Real-world peace

Shubhabrata Marmar  /
14 Jul 2017 11:40:26 IST

Indian riders are a practical bunch. It is what separates us from others. A European motorcyclist doesn't, for example, see the latest in electronics as a source of a problem. Most of the time, s/he sees a new ability that suddenly becomes exploitable. I've had many people come and ask how apprehensive I was about Feroci. You know, since the Multistrada S happens to be one of the most electronic motorcycles money can buy right now. This time I thought we should see where this rabbit hole goes. I guess the first thing about your perspective is whether you're doom-oriented or not. Allow me to digress just a little bit to explain what I mean.

Ducati Multistrada Long Term -11

When I moved to Mumbai in 2000 to begin my career in automotive journalism, cellular phones were thin on the ground. The natural fallout was that my mum complained long and hard that she didn't hear from me often enough. But we agreed, after a fashion, that we were going to assume that no calls meant all was well. And that I would try my damndest to call her as often as I humanly could. Arti would often point out that this was backwards and she eventually taught me the weekly sign of life phone call.

In a similar way, when a colleague decides to ride faster (or slower) than the rest of the group which means in an hour or three, s/he will be 15-20km ahead (or behind) the group, it isn't a problem. My assumption is that they will be okay. And if anything happens, there is enough technology in play to let us know so that we can help.

This doesn't mean I blindly believe in technology and don't prepare. For all the technology in the world, I prepare to go to Ladakh. I lay out my first aid and medicine kits and examine it one object at a time to ensure I have everything I need.

This is every year, no matter how often I go. I will use technology to reduce my work load or insulate me further from risk. But I don't get complacent because of it. So two or three friends now get copies of the agenda and day plan. And they can - signal permitting - track my movements in real time.

The point is that I cannot imagine that the worst will definitely happen but I can and will almost always plan for it. In my experience, most crisis situations aren't the end of the world. And if they're that serious, there isn't much you can do but hold on and hope to ride it out.

That's how I react to technology on motorcycles as well.

To wit, there are many who will say that the big bike guys just never have parts in stock. Well, yes, but that's how it is going to be for a while, no? Let's say Hero sells 5 lakh Splendors every month through 5,000 dealers. There are enough bikes on the ground for the dealers to carry substantial spares in stock. They can be confident that this inventory will be consumed fast. This is important to understand. Like the motorcycles in the dealerships, the dealers also pre-purchase the spares and cannot recover money until the inventory is sold.

So when Triumph sells 50 Tigers, say, versus four Rocket IIIs a month, how much do you think their dealers order in spares inventory? You can be sure that you're more likely to find Tiger parts than you will Rocket III bits in stock.

The point is that Harley, Ducati and Triumph are all more likely to store bigger spreads of spares for the Street 750, Scrambler and Street Twin than their flagship motorcycles that cost five to 10 times as much money. It's the only way the dealers can survive.

The complaints aren't invalid. But when I bought my Ducati, I accepted that if I ride it as hard and as often as I tend to, I'm going to find myself having to aggressively pre-plan scheduled maintenance and accept that now and again, some part or the other will slip past me and the wait will be a few weeks' worth of eternity. But I chose clearly that I wasn't willing to wait for a steady flow of, say, 25 people in Mumbai to purchase Multis every month so that I could be sure everything I might need would be readily available. I ain't got that kind of time.

In the exact same way, I'm realistic about all the technology I allow into my life. Will Feroci be completely flawless 20,000km down the line? My heart says yes and my brain has a contingency plan.

The contingency does potentially make owning beautiful, beautiful Feroci more expensive for me than most Ducati owners around the world but that's all right. Because as I've said before, money is only good for spending and our time here is limited, so I might as well make the most of it.

And tomorrow, when something with even more beneficial technology arrives, I won't hide my eyes worrying about whether India's beautiful chaos will break it. I will worry about whether or not I am ready to break the bank once again to fit it into my life and then set about using it like it was meant to.

Because when all is said and done, human beings haven't become what we are by thinking about how things will end. We got here by the dint of the risks our race took. We were led from the front by the people who thought what good can come of every new thing rather than cower at the sight of every opportunity. A broken motorcycle is a shattered dream. It is a vast amount of money down the tubes, perhaps. But it isn't the end of the world.

So how apprehensive am I about all the electronics on Feroci? Well, let me put it this way. My 2017 Ladakh itinerary is nearly final. The medical kit and the warm gear are under inspection. But I haven't even begun to think about what Feroci might need up there. That answer your question?

To read more of Shumi's opinions, click here.

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