Friday, December 21, 2012

Riding in Cold Weather......Brrrrrr

As cold weather starts to roll in this season, its time to start thinking about what you're going to do to protect yourself from this chilly winter. As many of us with having no option of owning a four wheeler, winter means no change to our riding habits except the addition of quite a bit of extra clothing!!!

I like riding in this weather or rather used to. My 600RR was PITA to ride in summer with all those hot air being directed to the legs. But come winter, those hot air were a hidden blessings and with those extra layers, it really didn't had much effect in winter. 

Call me Crazy or just 'gifted', but riding bikes in the winter can be quite comfortable and enjoyable. By the way, being a thin & lean guy, I am, by no means, thermally gifted. I've seen even older bikes with decade old carbs with better circulation than myself.

Now, I'm not the type that loves to ride so much that I won't care if my ass freezes over and I would be happy that the ride was done. For me, I like my rides to be enjoyable and comfortable. And comfortable in winter can means staying warm.

Staying Warm
Riding a motorcycle in cold weather comes down to one simple concept: insulation.

Since most people aren't very active on a motorcycle, their body isn't doing much to produce heat on its own to counteract the cold. That means we have to do everything we can to insulate the body in order to keep what precious heat that we do produce actually on our body, and not floating off in the cold winter air.

Insulation boils down to two things: layers (to slow the rate at which our body loses heat), and wind proofing (to keep the wind from stealing our heat).

Let's talk about layers first. Layers are critical for riding a motorcycle in the cold weather of winter. The number of layers you'll need to wear is based both on personal preference (some people naturally run a little hotter than others) and the temperature outside. I've worn up to four layers in really cold weather. The key is to have enough layers on that you feel comfortable (maybe even slightly warm) when you step outside and just stand in place(before you ride your motorcycle).

Remember two things
  1. Your bottom layer should always be some type of snug fitting thermal or fleece underwear. This will create a warm layer of air between your body and this material. Don't worry about the fancy base layers you see over the Internet. Our own 'mitrarastras' - China and India made thermals are readily available in the Nepalese market. I prefer Dollars and Rupas as they are very cheap and is very comfortable.
  2. Don't wear so many layers that you lose mobility. If you can't hold your arms at your side because of all your clothing, than it's probably time to invest in either some warmer, or even heated, clothing.
Wearing thermals doesn't make you look like idiots; modern thermals are thin and very effective as well. You get warm and cosy; just don't expect a 'Chick' to be born from an Egg. ;-)

Wind Proofing
Now, let's talk about wind proofing. The biggest issue that you will have when riding a motorcycle in the winter is keeping the wind out. Wind, specifically wind chill, is your worst enemy on a motorcycle in cold weather. Doing everything you can to stop this enemy is going to go a long way to helping you ride your motorcycle comfortably in the cold.

The main thing to do for wind-proofing is to make sure your outer layer is some type of wind-proof material. Wind-proof jackets are by far the most popular choice for this. Ideally, you should look for something that is both wind-proof and water-proof. There are many man-made materials that meet that criteria.

(I personally prefer Gore-Tex Windcheaters and if I do run into cold rainy weather, it offers water-proofing for protection and a little added warmth!)
The North Face though an expensive option is an excellent choice with its Gore-Tex outer shell provides ample wind proofing and water proofing plus it's Gore-Tex membrane keeps out your body from excessive sweating. Remember, you can get caught with your own body sweat faster than the outer temperature.

Here are a few additional thoughts on wind-proofing:
  • Add a windshield to your motorcycle to block the wind(Not very stylish but if you do lot of highways, it's an effective way. Just did the tour on CBR250R, it's huge windshield does its job very efficiently).
  • Wear a full face motorcycle helmet with some type of covering for your neck and head - I prefer a Neck Warmers. Most of your heat is lost through your head so do your best to keep it warm!
  • Put newspaper on your chest between your outer layer and the layer underneath it - this does wonders for blocking the wind (a tip I learned in the forum itself. Not quite sure if it will work while riding. Have seen Mr. Bear from Man Vs Wild do it in his expedition.)

