I had a bit of trouble kick starting the bike this morning. I’ve never had a bike that needed kick starting before. Although that’s just a specialised case of the general fact that I’ve never had a bike before. But the bikes I’ve learned on have always had electric start. The Bullet has electric start too, but first thing in the morning it needs to be kick started, and then can be electric started after that. I struggled with the kick start this morning, quickly building up a sweat in the Delhi heat, to no avail. Then I tried the electric start, and it worked.
I rode back to Karol Bagh with Sadhana: my neighbour’s sister and the person whose family I’m staying with in Delhi. We stopped at Tony Bike Centre, and I asked them to take a look at the kick start. They confirmed that the problem wasn’t with the kick start, it was with me. So they showed me a few more times, and I practised, and started to get the hang of it. I also got them to adjust the back brake lever up a little, more as an excuse for turning up than anything.
By stopping at Tony Bike, we also sneakily got a place to park while we nipped across a couple of blocks to Gafar Market, where I got a “Samsung” (not a real Samsung) Glaxy (spelling is correct) smart phone, for Rs3500, the equivalent of £35. So now I have access to emails and maps on the move.
This afternoon I set off on my own to visit another friend of a friend, Alam, who is a fan of Royal Enfields. He lives in a district called Ashram, in south Delhi. He texted me very thorough directions, so after memorising them, I took the plunge into Delhi traffic, solo. I circled Connaught Place a couple of times, just enjoying the exhilaration. I found myself thinking that citizens of the Culture would probably recreate rush hour on CP as one of their extreme leisure pursuits. I selected the right arterial road, and rode south, past Subz Burj and over the flyovers. Then I missed the turning for Ashram, and ended up on the National Highway heading for Agra. I don’t think that’s anything to do with India though; I do that sort of thing all the time in the UK, too. There’s nothing wrong with navigating by trial and error.
Once I’d established the error, I bust a U-ey at the next opportunity, found the right turn-off and got to Alam’s. We chatted for a bit, he gave me lots of advice about riding in India, and had a look at the bike, which he thought looked ok. Then I headed back into central Delhi to meet another Royal Enfield fiend, Nidhi’s friend Gaurav. We’d arranged to meet at his office in the India Habitat Centre, an impressive venue combining offices, cafes, art galleries, and huge courtyard spaces full of palms and other tropical plants. It made me think of a hothouse, or tropical biodome, but what at first glance I’d thought was a glass greenhouse roof was actually a lattice of sun shades, to keep the space cool. Of course, India doesn’t need to fake a tropical climate.
We had dinner at the Dilli Dastarkhwan restaurant (aka Kareem’s) in the India Islamic Cultural Centre. The menu is basically various kinds of spiced meat. It’s not a place for vegetarians. I loved it though – I went with Gaurav’s suggestions and we had lamb, mutton pieces and chicken cooked in amazing spices and sauces. Afterwards we had a wander around the Lodi Gardens and looked at Mohammed Shah’s Tomb, then headed back home.
Today was the day I got over my nerves about riding on Delhi roads. I think my lack of riding experience isn’t a particular hindrance. In a way, it might be better to learn Indian riding from scratch. It’s just different. Take it slowly and keep watching the front and sides at all times. I think the theory is, you’re responsible for not hitting any vehicles in front of you. The vehicles behind you take the same attitude towards you. They might be annoyed if you swerve out centimetres in front of them, but they won’t hit as you as they were already half expecting it. Gaurav and Sadhana made fun of me for using the technique taught in the UK as the “lifesaver”, the check over the shoulder before turning or moving out. Apparently that’s not done here. I can see why: arguably it’s more dangerous to take your eyes off what’s happening in front than it’s worth it for the information about what’s behind you. I think I’ll continue doing them, but judging them on their merits case by case.
Also, I’d started falling in love with the bike by the end of the day. It’s a heavy beast, difficult to get on and off the main stand, and a pain in the arse to kick start, but the pounding rhythm of the engine, and the mighty roar when it hits speed, are incredible. And I’m no petrolhead. I think we’ll get on well. Until it first breaks down, of course.
Surprising thing seen today: a shop selling fake Apple-branded sandals.