Two wheelers!

I have owned a few motorcycles over the years, and so thought I will write about them. And then I thought why stop there and not write about all the two wheelers I have had the pleasure to use in my life. Here they are:

Bajaj Chetak

The first! I still remember my father taking me to a then remote place in Cochin to teach me how to ride a scooter. The Bajaj Chetak was the first automobile that I drove. I guess its the first manual transmission I learnt and once you learn one, the basics of it are the same across automobiles, be they scooters or cars. You need to know how to release the clutch and feed in the throttle to catch that sweet spot that makes the vehicle start moving, but the release can't be too fast or too slow. And that sticks with you for life. I do love manual transmissions. There is something satisfying about shifting gears. My cousin and I used to mimic them and run around imagining we were driving trucks. Mmmmmmmmmm (revving)... chck chck,(gear change)...Mmmmmmmmmmm! :-D

These excellent photos are from a website that sells used scooters in Finland! I have no clue how this one ended up there :) - Espoo, Usimaa, Finland

Kinetic Honda Marvel

My father sold the Chetak and we bought a Kinetic Honda Marvel which had an automatic transmission. It actually was a good scooter - lots of power and lots of leg room - the brakes were both on the handle bars and so the foot rest had lots of space for say groceries. The following is an image from a second hand buy/sell website in India.

I could not find this in Finland :D But funnily I found a rally for scooters, and here is the mighty Kinetic Honda Marvel braving the elements:

Hero Honda Splendor (2002 and 1998)

My third two-wheeler was a Hero Honda Splendor. Well it was actually my father's but mine when he went away on his work tours. I used to use it quite a bit in my later college days. And when I moved to Bangalore, I bought one for myself. The one I bought was older but since it was older, it had none of the emission requirement related changes that were made to the Splendors that came after 2000 or so. This meant that the sound on mine was heartier and it was more in line with the tag then for Hero Honda - 'Desh ki dhadkan' - the country's heartbeat.  I bought mine off a colleague at Wipro through Wipro's internal buy/sell website. I later sold it using the same network. This is how the 1998 one that I bought in Bangalore looked like (except this one is a Splendor+), again somebody's upload found via Google.

1986 Honda VF500F Interceptor

The first bike I bought in Vancouver. A friend of mine, Ashish,  who was my room mate for the first year at UBC had a motorcycle and he inspired me to get one too. I had absolutely no clue what the process was, which led to this: This bike though looks very sketchy and was sketchy in some ways (it was missing the instrument cluster, well actually the seller did give it to me separately), was very smooth and for my first big bike, had lots of power.

At Iona Beach

Trip to Kamloops with Ashish's Yamaha Maxim that could do only 150KM on a full tank :)

1984 Suzuki GS750E

The second bike that I bought was also off craigslist - actually most bikes that I have bought in Vancouver have been off craigslist. It was for $1100 and though it had a rattle at certain RPMs from one of the exhausts, it sounded great even so. I don't usually care much about how motorcycles sound, and I absolutely HATE loud ones, but if it sounds like what an 84 Suzuki GS750 sounds, I am okay with it. Its not too loud and it gives you good feedback and its nice to know you are on a motorcycle. I still remember dropping the guy I bought it from back at his place after he sold it to me. I have never seen two men on a motorcycle here (pretty common in India, even three :D). I think motorcycles here are for solo use or for taking your partner while it is very common in India to take your friend with you to places. I guess gay men don't usually motorcycle with their partners. So when I was with the guy behind me on the bike, we stop at a signal and an old lady starts crossing. She looks at us and smiles. We are slightly embarrassed and my friend slides a bit backwards :D This bike was great for a while except for some electrical niggles until things went quite wrong mechanically (there was rust in the fuel tank that eventually clogged up the needle valves in one and then two of the cylinders) which then unfortunately led to

With its younger but bigger brother which I got next

1997 Suzuki Bandit 1200

First bike after I got my job. Pricier at about $3000 but definitely better maintained. This was a big one - all of 1200CCs and had lots and lots of power. I had to handle it pretty carefully because of its power and because of its weight. But it was as stable as a rock and could pull at whatever gear, even when at ridiculous speeds. I had trouble selling it later mostly because it was big and so cost more in insurance. I met a guy once who had the same bike and he said that I should advertise it as "The bottomless pit of torque!". And it was. I don't think I ever opened up the throttle fully, well not at the very start where that torque is felt the most.

Duffy Lake Loop

I dropped it once when doing the Duffy Lake Loop. But it was at standstill - I took it off the road a bit, which was a bad idea to begin with and after I parked it, and was about to get off, the sidestand sank into the ground and I fell with it, with my foot stuck under it. Thankfully my boots were good and though I panicked for a bit as I was off the highway and couldn't really wave anybody down, I eventually managed to pull my foot out. And very luckily, and very coincidentally, a friend had told me about how to lift a heavy fallen motorcycle just before the trip. I am pretty sure I would not have been able to do it otherwise!

