Column: Learn to whistle
There is nothing that comes close to riding out in the monsoons, is there? I’m sure you agree. However, it can be quite scary at times too, mainly due to poor visibility and the number of potholes. But taking the right precautions can make riding under these terrible conditions smooth, safe and enjoyable. And that includes dressing appropriately before you hit the road; failing to do so can quickly suck the fun out of your ride.
But before we talk about the how-tos of monsoon riding, it’s crucial to ensure the bike you plan to ride is in tip-top shape. It’s a good practice to check your bicycle for signs of damage every now and then. A worn-out cable or chain, seized bolts, overused brake pads, and play in the headset or wheel could cost you a lot of money if things go wrong, so it’s better to keep them in check and replace or repair them at the right time. It’s not only a good practice to keep your bike intact, but will also keep alive the romance between you and your bike.
So let’s start with what to expect. There isn’t anything called bad weather per se, just your lack of preparation. Being over-prepared is never a problem, but being under-prepared might not save you from spoiling the experience. So checking the weather conditions of the route you plan to ride on and that can give you an idea of what to expect. It might be nice and sunny in the area where your starting point is, but you never know how the weather can change during the ride. So be prepared well in advance for anything that may come your way. Don’t forget, the weather might change on your way back as well.
Remember to take a buddy along if you are exploring a new place. It is always good to have someone watch your back when you are invading wet tarmac, especially unknown paths. You might not always be lucky to get a ride back home from where your bravery gives up. So, get that buddy along to make your life easier.
If it is about burning those carbs, I’d recommend sticking to the roads you know well. Maybe you own an expensive bike, so gambling on that one in an unknown area could be highly risky, especially when it comes to exploring in the dark on a road full of potholes. You might not know what the current road condition is since the last time you visited, considering how many times the roads are broken, reconstructed and broken again, or even left unattended in our country.
Eyes wide open. All the time. If not possible, consider using one of those transparent lenses instead of the tinted ones. Keeping your ears open and being alert is also as important, especially at junctions or while taking turns. Look out for every public transport vehicle in the surrounding because these are the ones who fight for the first place that has no prize. Using hand gestures while riding in a group could be a life saver. Coordinate with your buddies and come up with some innovative hand gestures, leaving behind curious looks on the faces of everyone on the road. But also help in keeping you safe.
You must be all too familiar with the adage, ‘Brake before you break’. Well, in the monsoons, bikes lose a significant amount of braking power due to wet rims and brake pads. Hence, it is better to start braking well before your usual braking point. Make sure that you keep a safe distance from other riders and cars. This will not only keep you safe, but will help you spot a pothole as well. Try reducing the tyre pressure by at least 5-10psi to increase friction between the tarmac and the tyre.
There will be times when that buddy might not be able to make it. Well, this is when you can make technology your friend, especially for the sake of emergencies. Carry your mobile in a transparent plastic bag to keep it in a usable condition when needed. Speaking of which, remember to always carry money and ID proof in that plastic bag, no matter where you’re going, as getting stuck in an unknown place without an ID on you might make things even worse.
Last but not the least, learn to whistle! Screaming your lungs out when you are already gasping for more air is not a good idea. Hence, carry a whistle that you can hang around your neck or even better, if you’re well-versed in the art of whistling and emitting that high frequency sound, use it when in traffic (and on your regular rides as well).
Until next post. Happy trails!