From the time I did my first Solo ride from Kochi to Bangalore two years ago, to this time when I recently completed my second pan India solo tour, solo rides have taught me a lot not only in terms of riding but also in knowing myself, in being prepared for uncertainties and in understanding the dangerous aspects of riding on Indian highways. It has also helped me delve into a lot of other things but I’ll share that separately in another article. If you ask me, it isn’t really a big deal to ride across India, anyone can do it with the right amount of common sense, determination and preparation. Of course, you need to know how to ride a motorcycle well and your reflexes need to be fast enough to dodge a dog on the highway, or at least detect the dog much in advance. It is assumed that if you’re touring on a motorcycle, you are geared up from head to toe, hence I’m not mentioning that separately. Below are some pointers that could help you be safe, in case you’re riding Solo.
1) Food and water intake:
It is really important to stay energized and hydrated at all times while touring. If the body asks for food, give it and fill it till it shouts back at you to stop eating! I’ve experienced the toll that the body can suffer if food and water are compromised, especially when one tries to catch up with time. Trust me, it isn’t a good feeling. We also tend to ignore taking water breaks as the ride itself gets very exciting so it is always best to carry a hydration bag along so that you could hydrate yourself while riding.
2) Love yourself!
You must like your own company to ride solo for long distance, I’ve seen that people like their own company only when they love themselves. Touring alone is not boring at all provided you are willing to spend that time with yourself! In fact, it is much better than group riding in many ways. Major plus point- you don’t need anybody else’s consent if you intend to bring about change in plans. You will definitely get loads of time to connect with yourself and you realize that you don’t need another bag of meat on another motorcycle, every time to head out to ride. On a solo ride, you are your best friend!
3) Consistency and smoothness is the key:
On a really long solo ride, plan your route in such a way that allows you to enjoy the ride peacefully rather than hurrying throughout the ride and still reaching late. It would also be helpful to take note in advance of important places where you could stop for a good picture or a long break, else it would be a waste of time to keep stopping unnecessarily. I rode from Bangalore to Pune while maintaining speeds of 120- 140 kmph throughout and reached in twelve hours but took longer breaks in between. When I did the same stretch a few months later, I took shorter, productive breaks but maintained a consistent speed of 100 kmph. Guess what, I reached Pune in twelve hours and was much fresher and energetic, compared to my condition after the previous ride. So if you’re pushing yourself too much to catch up with time, there isn’t going to be much use in doing that!
4) Leave early:
This is something that I’m still struggling to keep up with but I’m sure I’ll succeed some day. I’ve always been more relaxed and happy when I’ve started a solo ride before sunrise, this helps in ignoring all traffic problems. The time advantage could also prove to be useful in case you face an unexpected setback for a few hours. I’d prefer being stranded in the middle of nowhere when the sun is still up rather than being stranded some where when you can’t even see your own limbs in the darkness.
5) Know your motorcycle to know it even more: Having a basic idea of the way your motorcycle responds in different conditions, knowing the way its engine and electricals function helps a rider in predicting a technical failure or it may even help one to solve an issue in case of a breakdown. When you know the basics and head out on a solo ride, you may go on to discover other aspects about your motorcycle you didn’t know about. It’s a little in different in cases when your motorcycle depends on electronics! 🙂
6) No reaction: There’s no point in reacting to the reactions you get on road. Just do your thing! You may notice cars tailgating you or trying to cut you off. A lot of other drivers are just curious and mostly trying to instigate you to get into reacting or probably get you into racing. The best thing you can do is to not react by swearing at them or by indulging into a race. Receiving no reactions from you would only force the trouble makers to move on. A confrontation in the middle of nowhere is the last thing you’d want while you’re alone, far away from home.
7) Keep loved ones updated: People back home are always concerned about your wellbeing, Keep them informed about your whereabouts whenever you halt. This also helps them in tracing you in case you get stuck somewhere and are out of reach. Thinking of going on a long solo ride without informing anyone? You could be asking for trouble.
