Imagine the lush landscape of the Deccan opening up to a crystal-clear sea and tree-covered valleys. It’s right here, in South India, a bucolic paradise, that’s home to some of the country’s most avid riders – hard tails, bobbers, baggers, Flatheads, Ironheads, 750s and everything you’d ever imagine that will cover highways. RITZ explores this passion for riding motorcycles that seems to have engulfed the South.
Bengaluru-boy, model-turned-actor, Dino Morea took to biking in his early teens. Now at age 42 he continues to pursue his passion, trawling the streets of Mumbai, Goa and Bengaluru (whenever he’s down here) on his 48 Harley Davidson. Be it John Abraham’s 1300 cc Suzuki HayaBusa or Salman Khan’s blue Suzuki Intruder M1800RZ, bikes have always invoked men’s fantasies. From being an indulgence for the country’s rich and famous to being an affordable accessory for today’s man, motorcycles have suddenly become an essential part of a man’s collection of toys.
The motorcycle trend is a curse to many. We spend money trying to chase them, only to be lost again after a time. What was once cool, is now lame and what was once lame is now cool again. Be it the super expensive, but ultra cool Harley Davidson, the sleek British brand Triumph, mean Hyosungs or sexy HayaBusas, or for that matter even the evergreen favourite Royal Enfield, men and their passion (and to an extent addiction) towards bikes have fuelled the biking industry and culture down South like never before.
People take long distance motorcycle trips mostly to get a feeling of thrill and adventure through them. It is about overcoming fears and defeating others in the battle of roads. It is a way to connect to directions and to feel the world as can never be felt while sitting in an office. Your senses go on hyper drive while riding and you notice things around you which you would never notice while travelling in a car. There is nothing to disturb you, there is only you, your motorcycle and the surroundings.
As motorcycle buyers become aspirational, they demand more power, size, style and features and hence a natural migration is happening towards bigger engine bikes. The move is also driven by an increase in average speeds in urban centers and the improvement of road infrastructure. The move to bigger capacity engines is also driven by the motorcyclist’s desire for self expression, independence and a somewhat misplaced notion of appearing sexy to the opposite sex when astride a bigger engine bike.
And man, does this ploy work!
The Men And Their Machines
Dhiren Pawar, General Manager, Shiro, a popular restaurant and lounge in Bengaluru, who owns a Ducati Monster 798 and a BMW S 1000 RR has his sights firmly set on a Hell Cat or Triumph Cafe Racer as his next purchase. He admits: “Due to my hectic work schedule I really don’t ride as often as I would like to, although I do take my bikes out at least one Sunday in a month.” He doesn’t ride with a particular group, but tags along with Gautham and Jean Michelle, both owners of Toscano, another popular Italian restaurant in the city. Jean Michelle is a hard-core Harley man, in fact he’s one of the first from the city to have picked up a bike when the company opened their doors in India. And he’s been a loyal customer ever since.
Telugu film star Varun Tej looks hot in a recent photo shoot for our sister publication Southscope, where he is astride one such mean machine. “I love going on long rides…. but my family is quite against biking, only because they are concerned about my safety. So I don’t have my own ride or don’t go often on rides, but I have a few friends from school who own bikes, mostly, Harleys and
Triumphs. I’m not so much into sports bikes but I do love cruisers. My present favourite is the Triumph Thunder Storm and I hope my dad will let me buy this….. I always keep asking him,” he tells with a cheeky grin.
Well Varun, we’re sure you can convince him, should you choose to make up your mind and take the plunge!
One of Bengaluru s most enterprising riders Giridhar Machenahalli, a 34-year-old software engineer working with Walmart, is also an ace photographer. He’s part of a motorcycle group in Bengaluru called BURN (Bikers United Riding Ninja) and owns a Kawasaki Ninja and a Triumph. When he’s not burning rubber with BURN, he’s zipping across the outskirts of the city with BRATs (Bangalore Riders Association of Triumphs). Several such biking groups have popped up on Facebook and Twitter, encouraging like-minded riders to get together for Sunday morning gigs. Sometimes they head out for a weekend, burning rubber on the several well-maintained highways that lead out of Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
The Road, Not So Less Travelled Anymore
Come Sunday morning Chennai’s ECR and the Hyderabad-Bengaluru highway is choked with the smell of burning rubber. Riders hit the highway as early as 4 AM and zip off on long lazy road trips. Sometimes they ride from dawn to dusk, choosing to leave the city before traffic snags begin and return home late into the night, once again for the same reason.
The logic behind this is simple – bikes with such powerful engines cannot be managed at slow speeds on traffic-clogged roads, hence riders like to open up the throttle during the wee hours and take off on an exhilarating journey of speed.
Some of the most popular routes in South India frequented by biker gangs are always open, divided highways. Hence stretches between Bengaluru and Hyderabad, Chennai’s ECR heading to Puducherry, NH 4 between Bengaluru and Hubli, NH 7 between Bengaluru and Hassan and the four lane road from Chennai to Yelagiri are frequented by bikers.
We pick some of the favourite routes that riders from South India regularly explore:
-Chennai to Puducherry
The ECR from Chennai to Puducherry is one of the best rides in the South. Not just the condition of the road, the route is scenic, dotted with pretty French architecture, some stunning temple ruins and with enough curves and bends on the path to satisfy even the most daring rider.
Distance: 160 km
-Hyderabad to Kannur
It’s one long ride, but oh! so worth it.
Leaving behind the arid landscape of Andhra the excellent stretch between Hyderabad and Bengaluru (which you have to bypass to hit Kannur) is an amazing riding experience. On one of the new super fast monsters, this distance can be covered in just 8 hours. This stretch is also a foodies paradise as some of the local eateries on the highway dish out mouth watering grub. Once you hit Kerala, it only gets better!
Distance: 897 km
-Chennai to Yelagiri
Yelagiri is an erstwhile colonial retreat, a preferred weekend getaway from Chennai. The ride to the tiny hill town is perfect for thrill seekers as the road is filled with hairpin bends and cool turns. And if you have your saddlebags packed then you might want to pitch your tents in one of the lush forest reserves along the way and spend the night camping.
Distance: 228 km
-Bengaluru to Munnar
Another super preferred destination for bikers to kick back and relax after a long ride, Munnar is high on the bike trail map. The roads are excellent, save a few small sections on the ghat. The food along the way is awesome. The scenery is stunning once you begin descending down the coast and one could just take time to sit back and enjoy a few peaceful moments while recovering from a sore butt!
Distance: 476 km
-Bengaluru to Hassan
Once you exit Bengaluru city it’s just you, the road and your mean machine. One of the best maintained highways in South India, NH 7 is paradise for any self respecting biker. It’s 2 hours of pure bliss, for thats how long it takes a super bike to cover the distance. Many riders choose to head on to Chikmagaluru some 45 kms further, while others with a bit more adventure in their bones head down the lethal Charmadi Ghat to enter Mangalore. On an average this road sees hundreds of bikers tear across on a Sunday morning.
Distance: 187 km