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6 Essential Bike Riding Tips – the 4th one is quite interesting!

Adventure travel is exhilarating and India is a prime destination for adventure enthusiasts. One often cherished adventurous way to explore any country is Bike Riding. It can be a solo bike ride or one with a group/team, a cross country bike ride or just a short one.

But, every conversation about this enthralling activity usually revolves around memorable experiences and the Do’s and Don’ts on a bike ride. The fun and frolic one experiences on this journey is unforgettable, but following certain motorcycle riding guidelines or advice is the correct way. So, I’m listing 6 Essential Bike Riding tips below that you can (or rather should) keep in mind, no matter the terrain, the country or the bike you have chosen for this feat.

1.     Safety must always be your Priority.

Yes! I know that it’s common knowledge and might seem trivial but, I still have, nay need to include this as an essential tip for Motorcycle Riding. People define safety the way they want to, twisting the definition to fit their perspective. But, a safe bike ride ensures the safety of not just the rider and the pillion, but every other vehicle and person on the road as well as by the road. Never occurred to you huh? You prepare your bike and yourself and take maximum precautions, but do you ALWAYS take others into consideration? Usually, but not always? Well, in my opinion that needs to change.

Safety, especially in case of a long distance bike ride is paramount. Appropriate and authentic motorcycle riding gear isn’t optional- riding jacket and pants, a very high quality helmet, and riding gloves suitable to the weather of the country/destination. Now, taking a look at your bike, the essentials include a headlamp and a tail lamp, indicator lamps, crash guards, comfortable seating and good maneuvering techniques on your part.

Yes, Yes, I’m getting to it. The others on the road and the roadside. While riding, having the awareness of your surroundings is essential. Some very basic etiquettes to abide are:
·         Do Not honk unnecessarily.
·         Always keep your headlamp on, day or night.*
·         Never change lanes or make a turn into a street/onto a highway without giving the appropriate signal with side indicators. SAFE LANE CHANGING is undebatable.
·         Overtaking should be done in a disciplined manner. Flash the pass light (headlamp), wait for the signal from the vehicle in front of you and proceed only if they give you the signal.
·         Focus only on the road, road signs and the roadside. Do Not attempt to use your mobile phone or adjust your bike riding gear or your action cameras while riding.
·         Wear high visibility vests or straps when you are working on your bike on the roadside.
*Please verify this against the laws of the country you are riding in.

2.    Choose your bike appropriately.

Again, this might seem redundant, after all, I am listing Essential Bike Riding Tips, but I will mention this. The bike you opt to take along will be your companion for the entirety of your riding expedition. I have been on a solo bike ride as well as a guided bike tour in some of the most challenging terrains, so here are my suggestions on how to choose your bike:
-        Riding comfort is superior to the looks of the bike. Do not compromise on your comfort simply to opt for an attractive bike.
-        You should have ridden at least 600-700 km on the bike. By then, you will be in sync with the bike and have decent maneuvrability.
-        The motorcycle should neither be too heavy nor too light for you, the rider. After loading the luggage (and maybe even a pillion), you must be able to keep the bike steady at high speeds and move through traffic or ride in rugged terrains.

3.    Pack luggage efficiently.

This is one of the most essential bike riding tips that people tend to overlook amidst other preparations and haste. I won’t be getting into the details of how to pack your backpack; read my blog on packing your backpack like a minimalist to find out efficient packing techniques.

So, your backpack or saddle bags or luggage that you equally distribute between the panniers and the top box must be adequate with respect to the length of your trip or less, but never more. More luggage you load, more pressure is exerted on the tires and especially the rear tire. It bears the weight of the rider, the pillion and the luggage and gets worn out faster than the front tire because every rider tends to use the rear brakes excessively.

As the name of this blog suggests, pack what is truly ‘essential’ and leave everything else behind. It is easy to purchase if you forget a thing or two, but lugging around that extra weight is bound to cause fatigue in the rider and the bike.

4.    Implement the Engine Braking Technique.

Any seasoned bike rider with a few thousand kilometres under their belt must be familiar with the term “Engine Braking”. This technique, if used properly is the best way to control speed and prevent the brake pads from quickly burning off. You can consider this as a safety bike riding tip or any other kind you want, but when on an adventure road trip, engine braking is extremely crucial.

I will explain this concept in brief:
Engine Braking is exactly what it sounds like, you will slow down your vehicle (your bike) using your Engine. How?
Consider a situation- You are cruising at 75 km/hr in the 5th gear. You see a road-sign for a speed bump ahead. What do you do? 6/10 people (this isn’t an official estimate, this is based on my personal experiences) will first engage their rear brakes to slow their bike down and then as they approach the obstacle, might even opt to engage the front brakes; changing gears once they’ve completely slowed down.

