Traveling by Indian Roads

“Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way…
Born to be wild”

Are you consumed by wanderlust?

Wunderbar!!

Read on to crank up the excitement.

Imagine dust-swept landscapes without a trace of habitation, long desolate tracts with the rugged contours of bluish grey mountain ranges in the distance, the blistering sun, a little wooden shed for an eatery or tea stall plumb in the middle of nowhere manned by a wizened lone survivor with a wrinkled face and hollowed out cheeks.

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Now visualize all this, but with a difference. We’re talking about paved roads—asphalt stretching all the way up to the horizon and beyond.

We always had our desi brand of hells angels (minus the initiation rituals) and the more recent amber gambler motorbike gangs vrrooming the threading out of their tyres on their rice rockets, smoking past bewildered coppers and leaving behind a trail of rubber (not be understood in any other way). But what’s also coming into its own in a very big legit way among many Indians, some of whom have chucked up their jobs and fat pay packets as career professionals, is the love of travel across the vast Indian land mass…on their motorbikes!!

This subculture is sweeping the Indian social landscape in which a swelling tribe of free spirited enthusiasts driven by their love of adventure tours and trail riding is growing more than ever before – motorcycle clubs, internet forums, professionally organized expeditions that stretch the limits of endurance. Nobody’s asking why, because the answer is as plain as the nose in anybody’s face. In part it is a whole new definition of lifestyle and attitudes influenced by long established trends in American culture. The other half of the answer lies in India’s rapidly developing vast network of roads and national highways connecting all four corners of the nation. India’s growing network of roadways is like the wind beneath the wings of the modern day knights errant albeit on motorcycles.

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National highways in India have spread over a total length of 70548 kilometers. Even though they account for a mere 2% of the nation’s total roadways, it is worth noting that 40% of India’s total traffic is carried by the national highways. The longest Indian highway is the NH7 Highway that expands over a long route stretching from Varansi in Uttar Pradesh to Kanyakumari, the southern-most point in India.

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Another part of India’s complex road network that deserves a mention here is the Golden Quadrilateral Network. This quadrilateral connects India’s 4 metropolitan cities—Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata—with a network of highways. It is the biggest highway project in the country. Launched in 2001, it has been fully operational since January 2012. Made of four and six lane express highways, the Golden Quadrilateral Network spreads over a total length of 5846 kilometers in the first phase.

Some basic facts about The Golden Quadrilateral to give you an idea of the marked uptick in national connectivity.

The Golden Quadrilateral is made up of four sections. Section I is an approximately 1,400 km stretch from Delhi to Kolkata running through Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal connecting all the major cities in these states. Section II is nearly a 1700 km stretch connecting Kolkata to Chennai passing through the states of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Coming to Section III that runs for almost 1300 km, stretching from Chennai to Mumbai, passing through Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. And then there’s Section IV, which is just over 1400 km runs between Mumbai and Chennai passing through the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and New Delhi.

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With remote far flung corners of the country within reach, not necessarily within easy reach though, adventure lovers wanting to explore the length and breadth of the vast and diverse country on their motorbikes are straining at their leash.

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Some points (at first blush) to factor in before setting out on an expedition of the country on motorcycle –

  • Obviously, picking a motorcycle, unless you plan on hoofing it. A motorcycle with good road ability/ road holding and equally one that you can control when the going gets rough. It’s a myth that pricier bikes are better.
  • Plan an itinerary before you set out on a trip. Do you want to see the wildlife, explore tribal locations, visit beaches or go to the mountains? Decide a theme, research destinations and chalk out a route.
  • Assemble motorcycle gear like saddle bags/panniers to carry all your personal effects. Remember to carry basic motorcycle tools and spares for emergency situations. Also keep a first aid kit handy. You will also need a proper riding jacket, gloves, and boots, shin and elbow guards, sunglasses, and most important of all, a crash helmet.
  • Also invest in other travel gadgets like a portable GPS system to help you plan routes and get directions right. You should carry a large size backpack made of weather-proof material.

The notion of a ‘motorcycle’ is fast changing, going far beyond its vanilla avatar as a medium of intra-city transportation. Utility has taken on a different meaning in the lexicon of rough terrain riders who torture torque and suspension and engine. Motorcyclists in India bitten by the adventure bug are banding together in the spirit of a community undertaking and planning audacious trips to explore the farthest reaches of the country.

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