8) Positivity only: Try your best to be in good spirits all the time, there’s no place for negativity on a solo ride. Since you will be conversing with yourself, it is extremely important to not panic at any given moment either. Be hopeful, calm and let go of all negative thoughts, your subconscious mind needs to know and believe in the fact that all is well and all will continue to be well. Being negative has a domino effect, you become irritated, frustrated, try to reach faster, drain out your energy and reach your destination without having any fun. What’s worse, you could try doing something foolish out of rage and frustration!
9) Book your stay: I’m not a big fan of riding in the night, so this applies to riders who prefer day riding. While this point isn’t really a big deal, it could save up the time and energy to look for a hotel in a city you haven’t been in before, especially if you’re really hungry, tired and are on a tight budget. I rode to Chandigarh once and found most hotels to be expensive or full. There was no internet on the phone so I couldn’t even book a room either. At 10.30 PM, I didn’t care about my budget and checked into a hotel where I paid INR 5000 for a night. I then felt that I should’ve looked up a hotel much in advance.
10) Be nice to people: When you deal with the locals on a solo ride, be polite, friendly but courageous and aware at the same time. You definitely don’t want to seem nervous and insecure before them. I’ve never encountered locals in any part of India till date who behaved in a hostile manner with me. They’re generally curious to know what you’re doing on a motorcycle with so much luggage on it. No matter what they ask you, be polite and respectful as they’re the last ones you want to piss off. I love interacting with locals and you should too, especially if you want to know more about a certain place or want to try the local delicacy. I’ve come across some very kind and hospitable people on solo rides. Another thing is to not go on people’s appearances, they may seem like they’re being rough but that’s the way they’ve been dealing with others since a long time.
11) Ride a little faster when there’s traffic around: Yes you read that right. In my observation, it is safer to ride faster than the vehicular traffic around you as there are lesser chances of you being hit from behind or from the sides. What’s even better, you clear from the congested area in no time and get back to enjoying the ride.
12) Keep an eye out on your motorcycle when you’re not on it but don’t make it seem too obvious. Act normal, be aware and observe, there’s definitely a lot of luggage in there if you’re headed out to a place very far. Select dhabhas/ restaurants on the highway that are open so that you could keep a watch on your motorcycle while you fill your tummy.
13) Don’t be ashamed to use that horn: I’ve seen many riders who don’t use their motorcycle horn at all. That is one of the most essential things to use, especially when riding solo. Highway traffic has been increasing and considering the rate at which people are being distracted by their phones, you need to beep that horn constantly, making people aware of your presence while you execute that overtake. Riding in a group makes it easier for all motorcyclists to be visible but a solo rider has lesser chances of grabbing that much attention. The dipper works sometimes but hey, how many car/bus drivers actually see their rear view mirrors before switching lanes? Using your horn may produce a lot of noise but it could definitely save you from being pushed towards the divider. Next time someone says you honk too much, you know which finger to show!
14) Behave locally: If you’re in a city where none of the motorists stop at a red light, you too should probably do what they’re doing. I’m not asking you to break the law in any way but there are more chances of you being safe when you follow the local traffic tradition. I was riding solo in Rajasthan when the exact scenario played out in front of me, I had trucks pass by me while I was the only one to slow down at the signal. Since it was scary, I throttled out of that situation. If you find yourself in a place where the traffic is too scattered and unorganized, then you need to blend in with that kind of traffic while making sure you’re doing the wrong thing in a right way. Not many give such advise even though they know its true, I’m being brave enough to pass this on! 🙂
15) Have a breakdown assistance contract:
What if your motorcycle broke down in a deserted area with no mechanics available for a long distance? Having an annual breakdown assistance contract helps in being rescued, they drop you and your broken motorcycle to the nearest service center. I would suggest this contract to be the first things to buy to people whose motorcycles depend on a lot of electronics. There’s no way you’re going to be able to fix an electronic issue on your own. In fact, diagnosing the problem in the first place would be a greater challenge to deal with. I’ve heard some positive and negative feedback about these breakdown assistance programs but you never know, what if you were unlucky enough to breakdown but lucky enough to be rescued in a jiffy?
At the end of it all though, make sure you’ve got all provisions that you might need on the tour, be alert, keep those spirits high, trust your intuition, click beautiful pictures and have the time of your life!