The one big event of the year for all bikers in India is the India Bike Week. The IBW happens in Goa in the month of February.
The perfect setting. Beach, Babes and Bikes!
Yeah, I know it’s not exactly Miami or Santa Monica but it’s the best we have and it’s pretty good.
The group I ride with, Riders Republic, had plenty of riders going to Goa for IBW ’16. All told I think we were about 120 bikes in our group from Bangalore. There were riders from Hyderabad and Cochin as well all part of the Riders Republic. Then there were the families and those not riding this particular time but driving or flying. All told we had a group of over 300 people making our way to Goa for the party.
More on that later, this post is on the ride to Goa.
630 kilometers, about 230 of that on a single lane state highway is a fairly long ride.
Considering the number of people that would be riding at the same time it was a ride that needed to be well planned. Besides the RR group there was the Harley Owners Group who were also riding. Other bikers from Chennai and most other southern cities would also take the same route. Imagine 200 bikes lining up for fuel or 250 hungry people landing up for breakfast at any joint on the highway. Either of those scenarios would take up more than an hour causing delays and general chaos.
The big boys of RR did a fantastic job of planning this one. They separated the bikes in to three main groups, superbikes (the racing types), forty eights (since they have a really small fuel tank) and all the other big bikes. The last group was further divided in to 3 sub-groups. So, we had a staggered departure from Bangalore starting from 5-00 a.m. onwards.
The journey started from UB city in the heart of Bangalore. My group rolled at 6 sharp. It was good fun riding with a group of big bikes rumbling through the city when the roads are mostly empty.
Wee Hours Ride Through Bangalore
In almost no time we were on the outskirts of Bangalore. All set to ride to Goa.
The route we were to take was all along the NH 4 from Bangalore to Dharwar and then turn left onto the Goa road
But then, the best laid plans…
Shortly out of Bangalore we hit a major hitch. An almost total jam on the highway. Trucks lined up for as long as we could see. There seemed to be no movement at all. It was early morning and the sky was gorgeous, but we were stuck and did not really have an eye for nature’s beauty.
Our bikes are not small enough to do the maneuvering needed to slip between trucks and find a path. So we were literally cooling our heels. Finally, some of the locals came to our rescue and carved a little path for us to get to the wrong side of the road. There on we got on to the service lane and slowly made our way across the jam. It took a good 15 minutes of wrong side riding before we were through the bottle neck. Our tight group had also been disbanded.
We regrouped at the toll gates and waited for the rest to join us. Soon we were all together again and once more we set off.
The ride can be broken in to sections. Once clear of Bangalore, the road up to Tumkur is a busy road with a lot of trucks, buses and smaller transport vehicles. There are also a number of smaller roads which join the highway at intersections making it quite busy. However on this day because of the jam behind us we got a free ride almost up to Tumkur.
Tumkur to Sira
The next part is from Tumkur to Sira – this is a lovely broad road with three lanes on either side of a large divider. It is a pleasure to ride on and most riders can clip. If you leave Bangalore early in the morning, then Sira is a logical break for breakfast. It helps that there are 3 fuel pumps close together making it the ideal place for big bikes to take a break as well.
For us RR folks the Kamat at Sira had setup a tent with buffet breakfast. This helped us all eat quickly, get a little rest and be on our way. This is a Kamat I stop at quite regularly on my way from Dharwar to Bangalore and it is just OK most of the time. However, this time the breakfast was really good. Dosa, Idli, Vada, Upma etc. the usual components of a south Indian breakfast. The coffee was not too bad either.
Quick refueling of self and bike and we were off again. Not before taking a count of all riders of course.
Sira to Hubli
The road from Sira to Hubli is an excellent road all the way. We rode mostly non-stop up to Ranebennur. The ride from Sira to Ranebennur was well-paced without a break on a lovely road and in the early part of the day. I took a quick break on the way just to take a couple of snaps as we passed the windmills in Chitradurga. Didn’t carry my SLR this time so just mobile camera shots.
Near Ranebennur there is a Reliance petrol bunk with a Kamat, this is another regular haunt for travelers on this highway. Even when the petrol bunk was shut for business the restaurant had remained open all through, it has always been a popular stop. This was just a pit-stop on this run, only for petrol and a short break for the bikes and the riders.
Riding on the Highway
From Ranebennur to Hubli was another reasonably quick run. The day was getting warmer but it was still quite pleasant. The traffic however does pick up a bit as you get closer to Hubli with more two wheelers, tractors and local transport /conveyance vehicles. I stopped for a quick bio-break along the high-way. A local farm-worker who was going by was most curious about the bike. He had seen a number of bikes noisily going past. He wanted to know who I was, where I was coming from and WHY we were all riding. Existential questions these! I chatted with him for a bit answering his questions. It was a nice, out of context conversation, an intersection of two disparate worlds.
The fun part of this ride was of course that there were so many of us. People along the road were expecting to see bikes and kept clear somewhat. It is also fun to wave to the kids you pass by, they are super excited by big bikes. I know I used to be as a kid, heck I still am!
From Hubli to Dharwar the highway is a single lane on both sides with no divider. With truck traffic aplenty and cars trying to overtake the trucks, it is always a tricky section. This road needs to be treated with caution. Of course having a big engine and a fast bike helps you get through the traffic.
At Dharwar we turned off the highway (NH 4) and moved on to the smaller road (AH 47) which leads to Goa. There was one small petrol bunk on the route which is the last one for a 100km before you hit Goa. Time to tank up!
We took our lunch break at the Hill-View restaurant which is just a few KMs down the road from the highway intersection. Once more the organizers had outdone themselves and we had a buffet waiting for us. Nothing like hot food waiting for you as soon as you park and swing your leg off the bike.
Post lunch was the tough part of the ride, technically and physically. The road is narrow, not very good in patches and winding for most parts. The temperature was now soaring, making it uncomfortable given all the gear we were wearing. It does not help that our bikes heat up quite a bit too adding to the discomfort. There was a lot of motorbike traffic all heading to Goa on this road. In spite of the heat and the general discomfort of having been in the saddle for half a day it was still enjoyable.
There is magic in riding through woods on winding roads, the kind of magic that kindles the biking spirit. It was a pain that the road was in bad condition up to the point of reaching Goa. Once in to the jurisdiction of Goa the road improved significantly. It was a pleasure riding through there.
We took a break once we were in to Goa at a little nook in the road. The usual Indian setting of tea stall and cows. The lady at the tea stall was overwhelmed when 20 of us landed there asking for nimbu-soda with lots of salt. We were all quite dehydrated with the heat so fresh lime-soda was the perfect pick me up. Some of us took up the task of slicing the lemons to help the lady out while she prepared the drink for us, she was also short on glasses so we all had to take turns. But all through she was smiling and joking with her customers, though mostly everyone spoke in different languages.
A nice little break to recover from the bumpy ride.
From here on it was good roads but lots of traffic all the way through to the resort. It was good fun to ride through the Goa roads. There were 20 of us riding closely knit together and the lead rider made sure none of us got lost at the multiple junctions and signals. There were a number of people riding alongside us taking videos and generally having a good time. By this time of course the saddle was making me quite sore in the derriere and I could hardly wait to get to the resort.
We finally reached the resort by 5 pm. As we parked and dismounted, feeling slightly sore our hearts were still beating with the adrenaline from the ride. A little tired but we were all in good spirits.
Boy what a ride!