Freewheeling Motoring

A life on the road


It doesn’t matter what direction you take, infinite possibilities may lie on the road

‘What’s in store for me in the direction I don’t take?’ asks Jack Kerouac. I’m re-reading On the Road, the American Beat writer’s seminal narrative of an epic road trip across America. That existential soliloquy is exactly what I don’t need to hear when I’ve reluctantly opted not to ride out of town with friends who are embarking on their annual migration to Goa. Unlike Jack, who might have pondered at leisure on the possibilities of the roads not travelled, I know exactly what’s in store for me, now that I’m not taking this trip. More of the same.

In the next hour, I’ve packed two pannier-size bags, put my riding gear on, fired up the Harley-Davidson Street Glide and joined three riders on National Highway 48. The murky air clears up — as I leave Delhi’s noxious skies behind — and so does my mind: there’s never a good enough reason not to ride out of town.

Riding a motorcycle is all about sensory gratification. The sound of the engine, the wind buffeting the face, the satisfying clunk of the gearbox, the vibration under the seat. The best way to articulate what the H-D Street Glide — my ride for the trip — feels like, would be to amplify these inputs to superlative levels. While H-D’s new Milwaukee-Eight engine — infinitely more refined than its predecessors — takes a lot of credit for that, the weightiness of the Glide’s appeal is borne literally out of heft.

The largest ‘Softail’ in H-D’s line-up, the 400-kilogram Glide is the classic American cruiser, replete with a stereo, navigation software, massive windscreen, aircraft-like console, a couch for the saddle, and more chrome and leather than you’d find in a luxury car. If accoutrements, gravitas and comfort are the criteria, then the Glide is the motorcycling equivalent of the Starship Enterprise. Not one for puerile acceleration, it responds well to restraint, and a gradual build-up of momentum. And once you’ve understood how to channel that inertia, then it barrels through with the momentum of a freight train.

A view of a highway in Bengaluru

A view of a highway in Bengaluru   | Photo Credit: V Sreenivasa Murthy

A long ride like Delhi to Goa is best done placidly. While it’s entirely possible to zip across in three days, our armada never hit warp speed. Four days, and atmospheric stops at Jaipur, Udaipur, Daman, and Pune later, I found myself riding alone on the final stretch down to the western coast.

At the first glimpse of the ocean, I stopped, pulled over, and wondered if there was anything else I would rather be doing at that moment. It all came together in that instant: the ride, the motorcycle and the place. Not sure about other directions, but at least this time, I knew what was in store for me, in the direction I nearly didn’t take. Jack figured it out a long time ago. I was surprised, as always, how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.

(Meraj Shah makes a living chronicling his experiences on the road, shooting video and writing on auto, travel, and golf. When not roving the globe, Meraj lives in Delhi with a motorcycle named Blue)

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Corrections & Clarifications: The main picture accompanying this article has been changed post publication.

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 4:02:25 PM |

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