How often are you thinking of hills these days? Well, if you are from anywhere that's above central India, we are sure most of you moto-travellers are. This is the season that inspires us at Bikeprotal for sure, and we are already day-dreaming of wearing our sweat shirts during the day time and blankets during night. But is it as easy as we think it is? Is packing a few clothes, an essential tooth-brush, and a tool-kit really sufficient? Well, only and only if you have the luck of Bill Gate's son or own one of those motorcycles that need to be towed even for a flat tyre. Otherwise, you better prepare well in advance before you even think of hitting the highways. Here are some of the things that will ensure that the landscape is what is keeping you busy and occupied, not yourself or the motorcycle.
This is the first part of the two post series where we tell you how to prepare your own self before you start getting away from the sea level. The second post, which is following soon, will talk about what all needs to be done to your motorcycle so that it stands tall with its head held high in the most inhospitable of conditions.
Probably the most overlooked part of touring on a motorcycle, helmet is something most of the people don't consider before embarking upon a journey of a lifetime. Someone had once said, "Buy a helmet as expensive as you think your head is." A helmet is not just a tool to avoid traffic cops and a few hundred bucks. Consider it as a life saving equipment. At a minimum level, make sure that your helmet is ISI approved. For the riders who consider motorcycling as a religion and worship hills or highways believe in helmets that are DOT or Snell approved. They are slightly on the expensive side, but are considered as investments, the way people consider life insurances. Make sure the visor is clean and does not scatter light coming from other vehicles at night. It is as good or bad as having no visor at all. Also, do not wait for a helmet to fall apart before throwing it off. Almost all of the manufacturers advice the users to replace the helmet after one crash. In order to make your ride a more relaxed one, you can always go for helmets with vents that keep the air circulation perfect without letting you suffocate yourself.
It is advisable to always wear full face helmets as they provide more confidence and surround your head from every possible side. An open-face or a modular helmet is not recommended, but if you are one of those who swear by Peter Fonda of Easy Rider and have nothing much to do with speed or road rage, you can surely go ahead with them. Whatever helmet design you prefer to choose on your ride, make sure that it fits your face tightly and is not loose from anywhere. A loose helmet has the tendency to get off your face every time it feels a jerk.
For the daredevils who do everything in extremes, a Balaclava inside the helmet is the key to warmth. It keeps your face away from sunburn, extreme cold, and also protects your exposed neck from dust, heat and cold. The quality should be decided by taking into account key factors like comfort, fabric, temperature resistance, thickness etc.
Gone are the days when people with a riding jacket were seen only in the poshest of places. Riding gear was something that was as rare as it was expensive. Time changed and many national and international players acknowledged the need of the hour and launched many affordable variants. Manufacturers like Alpinestars, Cramster, Spartan, Joe Rocket, DSG are available through many retail outlets across the nation.
A proper riding jacket with guards for your shoulders, elbows and back is a must. Don't forget to inquire about the quality and the standards the protection guards meet. Do not buy a jacket that is loose on you. In case of a crash, the guards might not be where they are supposed to and may not protect the body part they are meant to protect. Always buy a snug fit riding jacket depending on your comfort, but make sure you can breathe in it.
For the lower half of your body, you can either go for a riding pant that has the protection guards for the knees and the fabric takes the maximum damage if something goes wrong. The riding pant, however, is not comfortable for all and in that scenario people can always opt for knee guards that can be worn on top of your jeans or whatever you are comfortable wearing while riding.
It also forms an essential part of your safety equipment. With special protection on palm and knuckles, it does keep your hands working even in the most inhospitable conditions. Riding gloves are of various types - long, short, summer, winter, rain-proof, racing - and depending on your need and comfort, they can be tried and bought, most of the times, from the same places that sell riding jackets and other gear. But, whatever you decide to buy, make sure that it fits your well, is comfortable and has fair enough protection to make you ride with maximum comfort and confidence.
Your feet are the first few parts of your body that come in contact with the tarmac or the gravel, depending on where you are riding, at the time of a crash. If the shoes can't withstand the impact, chances are, you might have a tough time getting back on your feet without any hassle. Riding boots are an expensive affair, not comfortable, but provide maximum safety to your feet. And like anything else, you get used to it with time and once you do, you might as well start flaunting it as we have not seen anyone ride a motorcycle with an extra pair of shoes. Steel toes are always a big yes, but there are other shoes too with gore-tex lining that will keep your feet dry even if it starts to rain and there is no hiding for you for the next few miles.
Ever heard of a Hydration Pack? Well, if not than this is the key to success on your next long ride. It is a bladder kind of a thing that holds water in different quantities depending on its size and can be fitted in your backpack. Especially in hills, when you don't come to know if your body is dehydrated, it is a life savior. Brands like Camelbak, Btwin and Quechua are some of the world-class options that are easily affordable, but are not easily available.
Riding in the daytime in summers can be blinding, especially in hills, and if you happen to encounter snow, the visibility will just part ways with you. In such a scenario, it is always recommended to wear sunglasses or have tinted visors. The problem with tinted visors is that they turn into your biggest nightmare once it gets dark. The only solution that remains is to use a sunglass inside your helmet. But it should not be uncomfortable and should also cover your eyes properly not letting dust entering through its corners.
Undoubtedly the most convenient way to carry your luggage without hurting your shoulders. Manufacturers like Cramster and Dirtsack specialise in making such saddle bags that just sit comfortably on the rear seat making enough room for a pillion as well. These bags come fixed with fasteners and it is extremely easy to put them on and off. Just keep the weight on both the sides equal and the bike will behave just the way it should, minus them.
You won't know how useful they are unless you have them. A bungee chord is a highly elastic rope that you can use for tying your luggage tightly to your motorcycle or to ensure double safety for your saddle bags. In case of those metal luggage carriers people going to Himalayas use on their Royal Enfields, bungee chords come extremely handy. Some friends have also used bungee chords to tie a sleepy pillion to the rider to keep the centre of gravity intact. Just saying.
First Aid Kit
If your luck has conspired to act against you than there is little you or anyone can do. And to tackle such situation coolly, always carry a first-aid kit with you. Every person reacts differently to every medicine, so we won't get into the names, but we will surely ask you to carry an antiseptic, a cotton roll, medicines for Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), Oral Dehydration Salts (ORS) for dehydration and medicines for fever or allergies if you have any.
And last but not the least, have a sane and cool mind, and a physically fit body before you even think of paying a visit to the Hill Gods on your bike!