Ever since I was a kid, bikes have enthralled me. At the age of thirteen, I started riding my dad’s Bullet. Like any other boy, I was never enthusiastic about studies. I was just an average human being, till you place me on a bike.
It was then that I heard about the Iron Butt Association (IBA), a U.S. based organization dedicated to the sport of safe, long-distance motorcycle riding. I made up my mind to become the first member of IBA from my state, Kerala.
Every cult has its secret or special handshake. The world of endurance motorcycle riding too has. Biking fiends covet membership of the Iron Butt Association. The members call themselves the world’s ‘toughest motorcycle riders.’ There is only one way to earn membership: ride one of the several rides the IBA certifies. The minimum requirement is the Saddle Sore 1,000 ride covering 1,000 miles (1,600 km) in 24 hours or less. The next level is the Bun Burner 1,500 ride covering 1,500 miles (2,500 km) in less than 36 hours.
I embarked on my first IBA ride to get ‘Saddle-sored’ on December 4, 2011. I rode my motorcycle from Coimbatore, starting at 10:15 p.m., to Hyderabad and back in the next 24 hours. I ended my journey at Erode, obtaining evidences needed by IBA such as petrol bills, photographs, signed witness forms, and debit card swipes at fixed intervals at ATM counters along the route. I did not have time to stop for food and survived on energy drinks and chocolates. An average speed of 66.66 km per hour should be maintained to cover 1,600 km, but when you plan to negotiate Indian roads on a bike, the challenge gets tougher. My joy knew no bounds when I was finally certified as an IBA rider in the year 2012 , first from the state of Kerala.
Kanyakumari to Kashmir
I had no intentions, what so ever, to let my leather spoil by disuse. I planned a full blast and tore across the length of our own Incredible India, Kanyakumari to Kashmir. When I woke up on the 17th of September 2013,I had my mind all set on the destination. The sky was a bit cloudy but it soon cleared up and it felt like a wonderful evening for a ride. I rode through the long stretch and soon it was time for my first stop. I had covered 300kms in 3hours.
I rode on further, stopping at Salem, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. I had so far endured good conditions for the journey and felt fortunate. That is when things started going against me. The condition of the roads deteriorated drastically. The size of potholes kept increasing as I rode on. It was not at all maneuverable. For about 400kms, I couldn’t go in speeds in excess of 25kmph. The rains made it even more difficult. It did test my will power but my mind was still firmly fixed on the target. I dragged myself to Nagpur and took some much needed rest.
I woke up fresh and continued my journey. After covering Gwalior, I got the long stretch highway. I did realize I was lagging behind schedule and vowed to give it my best shot. I reached Manali on the 3rd day and took some rest before proceeding to the final destination, which was much closer to me than ever before, 450kms between me and Leh. As I rode, heavy snowfall greeted us. The bitter cold got to me even in my heavy thermal suits. I had no other choice, other than to make a long halt in a road side tent, hoping could start at least next morning. I would have been frozen if it wasn’t for those tents.
I continued the next morning. But riding was still hard. There were no proper roads and riding above 30kmph was impossible due to snow, landslides, water crossings and countless other obstacles. The main obstacle was the beauty of the place. Not a single person can go without enjoying that beauty. Without any doubt that it’s the most beautiful place in the whole of India. The beauty of the place enchanted me. I saw, what cameras could never capture, 450kms of pure bewitching beauty.
On 21st September, I had finally reached my destination. My target was to reach Leh in less than 95hours. I failed to reach in that time but I was not worried about it at all. I had achieved what every rider would crave for. I had completed, what can rightfully be called the journey of a life time. My journey felt complete as I rode on to Khardung La, the highest motor able road in the World. I felt what it was to be ON THE TOP OF THE WORLD!
My bike was my drug. I was getting addicted to it. The pleasure of my journeys was inexplicable. I decided to do my second IBA challenge, the Bun Burner 1500. My proposed route was Hyderabad-Kanyakumari-Hyderabad. I reached the Hyderabad, a week before and prepared for the ride. This gave me ample of time to make all the necessary arrangements. I took along the main spare parts with me for emergencies as well as energy drinks, chocolates etc.
I started my ride from Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh at 4.55 PM on 31st January, 2014. The headlights of my bikes could not pierce the thick fog. The heavy trucks on the road made it almost impossible to maintain high speeds at night. Before reaching Kanyakumari, I stopped at Salem and Madurai to get the necessary proofs. I reached Kanyakumari at 11.37AM on 1st February 2014(1324kms in 16hours 45minutes). I started back from Kanyakumari to Hyderabad and reached Rasipuram, Tamil Nadu at 4.28PM. By this time, I had completed Saddle Sore for the second time and was determined to conquer the Bun Burner title as well. I made the last stop at Rangareddi Guda, Andhra Pradesh and I had done it, A triumphant 2,500 km in 36 hours.
Some people might call it a waste of time, but for me it’s a way a living. The road never ends and neither does my craze for Biking.