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Two Wheels to Move the Soul

Writing about my motorbike rides and other motorcycle related stuff

Month

April 2013

Protective Gear 1 – Armored Jacket

A quick note about my first armored riding jacket. I had been intending to buy one for some time now. I did a bit of digging around and saw a number of jackets that were available for purchase mostly online and some offline.

The recommendations I got from most were for Alpinestar in India, I think these come mostly from Malaysia, DSG is the company that imports them in India. But when I looked at what was available on the web (also known as www.amazon.com J ) I saw that Tourmaster seemed to be most popular in terms of quality and value.

More on the fundamentals first, there are largely two kinds of riding jackets, the street jacket and the touring jacket.

My Hyperion Street Jacket

The Street jackets are the more aggressive variety and fit more snugly around you. Typically these are also made of mesh more often than not. In terms of features these have fewer than the other kind and are meant for use on shorter rides. Many of these have two kinds of removable lining. These are thermal and waterproof. As suggested by the names the two linings make the jacket warmer and water proof. However in a heavy downpour this will usually not be as effective as a touring jacket.

The Touring kind of jacket is made for long rides. It has ducts for ventilation, usually these are zippered in order to provide insulation when needed. The jacket is rarely made of mesh, it is made of durable material, different types. These also come with the same two kinds of removable lining. Though these jackets have vents, they are much warmer than the typical street jacket. These have features such as numerous pockets in convenient locations, such as the sleeve etc. for storing mobiles, keys and what not. These are truly waterproof and the good ones all come with double zippers to ensure this. They also have handy clips for hanging your riding gloves or keys when you are taking a short break.

The common factor between both these types of jackets is the armor that is provided. There are grades of armor and there are classifications and quality certifications that companies talk off. European certification tests seem to be the standard – look at CE certified / EN standard – level 2. A little bit of research seemed to point in the direction of a brand called Knox armor, these guys are the gold standard for making armor for bike jackets (while plenty others will also claim the same and maybe justifiably). Typically the armor covers your shoulders and elbows. The jacket should also have some degree of protection for your back and the front. Some of these come with the ability to pair them with riding bottoms, these have hooks to join the two pieces together. 

If you want to read more about armor and the science behind which areas to protect etc. you can check these chaps out 

In this case the Wiki is not very extensive – this is the broader Wiki on all protective gear, but not too much info here either

You need to pay close attention to the fit of the jacket, the armor has to fit snugly, there should be no play between your joints / limbs and the armor. It should be a proper tight fit. It is very useful if the jacket comes with adjustable straps and Velcro for you to make the armor snug. If these are not provided then you need to wear it with the same Tee that you would ride in and check that it fits you fine. Again most of the jackets have pockets on the inside within which the armor is placed, make sure these are fine and in good stitch in order to hold the armor firm.  

So, having armed myself with some information I decided to go for a street jacket, I am not really going to do very long tours on my bike, they will mostly be short rides, a few hours typically. Also I do feel really warm in any kind of jacket so decided that a street jacket would be more appropriate as it would provide me with the required ventilation. I tried on both kinds and though the touring one sits more comfortably I stuck with my decision.

If you are able to buy these on Amazon.com then you can get pretty good deals. However, since it was my first jacket, I wanted to be sure about size and fit, therefore decided to buy it in a store where I could try it on.

I went to a store called bikingspirit.in, they specialize in touring equipment. They can be found online at www.bikingspirit.in or on church street in the real world. Rishab who is the main man at the store is extremely knowledgeable and helpful. There is no hard sell at this store, these are bikers helping other bikers. He gave me good advice and suggestions.  I visited the store twice, the first time around to learn more and the second time to actually purchase. I bought a jacket called ‘Hyperion’ from a company called Spartan Gear, they are based in Chennai and can be found at www.spartanprogear.com 

Front and Side protection

Shoulder Armor
Back Protection

You can read more about the jacket on their website, here are a few pictures. This one has a leather upper which makes it look quite cool and gives a lot of biker cred to the jacket. There are adjustable straps, zips on the sleeves and protection in the front and back with armor on the shoulder and elbows. There are a couple of pockets in the front, one on the inside and a hook to hang your gloves by if you want to. The jacket is made of mesh and the leather upper third is also perforated for breathability. It has excellent ventilation. It also has a waterproof inner, which you can attach and wear in case you are riding in the rain or in cold weather. It has protection at the back, unfortunately that is the one which made me feel really warm inside the jacket. So, I have taken that out and use the jacket without it.

The store also have their own brand of touring equipment and they stock Tourmaster and Spartan gear. I also checked out Alpine star jackets these are stocked by the Firefox store opposite Forum mall. There is a store on Cunningham road which also has biker jackets, I have not visited them myself, but know friends who have bought from there and are happy.

