From Delhi to Kanyakumari and into Nepal, Joshua John has zoomed across most of India on his motorcycle. Hop on to a joyride where he demystifies the biker image, shares tough riding lessons learnt over a decade, and memorable trips along the milestones
When Delhi-based biker, Joshua John is not zooming off to an unknown terrain, the 36-year-old ordained pastor, who lives with his wife and two kids, paints mountains and parables. An avid biker since 10 years, he started Delhi Bikers Breakfast Run in 2009 in a bid to bring together novice and seasoned bikers for monthly rides. The community now boasts of 5,000 members. John is also one of the founding members of Motorcycle Adventure Film Festival – India (MAFFI), started this year, to tap into the creativity within the Indian motorcycle scene and share it on the big screen. This Saturday, John will be in Mumbai to demystify the quintessential biker image and share some tough lessons that he learnt on the road. “They are life lessons for anyone, not just for bikers,” he says modestly. Excerpts:
A bike ride organised by Delhi Bikers Breakfast Run
Q. When did you first get interested in bikes?
A. I must have been five years old when a doctor rode her Triumph from London to India, to a hospital that my dad ran in rural Uttar Pradesh. That was the moment.
My first bike was a Rs 93 Royal Enfield. My current ride is a Royal Enfield Standard 500 and one day, I hope to afford a dual-purpose adventure bike.
Q. What is it about motorcycling that appeals to you?
A. Motorcycling is about personal headspace. Concerns become concise. I am a restless guy, so when I’m on a bike, I am most still and focused. Then, there is the motorcycle community that keeps the drama going.
Q. What are the challenges that bikers face?
A. Depending on your bike, there are mechanical challenges. So, know your bike and how to do basic maintenance. In India, if you plan sensibly, you don’t have to worry about food or your next spot to sleep. India is big enough to keep exploring for many years. The challenges are convincing your family that motorcycling is safe and that you will make up for leaving them for the time that you are away.
Q. Tell us about your most memorable trips in the last decade?
A. I’ve travelled to the golden triangle, Ladakh-Goa-Kanyakumari a few times, and through Himachal, Uttarakhand, Kashmir and across the border into Nepal. My Lahaul-Spiti trips have always been memorable. Before our kids came along, my wife and I were riding one morning towards Chitkul village. We turned a corner, the valley opened up and it was like the Lord Of The Rings meets Alice In Wonderland. We had to switch off the bike and soak in the place. It was rugged beauty in all its glory and to savour that with your soul mate was special.
Q. How was the experience of travelling from Delhi to Kanyakumari?
A. I fell in love with India all over again, realised the privileged life that I lead in Delhi and also the richness that is outside our concrete jungles. While riding through the Munnar tea estates, I also discovered that I am highly allergic to bee-stings. My face puffed up like a balloon and I started vomiting. Somehow, I found a clinic and after receiving an injection on my bum, the nurse casually informed me that I might faint anytime! Holding my pants up, I found a guesthouse, ran in and collapsed, leaving my loaded bike on the road. Thankfully, it was still there six hours later.
Q. Does DBBR have women rides?
A. From the first ride in 2009 to date, DBBR rides have had women who ride their own bikes or ride pillion with their friends or spouses. There is no exception made as far as routes go because they are equally capable of handling any terrain. The lone exception we make is that women are first in the breakfast line.
Q. Your next biking excursion...?
A. I would like to head to the eight North East states and connect with their local motorcycling culture.
On: June 20, 6.30 pm
At: Garage 52, Ground Floor, Lilaram Bhuvan, Chuim Village Road, Khar (W).
Log on to: http://bit.ly/1GxMtFW
Cost: Rs 500
Budding bikers, take note
>> Get out, be it for few hours on a weekend or a few days. If you don’t, you will never know.
>> Don’t compare your journey with someone else’s. Be inspired but find your own stories. The last thing you want is to kill the joy of motorcycling by turning it into another rat race.
>> Choose your motorcycle brand based on your personal taste and not some hipster’s version of cool. People are riding mopeds around the world!
>> Try not to be a signboard junkie by clicking photos of ‘Highest this’ and ‘Biggest that’ for mere bragging rights. You will miss the culture, people and landscape.
>> Don’t work too hard to avoid pain and puncture. Interruptions are part of your adventure and they train you to improvise.
>> Be grateful. Adventure motorcycling is a privilege and being grateful enables you to enjoy each moment more freely.
>> Don’t rush through places just to say you have ‘done’ it. Plan your travel in such a way that you get to spend enough time at a place.
>> Ride sensibly and safely, so you can ride another day.
A Mirror Image
John, who is also an artist, created this painting titled ‘Riding Home’ inspired from one of the photographs (right) that he took on his trip to Lahaul and Spiti
Joshua John’s favourite bike routes
>> Lahaul-Spiti has to be the best for its sheer variety of terrain, raw beauty; you can spend two weeks or months exploring its villages and routes.
Joshua John with his Royal Enfield near the Kunzum Pass in the Himalayas
>> I highly recommend (army and local politics permitting) all of North East India.
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