Plan was to hit the highway on my motorcycle from Bangalore on day 1, stop at Visakhapatnam for the night, and then ride straight to Calcutta on day 2.
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College was over, for good, and I had to get back home. Booked a train ticket this time, since I had to carry my motorcycle with me. Figured I’d put it on the train, chill in the AC for a day, and reach home without any hiccups. How wrong I was!
Sitting at a popular restaurant (codeword for pub) on the evening of the last exam, I loudly proposed an idea (the same one I’d come up with several times before): Why not ride my bike down? It’s a distance of barely 1900kms, on arrow-straight highways, and a route that’s been traversed a million times by bikers already. Start from Bangalore on Day 1, stop at Visakhapatnam for the night, and then ride straight to Calcutta on Day 2. Except, I ride a 21-year-old 100cc 2-stroke motorcycle. Not unreliable by any means, but a 2 stroke after all.
This time though, I was determined. While my friends drank away their happiness (or sorrows, you can never tell), I pulled up my phone and started reading old threads on the forum, checking the route status, and drawing up stoppage points. The first plan I drew up looked something like this:
- Day 1: Bangalore to Vijayawada
- Day 2: Vijayawada to Gopalpur
- Day 3: Gopalpur to Calcutta
I then reminded myself that I was riding down to enjoy myself. It wasn’t a task or a chore, and riding my motorcycle is something that I truly enjoy. Hence, a new plan was drawn up:
- Day 1: Bangalore to Vijayawada
- Day 2: Vijayawada to Visakhapatnam
- Day 3: Visakhapatnam to Bhubaneswar
- Day 4: Bhubaneswar to Calcutta
With this in mind, I informed my friends that I would be riding down home. Really, no joke.
I quickly sent all my stuff (clothes, bike parts, more bike parts) home by courier, and then took my bike to my trusted mechanic for a “quick” check. Mind you, the bike had been serviced barely 15 odd days and 200 kms ago, just before my exams. While at the mechanic’s, I thought what the hell, and got a whole lot of parts changed again. Majorly, a brand new chain sprocket kit, with a larger front sprocket to aid highway cruising, and a cellphone holder with a charger. I also bought some spares to carry along:
- 2.5 litres of 2T oil
- 1 spark plug
- 1 plug spanner
- 1 tube
- Royal Enfield petrol pipes for the carb
- Clutch cable
After spending 5 hours at the mechanic’s for what was supposed to be a 15-minute visit, I bid my goodbyes and came back home.
I’d had a surgery exactly 6 days ago, in my jaw, and I had to get the stitches cut out. With 10 hours to go for the ride, got that done too.
Went to sleep at 12am, planning for a 6 am start, and then the lights went out. A power cut. Tossed and turned in bed till 1:30 am, and realized I wasn’t going to get any sleep either way, so I might as well hit the road. Took a shower, strapped my 2 backpacks onto the bike with a bungee cord, kick-started a machine that woke up my entire neighbourhood, and off I went.
Odo reading at the start of the ride was 1,02,819:
Some pictures of myself:
I quickly made my way out of the city via Indiranagar, KR Puram, and then hit the highway to Kolar. I cruised at a steady 60kmph, and at no point did I feel the bike’s lighting system, or power to be inadequate. I was grinning inside the helmet, praising myself for leaving in the middle of the night. The bike ran much cooler than it would’ve during the day, and I munched miles steadily. I took my first break after the Hoskote toll:
The next stop was just after the toll plaza near Mulbagal:
I was taking stops roughly one hour apart, and progress was good. I do not know the location of the next stop, but the geotag on Instagram said I was in a place called Gaddurur. Very well:
I must’ve crossed into Andhra Pradesh either just before or just after this, and I was greeted with wide, 6-8 lane highways, and small hillocks on both sides. A little while later, the sun rose and I switched off the headlamp. Stopped again after the next toll, which again I have no idea where it was. Geotag showed Chittoor, and I added it, but I later realized Chittoor was quite some distance away from the place:
By now, the sun was up and I was beginning to feel a little hot. No biggie, I thought, and rode. An hour later, I crossed another toll:
Had covered 200 kms by then, so decided to tank up at the next decent looking petrol pump. Found one around 40kms before Tirupati, and tanked up. Sat down at the pump and adjusted my bags, replied to my WhatsApp messages and took a 10 minute break:
By now, my ass was beginning to hurt a little. The seat felt too soft, and I took care of it by sitting on hard surfaces every once in a while. Progress slowed down. I took some more photos:
AND then it hit. The 40-odd kilometre-long single-laned stretch from Tirupati to Naidupeta. I can confidently say that this was the stretch that derailed my entire trip, drained me immensely, and broke my rhythm to the point where I found it difficult to build it up again. I must’ve taken 3 breaks in this short stretch, that’s how horrible it was. By now, the sun had risen considerably high so it was hot too. I refused to take off my jacket (safety yada yada). A couple of pictures I have from this stretch, and these were among the last few pictures I took, I was THAT exhausted after this:
At this point, I even dropped a message on the Team-BHP WB WhatsApp group, whose members were keeping an eye on my live location:
Oh, how I wish I’d listened to myself and turned back at this point! But, I strapped my helmet back on, and pushed off.
