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Motorcycle travel in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India...

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  #1  
Old 16 Dec 2004
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Looking for info on India

To date, my touring has been limited to touring North America on my BMW K75Rt. It now looks as though I may be heading off to India for six months to a year for employment and am looking for any advice/insight from those familiar with India.

As I'll be working, I doubt I'll be going on any mutli-week sojourns but while I'm there, I'd like to pick up a bike and do some adventure riding. What I'll probably be doing is heading out from wherever I end up living on relatively short 2 or 3 day trips trips. (Although I do plan to make some time for a trip up to Kathmandu sometime while I'm there as I love Nepal.)

Looking for advice in the following areas:

1) Where to live for good riding. I may have a choice as to which major city I live in. Since I may have a choice, I may as well pick somehwhere where I can find some two-wheeled adventure.

2) General advice on riding there. I've rented 250's a couple of times in Kathmandu so I'm somewhat familiar with avoiding cows during rush hour, honking constantly and the general mayhem of riding over there but any other India-specifc riding tips would be helpful.

3) What's a good bang for your buck approach to picking up a bike over there and what bike? I'm tempted to go with a 250 since I'll probably be just taking short trips but am not averse to advice on what else might be a good short trip adventure bike over there. Are there any half-assed bikes for a good price anyone would recommend? Obviously, reliability would be a nice thing and I'm willing to cough up a little extra dough to get it. I'd kind of like to go for a BMW F650 but it's probably too much bike for my needs.

4) Licensing: What's it take to get a MC license there? Do I really need one if I've got my US license with me?

Answers to my questions and any other advice is much needed and most appreciated.
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  #2  
Old 17 Dec 2004
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I've never seen much in the way of bikes that aren't below 250cc (or Enfields of course) in Indýa, and precious few off road bikes. Probably the best, most reliable and easily available bike is a Pulsar (Yamaha?)which are now available in a bored-out 180cc version. They don't have as much class as an Enfield, however. After 14,000 km riding in Indýa, i think the best trip i did was Manali to Leh across some bloody high passes and rough roads, takes 2-3 days one way.
If you look at a topographic map of India, you will notice the Western Ghats; hills which run down the west coast of India. There are some great roads running up and down these hills and along the west coast, notably the road west down into Goa and then north to Mumbai.
Sean
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  #3  
Old 17 Dec 2004
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1) Depends a bit on how major the city needs to be. Of the big Four I found Mumbai the worst and Madras the best. I deliberately bypassed Calcutta. Should you be proposed C. as a location I suggest you read up on it. I wouldn't be keen...

Personally, I'd prefer Bangalore, Mysore, around there. The South is a little less hectic, plus you are close to the Western Ghats and the sea.

2) It's not that much worse than Nepal, but a lot more crowded in places.

3) Anything 4-stroke but Enfield.

4) Bakhsheesh, apparently. Don't bother. Don't stop for police.

(Caveat: I was there in '89. Things may have changed since then. I'm planning to go and find out in 2006.)

Q: what line of work is it that you are planning to do?

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  #4  
Old 17 Dec 2004
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Hiya Duck,

We've just come back from two years living/working in India (just outside Delhi) and were also there on our bikes for three months in 2002, so know the place pretty well.

[QUOTE]Originally posted by K75duck:
1) Where to live for good riding. I may have a choice as to which major city I live in. Since I may have a choice, I may as well pick somehwhere where I can find some two-wheeled adventure.

Unfortunately, all the major cities are simply too busy to offer 'good' riding unless you live in the outskirts and can get into the countryside quickly. The south is probably your best bet as it's more scenic and less populated than the north. Given a choice, I'd go for Bangalore - lovely climate, reasonably modern in the centre and the one city where there are traffic rules.

2) General advice on riding there. I've rented 250's a couple of times in Kathmandu so I'm somewhat familiar with avoiding cows during rush hour, honking constantly and the general mayhem of riding over there but any other India-specifc riding tips would be helpful.

Two rules - give way to anything bigger than you and use your horn. It's accepted practice for cars/trucks to pull out of side junctions in front of two wheelers and expect you to stop/slow down. Using mirrors in your car is a sign of weakness in India, so use your horn when you're overtaking. I'm not sure riding out there is ever real fun, but once you get into the swing it can be a bit of a giggle because you can basically do anything you like and no one bats an eye lid.