Sunshine Coast with Ramesh's Ninja 250

Port Angeles

Mt Baker with Ramesh

North Cascades Highway 20 with Sharath's CBR 600RR and Ramesh's Ninja 250

The Bandit with its younger cousin, the Honda 919, which was my next bike. The Bandit 1200, the 919, and the Yamaha FZ1 are the naked 'liter bikes' that are usually compared with each other.

2006 Honda 919

This is one of the best bike I have had. Lots of power and almost as heavy as the 1200 Bandit, but somehow nimbler and easier to handle. It was just cleaner than anything I had ever had, mostly because it was newer, but also because it was a Honda, I think. Most of the Honda engines that I have had experience with are clean, smooth, and somehow feels 'tight'. I can't explain it. One thing that I could try to explain that with is the engine unit - it was somehow sealed well and I didn't have any trouble with it at all. The Bandit 1200 had some oil leaks, but then in its defense, it was about 10 years older. This was newer and had fuel injection - so no need to wait for the engine to warm up or use the choke on cold mornings! I rode the most on this bike - about 20,000 KM in total. This was the bike I did a trip to Mexico with. And the first bike I took to a race track, which actually was a lot of fun.

Sunshine Coast - the highway there is one of the most enjoyable ones I have ridden

Somewhere on Vancouver Island

Somewhere in the American Midwest

Glacier National Park, Going to the Sun Road

Hope, BC, on the last leg of the 7500 KM ride to Mexico and back

2006 Yamaha FZ6

I bought it from a retired maths professor who had babied it.

Even though its made in 2006, it had only 5000KM on it! Absolutely spotless and pristine - with original tires :) Its 600CCs but it has enough power (about 100HP) though you have to rev it hard to get to it. I somehow don't like revving bikes hard. I guess I like torque more and torque comes with bigger engines. But this can do more than 300KM on a tank of regular gas while the 919 could do at the very best 250KM on premium gas. I think its a good bike, but the 919 is still the best I have had. And sadly they don't make them anymore. But I also have had days when I didn't like the 919 because it was a bit rough and worn. When on other days it was a pleasure to shift gears and cruise. I also remember a really old Honda that my friend Ashish lent me for a day when I was visiting him in Boston.

That was one of the smoothest motorcycle I have every ridden. I guess I like cruisers. But I also like fast cornering and I did enjoy the one time I took the 919 to a race track. But yeah, maybe one day I will find something that is smooth and powerful and nimble and gives me 400KM to the tank :D

Mt Baker. The road that leads to it is again one of the most enjoyable ones that I have ever ridden on.

2006 Honda VFR 800

I was looking at a Triumph Street Triple because any review that you read about it talks about how good it is and about its flat torque curve. I test rode one at the Triumph dealer but the bike was too sporty and I felt too 'exposed'. It was quite nimble and the engine was great but I wasn't too enamored by it. So I thought I will see a Yamaha FZ09, which was great seating and body positioning wise but the seat was that of a dirt bike and it also didn't feel that comfortable. When I was at the dealer (Daytona Motorsports), I saw this white VFR that looked great. I always wanted a VFR and even though it was a 2006 model, I liked it when I test rode it. It had a more aggressive riding position than either the Street Triple or the FZ09 but still somehow felt comfortable. And it was priced $5600 (came to about $6500 after taxes and dealer fees) and so it wasn't a big commitment. I have never had a V-4 engine bike before and it sounded absolutely amazing. It was also mostly smooth as Honda engines are but not as smooth as the 919. I also found that I couldn't go long distance on it - bad on the wrists and the knees. But I can see why lots of people love it.

Duffy Lake Loop

2015 Kawasaki KLR 650

I rented this for 10 days and toured the Patagonia in Chile and Argentina. This was my first 'adventure' bike experience - lots of time spent on unpaved roads which requires a different type of riding skill. I fell once but without any injury to the bike or myself. It was very reliable and though not great for high speed highway riding, was still quite capable on highways, given that it was meant to be ridden off-road.

At Puyuhuapi, Chile

Torres del Paine national park, Chile

2017 Royal Enfield 350

The original classic with the single cylinder thumping sound that no other bike can match. I have actually had one of these in my college days too - my dad's colleague gave it to me for a few days and I did a trip on it from Kochi to Thiruvananthapuram with my father. Rented this from Manali for 3 days and took it to Leh with my sister. Another very durable bike - these are in very high demand in the Himalayas mostly because they are simple and easy to fix. If I were to rent another, I would go for the 500CC one especially if I am taking someone with me.

2017 BMW R1200R

My current bike. My first new bike (the first 2002 Splendor was new but my dad's :)) and my first BMW. Love it so far and will probably keep it for a while. This reminds me of the happy times with the Honda 919. Quite comfortable, lots of power without having to rev high because of the 1200CCs, big yet surprisingly nimble and easy to handle, good on gas, neat features (keyless, heated handlebars, ABS). I think this is going to unseat the Honda 919 as my all time favorite bike.


I think it is unfair to compare the humble Honda to this high end BMW. Even the price is quite apart. Not that Honda is anyway inferior, though.