The superbikers of Cotton City Throttle give Esther Elias a peek into their weekly odyssey
It’s a little like a choreographed movie scene. Fifteen superbikes, with riders masked behind helmets and jackets, cruise out of a ‘Superbikes only’ parking lot onto an empty road. As one sculpted beast follows another, the reverb from revving engines rips through your rib cage. Aunties peep from apartment doors, an old man waves and a young head at the window above bobs in excitement. For most Coimbatoreans, it’s a sleepy Sunday morning. For Cotton City Throttle (CCT), it’s their weekly fix of riding beyond the city’s boundaries - a ritual they’ve held sacred for two years now.
It all began in 2010 when foundry-owner Mohan Raj teamed up with friend Ashok Kumar for a morning ride. The group grew slowly. Mohan’s cousin Senthil Chenniappan joined CCT, they picked Rahul Ravi off the racetrack, waved at lone rider Amith Bijoy one Sunday morning and found others off Facebook or through friends of friends. Today, it’s a bunch of 35 businessmen, engineers, students, entrepreneurs and restaurateurs, united by their superbike obsession. Every Sunday, they take off at 7.30 a.m. for a 300 - 400 km ride to places such as Palani, Udumalpet, Palladam, Dharapuram and Ottanchathiram.
Two months ago, they even rode to Kanyakumari and back over two days. “Someone tips us off about a good road to someplace and we’re off to check it out,” says Arjun Anil.
Road oft taken
A frequented favourite is the Kotagiri route to Udhagamandalam which has today been extended to explore Avalanchi. From the support car trailing a few hairpin bends below, all you see are a row of black dots snaking up to foggy heights.
“In electronic terms, these bikes can go upto 300 kmph. It takes about three seconds to hit 100 and about 15 to hit 200 so your speed limit is really your imagination. But you need the mental maturity to handle your machine’s power,” states Amith.
“For us, it’s not about racing at all. Neither is it about the destination. It’s about enjoying the journey. So when we ride together on highways, we keep within speed limits. Manic riders have either been reformed or shown the door at CCT,” says Arjun.
Superbikes are a whole other ballgame from commuter bikes so making the shift requires you to unlearn many accepted norms, explains Rahul. He picked up the ropes at California Superbike School which flies in International track experts to train riders at Chennai annually. “Learning on the track helps you understand your superbike better and makes you safe for roads,” he says.
Unlike some countries abroad, a superbike in India can be acquired with just a regular two-wheeler license, no questions asked about riding maturity. “It’s senseless to jump directly to a 1000cc bike. I moved from a 250cc Scrambler, to a 400cc Enduro and then to a 650cc street bike. Gradual progressions help you handle the machine better,” says Naren Rajan.
Trailing a superbike motorcade is easy even if you lose sight of them. Follow the men and kids along roadsides with eyes popping and jaws dropped. The flipside to being attention grabbers? Strangers will plonk their babies on your parked bike and click their next Facebook profile picture. But for all of CCT’s leather-clad, cigarette-and-chai addicted biker-boy image, there’s caution in their ways.
All of them sport thorough protective gear through the entire ride. “In an accident, you will be injured by being dragged along with the bike, so we protect all joints such as knees, elbows, shoulders and spine with padded guards. Add gloves, boots and a helmet to that and it amounts to almost a lakh,” says Naren.
On the road, CCT groups into different riding styles, led by experienced riders, with newer, slower ones in the rear. “The leader carries more responsibility because those following him do so assuming that he’s at a particular speed because there are no water or oil patches, potholes, dead animals or lunatic drivers before him,” explains Rahul. “On longer rides we use wired helmets to communicate but otherwise hand signals indicate weariness and dehydration,” says Arjun P.A.. “These rides are often physically demanding, hence we gym frequently. They’re also mentally tiring because you concentrate on the road for hours together,” adds Rashad Razak.
Even so, CCTs Sunday sojourns are their weekly stress busters says Amith. On the cards are longer endurance rides through the Golden Quadrilateral, Leh-Ladakh’s Khardungla (the world’s highest motorable pass) and Kailash Mansarovar through to China and Thailand.For today, they’ve braved a puncture, leaking brake fluid and a malfunctioning battery.
As we return to Coimbatore down winding roads, fallen fern leaves carpet the bikes' path and itching monkeys look up to eye the passing entertainment. CCT is currently an all-male affair; wives and girlfriends are either still being wooed or not bike-friendly, they say. But for now, it's a date with their first loves.