3) What's a good bang for your buck approach to picking up a bike over there and what bike? I'm tempted to go with a 250 since I'll probably be just taking short trips but am not averse to advice on what else might be a good short trip adventure bike over there. Are there any half-assed bikes for a good price anyone would recommend? Obviously, reliability would be a nice thing and I'm willing to cough up a little extra dough to get it. I'd kind of like to go for a BMW F650 but it's probably too much bike for my needs.

BMW imported about 100 F650s a few years ago, but you're unlikely to get your hands on one. If you want reliability, steer clear of Enfields and go for a Hero Honda, Pulsar, etc. They are now available with 220cc engines and have surprisingly good performance. Cost new is 70000 to 80000 Rupees (US$1600 to 1800), but I have no idea how much they are second hand. Added advantage is that you look like everyone else, so attract less attention from the police, locals etc. It gets very tiring to be surrounded by fifty gawping people every time you stop for a drink, so anything that helps you blend in is a bonus. In theory you will need to be a resident to legally buy and own a bike, but guess that you'll get residency with your work visa.

4) Licensing: What's it take to get a MC license there? Do I really need one if I've got my US license with me?

Probably worth getting an international drivers licence before you go (£12 from the AA) so that you have the right papers if you do get stopped. If you need to grease police palms, 300 Rupees is the going rate, but only pay them as a last option. Most of the time you'll get away with smiling sweetly and pretending you don't know what they're talking about, especially if there english isn't very good. If you're unlucky enough to be involved in an accident, by default you will be guilty as a westerner. Your best course of action is to pay a few rupees (no more than 1000/2000) to whoever else is involved and leave before the police arrive.

Answers to my questions and any other advice is much needed and most appreciated.

If you have any other questions, drop me an email.

Harvey

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[This message has been edited by harvey (edited 17 December 2004).]
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  #5  
Old 23 Dec 2004
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hi k75duck

1) if u are planning to be somewhere in north india , say new delhi , u can easily hit the himalayas from there. shimla , capital of himachal pradesh is 360kms/8hrs (2200mtrs high).. u can also explore the beautiful kashmir valley or the tibetian places like dharamshala (500kms)
2&3)the best bet will be the hero honda karizma , a 223cc 17 bhp big feel bike. very modern and boringly reliable. tops out at 135kmph and can cruise at 105 all day long. big , sleek and very comfy. new ones are available for 72000 (us$1600)indian rupees onroad . no indian specific riding tips. jus use ur mirrors and horns a lot. u wont get a new f650.. a second hand (5-6yrs old) will be for about 150000 (us$ 3333)indian rupees . stick to the karizma bike. very nice for indian road conditions too. soaks up bumps easily. u can also ride it by standin on the foot-pegs. i hv taken it to the himalayas 5 times!
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  #6  
Old 29 Dec 2004
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I've been back in India, again on an Enfield, for the past three weeks, riding down the Western Ghats from Mumbai to Kerala. They are indeed spectacular, and some of the roads are just a dream - empty of traffic, with beautiful forests and hills, even occasionally a good surface! All very mellow compared to north India. Incidentally, while the National Highway 17 (running down the west coast) is more pleasant than some Indian roads, it's dismal compared to being in the hills. I didn't stop at Bangalore, but have heard many positive things about it.

As for the type of bike, the debate will rage eternal, but Enfields don't have to be unreliable - these 2500km have been (almost) faultless. Reliability of new ones has allegedly improved since the new factory came into operation, and a well-tended older one can be a solid runner. Besides, they are very readily and cheaply fixable in India. In my view, they have infinitely more character than the Hero Honda or Pulsar, but it all depends what you're after.

James
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  #7  
Old 7 Jan 2006
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Couldn't agree more with you James!
If you are in India , the only bike that you should ride according to me is the Enfield Bullet nothing else comes anywhere close to the experience!
Agreed that the reliability of the Enfield is something that can be debated upon, but all said and done and Enfield Just cannot be compared with any other in terms of the riding experience. And it is suprisingly simple to work on on the side of the Road. the other advantages of riding the Bullet can't be put here !