Hands and Feet

I've found that I can insulate my body and legs adequately, but when the temperature really drops, I have the most problems with my hands and feet. Many people have a similar problem. The reason is that as you get cold your body focuses circulation on your internal organs to keep them warm, while your feet and hands get the shaft.
The only way that I've found to keep my hands and feet comfortable in really cold weather is to invest in quality boots and gloves

For boots, I'm a strong believer that you don't have to go and buy a pair of those expensive motorcycle boots to get the performance you need in cold weather. The best pair of boots that I've ever had (and still wear) cost me NRs 3000 from Bhatbhateni (Trekking shoes). They are comfortable, waterproof, and windproof and have seen me through a lot of crappy weather.

The key things you want to look for in boots are:
  • Fit (you don't want them to be tight because this will reduce circulation and make your feet colder)
  • Water-Proof. Don't even consider them if they aren't.
  • Above the ankle. This really helps with wind proofing. Remember how we have habit of hanging our foot in the rear-set and cold wind hitting in the part of the foot where our jeans gets moved upwards and the normal shoes can't cover it.
  • Comfortable to walk around in. You don't want to look like a Racer while moving around with those knee-length racing boots.
  • Insulation is a nice to have, but not a must; you can get most of your insulation from putting extra socks on.
This is ankle length high cut boot with added cup protection for the metatarsal, nice grip and with hard-plastic  crush-proof protection in and around toes for those hard shifting as well.

I've tried quite a few gloves and have found very few that really do the trick. Gloves can really be a trial and error process for motorcycle riding so make sure that you've found the right pair before embarking on your next long cold weather ride.

In looking for gloves:
  • Make sure that they are long enough that they completely cover the wrist (remember: wind-proof, wind-proof, wind-proof!)
  • Find a pair with a hook and loop closure system at the wrist that allows you to tighten the gloves.
  • Good fit - if the glove feels tight at all, get the next size up. We don't want anything to impede circulation!
  • Good insulation - you want the high-efficiency stuff like 3M Thinsulate, not just a bunch of fluff.
  • Good insulation placement - most gloves only put insulation on the top. You want a pair with a little bit in the palm and other parts of the hand as well.
  • Pre-curved fingers - motorcycle gloves can wear you out if you're trying to squeeze that throttle all day. Pre-curved fingers alleviate this. If at all possible, try to squeeze a throttle before purchasing. Make sure the gloves don't get tight or bunch up - you'll really notice it after 30 minutes of riding.
  • If you really don't like the bulky insulated gloves, here is another trick I got. You don't want to leave the comfort of the protection Leather gloves provide, then no worries. Here is what I do. Go to any medical stores and ask for Plastic Surgical Gloves. They don't cost much. In my area they cost Rs 45 per pair. I used them inside the leather gloves. They are wind-proof as well as water-proof.
A warm and water-resistant gloves with the closure loop belt helps keep your hand warm and dry in the testing conditions.
Notice the inner fleece; this is important as it keeps the hand warm in the most adverse condition.

Finally, after you've got all your gear sorted out there are a couple of things you'll want to be aware of in terms of safety before getting out there in the cold: Frostbite and Hypothermia.

Exposed skin is always at risk for frostbite, so make sure you don't have any exposed skin! If you feel like your skin is being pricked by needles, frostbite is on its way and you need to do something immediately. If your skin starts to turn white or waxy and feels numb and hard you need to get immediate medical attention.

Hypothermia is a separate concern. Hypothermia is where your core body temperature drops below the minimum temperature required for your body to operate. Hypothermia causes mild confusion, sluggish behavior, poor muscle coordination, and incoherent behavior. 
If you start feeling cold and can't decide if you should pull over, you are facing an early stage of hypothermia. Pull over immediately and get a hot tea or coffee!

