62-yr-old Mumbai biker plans to ride 25,000 km across the US in 4 months
When Subhash Inamdar will begin (on May 19) his 120-day solo motorbike expedition across 24 states of the USA, his son will look after his electronics goods shops in Vasai. His wife will continue the daily commute to the municipal corporation office in Kandivali and his daughter will pursue freelance assignments as art director for Marathi films.
At home, his 87-year-old mother will attend to the door bell and other commitments. The Inamdars will go about their routine, just as they have been doing for many decades whenever their family head has decided to hit the road. Inamdar’s bike travel through the US will be the second expedition abroad; but the family has sort of lost count of his biking tours within India.
Solo bike travel is an end in itself for Subhash Inamdar. A passion nurtured since his formative years in Sangli, travelling on a bike in the interiors of Maharashtra has been a regular feature for Inamdar. Initially, his parents encouraged him to cycle around the major and minor hill tops in the Sahyadri region of Maharashtra. But once he bought a motorbike (he has had three so far), he found his calling as a biker. Ever since, the bike became a means to enjoy unknown spaces and make friends. It has also secured him a place in the Limca Book of World Records. In his words, “The motorcycle is a symbol of mobility and freedom for me. It takes me close to the outside environment.”
Where there’s a wheel: Solo bike travel is a passion for Subhash Inamdar. Pic/Shadab Khan
Inamdar is a strong advocate of solo travel. For him, planning his itinerary, completely on his own, is a joy. He feels that self-planned tours are confidence-boosters. In these days of google-tagging, solo travel is even safer and every person must try it out, he insists. “If I could travel around the world despite my modest middle-class means and no special family exposure to international ways, anyone can do it.” Inamdar feels Indians do not consider travel as a long-term asset. “Travel is an investment in one’s own self. It inspires reflection, and more so when it is done alone. Travelling brings about positive chemical changes in a person’s mind. It is more rewarding than an investment in real estate or gold. Only those who make the effort, know how travelling can offer health benefits.”
FUEL’S PARADISE: Subhash Inamdar at a petrol station with his 220cc Bajaj Avenger, which he will ride in the USA
Inamdar enjoys the surprise elements in his travels like embracing the pleasant and the not-so-pleasant aspects in the same vein. For instance, he recalls a small jolt in Rome in his last Europe tour. As he entered the youth hostel in Rome, he was told that his online reservation had been cancelled. Reason: The hostel did not accommodate anyone above 40 years of age. As he stood arguing with the counter staff, two local police inspectors overheard his problem. “They tried to endorse my youth,” he chuckles. However, as the hostel authorities did not relent, the police helped him to spend the night in another inn at a discounted rate.
FRIENDS IN ALL PLACES: Subhash Inamdar with friends on the road
The cops in Europe have displayed a special affinity for Inamdar. In one of his sojourns, he was given night shelter in the police station in Naples. That was not just a money-saver, but the place held a special morning surprise for him. As he woke up and walked into the garden in the police precincts, he saw the inspector holding the hose pipe to give a gentle bath to Inamdar’s bike.
Sumedha Raikar-Mhatre is a Mumbai-based culture chronicler.
Smart stat 120
The number of days Subhash Inamdar will ride solo on his motorbike expedition across the USA beginning from May 19
Q. What is the feeling before the 25,000 km journey begins?
A. I am just dreaming about the vast roads ever since I got my visa. This is my second solo expedition, and I am as excited as I was in 2012 when I rode through the European countryside (starting from Turkey, ending in Greece) on my two-wheeler for a stretch of 100 days. In America, I will be crossing 51 cities. But my interest lies in driving through forests, rivers and lakes. I have planned for special stops around national parks like Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. I am also a great fan of the green spaces within the university campuses. But the topmost attractions for me are the mountains of Alaska and the desert in Nevada.
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Q. As a 62-year-old biker, who is soon to travel at an average speed of 600 kms a day, do you take special health care?
A. For me, travel is a health booster. But of course solo adventure travel requires health precautions and an insurance cover. Otherwise, I do not follow any particular diet plan. I have protein-rich food and, while on the road, I consume seasonal fruits wherever possible. That helps me to survive the temperature changes and also strike conversations with those who sell the stuff. As a backpacker, I cannot load too much food on the bike.
CHANCE ON FRANCE: The Eiffel Tower looms in Paris in the background
About being 62, I do not think that is a big deal. I feel young in my mind because I have always trekked and cycled for all these years. Born in downtown Sangli, I was blessed with a green patch of earth. I climbed up the forts of Panhalagad, Shivneri and Vishalgad in my school years. I rode through the state of Karnataka as I went to college. The search for a permanent source of income brought me to Mumbai, which connected me with other biker groups.
As I set up my industrial hardware shop in Vasai, the Vasai Fort and its surroundings became my hotspots. But later I had to take a short break because of the workload. It was when I turned 50, that I suddenly realised that I cannot let my biking passion go unaddressed. And that is how, at a ripe age, I restarted my expeditions on the motorable stretches of Leh, Ladakh and the Himalayas. There has been no stopping after that.
Q. Your family has never objected to your lifestyle choice?
A. I am super lucky to get a wife and children who not only “don’t object” to such travels, but support them. My son looks after the industrial hardware shop in my absence which helps me to fund my travel; my daughter and wife have their own sources of income. It is interesting that not even my 87-year-old mother has ever questioned me about the money required for my journeys. They respect my travel philosophy and they trust my riding skills. To tell you the truth, I don’t even get them gifts or souvenirs, to compensate for my absence. They are too happy with my stories from far-off corners.
Q. When natural calamities hit the world, adventure travel naturally takes a toll and it is discouraged for the sake of safety, Nepal being the latest example. What has been your experience?
A. I have not been affected by any natural disaster. However, in one of the past road journeys near Delhi, I chanced upon a Haryanvi family who had met with an accident. As we (group of bikers) saw them lying semi-conscious, we took them to the nearest hospital. After the doctors declared them out of danger, we took to our bikes again.
Safety is a concern for any biker, as road journeys cannot be enjoyed in a state of fear. Whenever I have felt any kind of fear, I confide in the local police and local population. Once I felt I was being followed by some strangers, while travelling in Turkey. I was a bit uncomfortable about the stalkers. In order to avoid confusion, I took an unscheduled stop at a petrol pump (on the outskirts of Istanbul) where I shared my fear with the people at a superstore. They asked me to stop for a while. In fact one of them also said a small Indian bike (as against the bigger 350 cc European make machines) must have attracted the attention of the prowlers. I felt relieved after hearing that theory. Indian bikes stand out as they look undersized on foreign roads.
Q. Have you thought of documenting your work in a memoir?
A. Not really. I should have written about the 105-odd bike tours that I have enjoyed so far. There are times when I regret not keeping photographic evidence of some of my exciting personal exchanges with people on India’s roads. I did extensive note-taking during the Europe tour, but the earlier expeditions (in Goa and Maharashtra) are only locked in my memory. I can recall them at one point, but that will mean taking time off from my travel plans, which is difficult because I need time to go to Africa and Australia. They are part of the to-do-list. Whenever anyone raises the subject of a book, I say I am too young to sit back and write travelogues!
Q. Are you in touch with other adventure bikers from India, like Ajit Harisinghani who wrote about his motorcycle journey to the Himalayas? Or Bharadwaj Dayala, the first Indian to have travelled solo around the world on an Indian-made motorcycle?
A. Yes they are fellow travellers whom I know of. I draw energy from their travels. I have biker friends from across the world, ranging from Zurich to Kolhapur. We make a great biking family.