LOST IN BHUTAN: 6 BIKERS, 20 DAYS, 7500 KMS OF INSANITY!
Chapter 3: When your bike gets stoned.
It was only the second day of the ride, and even after the rough anal exam that Chittorgarh gave us, we were pretty pumped up to hit the road again. We started around 6 AM, and got quickly lost in the haunted bylanes of Chittorgarh. Turns out the so-called National Highway looked nothing better than a battered old village road, although it did present us with a tiny little fuel pump to get the job done.
All riders were connected to each other via Scala Rider G9 sets, a piece of tech that I now consider indispensable for such a long distance group ride. While riding, we were discussing the road condition pointers that HV Kumar sir had given us, and the conversation went something like this:
Akhil: How much is today’s ride man?
Sachin: About 850 Kms.
Sherman: Hey you remember HVK sir said something about animal crossings on this road?
Nicky: Yes, he said dangerous Nilgai crossings are common over here.
Everybody: Holy shit look, a fucking Nilgai crossing the road!
That giant cross of a buffalo with a deer crossed a few meters ahead of the leader. We swallowed our fear, and kept riding, hoping to see normal, non-suicidal roads ahead. And what a road we got! Newly constructed 4 lane highway, all made of concrete, with almost nil traffic. Even though the road felt a little wobbly, thanks to Wolverine scratches all over the place, we thoroughly enjoyed maintaining triple digit speeds while munching miles towards Kota.
Sachin: STONE! STONE! STONE!
Akhil: *Thud**Thud**Thud**Wobble* STONE! STONE!
Sachin: What happened?
Akhil: Ummmm.. Sachin, slow down.
Akhil: I went over a stone.
Deepan: Sachin stop, his front tire is gone!
I did not see the stone. It was almost invisible, being a grey little piece of shit stone against the grey concrete road. I was following Sachin, doing speeds of around 130-140 Kmph. I generally keep a healthy gap from the person I’m following, but at that moment I was rather too close to him. Sachin dodged the stone by millimeters, I didn’t even have the time to react.
I didn’t brake, didn’t even decelerate. I only understood that something was wrong when I was floating in the air, both tires saying goodbye to the road. I then hit the road back again, hard. The front tire wobbled violently, but somehow I was able to keep it all under control. My initial reaction was of denial, to just keep riding, hoping nothing went wrong. Deepan overtook me, and asked me to stop.
The front tire was torn open, a brand new Pirelli Sport Demon 110. You could actually put your entire hand inside the rubber and feel the wheel! The rim bend was relatively minute though, but I couldn’t ride because of no air upfront. The rear tire looked fine, and was not losing air. Something that I had heard happening to other people, something that I never thought would happen to me, happened. I was shocked, and almost shit my pants, literally.
I would be lying if I said my “skills” saved me from an almost certain crash. I didn’t see the stone, and I think that was a good thing. The anticipation of hitting something is what causes mistakes to happen in the first place. I was just a passive spectator to the drama that unfolded in front of me! Maybe my instincts and experience played some part, maybe it was my light grip on the handlebars, and the slight throttle I remember giving to even out the wobble, but it was all over in the blink of an eye.
We stopped by the side of the road, and assessed the situation. We had all the tools necessary to take the bike apart, also had a tube for precisely such situations. I also had taken the KTM Orange Assist policy before the start of the trip, exactly for this eventuality. We knew that Kota wasn’t far, and we also knew that Kota had a KTM service center. We had to somehow take the bike the remaining 25 Kms to Kota, and that wasn’t going to be easy.
*Phone Ringing* Hello, KTM Orange Assist, how can I help you?
Hi, my name is Akhil. I”ve been in an accident 20 Kms from Kota. I need a flatbed truck to take my bike to Kota KTM service center.
OK. *gave him my details and shit* Let me check how soon we can send a truck over.
Mr. Akhil, we can send a truck to your location soon, but the truck will not be able to enter Kota city till 10 PM in the night, since trucks are not allowed inside till that time.
What? You are kidding me right?
Mr. Akhil, we also don’t have a flatbed truck at the moment. We can send you a normal truck, but there are no ropes to tie the bike to the truck.
What the fuck?
Mr. Akhil we can send a normal truck to your location in 2 hours.
We knew that we were on our own, KTM Orange Assist wasn’t much of assistance whatsoever. Sachin and Deepan took their bikes to scout the area ahead. As my nerves calmed down a little, I remember the shit that almost happened during the accident, and quietly took a roll of toilet paper somewhere into the bushes along the road. It was one of the most satisfying shits of my life.
Deepan returned with good news, there was a puncture guy about 4 kms ahead. We decided to try our luck there, since no tractor/truck/trolley would stop for us to transport the bike on. I started riding, with a weird bike under me that was fishtailing at the front! Top speed must have been around 20 Kmph, but I did make it to the puncture guy soon.
