Let me begin by stating that this article is not based around predictions, but possibilities. I am not a scientist, and I’m no soothsayer either, but every sign of credible information suggests that SARS-CoV-2 is going to be a part of our lives for quite some time to come. However, that being said, the strict lockdowns will eventually ease, and pretty much anyone who likes riding a motorcycle is going to jump at the opportunity the moment it presents itself. After all, us enthusiasts have always been at peace with the knowledge that what we do is risky business, and this virus certainly isn’t going to change that.
The daily grind
What we’re going to explore here are the kind of challenges you can expect when you get back on your motorcycle. For a vast majority, that first return to motorcycling is likely to be within city limits. In my opinion, this is where you’ll be at most risk of infection because social distancing on the roads of a metropolis like Mumbai has always been an impossible dream. And this was in the days when lakhs of commuters used to use the local rail network, something many will now be trying to avoid. As and when the lockdowns ease across various cities, financial duress will have us all returning to work, regardless of how safe we’ve grown to feel within the confines of our homes.
The new challenge with daily commuting will be figuring out how to avoid the jams.
Being trapped in a never-ending traffic crawl, tightly surrounded by hundreds of other road users can be a frightening prospect, but there are a few solutions. The first one is something I’ve been practising for ages – find a new, less logical route to work. Google Maps would suggest a 11km route to the office using only the main roads. However, a couple of years ago, I discovered a series of back roads that’s nearly twice the distance, but consume the same amount of time because I encounter far less traffic along the way. My reasoning to spend the extra money on fuel used to be purely recreational – to simply ensure I enjoyed the ride. Now, it’s a lot more meaningful.
The second thing you’ll want to consider is changing your working hours. If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught employers, it’s that business can be flexible. Request that your work hours be tuned to avoid the daily rush hour and you’ll end up reducing your exposure risk dramatically.
Life is a highway
As much as riding within the city is something to look forward to, the next potential motorcycling scenario is the one I’m craving the most – single-day rides out of the city. As the lockdown restrictions ease, we should be able to get out and ride just for the fun of it; and without the risk of unfortunate encounters with irate lathi-wielding policemen. However, it’s not quite as simple as it used to be, and there is some homework you’ll need to do. First, decide what direction you want to go in, and try to avoid any hotspots or containment zones along the way. This is both, for the sake of convenience, as well as avoiding any potential run-ins with on-edge locals. Next, you’d want to keep close contact with people to a bare minimum. On a bike ride, this generally comes down to two areas – food and fuel.
The joys of a steaming hot cup of chai and a delicious road-side meal are something you may want to sacrifice for a thermos and some homemade sandwiches; and what better time than now to invest in a hydration pack that you can fill with ice-cold water from home? A good quality one will even provide some back protection, and you won’t be using any plastic bottles – win-win. As for the fuel, pre-plan where you’d like to fill and check if the station is operational. When you get there, don’t forget to get off the bike to protect both yourself and the pump attendant. As inconvenient as it may sound, it is still far easier to execute than what we’re going to talk about next.
The long way around
One of the great romances in the life of a motorcyclist is to pack a bag and hit the open road. Long-distance touring is rich fodder for the imagination, but I fear it will have to be restricted to the confines of our minds for the foreseeable future. The primary issue here lies in the sheer uncertainty of the situation. Lockdowns that lift one day are likely to come crashing back down when the numbers swell. Different regions will have different situations, and the rules regarding state border crossing are likely to be in a state of flux. I just don’t see touring being a safe possibility anytime soon, but if you’re the sort who finds it soothing to dream about possibilities, here’s what you need to consider.
Longer rides out of the city will be much safer if you can pack your own food and water.
All of the challenges we mentioned earlier stand true, but the biggest problem is going to be accommodation. A time like this is going to make camping in your own tent seem a lot more appealing. That said, India isn’t the most camping-friendly place, so you’ll do well to read up on camping tips and tricks in our great outdoors. Most importantly though, you need to be prepared for all eventualities. This includes being stuck in one place for long periods of time and perhaps even not having access to spare parts or trained mechanics. This is all conjecture, and to be honest, it’s all too much of an unknown at the moment, and that is precisely why it’s so important not to rush into this.
This too shall pass
To sum up, some cities will take longer than others, but eventually, we will all get back on our motorcycles. Having been home for over two months as of writing this, I imagine that moment will be ecstatic, but it is vital that we keep our wits about ourselves. Think long and hard about every possible challenge you may face and have a solution ready before you come across it. It is also now more critical than ever that we do our best to stay out of the medical system. Keep patient, stay safe, and happy motorcycling, whenever your time does come!