In engine breaking, as soon as you see the obstacle up ahead, you reduce the acceleration and shift to a lower gear. You DO NOT engage any brakes. If your speed is higher than the maximum speed at that gear, the engine will slow down your bike to the optimal speed for that gear. I know it sounds somewhat complex but is a straightforward technique and easy to implement. I ALWAYS follow engine braking on all my bike rides, even the very short ones in the city. This offers a longer life to the brake pads as well as the brake liner. Adventure bike rides like the Ladakh Bike Ride in India involve riding the bike through treacherous terrain and in such situations, especially while going downhill, my advice will be to NEVER engage your brakes first and always follow engine braking as it is safer.

Engine Breaking and its advantages.


Your hands must cover the brake and Clutch levers in traffic.

While maneuvring your bike through traffic, you must cover both the brake and clutch levers at all times. This is an essential motorcycle riding tip because in traffic one never knows when the need to suddenly apply brakes (maybe urgently) or change gears might arise. In such situations of chaos or panic, you will make haste and keep fiddling with the levers if you aren’t covering them.

5.    Become one with your bike.

What I mean to say is you must understand how your bike functions and in case of a breakdown, how to apply basic fixes till you find a proper mechanic. Top speed, fuel capacity, fuel reserve capacity, fuel efficiency, ideal tire pressures depending on the weather and road conditions, changing the fuses, checking the oil level; these are very basic aspects that you must be familiar with.

A few ways to truly make your motorcycle yours:
§  Always carry extra tube for both the tires.
§  Carry an extra set of brake wire, clutch wire, brake pads and fuses.
§  Learn how to cold-start the bike in case the electric start and/or kick-start malfunction.
§  Apply chain spray and chain lube after every 500-600 km for smooth running.
§  Preferably when you start your bike for the 1st time in the day, opt for kick-start instead of electric-start.

6.    Always ride behind vehicles, never in between them.

This a very common mistake usually young riders make in an attempt to overtake other vehicles quicker. They put themselves between two vehicles or between a vehicle and a divider or an off-ramp with an exit ahead. Some drivers don’t pay attention and make a sudden sharp turn to take the exit and if you’re between their car and the off-ramp, a crash is imminent. Instead ride behind them and if necessary, pass them from the right (which is actually against traffic norms but sometimes there’s no other option) after giving the correct signals.

BONUS TIP: While riding in the mountains, for the love of God, Be Self-Aware at all times!

My first-hand experience urges me to include this. STORY TIME!
Sub-zero temperatures. A broken down motorcycle. A 19-year-old solo traveler amidst the mountains. Physically at his Limit. Frozen feet. Deteriorating condition. Not a soul in sight.
A treacherous ordeal that I will never forget which taught me something invaluable. Being a risk taker, I always consider all the possible outcomes (well, almost all) before heading off on a bike ride or a backpacking trip. This ensures that I’m ready to accept any and all difficulties that might arise and face unfavorable situations no matter what. This routine probably saved my life when I got in deep trouble on my solo bike trip up to Gurudongmar Lake in the Lesser Himalayas of North Sikkim, India. 

Overexposure to extremely cold waters can lead to the manifestation of a dangerous health condition known as Hypothermia. A piece of advice to all bike riders- while riding in freezing temperatures, where you are bound to encounter snow, black ice and puddles of ice-cold water, don’t be ignorant like me and let your feet get wet. Wear plastic/polythene bags over your socks if you will, but don't make the mistake I made. Freshly melted freezing cold water is extremely dangerous and many times, Fatal! This table below represents the various levels of Hypothermia. When I was stuck in that obscure place with ice in my shoes, I fell in the 2nd category.

Water Temperature
Loss of Dexterity
Time to Unconsciousness/Exhaustion
Expected Survival Duration
Under 2 mins.
Under 15 mins.
Under 15-45 mins.
Under 3 mins.
15 to 30 mins.
30 to 90 mins.
Under 5 mins.
30 to 60 mins.
1 to 3 hours
10 to 15 mins.
1 to 2 hours
1 to 6 hours
30 to 40 mins.
2 to 7 hours
2 to 40 hours
1 to 2 hours
2 to 12 hours
3 hours to indefinite
2 to 12 hours

Why did I head out towards these places Inspite of knowing the dangers? Read my blog about the beauty of nature in Sikkim and you will understand why!
To all the riders, experienced and newbies alike who plan to go on bike expeditions in adventurous and enthralling terrains like Spiti Valley, Pangi Valley, Ladakh, North Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in India, here’s some well-meaning advice: “Do Not Take The Challenge Lightly, no matter what!”
Do not take anything for granted, especially while riding through the Himalayas. These gigantic mountains are notorious and can trick you into thinking that you are in control of the situation, when in fact, they are sitting there with a wide evil grin, just waiting for the slightest fumble. 

The 6 Essential Bike Riding Tips

Understand one thing, the mountain will always be mightier than you. Give it the respect it deserves. Nemann Buhl put it wonderfully in this quote:
Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence.

Did you find my motorcycle riding tips informative and interesting? Would you like to add any other tips?


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