A lady and two motorcycles
The last few days of 2016 have been quite the contrast to the dark, surreal days of June. These few days have wielded an influence on my dream garage that even I am finding hard to reconcile.
Before you think I am complaining, I am not. I am sleepless, excited and anxious. I am in the euphoric state I've learnt to think of as pre-new-motorcycle.
The first player in this story is The Wife. As you know she instructed me to buy motorcycles and things looked good for the Ducati 959 Panigale. A motorcycle that spoke to me in a sweet voice. I thought to myself, "Hey, I'm past 40 and my body may not have many years of supersport-riding fitness, vision and reflexes left. Now or never." The delectable 959 ticked all the boxes except price. But I guess a journalist of my kind and type will never, ever, have the money to dream more than small, realistic, firmly middle-class dreams.
Except for The Wife who left me enough money to get the 959, if I really wanted to.
It was at this point that player two walks in stage left. I met this 2004 Yamaha YZF-R6 at the racetrack multiple times. The R6 has been in my dream garage for a long, long time but it faded away as it became clear that the 600cc supersport is an adventure the Indian motorcycle makers would never develop a taste for. And then we got estranged. My visits never stopped but it never showed its feline face. Until now.
Prashanth Chandran, the owner of the Yamaha YZF-R6 hands the motorcycle over to its new owners, my friend Daniel 'Dodo' Anandraj and me. Say hello to Feraci!
Prashanth Chandran, the owner of the Yamaha YZF-R6 - his first big bike - finally decided that he wasn't riding it enough and wanted something a little more modern and that I could have the R6 at a very, very good price. Before I had even looked at its papers, I'd more or less made up my mind that the R6 was a keeper and that Feraci was coming home. And then the deal got further sweetened by Daniel 'Dodo' Anandraj, my co-instructor at the school who pitched in half the money and became owner of the left side of the R6.
The epiphany happened shortly after the euphoria started.
Did Feraci really need to come home? I've always had this fantasy that I would be the hard-core, hardass rider who would commute everywhere on a supersport. In theory, this is still possible. The Yamaha is legal - and that's a rare occurrence - and I could honestly ride it to work as I've always dreamt. I am torn between the notion of this and the idea of keeping it closer to the track and using it for what it was designed - the racetrack. Either way, I think it will get ridden very hard and very fast. And that is what it was born to do.
Enter motorcycle two.
No caption needed, right?
Arguably the non-sentient lynchpin in this story is the Ducati Multistrada 1200S. It puts into focus everything that troubled me about Ferine, my Triumph Street Triple, and why the Yamaha YZF-R6 staying at the track makes so much sense.
Before we go into it though, let me explain the Ferine-trouble bit. I ride my bikes. I ride them hard and far. I ride them slightly outside their comfort zone because India is so vastly outside the intended riding environment they were designed for. Unfortunately, while I exhaust-ed, quick-throttle-d and then geared my way to a motorcycle that performed as aggressively as I wanted, the suspension wouldn't keep up. It constantly felt fragile and that bothered me. And when I rode the Versys 650 and the Tuono Factory, I knew that the Ferine would not last in my garage. It didn't handle India the way I wanted all my bikes to.
Ferine, my Triumph Street Triple. This photograph was taken after a particularly good day at the racetrack
The Ducati Multistrada 1200 S is genius. No motorcycle, as I never tire of saying, should be able to do what the Multistrada effortlessly aces. Remember the column where I said motorcycles were made of iron, steel, rubber and magic? The Multistrada is magic.
I rode it in first gear traffic over 18km home one night and I felt no strain. Some heat, but I've long made my peace with hot motorcycles. And the Multi even isn't close to the hottest motorcycle I've ever tested.
The next morning at ungodly o'clock I caught myself effortlessly surging along at a steady 160kmph (I promise you it was the Ducati, not me) feeling, again, no strain or effort. Just abundant reserves while at an elevated clip. A few hours later I was stuck in a huge, huge jam. The Multistrada and I crawled through every single gap that any Splendor, Pulsar, Enfield and Activa found. For 11 truckin' kilometres. On this day, the Multi' out-India'd the Street Twin, the Scrambler and H-D Roadster. It didn't just outdo them. It made them look like they weren't ready. Like it could do the Tango while they were still learning to walk.
A full-on ball of emotions as I take delivery at Ducati Mumbai. A gaggle of friends showed up and it was wonderful and deep inside, slightly awkward
So I'm writing this after a day of poring over excel sheets to see how I can make a downpayment and EMI combination work that will allow me to live and eat while keeping a garage of three beauties in fuel, tyres and service.
So it is the 2004 Yamaha YZF-R6 and a 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200S for me. Ferocitas, my beloved 2014 KTM 390 Duke is joined by Feraci (feyrraaachi) and Feroci (feyrrrochi), respectively.
Feroci and Ferocitas pose in my garage. Feraci belongs in there but chances are she will live in Bangalore and meet me at the track. As often as humanly possible
Where is the Tuono Factory in all this? Well, it is still on the list and it is still unobtanium. I've paid Rs 8 lakh as down payment for the Multistrada and the bank loan is for Rs 12 lakh, a Rs 31,000 EMI for four years. But the Factory comes to roughly Rs 7 lakh more than that. When you combine that with Aprilia's startlingly low residual prices as used bikes - I realise that I am not yet rich enough to afford the Tuono. Maybe a used one in a year or two but not a new one to be sure.
Besides, I look at my garage as a place where everything has a job. Ferocitas is all-things and all-rides to me but she's family now. Her place would be inside the house if the elevator was big enough. Feroci will do everything including the racetrack if it has to and that's her task. Feraci will do only the racetrack, perfect. A space for an off-roader remains open and I am certain eventually that position will also be taken by something.
The Aprilia Tuono V4 1100 Factory, in all this, is a motorcycle that I yearn for and dream about. But its role and intent overlaps some parts of these four motorcycles' jobs. In that sense, it is meant to be the jewel in the crown. And it has a firm, unwavering place in it.
But for now, I feel full to the brim. Ferocitas is beautiful. Feraci will teach me all sorts of new things. Feroci is made of magic. And what are dreams but the magic that we want in our lives, eh?
Feroci: 2016 Ducati Multistrada 1200 S
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