Monday, May 28, 2012

Ladakh 2012

At the GATI office, Mumbai
So, the Helmet Stories crew is riding to Ladakh in June to recce some new and interesting routes around Leh. Bumblebee (right) and Buttercup are the mounts of choice and have been spruced up for the ride. Watch this space for updates...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Interview: Joshua John

I have know Joshua since college which as far as I can remember was along time ago. The first time I met him he had a dream of riding cross the US on a Harley (crap I never asked him about that). Lately he started the Delhi Bikers Breakfast Run and actually inspired us to start the Mumbai Breakfast Run (Cant remember the last time we rode though!!!). Anywho we caught up with him for a chat.

Who are you?
People call me Josh, my wife calls me ‘Baby’ and my baby calls me ‘Daddy’. I am a pastor of Fusion Church in Delhi. Run a site call that has mostly paintings on motorcycling around the Himalayas…and I run an inter-club motorcycle group called ‘Delhi Bikers Breakfast Run’.

When did you first get interested in bikes?
First time? That would be back in ’93. Some rugged German bikers visited our school on their Beemers to give a talk on their ride around the world. Unfortunately I wasn’t in the German class so I missed their talk but I got to pull back the throttle when they started their bikes. I was hooked! Our school actually had an Enfield club for the staff…

What was your first bike you ever owned?
I bought a second hand ‘95 RE 350 right after college. 
What is your favorite bike?
I am an adventure bike person. So if I could afford any bike I’d go for Yamaha XT Super Tenere or KTM Adventure fully kitted by Touratech.

What bike would you like to see in India?
Since KTM is already here, I’d love to see their 690 Enduro launched here.

Functionality vs bling?
Kill the Chrome! Bring on the mud! Tasteful Functionality please.

What is your favorite road to ride on?
The Lahaul-Spiti circuit would be my favorite for now. The terrain and landscape are incredibly diverse and beautiful. Plenty of detours to explore and get lost in. And at Tabo they serve a mean shot of espresso.
You took a road trip from Delhi to Kanyakumari a few years back tell us about that?
That was quite a trip! Initially there were 3 of us from Delhi, a friend joined us from Mumbai and then in Cochin I parted ways and went solo. I wanted to document the ride but having never filmed before I fumbled along and managed to make a doc about how not to make a bike film. 

Besides the sheer joy of riding from north to south (how can I possibly describe it here!)…there was the tension of riding with those who held a  different philosophy on riding and life in general. A long trip is always quite revealing and I realized what a self-righteous jerk I can be at times. But nothing beats the feeling of standing at the tip of India, knowing that the road really ends there!  

What’s the next big ride you are planning? 
With a family, I have had to be wise and reprioritize. (yes we know the feeling)
So the big trips are still happening but in our Scorpio (Sacrilegious J). We drove to Kanyamuari and back in January and covered most of Nepal in April. But come June, hopefully I’ll be off to Spiti on my bike once again!

What prompted the Delhi Bikers Breakfast Run?
I’ve been with a club and seen many others around and realized there were many incredible bikers unable to connect because of juvenile club restrictions. There’s this bikers ‘caste system’ that says the value of the biker is directly proportionate to the worth of the bike he/she rides. Which is bullshit! (We hear you man) People are more valuable than what they posses(we like to say we its not what you ride its that you do).
There had to be a platform that didn’t threaten existing clubs, united people across the brand-borders to simply ride few hours out of Delhi…for both first timers and seasoned bikers. Which was possible only by keeping all the cocky ego strutting and brand thumping out of the picture…and the alcohol & narcotics;)
Hence, DBBR was started. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see the turnout growing steadily and this year our average number has been above 200 bikers per ride. 

So now what for the DBBR?
Great question! Our motto is ‘RIDE – RESPECT – RELAX’ and we’re trying to stretch the definition with each ride. From where we ride and why to how we show respect and the way we relax…
Currently, we don’t organize any breakfast runs because of the heat and because most of us are focusing on heading up the mountain.
But we have been doing cause oriented events (donating blood, building houses for the homeless and organizing talks on preparing for Ladakh…so DBBR will continue to engage our city’s marginalized and inspire one another. That’s how we’ll ride and respect and relax.  
We want to stay relaxed and as organic as possible. Not become an organization that begins to cash in on the numbers…DBBR, as far as I can help it, wont be for sale…which ensures that we have the right people for the right reason.
We’re an active community on the ground and less online and our ultimate goal is to steer an authentic motorcycling community that’s not simply aping the west but is uniquely Indian and impacting Delhi in a positive way. Don’t have a blueprint but have some solid bikers who’re teaming and helping me along the way. 

