Words (as told to) Aninda Sardar
They said he couldn’t do it. So…he just went out and did it. Yes, our man Hrishikesh Mandke is a bit of a nut job. Don’t believe us? Just look him up on YouTube. You’ll find him as Mad Mandke. The whole world is one big challenge for this guy. Tell him no to something and he’ll go out and do it. Just to prove a point. And to prove you wrong. Apparently, that’s what happened when on some random discussion someone said a round trip to Kanyakumari from Pune on a bike in a week was not doable. Wham! It hit Hrishi like a brick in the face. Here was a challenge he hadn’t seen before. Next thing I know, I’m speaking to him in the middle of a busy afternoon. The subject? He needed to borrow my Apache RR 310 long termer. “How long?” I asked. “Ummm… about a week or so,” came the crackly voice from the other end of the line. “Okay,” I said. After all, I wouldn’t be needing the bike for at least two weeks. At first I thought he was going to Goa. That’s what most people in Pune or Mumbai tend to do. They ride to Goa. Enjoy the Amboli or Chorla ghats, whichever takes their fancy, and then they chill as if they were born for susegad. Following his Insta stories, things started to get intriguing for Panaji had come and gone in a flash! What in god’s name was he up to?
Turns out, he was headed to Kanyakumari, and Hrishi being Hrishi, was taking the much longer coastal route. He started from Pune and headed down to the coastal town of Shrivardhan via a Mulshi yet to become lush from the first showers for the monsoons were still a week away. Popular tourist destinations like Ganpatipule, Ratnagiri and Malwan were ticked off one by one. Given the fearsome rate at which destinations were being checked off, I wondered what abuse my bike was being subjected to. Yet, his Insta feed and stories showed the bike to be quite clean and well kept.
“Some of the roads were really bad. In fact, you could say I was off-roading. Could never go past 60kmph on these roads,” he told me. That’s supposed to allay my fears for my bike? “I just dropped the air pressure in the tyres and carried on. The bike is solid. No rattles or squeaks.” That’s good then. “The suspension is somewhat soft and perfect for touring. If you want to take it to the track then you’ll have to stiffen it up,” he told me.
Turns out, he had no issue at all with the bike. Not even a puncture. And vibrations? “There are definitely vibrations but I didn’t end up with tingly palms or buzzy feet,” he shrugged, convinced that the vibrations weren’t a total kill joy. He should know, for he had been doing a good 700-800km a day, day in day out. He especially liked the ergonomics of the bike. His wild sense of humour made him take a photo of his tired out riding suit. He, on the contrary, was feeling quite fresh. While I’m still rolling my eyes, he got serious and told me, “But the vibrations do ensure that the mirrors get shaken loose every 500-600km. Quite irritating because you have to stop and fix them.” Now, that’s something TVS should definitely look into.
Meanwhile, Vengurla, Panaji, Colva and Palolem have given way to Karwar and on to Udupi. And it appears I wasn’t the only one following his journey on social media. “At Mangalore, this chap called Alex met up with me. He had been following me on Insta and wanted to go on a ride with me,” Hrishi said. Normal people would pass on the chance and carry on with their goal. Not Hrishi. “We went on a ride together. Alex on his KTM 390 Duke and me on the Apache. He showed me some great locations for photos too,” he told us, obviously happy with his detour and totally unmindful of the time it may have cost him.
With Karnataka behind him, Hrishi and the TVS flagship rode into God’s Own Country. The roads turned narrow and the scenery, lush. Kerala also brought with it killer bus drivers. Not entirely unexpected for we have seen them too on our numerous road trips through the state. But Mad Mandke’s mad journey continued. Strangely, the man who wheelies before he blinks and slides before he turns, said his pace was unhurried.
“I never exceeded 100-120kmph. As a result I wasn’t tiring myself out and I wasn’t guzzling fuel,” he said. Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Instead of accelerating hard and then slowing down for traffic he was pacing himself, in the process covering far greater distances in a day than he would have otherwise. And frugally too. “So how many tankfuls?” I asked, fearful of the answer. “Umm… 90 litres in total,” he responded after some mental math. Given that his round trip lasted over 3,800km I was staring at 42kmpl. That’s a straight jump of 11kmpl for I have not yet managed to get much more than 31kmpl on the same bike. And I don’t have a heavy throttle hand.
At Kanyakumari, Hrishi and my bike pulled up at the beach, staring at the great Vivekananda Rock where the oceans collide into each other. It was a moment of great serenity, bringing with it a sense of achievement. But then, Hrishi was only at the halfway mark. He still had to make his way home before the challenge that had never been offered was fulfilled.
Thankfully, Mandke’s mad streak eluded him for the brief few moments when he decided to stay on the straight (and shorter, faster) route back to Pune. Five days after he had set off he was back in Pune! “What do you think?” I asked him when I met him, pointing at the bike. “It’s great. Not a bit of problem. If only I could fix saddlebags and a taller screen,” he said, adding, “Also, I wouldn’t mind a place for crash guards. If you have a fall then that fancy fairing’s had it.” Turns out, he had carried a week’s worth of clothing in a tankbag!
“Get some mods done so it can take saddlebags if you want to go touring,” was his parting shot to me. Sounded like sane advice. After all Mad Mandke is the only one I know who’s done 3,800km on a TVS Apache RR 310 in just five bloody days! Just because someone somewhere thought it couldn’t be done.