In terms of budget, I found the Spartan one was the best value for money I found, they had a range starting from 4.5k. I spent 7.5k for the Hyperion.

Here are some pics of the jacket, the folks at Spartan could do a little better with their images of the jackets on their site they could add some helpful comments and labels to the images as well.

Tourmaster has a very good version of the street jacket, you can check it out here, if you are able to purchase in the US you can save yourself some good money.

Finally, riding big bikes on longish rides is not a risk-free enterprise, therefore it is most sensible to invest in a good jacket which can make a real difference if it is ever needed. Next on the agenda are gloves and shoes. 

Good looking …..Jacket ! 🙂
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Magical Journey as Bullet Riders come to life

Bullet Riders !!
4:15 a.m. – the alarm rings and 7 people get out of their beds in different parts of Bangalore. 5 a.m. one group meets at Adiga’s on Bannerghatta road, and at 6 a.m. the bunch gathers outside Orion Mall on Raj Kumar road, Malleshwaram. 6 Bullets, 1 Harley make up the group called Bullet Riders.
Anand’s Desert Storm in the foreground
This ride started out because Anand had recently got delivery of his Desert Storm after waiting for nearly a year. The idea of the ride was picked up by others and we ended up with a group of 7.
From there we head out on Tumkur road just as the Sun peeps out. The toll road is quite quiet. We get a decent run up to the turn off for Nelamangala. As we turn off the Tumkur road we see that we have lost a few of our fellow riders. In spite of monitoring headlights in my rear-view mirror, I did not realize when I missed them. As it turns out they were a little way behind and had missed the first turn to get on to Tumkur road itself. The whole underpass thing near Metro Cash and Carry is a little tricky, which led to the missed turn.
Nevertheless we regrouped there and were on our way on to the magical road so innocuously called SH74. For us it is now the equivalent of the Yellow Brick Road, a magical route.
The Ride starts in earnest once we leave Nelamangala
Nelamangala was just waking up and we helped them shake their stupor by roaring through the little town. Shortly out of the town you need to turn right and that’s where the magic begins. It was the same road I had been on before but having 6 headlights in my rear-view mirror accompanying me all the way, completely transformed the road ahead as well.

Some pointers for riding in a group (not that we followed it all the way of course  ) 

  • A group ride has a ride captain who leads the group but also needs to clear the way (In India we mostly do this by honking loudly at errant traffic!) 
  • The ride needs to have a designated sweeper/ tail, who ensures that no one gets left behind. 
  • Ride as a group, so in case of any problems or any other reason to stop you can all stop without leaving someone behind.
  • Use hand signals whether to ride in twos formation or to ride one behind the other while weaving through traffic 
  • Keep your lights on, it helps to communicate with each other and  to distinguish group bikes in the rear-view mirror from other bikes 
  • Lights are kept on in high beam not only to inform other riders but also to warn oncoming traffic that there is group of fast and powerful motorcycles coming their way and that they need to clear the way. 
  • Ride safe, always 

    I will make a separate post using a group riding tips by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation – thanks again to Atul for sharing that.

    It also takes time for a group to get comfortable with each other and to begin relying on each other. I thought we were getting there towards the end of our first ride together.

    The early morning light, sleepy villages and a lovely undulating road made for a fantastic ride. Among our
    Riding through sleepy villages

    group was Atul an ardent photographer who rides with his camera slung around his neck and takes photos on the move. He took some awesome pictures of the ride, some of which are used here, all credit to him for the photography of course.

    We rode through the fantastic curves that the road has to offer, all 7 of us moving in synch with the curves of the road. It is something else to be riding in a group of bikers, beats the solo or even the 2-3 people rides anytime.
    Nandi Hills Line up !
    We reached the Nandi Hills climb and took a break there to pose for some photos. We then rode up to the top of the Hill and took another short break before heading right back down. It was all about the journey and not the destination for us. We were least interested in the hill, which already had a lot of people on it. We were most interested in the road that got us there and would get us back.
    On the slope we also came across a number of cyclists and runners who were also up at the crack of dawn to pursue their passions much like the Bullet riders.  
    === 