It took almost 2 hours to cross the stretch and finally land on the 4 laned highway from Chennai to Calcutta. Once on it, I whacked open the throttle and maintained a steady 80kmph for about 30 mins, post which I stopped for a rest at a petrol bunk around 50kms before Nellore. I must’ve stopped there for a good half an hour, and drank a full bottle of water.
By now, the sun was directly over my head, and it was BURNING, I kid you not. The bike didn’t complain though and was all eager to go. I put on my jacket and helmet and started off again. My next stop was after the Nellore toll plaza:
I was severely exhausted by this time. Looking back, I wished I’d taken my jacket off. Crossed Nellore around 11:45am, and stopped at a restaurant adjoining a petrol pump. At this point, I seriously began reconsidering my plans. There was no doubt that I’d reach Vijayawada today, but did I want to do it again over the next 2-3 days. Not in this heat. I proposed the idea on the WhatsApp group and there were mixed reactions. Some wanted me to find a hotel, take rest, and then think about it. Some wanted me to return back immediately. BHPian Sayan15 called me up and spoke to me for a good 10 minutes, and said, “Whenever I’ve been in a similar situation, I’ve just carried on and I’ve always reached my destination.” I knew that was to inspire me to carry on to Vijayawada for the day, but by then I had made up my mind to return. Vijayawada was 250kms away and Bangalore, 400kms.
I barely ate my lunch, paid the bill, and walked out with my bags. I enquired at the pump if they knew someone with a mini-truck who would take me and my bike back to Bangalore. No luck, their options were limited to me putting the bike on a train or something, and me taking a bus. Nope, not gonna part with my bike at any cost, and wasn’t that one of the main reasons I embarked on this ride?
I took off my jacket and strapped it onto the rear carrier. Called up my landlady to inform her that I hadn’t vacated my apartment for good, that I was coming back for the night. I’d reach home around midnight and I didn’t want to wake her up for the keys so she should keep them in a flower pot. The call didn’t get connected. I dropped a text to my friend, and started my ride back to Bangalore. The next 150 kms, I took 0 breaks. I kept the throttle at a constant 80kmph and didn’t stop no matter what came my way. Just before the dreaded single-laned stretch, I stopped, bought a bottle of chilled water and pushed off. I rode through the entire stretch without taking a single break, as opposed to the 4-5 breaks I had taken on the onward journey. It was the jacket, I felt much better without it.
I stopped somewhere after Tirupati, and tanked up again. This time, it had been 400 kms since the last fill-up, but a visual inspection of the tank showed that there was quite a lot of petrol left. Weird. I filled up 6 litres anyway. In the meantime, one of my friends had gone to my place and gotten my keys from the landlady and kept them in a secret place outside my apartment. Thank God for friends!
By this time, the sun was on its way down, and the weather had cooled down considerably. I was stopping every once in a while, downing a 250ml bottle of Pepsi, and carrying on. On one such stop just before sunset, I took this picture, around 170kms before home:
I noticed a little oil leak in one of the bags. Was probably one of the opened 2T oil bottles due to the pressure of the bungee cords. Well, nothing I could do about it then. My clothes were in a plastic garbage bag anyway, so I hoped they were dry.
