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Motorcycle buddies Mohan Mallappa and Babu Vishweshvariah share life lessons on the road

Babu Vishweshvariah (holding the flag) and Mohan Mallappa (gray and yellow jacket)   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, motorcycle buddies Mohan Mallappa (50) and Babu Vishweshvariah (56) rode from Bengaluru to Wayanad (about 270 kilometres) to deliver cancer medicine for a retired Lieutenant Colonel. They were a part of Riders Republic Motorcycle Club’s (RRMC) eight-member team that carried essential medicines to remote corners of Karnataka and beyond. They could not meet the officer. On their way back, he called to thank them.

“A man who has put his life on the line for our country called to thank us. It was very touching,” says Mohan.

During the first phase of the lockdown, many people could not get their regular medicines. The elderly especially needed help. Mohan and Babu read an article on a police constable riding a scooter from Bengaluru to Hubballi to deliver a life-saving drug. That inspired them to form a team with the Bengaluru police's support. This team made about 20 deliveries across South India.

Mohan and Babu have ridden over 100,000 kilometres on their respective BMW Adventure motorcycles. RRMC in August felicitated them for crossing this milestone. But they don’t make much of the number because, well, “it’s just a number”. For them, experiences like the colonel’s call mean much more.

“We don’t always ride for pleasure; we ride with a purpose,” says Babu of his and Mohan's association with RRMC. Apart from the club's involvement in social services within Bengaluru, it has also adopted two Government schools — in Coorg and Andhra Pradesh. “Whenever we visit them, the children are so excited. They make us start our bikes and rev the engine. It gives them so much joy,” adds Babu.

Starting the ride

Mohan got into motorcycling in his early 20s. He had a Yamaha RX 100cc exclusively for exploration. The early rides were mostly within Karnataka and occasionally to Goa. Then, he hit the brakes for a while due to work.

He restarted in 2013 with a Harley Davidson Super Glide. Babu, who knew Mohan since 2008, used to accompany him on a few rides. Around the mid-2010s, both switched to their current BMW GS Adventure motorcycle.

“We mostly ride on alternate weekends. Now, due to the pandemic, we stick to places within Karnataka like Chikmagalur, Mangaluru, and Coorg,” says Babu.

But pre-pandemic Mohan and Babu used to ride at least 2,500 kilometres a month. “Our long rides in the western part of India or the North-East were about 8,000 kilometres and took up to 15 days,” adds Mohan.They have also explored Australia, Thailand, and a few countries in Europe. India, however, they say, is the most beautiful motorcycling destination. For, no other country they have been to has snow-capped mountains, deserts, river valleys, beaches, and plains. The versatile beauty apart, the experiences and encounters during their many rides here were enriching. “Every ride is an adventure, a lesson,” says Babu.

Mohan agrees. He, for instance, learnt how to deal with hostility during a ride to Gangtok two years ago. “When I’d stopped for tea in Bihar, a gang of five people wanted to take photos sitting on my bike. I politely refused. One of them was annoyed at this. He was like, ‘Do you know who I am? I can buy this bike right now if I want to!’”

Mohan, instead of jumping into the confrontation, assessed the situation. He was outnumbered four to one; he was in an unfamiliar place; and, he and his bike were at risk. So, he calmed them. “I offered them tea and cigarettes. I told them patiently they could take photos standing next to the bike. Because if they accidentally damage any part while sitting on it, I wouldn’t be able to continue my journey. They changed their tone immediately. And, they ended up helping me!”

“It’s all about how you react to people and interact with them,” says Mohan. During a ride from Kanyakumari to Ladakh, five years ago, he stopped at the Kargil war memorial for a photo. The place was cordoned off and Mohan could not enter. As he was about to leave, he spotted a senior officer getting into his vehicle. So, he quickly went to him and said he was coming from the other end of the country. A few minutes later, the officer instructed his team to help Mohan get a photo clicked.

“There are all kinds of people you meet during a journey,” says Babu, “Some are hostile. And, some go out of their way to help you. A long ride teaches you to put up with any kind of weather. Be it rain or shine, sometimes, you just have to keep riding.”


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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 9:49:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/riders-republic-motorcycle-bangalore-mohan-babu/article36754480.ece

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