The last couple of weeks of 2016 and in the first week of 2017, I convinced myself to ride a motorcycle. So one week I had the Triumph Street Twin and the next the Tiger XRX. One I used for a slightly longer ride on the outskirts of Mumbai and the Tiger I commuted to work on. Both are brilliant, despite me using them the other way round. The Tiger I should have ridden around the outskirts for the weekend ride and the Twin in the city. Nonetheless, both kinds of motorcycles turned out to be tremendous fun. Clearly, they showed me what I was missing and what I was gaining. Motorcycles have always held a dear place in my heart, and I will continue to yearn to own one. When that will happen is anyone's guess, but someday I will go down that road. This column, however, is not going to focus on that aspect of riding but what I learned from those two weeks of riding.
First off, the longer weekend ride which happened the night before Christmas. The ride was for the OD Team and other staff members from the group company, and it turned out quite nicely. All of us on the ride bonded pretty well, and it clearly showed me that I just have to get out and ride some more. And that is exactly what I tried to do the following week, hoping to start off by at least riding to work. Turns out the commute is hell, and here on I'm going to think a hundred times before I ride to work. So what happened to turn me off this bad?
The average commute to work is roughly around 30 clicks from my residence. It's along the highway which at all times these days, thanks to the metro construction, creates a nefarious traffic situation. Logically, a motorcycle in this situation, especially where one lane is now going to be shut for the next few years, makes the best sense. But here's the thing, guess who are the worst road users in Mumbai. No, it's not the cars, or the trucks or the rickshaws, who bless them in most cases, are some of the most polite and no-nonsense road users. It's the bloody two-wheeler riders who are the most deplorable. Uncouth, ill-mannered, reckless, ignorant and generally idiotic. Almost every biker on the road is an idiot in my books and yes that may include some of my esteemed colleagues.
Why do I say that? When I rode in the city, almost every other motorcyclists couldn't care what they were doing on the road. If there is one indisciplined road user that's the two-wheeler commuter. Yes, some of them are genuinely good riders, but the vast majority are unruly ingrates. I've seen them up-close so I know how the many motorcyclists will cut in to other motorcyclists' paths just to get ahead. They couldn't care if it's an elderly person riding or a family on a scooter. They will barge in to others' paths like they owned the road and they were the only ones using it. When traffic slows down, the chaos that they create is dangerous, trying to weave into another's lane, unmindful of whether it's a truck or a car bearing down on them. These are only the average commuters, then there are the racers for who everyone is fair game. They whizz past other unsuspecting riders with inches to spare, startling them and unsettling their balance. And god forbid if they see a superbike or any large motorcycle. They instantly believe that it's their right to provoke the big bike rider into a competition.
Oh and what about the sanctimonious riders who strongly believe that the only way to avoid the other morons is to keep their pace high and stay away from the madness. They don't realise how their actions often goad others (often mistaken as inspiration) on probably less-powered motorcycles to pick up their pace as well, and ride beyond their means. I've seen it happen; I've seen quicker riders who think they are above all else on the roads and make their way through traffic like a hot knife through butter. And I've seen how other riders follow their lead, eager to catch up to that one quick rider and prove they are faster and better.
I thought riding a bike to work would be a much better affair than sitting in a car. It would, at the very least, be quicker and less stressful. I couldn't have been more wrong. Well, it is quicker but the stress levels are much higher; every kilometre of a commute is fraught with danger. I know I have very little tolerance and my blood pressure rises whenever I drive a car. My colleagues who share a ride with me often witness how my anxiety levels rise. But I'm now troubled that it's even worse when I'm riding, and I'm sure there are many other two-wheeler users who feel the same. The rage, egos and one-upmanship I sense with other riders on the road are disturbing.
To read more opinions from Bert, click here