If you start shivering uncontrollably, feel sluggish, or even drunk, then you're in serious trouble. Hypothermia is already underway and you need to stop immediately to warm up. DO NOT RIDE. I know it's your passion to ride; but even to ride, you need to LIVE. So, ride up this winter; ride safe and comfortable.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ride to Pokhara on Honda CBR250R '12 -- Dec 13th-15th, 2012

Ride to the Unknown.

That’s how Honda CBR250R got launched themselves.

With having difficulty in day to day riding on a 600RR, I thought I would definitely love to get a smaller capacity commuter bike. With wide range of options available in the market of Nepal, I finally narrowed down to Duke200, Pulsar NS200, CBR250R, Hyosung GT250N, R15v2.0 and even Hero Karizma. It was choices that were definitely going to spoil me.
Then came the hardest part of choosing and test driving the bikes. I was pretty sure that except for Duke200 and NS200, I wasn't opting for a brand new bike for obvious reason, the dough. Luckily both Duke200 and NS200 came into the second hand market with Odometer reading of 0 KMs with mouth watering price.

Duke 200. I went to check out the Duke first. It wasn't even out of the showroom which was even better for me. I had it test-ridden once before. The initial acceleration is mind boggling and I was pretty much happy with the bike. But then, it was the advice from fellow RiderzNepal G-MOD, i-Uze, which left me thinking. I was not only planning to do commuting but touring as well. With the small rear seat and the huge amount of heat it throws on the leg, it was definitely going to be PITA. Duke200 left out with heavy heart.

Pulsar 200NS. The only brand I haven’t ridden yet the whole of my life. I was reluctant to even try. But positive feedback all over the Internet and our own fellow member, Shashwat, I thought of giving it a try. Once again in, there was an AD with fresh bike on sale. I gave him a call. But unfortunately or rather fortunately (which I will describe later) he didn't receive the call. I thought aah what the hell; I am not going to call him again for his bike. Later I found out that the price he quoted NRs. 250,000/- was rather exaggerated price. He got discount of NRs. 20,000/- and with the market price of NRs. 264,000/-, I would have been duped.

R15v2.0. I love Yamaha, no doubt about it. My first bike with my own income was v1.0. My first superbike was Yamaha XJ650. I love how they think outside the box and put the best technological input on their bike. But sitting on the bike, I left it out of my options without second thought purely due to its ergonomic reasons.

Hyosung GT250N. This was the bike I was long gunning for. As most of the fellow members know, I have test ridden this bike more than a couple of times. Each time though, I came to fault some parts of the bike. Initially it was tires which offered virtually no grip at all. Second time, it was the inadequate headlight and the seating position. This also again came up in the local AD bazaar and I immediately called him. To my dismay, the seller wanted a huge price for a used bike and I in turn had to disagree on the price and leave it too.

Hero Karizma. This was the perfect bike for my choice of daily commuting and occasional touring. Spares were also readily available. It has been years it has been serving many of the ZMA faithful and there were nothing but positive feedbacks. I was definitely going to get it and all the decisions were made on the head till this happened.

Honda CBR250R STD 2012. So, I was going to buy the ZMA and was preparing myself with the updates on my bank account status. As a habit, I checked the AD site once more and popped up a brand new Honda CBR250R STD 2012 with very few KMs done. The owner was willing to part it at the earliest and was eager to get a Kawasaki Ninja instead. I have personally seen the baby CBR on its launch day and the test drive with fellow RiderzNepal members on Chobhar was itself very informative. Though I wasn’t quite sure then about the VFRish looks of the bike (some of the RN members might remember I detested this bike). I called up the guy and test rode the bike. It was as easy as Honda Twister for me. The bike was light and maneuverable in the tightest of the traffics. I have been reading that CBR250R has gone touring on the hardest of the area where previously only dedicated tourers have gone. The decision was made. I immediately told him that I was taking the bike. Then came the pleasant surprise. I came to know that I would be the first person to get my photo attached on the BlueBook as the bike was previously on a company’s name. Thanking my luck stars, I took the bike home with the widest grin on my face. Riding 600RR, 250R seemed like riding a scooter with gear. It was that easy.