Exactly an hour later, around 6:30pm (it wasn’t dark yet), my rear tyre had a puncture. I stopped, in the middle of nowhere, and decided to ride on to the next town at a very slow pace. A couple of kilometres later, I found an intersection and rode into the village. Found a tyrewallah working on a truck tyre. I asked him if he could fix mine first, as I had to ride back to Bangalore in the dark. He refused, so I took out the spare tube from my bag, borrowed his tools and started taking off the rear tyre myself. This was the last picture I took that day, with the bike parked in front of the puncture shop:
And then, it started pouring. I quickly grabbed my jacket from the carrier and dashed inside the small hut. Let my bags get wet since there was no way to get them without getting myself wet. The village suffered a power cut, and the puncture guy began working on replacing my tube with the help of my phone torch. At 7:30pm (according to my payment history), I paid the guy Rs. 80, he fitted the wheel back. It had stopped raining by then, the weather was cool, and I started the journey with renewed vigour.
I must’ve covered some 20 kms, before it started raining again. There was no place to stop, and in a matter of seconds, I was drenched from head to toe. This was when I felt the most vulnerable, I screamed and cried inside my helmet and hoped that the rains would stop soon. It was too much to take in a day.
Around 120kms before Bangalore, I stopped at the Mulbagal toll plaza. Called up one of my friends and cried on the phone for a good 15 minutes. The rain didn’t subside, my clothes were wet, and my spare clothes in the bag were probably wet too, which meant that even upon returning home, I wouldn’t have anything to wear. I was shivering in the cold. After a final “what the hell”, I decided to carry on. If I had waited for the rain to stop I would have probably waited till the next morning. I unstrapped the bungee cord, slung one backpack behind me, and one in front, and that was all the armour I had against the cold. I took off, for the final 120kms to home, with the aim that I’d follow some car and reach home safely. I remember telling my friend, “I know I’ll reach home, but why does it have to be difficult?”
Famous last words, I said to myself.
The next 100kms passed away in a literal blur. I kept following cars, trucks, other bikes, and literally anyone else with a working tail lamp. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I was blind otherwise, and I slowly watched the milestones pass by. The puncture guy had probably tightened my brakes too much, every time I applied the rear brakes, the rear of the bike fishtailed once to the left, and then to the right. Started singing to myself and watched the kilometres roll by. After a good 3 and a half odd hours, I rolled past Hoskote, and ended up in the maddening traffic at KR Puram. Chalo, I had reached, I thought to myself.
I couldn’t be more wrong. It was probably my fault though, that I was senselessly just gunning the bike. A couple of wrong turns and a flyover later, I found myself heading towards the airport. WHAT!
It was raining too much to even check my phone. A signboard told me I was in CV Raman Nagar. I had no idea where on earth that was. I again went back on the flyover that had led me here, and ended up in KR Puram. Took a U-Turn, and stopped and asked someone how to get to Indiranagar 100ft Road. It was easy, apparently, I just didn’t have to take the wretched flyover. I rode on and on, through the IRR and reached Koramangala. At this point, I believe I was in a state of trance, since I didn’t even recognise the right turn to get to St. John’s Hospital. Luckily, I asked an autowallah, and he guided me. Reached home at exactly midnight. Not even kidding, my wrist watch showed 00:00. Ordered some food, and went to sleep around 2am.
Woke up at 8am, and there was absolutely no pain in my body. No fever either, the others in the WhatsApp group were surprised. Well, all’s well that ends well.
I went down and took a photo of the odometer, reading 1,03,642kms:
I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said the bike performed absolutely flawlessly. Apart from the puncture, and you can’t blame the bike for that.
One of the many reasons I embarked on this trip was, I didn’t want to look back later on in life and regret the fact that I didn’t take a cross-country trip on a 2 stroke when I had the chance to. I was also sure I would never get the opportunity to do it again. I’m fresh out of college now, so I have that drive in me. Who knows how I’ll feel about a long ride on a 2-stroke, say 2 years from now?
Anyway, here are some stats from the trip. Pardon me for recording them on a cycling app, it was the only ride-tracker app I had on my phone:
I suspect the “moving time” is wrong. ~22 hours sounds more like the total time I was on the road, and I must’ve spent 3-4 hours in total taking breaks. Oh well.
]What next, you might ask? I cancelled my train tickets, put my bike on a truck to Calcutta and took the next flight out of the city. In between, I took the bike on a 30km ride around the city, and visited my favourite places one last time. Here’s a photo:
My bike is on its way to me as we speak, although it’s taking a painfully long time (close to 2 weeks). As soon as I get it, the first thing to get replaced will be the seat. I still have painful memories of that.
That was my story. I’m looking forward to the next long ride on a 2-stroke, hopefully, I’ll be able to do it before these wonderful machines get banned all over the country.
May we never stop being adventurous!
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