Never say never

by Viktorianz on 25 May 2013

BUYING a sports bike and taking it out for a "slow, dull walk" is tantamount to forcing a lion to exist on bread and cheese. Given the "status symbol" tag, many "passionate" bikers move heaven and hell to get their hands on the latest motorcycles and then park these in garages for days on ends so  that the neighbours have all the time in the world to eat their hearts out in envy - little realising that they’re committing the mortal sin of not doing any sort of justice to manufacturers’ reputations. You just don’t buy a sporty set of wheels to do the rounds of nearby shopping malls or grocery stores and grab eyeballs - which seems to be the rule rather than the exception in this part of the world.

In reality, the thumb rule is to do the highways on such vehicles and experience what the adrenaline rush is all about. And on the up side, there are those who make sure their bikes do what they were built for, in every sense of the word. Which brings us to Gurpreet Bajwa and Manoj Keshwar, retired Army officers whose passion for adventure biking hasn’t dimmed in the least for all of 30 years. Bajwa’s “love” is a Ducati Monster 800 and Keshwar swears by his Ninja 650.

For Colonel Bajwa, biking isn’t the only adventure on the fun list, though. He’s a qualified instructor in air adventure, a mountaineer, a river rafting expert and a wind surfer. And Keshwar has never ignored the call of the wild. Apart from his Army stint, he has also tried his hand at bungee jumping, trekking, rowing and marathons. “I quit my military career, which was at its peak, to join MacDonalds as a human resource management head only to discover the monotony of corporate life. I’m also part of the corporate support group of the Aiesec - the world’s biggest youth organisation - and enjoy the perfect work-life balance,” he said.

On 19 April, the two set off on a journey from New Delhi to Varanasi and back to qualify as becoming a part of the Iron Butt Association - a US-based conglomeration for daring and adventurous bikers. All they were required to do was cover 1,600 km to become members of the club. “Riding for the past 30 years, we never thought of certification from any reputed biking association anywhere in the world. This was an opportunity we couldn’t have missed,” Keshwar said. Initially, there were three of them that planned to pull this stint off, but because there wasn’t a third bike - which was supposed to be a Harley - Bajwa and Keshwar had to get on the ball. They were keen to grab inclusion among the world’s toughest riders, so they vied for the Iron Butt Association’s Saddle Sore, for which one must cover 1,600 km in 24 hours.

And they pulled off this stunt in style on 20 April, doing 1,680 km on the Delhi-Varanasi-Delhi run. “We ended up covering around 70-80 km more than the decided mark and were happy with the result. On 19 April this year, we left for Varanasi at 5:38 am and returned to Delhi on 20 April at 5:32 am. We had to encounter many adversities along the way. While traversing rural areas we had to negotiate through rough passages because of the local crowd that hit the roads for their daily chores,” said Keshwar. They surged ahead in their journey, momentum on their side, but then Keshwar had to step on the brake because a stray dog suddenly ran in front of his bike. “This incident spoiled the headlight alignment of the Ninja and left us helpless because we couldn’t find a place to get it fixed,” he said.

Bajwa has the credential of having covered all of Europe in 33 days. Starting from Turkey, he rode through Europe between 14 May and 17 June 2006. “Gurpreet has some very long rides to his credit. Apart from his adventurous stint in Europe, he has also ridden from Chandigarh to Kolkata, Delhi to Cuttack and he even drove from Pune to Goa in a Gypsy – without taking a break. And for me, I have travelled from Pune to Bangalore in 17 hours and Pune to Goa thrice. We have done so many trips that we have almost lost count of,” said Keshwar.

Their Ninja 650 and Ducati Monster 800 remain tried and true, but for Keshwar and Bajwa, the dream bikes remain the BMW 1200 and Moto Guzzi Cruiser, respectively.