Along came the testing. So, getting the bike, 2nd servicing done, I had been quietly thinking of doing some long distance travelling on it. On last Thursday afternoon, feed up with the workstation, I sent a text to my brother if he was willing to do a tour then. The reply was position. So, preparing myself, I picked up him and tanked up the bike. The tour to Pokhara was ON.

Comfort. The bike is pretty comfortable. The padding is good, the riding position spot on. Only thing I didn’t like is the grips of the bike. They seemed to be cheap and are quite hard. After spending few hours, it starts to hurt in and around your right hand thumb.

Performance. This is what I liked. The bike can lazily cruise around the highway at the speed of 80-100 KMPH in 5500-7500 RPM in 6th gear. There are plenty of RPMs left incase you need to overtake. There was no lagging. But riding on short gears on bad roads was different case. With the roads in Thankot in the sorry state, the bike gave us a hard time. In 1st gear it was okay but as soon as the gear was raised, with low RPMs the bike started to lag.

Mileage. The bike gave the mileage of 29.50 KMPL when visiting Pokhara. The ride consisted of spirited riding all along the highway and some very slow riding after darkness fell. While returning, maintaining constant speed of 85 KMPH at 6500 RPM, the bike returned the mileage of 32.03 KMPL. Had the roads been better in the Thankot area and outside Pokhara Valley, I am sure the mileage figures would be much bigger.

Things I liked most.
  • ·         Mileage – after riding a 600RR, the mileage of anything above 20 seems great. LOL
  • ·         Aerodynamics – no wind buffering in and around the chest area. The ugly and huge windscreen does it work effectively.
  • ·         Comfort – No pain in the ass. The padding is just okay but I think it will need to be re-done if doing anything longer than 200 KMs.
  • ·         Performance- The engine was outstanding. Even being single cylinder, it was refined. No noise once on 6th gear and speed above 60 KMPH.

Things I hated most.
  • ·         Light – Previous owner has put up the white bulb with 35/35w ratings. The alignment was also wrong. Just before reaching Pokhara, it got dark. I had to slow down to speed o f around 20KMPH to safely drive.
  • ·         Horn – The less said the better. It was pathetic. Even scooters today have larger horns. One truck driver even suggested me to horn before overtaking, while in my case, I have been pressing the horn for I don’t know how long.
  • ·         Tires – It took forever to warm. Riding it on cold tires is very difficult. Very similar to GT250N, it offers virtually no grip at all and slips around. Feels like Ken Bates with all those drifting. ;-)
  • ·         Front tire fender – It is there for the purpose of just fulfilling the void. It offers no protection against the water splashes and all the little gravels go crashing on the radiator. It is the gravest mistake Honda made. Already thinking of either extending the front fender or putting up with the radiator guard. Replacing radiator is expensive job and Honda should have thought of it.
SSome Pictures of the tour.
Look so little chicken strip left
Kawasaki Ninja 250R - The Green Hornet
Taking a well deserved rest at Galchi, Dhadhing
Thankot ko Ukalo...worst road ever :(

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Owning a Superbike -- You are the focal point


Back in ’98 while preparing for our Iron Gate exam of SLC, we had to wake up early and go to the school so that we can have group discussions on various subject matters. Pokhara as you know need no introduction. I was born and brought up there. With the numbers of Lahures in there and the increasing trends of showing-off within themselves, it was just a matter of time for everything to happen in there, be it in a positive or negative ways. Our school was about a kilometer or so far and all we do were walk along. Then out of nowhere, we always used to hear this strange whirling noise in far distant and before being able to recognize and understand it, the bike used to disappear in the smoke and dust. The only thing we discuss within our friends is “तैले त्यो बाईक देखिस्!!! कस्तो दामी/खतरा बाईक”. That bike left a very lasting impression on my young mind that was to change the course of my life forever.