Hoisting the chassis on stones, the front tire was removed. The puncture dude mainly dealt with trucks, but understood the core concept. He sealed the blown tire from inside by putting in a piece of rubber there. I thought he’ll ask for 250 bucks, I offered him 100, and he gave me 50 back. Even when I insisted he take the 100, he flatly refused. What a guy!
The joy was shortlived though, as we found that the rear wheel was badly badly bent! The tire had sidewall damage too, but miraculously no air was leaking from anywhere. I thought in my head:
It’s not a good idea to ride 25 Kms, almost all of which will be bad roads, on 2 bent rims and 2 blown tires.
This entire trip is not a good idea dude!
Yeah, fuck it then.
I surprisingly didn’t really notice much difference in the bike’s handling, and was soon pushing over potholes without much thought. It was during this section of the road that Nicky noticed his front fork seal leakage. Soon we found out that Sachin’s fork seal was leaking as well, and I felt so much better now that I wasn’t the only guy slowing everybody down! Finding a KTM service center was imperative.
It took a few more calls and lot of navigation skills to reach the KTM Kota service center, but we reached there finally. This joy was also shortlived though, as we found out that KTM Kota service center doesn’t really have a service center. There was no mechanic, and a very small service area that looked pristine and unused.
The KTM people were tremendously helpful though, and pampered us with food and beverages of all sorts. My rims were the priority as of now, so one of the KTM guys took me to a shop where he said they could be fixed. I was quite skeptical of fixing a bent rim, having heard stories of rims fixed after bends becoming brittle. A few calls to friends like Joseph Vipin Dsilva and Deepan left me with two options:
- Get the rim heated and fixed. The advantage being I could use tubeless tires. The disadvantage being the rims could become weaker.
- Get a tube inserted in both wheels. The advantage being the rims would retain their strength. The disadvantage being punctures would be catastrophic.
Based on Deepan’s advice, I took a leap of faith and asked them to heat and fix the rims. After checking with 3 different shops, all of whom refused to touch my “high-tech” bike, one guy accepted. He even had a paddock stand! After about 2 hours, 1 new tire, 2 fixed rims, and 3500 bucks later, we were ready to go again. The people were very nice, and even though I didn’t really negotiate, I don’t think they overcharged me at all. The new front tire was an MRF Zapper, since no one had even heard of Michelins or Pirellis there.
As we prepped to get out of Kota, we witnessed a weird sight. People stopped in the middle of the road looking at us and our bikes, whipping out their cameras, taking photos and videos. The small crowd pulled in a larg crowd, which pulled in a larger crowd, until the entire fucking road was blocked! We pushed out as fast as we could, being lead by the KTM Kota guy, who put us on the right path to Jhansi.
All was back to normal again, even though it cost us around 8 hours. We had planned to reach Lucknow that day, which now had to be rescheduled to somewhere around Jhansi. A quick call with HV Kumar sir guided us to take a hotel in Orchha, which is about 15 kms from Jhansi. It was already night well before Jhansi, and we kept pushing on as much as we could, only taking 1 stop to get some dinner, as we knew it’ll be too late by the time we reached our hotel.
We kept asking people for directions, and soon had crossed Jhansi towards Orchha. We were followed, overtaken, cut, chopped and diced by numerous asshole riders/drivers, whom we affectionately referred to as Roadside Rossis. We soon found ourselves stuck at a railway crossing (yes, they exist), with one guy actually getting out of his car to chat up with us. Even though we didn’t ask for it, he promised (read forced) to lead us to Orchha.
Madness ensued, as another Bullet rider promised (read forced) to lead us ot Orchha. Soon we found ourselves on a deserted forest road, which looked like it was going nowhere. The road became progressively worse, and creepy, and we were all feeling tired like the woman must feel after a gang-bang bukkake session. We just wanted to sleep, and the hotel was nowhere to be found. We soon reached a small village, which looked like Orchha. Everything was shut, and only a few scary looking people were on the road, who asked us to go on weird brick and concrete village roads to reach our hotel.
Nicky: Dude, where the fuck is this motherfucking hotel?
Sachin: I have no clue man.
Akhil: What could possibly be so special about this place that HVK sir sent us all the way into this black hole?
Sachin: I have no clue man.
Deepan: Tomorrow we have to start early to reach Lucknow to get the Ninja fork seals repaird.
We somehow finally reached this hotel, and almost everyone was cursing HVK sir in their heads. But it was only when we reached that we understood why he sent us there. Yes it was 30 kms extra riding, on a disturbingly eerie road, yes it was a small place, and yes it was all very very weird, but the room was kick ass, and dirt cheap, with the added advantage of safe parking for our bikes! We all went to our rooms, and collapsed.
Truth be told, I thought my trip was over when I hit that stone. I thought the right thing to do would be to let the others go, and not fuck up their ride. But then that’s the fun of being with good people, they care for you, no matter how illogical it may be. Everyone stood by my side, and helped in getting me back on my feet as fast as possible. The fact that I’m a lucky stubborn asswad also helped, but it was at that night, sleeping on that bed, that I realized the importance of good company.