Read this article to get the whole picture

http://theroyalenfieldbullet.blogspot.com/
http://theroyalenfieldbullet.blogspo...hy-bullet.html

Quote:
Originally posted by james:
I've been back in India, again on an Enfield, for the past three weeks, riding down the Western Ghats from Mumbai to Kerala. They are indeed spectacular, and some of the roads are just a dream - empty of traffic, with beautiful forests and hills, even occasionally a good surface!......
As for the type of bike, the debate will rage eternal, but Enfields don't have to be unreliable - these 2500km have been (almost) faultless. Reliability of new ones has allegedly improved since the new factory came into operation, and a well-tended older one can be a solid runner. Besides, they are very readily and cheaply fixable in India. In my view, they have infinitely more character than the Hero Honda or Pulsar, but it all depends what you're after.
James
[This message has been edited by Red Bull (edited 08 January 2006).]
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  #8  
Old 10 Feb 2006
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1) Where to live for good riding. I may have a choice as to which major city I live in. Since I may have a choice, I may as well pick somehwhere where I can find some two-wheeled adventure.

Reply:

Definitely Bangalore, first choice. Though Delhi with time will feel more managable and you have access to the Himalaya foothills for longer trips.

I have lived in India twice for a year each time. When I had a friend come over a few weeks to save time we shipped my bike down from Ladakh to Delhi. You have to drain all fluids, and pad the heck out of it. It cost us $90 by plane. No kidding!

Another option to save time to go for longer trips: ship on the train with you.

Mumbai is a great jumping off point too.

2) General advice on riding there. I've rented 250's a couple of times in Kathmandu so I'm somewhat familiar with avoiding cows during rush hour, honking constantly and the general mayhem of riding over there but any other India-specifc riding tips would be helpful.

I wouldn't consider having anything other than an Enfield 350. The 500 you can still have some trouble finding parts outside of a major city.

No need for anything bigger, I travelled with heavy luggage up Himalayan roads, not problem. Sometimes I'd have a large passenger, still not problem.

I've ridden in Nepal and India. Nepal is far more pleasant and less insane. Double the chaos for city driving and you'll have an idea.

Same rules of the road, he who is biggest has the right of way.

Don't ride at night. One: no light other than your headlight at night (outside of city). I foolishly disregarded this advice once and almost didn't live to tell my tall tales.

1. Potholes big enough to swallow cows are not visible.

2. Sometimes trees or telephone poles are paved around (no kidding) and can be as much as 6 feet in the lane.

3. Road surface can change without warning from pavement to gravel, to sand, to mud. Worse, sometimes the road will be washed away or have collapsed off.

4. 99% of the trucks and other cars and motorcycles will ride WITHOUT THEIR HEADLIGHTS! This is to save on buying 5 rup. bulbs.

5. Bandits (no kidding) will throw out obstacles or set up road blocks to rob travellers. This is a huge problem in Bihar and in some of the foothills.

6. If you take a spill or break down only other fools or shifty types are out on the road and those are the folk around.

3) What's a good bang for your buck approach to picking up a bike over there and what bike? I'm tempted to go with a 250 since I'll probably be just taking short trips but am not averse to advice on what else might be a good short trip adventure bike over there. Are there any half-assed bikes for a good price anyone would recommend? Obviously, reliability would be a nice thing and I'm willing to cough up a little extra dough to get it. I'd kind of like to go for a BMW F650 but it's probably too much bike for my needs.

Reply:

Pretty much what is readily available in India are small 250cc (Hondas, Yamahas and makes you've probably not heard of) or Enfields. You are starting to see luxury bikes, but bear in mind availablity of mechanics and parts.

If there is even a remote chance of doing any travel outside of the city go with an Enfield. My friend had a yamaha, and quite frankly the smaller bikes throw you around and the seats after 20 minutes are murderously uncomfortable! Enfields you can buy the old fashioned bicycle like seat that has coils and is way more comfortable.

The weight of the bike just makes more sense.

Have 500cc front brakes put on the front wheel otherwise the standard 350cc model comes with weenie brakes that are useless.

4) Licensing: What's it take to get a MC license there? Do I really need one if I've got my US license with me?

Reply:

No need for a drivers license. Most riders in India don't have one. The police never check for license, but they do check for insurance. My insurance cost about $8 for a year.

No need to even register, the licence plate number stays with the bike for the duration of the bikes life unless you move to a different state. Foreigners technically can't buy bikes/register them so the police don't expect you to be on the owner's papers. Carry copies of your papers, not the originals.

Unless it was a road block I would pretend I didnt' see the police.

the only reason they stop anyone is for baksheesh (bribes). Unless you're up for an exercise of extreme frustration and a trip down the rabbit hole, pretend not to see.

Answers to my questions and any other advice is much needed and most appreciated.[/B][/QUOTE]

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