Fast forward 14 years, and here I am owning a Supersports and longing for another, I will attempt to express the feeling of riding a Supersports motorcycle that we all passionately know as SUPERBIKE. This article will try to include feeling of the orgasmic pleasures of riding such bike and the various dangers/problems we encounter after owning one.


About 2 years back in '09, I bought the then fresh R15 and instantly felt in love with it. So much so that within 6 days I did a 600 km trip in a single day with a sore back for about a week after that. :D That's a story for another day. Back then while returning, I saw 2 CBRs doing a very fast overtaking manouvers in Malekhu. It was so hyptonising seeing those superbikes then and there. I tried to keep up but fell miserably. So, came the thought of owning one of such bike. It was all about saving for the deary winters then but the lure of owning such one was too hard to resist.


August 2011, I was already enquiring on many blogs and forum including our RyderzSyndicate about the superbikes available in Nepal. The topic "Honda Wings Showroom opened in Teku" was an eye-opener. The topic included pictures of most the bikes available at there. I was in awe with the Blue Hornet pictured there. Gathering all the information required beforehand owning a Superbike, I posted an AD on a local Buy/Sell site. It was quite a task waiting for someone to call. After a few days, I got a call that they have a R1 on SALE. It was not what I was expecting. I had done a test ride on R1 from Kantipath and I must admit it scared the shit out of me then. I politely refused and asked him if there were any CBRs. To my surprise, he did say that there is one but the price was quoted on higher side that my alloted budget. It was agreed that we meet on Durbar Marga to see the bike. There was no intention of buying the bike then. It was just "let's see how the bike was". I asked my friend to pick me up and off we went to Durbar Marga. Just when we reached there, I again heard those familiar sound of the I4s. Then there was the CBR looking absolutely stunning. Never mind what I thought before, I was definitely going to buy this one.

After nearly 14 years of dreaming, scrutizing each and every blogs/forums/sites, the CeeBeeRRR was going to be mine. My brother also came by and I asked their opinions. They were quite positive on the bike. It was a dream come true situation for me. I asked for a test ride. Having already ridden CBR and R1, I was quite familiar with the posture. I inserted the key and heard this very familiar whizzing sound from the Fuel Pump. The consoles lit up. I looked at all the figures appearing bold from orange backlit screens. There was no neutral. So, I just depressed the Clutch and pressed on the self-start. The bike did not start at all. I did one or two tries and Worry lines started to appear. I was already nervous and this was making me buckle under my knee. The owner also came around and tried to fire her up but she promptly refused. Then after a few tries, we noticed that the side-stand was down. That was such a funny and nervous break down to both of us. :) I again pressed on the Self-Starter button and the engine comes to life. If ever the hardcore bikers love the music, it was the sound coming from his or her bike. This was it for the biker in me. The CeeBeeRRR was ready to rock and roll my life.

My Honda CBR600RR 07
Again depressing the clutch, I engaged the 1st gear. With a loud thud of the gear, I gently released the clutch and easing the bike on the road. My friend who was with me there was quite suspectible of me being able to ride a Superbike. He was quite glad that I did it okay first time. Knowing the powers that were in mercy of my Right wrist, I gently wrung the accelerator. It was such a joy ride that I decided that this was going to be mine. After the ride, the owner had asked me "How do you feel ??" The reply I think he was not expecting that, "How do you yourself feel while riding this bike?" He knew what I meant. There were no words on the whole world to describe how it feels. The financial deals were settled. I was a proud owner of the bike on the day Sept 13th, 2011. While returning from Yatayat, Rain God did shower his blessings on me. ;)