I love listening to people go through the agony of choosing a bike to buy.
My friend Eric aptly calls it “Kung-fu”. In his mind, a sick one I should add, a person agonising over whether to pick a KTM Duke 200 with ABS or one without, is akin to a Kung fu fighter kicking, chopping and performing all manner of martial arts moves in the air before finally settling on top of a mountain with one foot on the ground and another held up.
When the agony moves to whether it’s actually worth it spending a fortune on the Duke 200 with ABS when you could get virtually the same engine and gearbox on a Pulsar 200NS at almost half the price, Eric imagines that the Kung fu fighter has leapt from the top of the mountain, hurled himself across the landscape, kicking everything that’s standing before settling once again on a small twig at the top of the tallest tree in the forest.
I love Kung fu. It’s an absolutely necessary process because it helps justify decisions and creates a feeling of satisfaction, which if you ask me, is more important than the actual value of the bike. As a person that sells bikes, I have been on the receiving end of thousands of phone calls with people performing Kung fu. I write this because I know that several new year resolutions have “Get new bike” or “Upgrade bike” somewhere in them and so I imagine the country is awash with bikers looking for their black belts and getting ready for Kung fu. This article is therefore meant to help you begin the fight or at least show you to the right battlefield.
The broad categories
There are six main categories of bikers (and hence bikes): Those that love racing (sports bikes), those that like falling over and being dirty (off-road bikes), those that love looking good but only in urban areas (street bikes), those that love touring the country (touring bikes) and those that love wearing leather vests, taking oaths and keeping long armpit hair (cruiser bikes).
You might know what category you fall into but question is, at what level are you?
Levels of bikers
The first level is the one-percenters. These are people who feel the urge to ride a BMW R1200GS and they go to Bavaria Auto to get one. You are not a one-percenter if you go to Car and General to get a TVS Apache, read on because I will be putting you in your place soon. This level belongs to those that can afford the best of what the world has to offer right now.
The second level is the decent-second-handers. These are people who want to get a brand new R1200GS but economic considerations make them settle for decent second hand bikes. These are usually well kept bikes from South Africa, the US, the UK and other such places; bikes that might be second hand but still are expensive and very good indeed. I love this level of bikers the most because they are the pioneers who suffer the cost of importing and owning a bike not supported by a dealership, all because of love. These are the true bikers if you ask me.
I like to call the third level the fake-it-till-you-make-it people. These are the folks that will get a horribly old and broken Suzuki Hayabusa and nurse it to ill health, all for the scant reward of telling people they own the fastest bike in the world. These are the chaps whose bikes break down during every group ride and they have a shortcut and an explanation for every single ailment on their bike. They know the mechanic’s children and wife a little too intimately and if you look under their beds, you will find a minefield of broken headlights, fairing pieces, cables and old chains. This level is heavily populated by bikes from Uganda. The idea here is to own a bike with a respectable name, irrespective of how it treats you.
The gradual-progress level belongs to those that are not able to break the bank the way the one-percenters or the decent-second handers do, but still want a unique and decent bike to begin with. They prefer to begin with smaller cc bikes and slowly learn the art of riding in the hope of eventually buying their dream bike. The more discerning of this type go for very well made bikes that offer good value for money despite the bikes not being immediately available in the country. For example, bikes from the Bajaj Pulsar range and other global brands with licences to manufacture in India such as KTM Duke, Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Piaggio. They know that these Indian manufactured bikes are genuinely well made and priced to offer great value for money.
The final level is the dealership-only fellows. These are people that treasure the comfort in numbers and perception of good service that dealerships offer. It is the place that Mr. TVS Apache belongs. Nobody in this group actually wants the bike they own, it’s just that it makes so much sense to buy a bike from a shop you can see and a bike you have seen at least a thousand others riding. They are a sensible lot I agree, but very boring.
Making the decision
By now it should be pretty straightforward then as to what category you belong and at what level you operate. You will find dealers and a community that will help you choose the best bike. You will also find groups of riders that share your interests and ideas about social life so whatever bike you choose, you will not be lonely.
I should also tell you that pillions, people that don’t own bikes but are always riding on one, are there in plenty and they too are of different categories and levels. I shall not delve into that today because my research is inconclusive but I thought you should know that once again, whatever bike you choose, you will not be lonely.