Guide to Motorcycle Riding in India
India is not just a land of snake charmers and software programmers. The culture and terrains in India differ like night and day! Whether you are hiking the Himalayas or riding through Rajasthani deserts, every single experience will enthrall you and keep you coming back for more. And to have a good ride here you need the right motorcycle riding tips for India!
Travel has boomed in India over the last decade and now there is this ever-growing cult of motorcycle riding which has taken a huge leap with a lot of state-of-the-art motorcycles being retailed in the country. Within this market, there is a segment of adventure riders who love to explore places where the road ends, so in order to cater to these set of riders, a lot of brands are selling motorcycles specifically for this purpose.
And this has brought tons of motorcycle tourers into India looking to explore the landscape on two wheels. From the high passes of Ladakh to the sultry beach rides in the South, motorcycle enthusiasts are burning the rubber, traveling to offbeat places all over our country!
The topography of India is such that you as a rider will get to witness a wide range of terrains ranging from beaches, deserts, tropical forests to the mighty Himalayas. Every terrain has its own challenges and you need to do thorough research before you land here.
You could experience heatstrokes riding the beaches in the South or get hit by Acute Mountain Sickness in the North and the North East. Research your destination and prepare accordingly.
Motorcycle Riding Tips for India
Riding motorcycles in India is not an easy job. I will enlist certain pointers which will help you plan and prepare for your journey. I will allocate weight age to the factors which impact the safety of the rider on the road. Please note that these motorcycle riding tips for India are based on my experience on the road.
If you have seen YouTube videos of accidents on the highway or even in the cities, most of them happen on the intersections and if you look closely, people don’t slow down at the intersections. If you see people and vehicles crossing from a distance, please slow down. Please do not wait for the other party to do that for you. 9 out of 10 times, the other party never slows down. As a rule of thumb, at every intersection in India slow down and honk.
Don’t overtake on blind turns because you don’t know if there is a vehicle coming from the opposite side or not. Anticipate well in advance. On hilly terrain with winding roads, this is the number 1 cause of accidents. People here don’t always follow lane discipline but when in the hills you always should!
In India, animals are everywhere! And, animals are unpredictable. Be on the lookout for strays on the highway when you are cruising at high speeds. We do see a lot of roadkill on our expressways so it’s a good idea to be on the lookout for cows, sheep, and dogs!
Overtaking is a major factor here in which a lot of anticipation is required, keep a good amount of distance, equal to the size of two mid-sized sedans, between the vehicle you are overtaking and yourself, so that when you in the overtaking lane, you have the maximum amount of visibility to overtake. Please note, if you are not sure, please do not overtake at any cost. This becomes even more imperative when you are overtaking on single-lane roads.
The habit of honking is a never-ending epidemic in India but it’s a smart tool if used wisely. So while overtaking a heavy vehicle, you can honk for a couple of times, so that the driver is aware that you are overtaking and space needs to be given. Even in the mountains, the heavy vehicle drivers can see the road ahead which you cannot see since it’s a blind spot. They use hand signals to let you pass or wait.
Here’s a handy checklist of important items you must take care of while riding in India.
Riding Gear (35%)
Well! There is no alternative to this and on Indian roads, they are a must for every long-distance motorcycle traveler.
Full Face Helmet (80%) – In most of the accidents, people succumb to head injuries because they are not wearing helmets and even if they are wearing it, they have not strapped it properly. Whenever you fall from a motorcycle, always remember, the first point of contact is your head. So helmets are absolutely mandatory. Beg, borrow, steal but buy a proper helmet.
Also note, a lot of insurance companies don’t pay insurance amount if the rider is not wearing a helmet during the accident because it means that the rider is wilfully putting his/her life in danger.
Jackets, gloves, pants & boots (20%) – When you plan for a ride in India, make sure you invest in a good riding jacket, trousers, boots, gloves, and luggage. India sees thousands of road accidents every year and it doesn’t hurt to be well protected.
Presence of mind (15%)
This is also a very important factor while riding. I have noticed that a lot of accidents on two wheels happen at the starting or end of the ride. This is because the mind is either not fully active in the morning or riders are in a hurry to complete the ride since they are tired. While riding in India, you need to be always aware of your surroundings because the fact is that traffic is haywire here. Unfortunately, India is not the place for you to activate cruise control and sail through our highways!
There will be instances where locals might race you! You don’t need to reciprocate and you should stick to a comfortable speed. Be polite to the people but don’t indulge in anything that might land you in trouble.
Also, please do a basic check of your bike before you start a ride for leaking shockers, punctured tires or anything else which is easily visible to the naked eye.
Level of expertise (10%)
I don’t want you to ride like Valentino Rossi or Marc Marquez on public roads and if you are planning to become like them, please go to the race track which is a controlled environment. Level of expertise would mean your hand-eye coordination, the bodyweight transfer during turns, the way you brake, usage of indicators, hand signals and usage of rearview mirrors.
All these factors also matter a lot. There are a lot of videos on YouTube which will give you a basic knowledge about these points which I have mentioned. Please go through them.
- Health – The complete ride of yours depends on your health. I will mention quick pointers so that you can take of yourself and your group mates:
- Eat light and don’t stuff yourself with heavy food especially when in high altitude regions
- Drink water, at least 4 liters in a day even if you don’t feel thirsty and do not drink aerated drinks which dehydrates the body very quickly
- Carry first aid medical kit and basic medicines for quick fixes
Apart from these pointers, extreme weather conditions will batter your body, like riding in 40 Degrees Celsius during summer months (April to June) or in sub-zero temperatures in high altitude regions. Let’s mix dust and smoke into the weather. You need to be prepared for these situations also because ultimately health matters the most.
I hope my blog, written based on personal experiences, increases your awareness and helps you. The intent is to make your journey a pleasurable experience to the maximum possible extent. Please don’t treat this as your bible and learn from your experiences as well.