Before coming to India I had never driven a motorbike and never really had any desire to. Sure, it looked like it could be quite fun, but the combination of British weather, all the leathers and that horrible thought of being a ‘biker’ was always enough to put me off completely. However, India changes this concept completely. First of all, the weather is clearly not an issue. The only thing that might be a problem is sunburn. Secondly, the combination of the high temperature and the low speed of traffic in India means that no specialist clothing is required. Finally, as everyone and their 75 year old grandfather drives a motorbike, there is no biking culture to avoid.
When I was volunteering in Gujarat, my NGO gave me use of a little electric scooter (aka The Mighty One, see my previous blog post). Though it maxed out at 30kmph (when it was being particularly well behaved), regularly almost ran out of juice just before reaching home and had quite a few issues with punctures, it still made life so much easier and getting around Bhavnagar a lot of fun.
Before coming to Udaipur I had already decided to buy a scooter of my own. On arrival though, I found out that another volunteer was looking to sell a motorbike before they left in a few weeks time. Having never driven a proper motorbike before, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to manage it. However, I was taken out on a quick lesson (“Here’s the gears, here’s the clutch, here’s how you start it, now off you go!”) and found out that it was a lot easier than I expected.
Having a motorbike in Udaipur is fantastic. First of all, it makes getting around the city so much easier; no longer any problems haggling with rickshaw drivers, squeezing into overcrowded tempos or always having to leave by 10:30pm before all the rickshaws disappear off the streets. Secondly, it makes road trips very easy, whether it’s just a quick ride or something a little further away. Two fantastic options on the edge of Udaipur are Badi Lake and the Monsoon Palace. Badi Lake is a beautiful lake in the hills where you can swim and relax, whilst avoiding the (probably) non-existent crocodile. The Monsoon Palace is situated at the top of a very steep, very winding road going up through a nature reserve, and gives incredible views of Udaipur.
Finally, a bike gives you the opportunity to do silly things like accidentally pulling wheelies, falling off a bit while driving down ‘roads’ that are closer to river beds than anything else, or squeezing too many people on the back (3 on a bike is practically empty, if it’s not 4 people and a goat then it’s not worth looking at). Overall, buying a motorbike could be the best decision you make whilst living in India.