What do you do when you are not riding for breakfast?
Ha ha ha…I am giving interviews like these! Actually, I am super involved with my church that does its bit in serving and loving our city. We have a selfless group of people who are my heroes and I get to lead them. I prepare my sermons for Sundays, I tell people they have hope and eternal life in Jesus…etc I paint for upcoming shows or projects…I plan and prepare for upcoming seminars in schools or rides for DBBR, do odd tattoo designs for friends, drum for the Angelo Daimari Band when I need a free meal at a club. I laugh with and at my daughter and try to convince my wife that I wont go sterile by eating Wai Wai instant noodles. No two hours are the same for me…ever!

How does one get in touch with you?
Just go to my bragging site. (I know, you’ll be horrified, there’s a travelogue and it has nothing about motorcycle!) that’s why you have Helmet Stories! Go on my site, click on contact and tell me you want to produce my next doc film.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Last bike

The last bike to roll out of the Serai. Between the pictures harsh has sent me from the Tour of Bhutan and these Harley riders here depression may be setting in. I think its time to jump in the pool and get a cold beer that may help me snap out of it.

Last batch

Last batch of riders all geared up and ready to leave.

Route planning

Last minute route changes to get the most out of the ride home.

A nice day to ride

Watching all these guys leave is now making me miss my bike love to go out for a spin in the forest.

First group lining up to leave

Gearing up

The crew gearing up to ride back to Bangalore.

Whole lot of bling


Great weather and a nice sight to see in the morning before starting your day.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sportsters galore

Black seems to be colour of choice in this crew 90% of the Sportster's are black.


The parking lot is strewn with Harley's it is kinda funny to see them but feels good it's just the begging of a whole new era of riding in India.

Screaming Eagle

Nice to see lots of bikes with screaming eagle performance parts on them. Royal Enfield maybe it's time we got some performance parts from you.

H.O.G Bangalore out for a weekend ride

So we are in Bandipur in the Serai for an assignment and so is the Bangalore H.O.G chapter. Riding in India has really come into a new chapter. There are about 30 bikes ranging from the 883 iron to the Nightrod. Ill post some more pictures soon.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Personal Geography and the Tour of Bhutan

It's been a scant five years since I have known Vir Nakai, the other half of Helmet Stories. We felt an instant kinship, perhaps kindled initially by our inordinate love for red meat and dark rum that was further cemented as we rode countless miles over hills and down valleys, on roads smooth as a baby's butt to tracks blasted out of living mountains that took us on some excellent adventures to new and wondrous places. We have stolen precious time away from our families (thank you Amrit and Amrita) to expand the envelope of our personal geographies.  Meanwhile we are also trying to turn this passion for riding motorcycles into a business. Thus the adventure motorcycling travel company was born.  We have also tried to share our rides through professional grade photography and writing through this blog. Over the last couple of years the blog has become du jour reading for adventure travel aficionados. We have also caught the eye of some of Indias best magazines and have done our thing with pen and light for magazines like Outlook Traveller and Autocar and their ilk. In fact Vir's story for Autocar on the Tour of Rajasthan was the most read story on Royal Enfields Facebook page.  However, despite common sense and the temptation to do so, we have not promoted our travel company on our blog. Instead we wanted the blog to be an ever growing repository of compelling stories on life on the road riding motorcycles--the simple joy of wind-in-your-face motorcycling.  For us, the touring company and the blog are two different animals serving different purposes. However, for some the perception is that we are tour operators (which we are) who do the blog to promote the business (which we don't).  So this raises a issue. If I'm on a media junket in my professional capacity as a journalist on the Royal Enfield's Tour of Bhutan, is it ethical to post on our blog since Royal Enfield is arguably also the biggest tour operator in the country?  So, to preempt any silly questions I'm going to post updates whenever I can on my personal blog at So see you there and cogito ergo zoom!