Thursday, 6 September 2007

Evolution of a Biker

More on biking, read at your own peril.

What does it mean to be on two wheels? What is that thrill, that essence of biking that is supposedly so great that biking is often equated with nirvana? Why did Che Guevara set off on his old leaky Norton 500 instead of say, hitchhiking or catching a bus? More importantly, did the bike play a role in the making of the revolutionary?
These and a lot of other questions often pop in my head ever since I started riding. And they pop up exactly after the needle goes past eighty (dad, in the unlikely event that you're reading this, read that last word as forty). I guess that there's a certain stage after which driving goes on to autopilot and these philosophical questions come to mind; for me philosophy started coming easy after 4 spills, 5000 kilometres and eighty kilometres an hour. I admit its not the best of situations for deep thought and that one should rather focus on the riding then, but these are the questions that eventually led me to think of my own growth as a biker, and later figure that i fit the average learning curve as well.
It usually starts with love. When I was about fourteen or fifteen and the CBZ came out,i fell in love. First with the CBZ, then moved on to loving other bikes. I didn't have one then, and spent my time drooling at the bikes of my elder cousins and their friends. But back then, i knew I'd be on one as soon as life, finances and such permitted.
Like love tends to do, you move on from drool-your-glands-out puppy love to finding your true love. Mine happened at an automobile expo in Delhi. The bike had been around for a while, but i saw a guy who had painted it in castrol colours and i was hooked. I knew i had found my true love. And I bought a Karizma. and that's where things get funny.
From love, most bikers move on to invincibility. Blinded by love, the bike to you is faultless, it can do no wrong. And since most bikers at whatever stage in their biking life consider the machine as an extension of themselves, by definition the rider can do no wrong as well. Yes, i am admitting on the record that like a lot of other bikers, i had my highly-likely-zip-splat stage as well. So you climb on in the morning, roar off into the road riding on the edge of capability, both yours as well as the machine's. This is where a lot of bikers end up making life threatening mistakes. Some learn and see the light, others remain stuck in this phase forever never realizing that you have to acknowledge limits before pushing them.
Those who get past here start realizing more about their machines. By now its usually clear that the bike is a machine too, and no matter what you think of your ride, its not infallible and can let you down disastrously if it so fancies. You begin to understand each part, what they are capable of, and how they can fail. And suddenly, freak accidents where tyres come off or forks break for no apparent reason dont seem so freaky anymore. And as it sinks into you that the machine is not perfect, you tend to realize your shortcomings as a driver. That you are not rossi or abe, and that you need to stay within your limits of skill to be able to push them. That trying to ride beyond your capability might mean you are throwing your life away. This is usually the longest stage. You could pass it in weeks, or you may be stuck here for years. I'm still stuck i guess.
I don't really know what lies after this. Maybe the next stage is where all those nirvana references come from. Maybe thats where you finally get all the ego and stupidity out of your system and become truly one with your ride. Like i said, i dont know and i'm flying blind here. But i do know that I still have moments of biking stupidity which tell me that i've still not graduated to the next level.

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