The design of a motorcycle is usually a battle between form and function, says Vijay Parmar. So here are some ways around the issues you might face with a particularly quirky design bits on your bike, as well as why packing light will be helpful
The Triumph Scrambler 1200 was ticking over at the red lights. The heat from the exhaust near my right thigh was building up at a pace that made me flare my leg out not unlike Marquez mid-corner! Soon the lights changed and I gunned the motor. The bike surged forward, the airflow resumed around the exhaust and quickly all the heat build-up dissipated. This happened several times till the road finally started snaking up the mountainside and the cooling air made the heat exchange between the bike and my thigh a thing temporarily forgotten. Till the next day when I rode the bike back into the heated plains of Punjab where the rising heat shimmer from the bike became personal again.
Once at the dealership, the coffee-table conversation that followed was spirited. What should take precedence – form or function? Were the exhausts too close to the leg? Should they have curled under the engine as in the Ducati – of the same name and genre? Another tormented soul pointed out that the Ducati Scrambler may have the exhaust routed out of the way but the heat build up around both legs, when stationary, was equally harassing! Still another commented that the fans blowing superheated air up one’s leg on a water-cooled, stationary bike, were even more of an irritant. Solutions to the problem varied from covering the bend pipes with insulating wrap to only riding in the winter months, or better still, only when it was raining.
The simple cure, I feel, is to merely turn off the ignition at the red lights. Why don’t most of us turn off the key when we come to a stop that requires us to wait for over a minute? The bikes fire up instantly so that’s not the burning issue here. It’s the irritating routine of resetting the Traction Control, ABS and Engine modes that are the major reason for this reluctance. The default settings are normally for the newbie rider, keeping things super safe and in the case of an overly interfering ‘Traction Control’ often the cause of failure on dirt or other uncertain surfaces!
On most bikes, it’s better to shut the engine with the kill switch and leave the key on if stopping at a red light, saving yourself from the ritual roasting! Then, when you fire it up, the desired settings remain. Manufacturers, too, need to build in ‘memory saving’ combinations that can be triggered from a switch on the handlebar and activated without taking your hands off the controls. Better still, these combinations should be switchable on the fly rather than having to stop each time one hits the dirt, wet tarmac or snow to make the changes.
Over-packing. One of the most-seen sights on ADV bikes today are the panniers and top boxes. Added to them are often Kriega soft bags taking the total luggage capacity to over 130 litres! Half the boot capacity of a Hyundai Grand i10! A small tank bag for bike papers, tyre pressure gauge, head torch and tube repair kit add to the weight in their own small way.
Learn to travel light, even if you are travelling halfway across the world. It reduces fatigue while on the road, keeps the mass of the vehicle, fully loaded, to a manageable weight, and makes you less of an easy target when riding through crowded bazaars.
Added weight means poorer aerodynamics, terrible fuel efficiency and a rhinocerous-like manoeuvrability. The joy of motorcycling is depleted with every extra kilogram loaded onto the machine. The geometry of the bike goes for a toss and the joy of riding an engineering marvel soon degenerates to the level of wrestling an autorickshaw through a freshly-plowed Zanskari field!
And last of all — lose excess body weight. Train. Be fit.