your concentration levels to the limit. Focus and more Focus is what's needed, else, matters can go from bad to worse to a living nightmare in a fraction of a second.

Many would suggest that a Sports demon motorcycles are not for bad road conditions, conditions which are otherwise common on Indian soil. I was sceptical too to say the least and to start with, but to my surprise, a Sports behemoth motorcycle like the Yamaha R1 can take on every Indian tarmac condition pretty well. Not only the potholes were handled, but mud, water logging and even speed beakers, all were taken upon with a big smile by the motorcycle and me. So, if anyone is having any doubts about using a full blown Sports motorcycle for daily commute because the road conditions are not good, and where would one use such a powerful motorcycle, well, please put those doubts to rest, because there's no base to those doubts.

At last, I guess there are two major aspects are which I think I should discuss and the first one is riding during the dark hours of the day. Well, to start with there's no doubt that these motorcycles are equipped with some of the best lighting systems available for motorcycle, and they provide brilliant illumination of the tarmac ahead. Having said that, the sad reality of affairs is that, over here, people love to use the High Beam of their head lamp (and not the head that is) almost 100% of the time, even at places where roads are pretty well lit with street lights. This does cause a momentary blindness due to the on-coming traffic and when you are riding a motorcycle that can accelerate faster than an escaping soul, well, you gotta be careful. Again, the point to remember is getting habituated to night riding conditions and don't do anything stupid and overconfident until and unless you are absolutely sure that you want to do it and you would be safe doing it and other would be too.

That brings to the last part of this article and probably one of the most important considerations of using a Super Bike in day to day riding - The Heat!! Well, in the December chill, while I was navigating through choked traffic, the motorcycle was heating up substantially, so much so that I started sweating in that chill and was feeling the heat blast on my thigh area. If that's the case during the winters in heavy traffic conditions, one can easily imagine what would happen during the summers. The engine is cranking out 180 fire breathing horses and that fire is only satiated by motion, good motion and being stuck in traffic is not going to help. So, to sum it up, the Heat is the only factor, that would have me thinking if I would take out a Super bike in a given period of the day and through a particular route during my day to day riding, and my suggestion is, if there's even a slightest amount hint that the traffic is not going to be favorable, think otherwise.

Verdict
So, now to answer the question of this article - Should a common man live with a Super Bike? Well the answer is Yes a BIG YES, but with a condition, and the condition is, if a person can maintain the motorcycle to the level it deserves, only then a person should go for a Super Bike. See, the thing is, owning a Super Bike is the easy part, because once you own the motorcycle, the motorcycle would handle possibly 95% of the riding conditions you throw at it and those 95% of the riding conditions would cover 99% of the riding life of the rider and ride. The tough part is maintaining the Super Bike. A motorcycle which costs in excess of 17 lacs in Indian Currency, would command premium service cost and premium spares costs too and on top of that no matter how big an enthusiasts you are, you just cannot ignore the fuel bill. So, if the plan is to just own a Super Bike and put 500 - 1000 km on the clock in a year, then please don't waste the money, because it's simply not worth it. Own a Super Bike when you know you can Live with It Happily Ever After.

Motorcycle courtesy - Krishnendu Kes
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Item Reviewed: Living with a Superbike - The Common Man perspective Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Sajal Chakraborty
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