By B.C. Thimmaiah
Going on group journeys on motorbikes to explore unexplored places is commonplace but a solo ride along India’s borders, covering 21,000 kilometres without touching any metro city, that too on a 33-year-old bike, is commendable.
The feat has been accomplished by a 44-year-old Mysuru-born rider Sandeep N. Ananthaprakash, presently a resident of Bengaluru.
He used the Yezdi Roadking Classic bike KA-09-E-2189, 1990 model manufactured by Ideal Jawa (India) Ltd., which had a major production unit at Yadavagiri in Mysuru. Sandeep is the first person to achieve this gruelling tough road challenge along India’s borders on a Yezdi.
Calling his roading ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ ride marking the 75th year of Independence in 2022, Sandeep set out from his home on Sept. 27, 2022, and reached the Kerala border of Kannur on Sept. 28 and ended his journey at Kannur on Nov. 24 — 58 days, covering 21,000 kilometres. His additional message of the journey was ‘Save Vintage and Classic Vehicles.’
Unmatched level of endurance
“At a time when there is a rule to scrap vehicles that are more than 15 years old, I wanted to demonstrate the fact that no matter how old these motorcycles manufactured in India (Mysuru, my hometown) are, they are still tough and rugged mean machines that can take on any challenge and have an unmatched level of endurance.
Sandeep is a veteran biker and has been doing road trips for over 22 years. “I had a passion for travel since childhood and my first rides were on a bicycle from my home in Vidyaranyapuram to Chamundi Hill and Karighatta Hill in Srirangapatna. I always connected with nature. Ideal Jawa is my dream bike and I own four of them in sparkling showroom condition,” he says proudly.
So, what made him choose a border journey? It is just for adventure thrill and doing the feat no one has achieved so far. “After a bike trip to Leh-Ladakh, I wanted to explore places like Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and the Rann of Kutch. So I decided on a border journey and I was determined from the beginning that I will not touch any metro city,” Sandeep reveals.
Sandeep purchased the bike from a Bank Manager 15 years back and has not done any alterations. “I have maintained the vehicle in showroom condition and only the front suspension has been changed for this particular long ride. When I started making the routing, Google maps showed me 23,000 kilometres with an extra 2,000 to 3,000 kilometres. That would cost me Rs. 3.5 lakh. I reached out to many Biking Clubs in Mysuru, Bengaluru, Ooty and Tamil Nadu but help did not come from any quarter,” he says.
“I had to sell another Yezdi bike where I managed to raise Rs. 1.5 lakh and the rest came from my personal funds, and support from friends and family. Motul India sponsored the oil and lubricants for my entire journey and I am indebted,” he says with a smile.
Extreme weather conditions
Giving a peek into his journey, Sandeep said that he has seen extreme weather from temperate, medium hot to extremely hot and biting cold. “While the temperature at the borders of the South is at least bearable, the weather at the borders of Gujarat (Rann of Kutch), Punjab, Wagah border with Pakistan, and Longewala is extreme and hovers above 41 degrees Celsius sweltering heat. I hit Leh after Punjab which was minus 11 degrees Celsius and snowed heavily. Due to snowfall, I could not go to Nubra Valley and returned to Srinagar and came to Pathankot and entered Bareilly in UP,” he exclaims.
From UP, he moved to Sikkim and covered West Sikkim and North Sikkim as there is China border on both sides. “I entered Arunachal Pradesh and again hit the China border Bum La Pass and reached Zero Point (China border). I later entered West Bengal and one night, the carrier of my bike was cut on the highway. It was dark and I had a contact in Kolkata. He connected me to the Biker Club in a nearby town. I was asked to come to 17 kms and somehow, I reached where they fixed the carrier and welded the metal,” he discloses.
Strong biker community in N-E
The biker community in North-East is aggressive. “Our Biking Clubs can in no way match their united spirit. Notably, all are very helpful and kind-hearted. From West Bengal, I entered Assam and reached the West Bengal border and reached Nagaland where I got the contact of a Royal Enfield Bullet Club. They waited for me on the road in the middle of the night, booked a hotel room and brought food from their homes,” he reveals.
“They drew another route with all the guiding points as most of the areas in the Seven Sisters States are under the control of the Indian Army. And some of the areas had impenetrable and dangerous jungles. They contacted other Bike Clubs to give me new routing. As a result, my border travel was reduced by 1,000 kilometres,” Sandeep says.
Harsh ride for six days
The entire North-East is seeing unprecedented development and he had to face a tough time riding for over six days as he had to travel in dry areas where rocks were being cut. “My bike had to bear a lot of pressure and I had carried some spare parts that weighed over 250 kgs. Usually, I prefer touring in peak monsoon as I love nature and nature will be at its best in monsoon. I avoid dry off-roading. Here, I used all my skills learnt over the years to navigate the hostile road,” he says.
Sandeep later entered the Odisha Highway and the right-side shock absorber got cut and Odisha (Bhubaneswar) was 260 kms from that place. I reached Kharagpur and got a contact of another mechanic at Bhubaneswar and somehow managed to travel 260 kilometres and it was a Highway. The mechanic was a 70-year-old person and he felt very happy to see me, my bike and my adventure. He changed both the shock absorbers as the left side shock absorber too was on the verge of getting cut,” he reveals.
Overnight journey of 1,064 kms
Next Sandeep crossed Andhra Pradesh and reached Chennai in an overnight journey and covered 1,064 kilometres. “When sleep pulled me, I stopped on the Highway for tea and continued. I reached Mahabalipuram and rested for 2 days and came to Danushkodi, Rameswaram and covered Kanyakumari,” he says.
He entered Kochi and reached Kannur on Nov. 24, ending his 58-day solo bike ride. He then entered Kodagu and reached Bengaluru via Mysuru. On his food and accommodation arrangements, Sandeep says that the west coast was not pleasing in terms of food and it was expensive. “I used to avoid oily and non-vegetarian food. Water in the North-East was the best as it came from mineral-rich natural springs by the side of the roads,” he reveals.
“I preferred hot and fresh-cooked food with locally grown vegetables. I stayed at budget hotels where there is space for bike parking. On many highways, I stayed at dhabas in the rope beds and I also carried a sleeping bag. I stayed outside dhabas at places in Rajasthan, Jammu, Nagaland, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh,” he says.
Sandeep has been an aggressive roadie for 22 years. “I prefer monsoon biking. It is an exhilarating experience with a lush green forest and with cloud movement. It is like indulging with the nature — risky but worth the effort,” he says.
Fuel mixing only possible in Yezdi
At Rann of Kutch, Sandeep had fuel to last 250 kms and he missed a road to travel 45 kms extra. “I had to go back and I had wasted 90 kms of fuel while entering Punjab. I had another 38 kms to reach the nearest petrol station. It was just one straight road and salt lakes on both sides — neither a soul nor a shop. I did not have fuel for 18 kms. Fortunately, I met a Sardarji truck driver and requested for diesel,” Sandeep recounts.
“The Sardarji gladly gave me half a litre and I mixed the fuel. When I reached the nearest fuel station, I just had 100 grams of fuel. Only a Yezdi Roadking can take mixed fuel. If it was any other four-stroke vehicle, I would have suffered in a deserted Highway,” he says.
Looking back, Sandeep says that his pride in his Yezdi has increased manifold. “I am ready to travel even one lakh kilometres now and I am sure that my bike will withstand this,” he says.
Sandeep lives in Bengaluru with his wife Hamsa Bhargavi, who works for Biocon. They have a daughter Keerthana, a sixth standard student.