Do you really need mad bikes, awesome friends, smooth roads and good weather for the ride of a lifetime? Well, stop deluding yourself, yes you do.
Max, our good friend who wrote a story on the V-Max for Riot Engine, offered an invitation that this correspondent could not say no to. Keys thrust into my hands, kit and lid on, it suddenly dawns upon me that I’ll be spending the rest of the day trying to keep up with this mad Max (man?) on a very mad motorcycle, an ’04 Kawasaki ZX-12R. Ah not to worry, I realize I’m astride a motorcycle that seems very capable. A 2001 Yamaha R1, the last of the species before they plonked in the fuel injectors.
Fire up the engine and I realize this is no ordinary R1. A Micron exhaust grabs the exhaust gases from the manifold and shoves them out with all the fury of the Hulk and the drama of the action hero who plays the angry cop at your local cinema, with no catalytic convertor to play party pooper. The ZX-12R, ups the proceedings an ante with it’s as-expensive-as-your-cousin’s-R15 Trickstar exhaust. As I start off my Sunday morning with aural stimulation from the ZX-12R at the front and the R1 under me, I came up with a metaphor involving the likes of Jessica Albas and Megan Foxes. No, I’m not going to explain it here.
Remember the last time you signed up for the gym and never got around to keeping at it for more than a week because you didn’t have a good trainer? Well that wasn’t about to happen to me. Not with Max around. The basics being the same, regardless of what bike you’re on, Max details the finer points of being on a superbike, pats my back, assures me I’m doing great and before I come to terms with reality we start rolling. What? Is that all the hype there is to this moment I’ve been waiting for half a lifetime? As I learn later, the best parts are yet to come.
We catch up with Paul, who has been waiting for us a while now. Now Paul is the gentleman you’ll see in the pictures with the severe crew cut and biceps that could crush your windpipe if you had the balls to badmouth his V-Max. I mean it, he has Russian blood. Now that you are sufficiently intimidated by Paul and his motorcycle, let me assure you he is a really nice person. Very friendly, can go on and on about his bike, and others’ for that matter. The V-Max though, well you know the saying ‘Fear is quintessential for survival’ or something along those lines. Be afraid.
I know Bangalore. I can manage to find my way around. Not so much when I’m on a superbike, I realize. Keeping my eyes peeled open for hazards, I try to orient myself, but for a couple of landmarks I recognize, I’ve no clue where we are heading and resort to sticking to the ZX-12R’s tail. If you’ve ridden your way around on a bike, you would have already expressed your disapproval by shaking your head. Trying to follow somebody, without any idea of the general direction you should be heading in, you are bound to fixate on the target, a problem that haunts not just amateurs but seasoned riders too. I’d suggest trying to keep your lead in your peripheral vision, and keep your eyes open for hazards immediately ahead, and ahead of the lead too.
We are then joined by the pretty lady you’ll see in the pictures, who can, take my word for it, spar with the best of you nerdy auto enthusiasts and win a war of words. Then there’s the fact that she has an appetite for drivers who think women are bad at the wheel, or that women ‘should’ drive slow. She could probably out brake you before a sweeping turn, take you on the outside, and then mash the throttle with the other end of her pointy high heels on the way out of the corner, leaving you in the dust.
We were also joined by a couple of young guns who added flavour with a P200, a Yezdi Roadking and a Yamaha RXZ! Before you ask, yes, the fantastic Yezdi made it to the end, of course why wouldn’t it? The RXZ was bloody fast and happily screaming along at 120 odd kph.
I remember Baiyappanahalli Railway station, having seen it once on the Volvo from Bangalore to Chennai. After that it was pretty much sparse traffic. It was at that moment the ZX-12R, feared drag racing machine (and much more); the V-Max whose throttle response is a rude shove in your back; the extensively modded R1, which even when half naked catapults you effortlessly to this-is-scary-fast speeds, got going. Got going, they did. Max helpfully points out that we pretty much stick to the road and head straight.
Not having to worry about getting lost and riding around in circles on a superbike, I decide to open the taps and try to understand the sinful temptations of speeds I’ve never seen on the meters of bikes I’ve owned till date. For the time since I’ve been on the R1, I steal a glance at the speedo, and I’m shocked to find triple digit numbers, when the drama, or lack of it thereof had lulled me into believing I was doing maybe a 70 or and 80kph. No, don’t get me wrong. I was not going ga-ga over how fast the R1 got there, although I did, but I do not want to admit it here, in this story – I think I just did though – well, digressing, red light, stop, back to earth. I was stumped about the fact that I was riding at those speeds, and I had yet to actually subject the throttle to calculated violence.
This image was inserted here just to give you a scare. Like you see in cheap horror flicks. Seriously though, this motorcycle is mostly engine, some chrome and then tyres. The V-Max. Perfect.
Rather than twist the throttle of the Yamaha R1 to the stop and kill myself, I feed in the power gradually as I’d been taught to do by the Max. Beyond what I’m guessing is the 6-8k rpm mark, the engine transforms and starts swearing at you. As is the norm with free flow exhausts ( in my experience, correct me if I’m wrong) you will hear rabid explosions when you downshift or back off the throttle momentarily. That, is fantastic. What’s even better is when you have the throttle pinned to the stop, and the engine leaves no fuel wasted, and the exhaust has no unburnt hydrocarbons to set on fire and create those big bang explosions. You know this masterpiece of engineering is working like your typical English butler with utmost efficiency and making sure you get your petrol’s worth. Almost like it gives a damn about the rising fuel prices.