    About the bikes and riders – 
    Atul’s straight handle bar
    There were 3 black classic 500s in the group (Atul, Shalin and mine) and each of them was made different by the respective owners. You have seen a description of mine on the other pages here. A quick description of the other two. Atul’s bike had a modified silencer, which he got from a garage in Koramangala. The silencer not only gave the bike an amazing roar, it also gave some serious power boost to the bike. He has also got a straight and raised handlebar. This makes the bike more stable and significantly improves the riding posture. He has also changed the front wheel to get greater stability. I rode his bike briefly and it felt like a different bike to the 500.
    Shalin, the other 500 classic in the group, has changed the front seat, replacing the original with a custom made seat he got in Delhi, this makes the riding position about 5 inches lower than the standard one. He also has raised handlebars. This makes the overall riding posture very good by automatically making the back straight.
    Shalin’s low seating
    Both of these are options to consider, will be implementing some of it on my bike shortly too.
    Other than these there was the Bullet 500 ER (Robert), a classic 350 (Bipin -another ardent photographer in the group) and a desert storm (Anand). These three were left un-tampered by their owners unlike the above three. 🙂

    Besides these we had one super low Harley (Amit) in the group while going and on the way back we had an Iron 883 (Nikhil) join us as well. These Harleys are now integrated in to the Bullet riders group. 
    === 

    On the way back from the top of the hill we stopped over at a local restaurant for some good old bread omelet. We met with Nikhil (the Iron 883 mentioned above) here; he was keen on joining a group which would go for short rides around Bangalore. So he (and his friend) joined our little motley crew which made us a team of 9 people.
    The Brotherhood of Bikers
    We took the same route back; it was such a lovely road with green tree cover most of the way and very little big vehicle traffic that we had just fallen for it. There is one spot on the road where it splits in to two for a bit to make space for a temple and then curves around what looks like an artificial lake. Magical. On the way back there were more snaps and stops as we neared Tumkur road.
    The NICE Run
    Most of us were returning to south Bangalore and took the NICE expressway. It was a very good run on the NICE with the Harleys and the Bullets all clocking between 100 to 120 kph for most of the way. We did not keep formation after the first few minutes of course and the group got a bit strung out, but the run was fantastic, it felt very good to keep at a good pace for a longish stretch of time.
    At the Bannerghatta turn off, it was time to say bye to the others and head home after having completed a relatively short by extremely memorable ride!
    200 Kms in all starting at 5 am and back home before 11 am – we had a super kick-start for the weekend and did not steal too much time from the family !

    Solo ride to Nandi Hills

    Last week, I really felt like a ride, it was the middle of the week. The fact that I had just bought my first armored jacket might have had something to do with it. Not to mention the fact that the wife and kids were away.
    The Chariot! Majestic !

    So, it was at 5:00 a.m. that I hit the trail. The route shown here, from J P Nagar to Nandi Hills via Malleswaram, Nelamangala and Doddaballapur to reach Nandi Hills !
    The initial part of the ride was in darkness since I left quite early. That part was in the city so it was perfectly fine to ride in the pre-dawn. By the time I hit NH4 – Tumkur road to make my way to Nelamangala, the sun was rising.
    The route was quite a nice one, most of the route was on the SH 74. You leave Tumkur road at the second on the Toll road. You then go under the Toll road and in to Nelamangala and from there on to the SH 74.
    The SH74 is an absolutely brilliant route, with only one blemish near a railway crossing where you need to take a 200 meter detour on a mud road to avoid the tracks and get back to the main road.
    Sunrise
    The SH 74 is an excellent road, it has a decent tree cover and is gently winding for a large part of the journey. A couple of spots have really sharp curves. The kinds that a bikers dreams are made of! The weather as is usually the case in Bangalore was perfect and coupled with the road it made for a great morning ride.The best part was the sparse traffic, especially the big vehicles which are a pain in the backside for bikers.
    Certainly looked like the Road Less Traveled ! 
    About 2/3rd of the way through you hit Doddabelapur which is a small town, get directions for Nandi Hill from the local people as it can get a bit confusing. The next part of this journey was a little busier than the first. Of course the day had begun in earnest which contributed to the traffic. However, it was still very gentle traffic, no heavy  vehicles.
    Lovely road isn’t it ? 
    Going up Nandi Hill was a complete pleasure with the winding curves and the slope. It was good fun to ride, being a weekday and early there was no traffic at all. The monkeys seemed to have taken the day off too. Up on the hill I saw a few bikes parked, other than these I saw no vehicles while going up or coming down. A great way to start a weekday !
    Coming back I chose to try the busier route via Yelahanka. There was plenty of traffic on the road and one was welcomed back to Bangalore with the usual quota of fumes and honking, just in case you began to miss the city.
    The joy of the morning ride will stay for a fair number of days and will make it all worthwhile!
    I would recommend this road for a ride, whether you like to ride a motorbike, a cycle or a car.

    But for those who ride a Bullet, I would doubly recommend and be happy to join for another ride on the same path.
    Thump on!!

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