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Bicycling across India… Schwinn II

My bicycle

There are planes (too expensive), trains (ticket hassles, scheduling hassles, expensive for the tourist classes, not too bad second class but still not comfortable, random schedules), buses (I hate all forms of bus travel), taxis (evil), boats (limited destinations) and then there is walking (too lazy). So what option is there? Bicycling. Good old two wheel transportation. Cruising along at your own pace, leave when you want to leave, stop when you want to stop, fresh air, beautiful scenery. The roads are all fairly well maintained and being on two wheels you are more capable to miss the potholes.

So, let me introduce you to my new bicycle. Schwinn II. Schwinn II replaces Schwinn I which was my rock steady baby which helped me to crank up all the hills and mountains of the Northern California circuit. It is now stored at my parents house waiting for my return. I caught a lot of shit for riding a Schwinn as they are really known as those big beach cruisers and kids bikes. Oh well, once you go Schwinn, there’s no going back. Schwinn II is a 1996 350cc single cylinder bicycle cranking out some really cool sounding putt putt horsepower. The design is the same as the original 1940’s British machine that started it all. It is a mechanics dream as it as basic as you can get a bicycle. With a ten piece tool set you can pretty much rebuild the whole bike. I bought it from a Dutch guy who had it set up and kitted out in Delhi by one of the best shops in India. I ended up paying $38,000 Rps for it after getting all new tires, battery, cables, and tune up. I added a nice saddle bag set because those bar racks throw off the lines. It’s been a great addition to my arsenal of toys as I am a hobby mechanic who is really good at fixing things. I went through the wiring and got all the lights working properly and installed compartment locks. A good wash job and baby was ready to roll. The price is a bit higher, but it was the only bike that I liked. It has a look of old school, but it still has clean lines and my favorite bike colors, silver and chrome.

Above occurred a month ago so I have been peddling around a while. I figured that if there was going to be any problems it would happen in the first week or two so I didn’t want to get anybody stressed out. It’s all been working seamlessly mechanically. The only catch is that there is no insurance paperwork so I am not allowed to buy the mandatory third party insurance because there is no insurance history as the prior guy didn’t buy any. It is actually pretty common here to ditch the formalities. The other issue is that I don’t have my current drivers license. I am not sure where it is. I have a picture of it on my computer so I had it at one point, so I have no clue where it is. Luckily I have my old license which expired in 2004. The issues with the license and insurance are my only stress point. It is actually a very standard issue with all foreign bicyclists because the police are very corrupt here and they will find something wrong just so they can fine you. That is why many people forego the paperwork. How do you get around this issue with the police? You don’t stop. That’s it, you just keep on going. They wave you gun it. That has been the SOP so far. When I spot a check point ahead, I wait for a car or truck preferable to come up then I swing to the opposite side of them and cruise on past. Most of the time it is just whistles and clip boards flailing, but with your eyes front, you just keep on chugging along. Nothing is easy.

Bicycling has made touring around so much better. The freedom is outstanding as I go when I want to go, stop when I want to stop, and can detour anywhere that I want. It also matches my traveling speed as I am still not interested in going long distances, so eliminating the hassles of getting transport, my on the road time is half. Also, when you arrive at a new destination, finding a place to stay is a breeze as I can check out all the places that I want without humping around with my pack. Usually, once you get off the bus, you are hot, dirty, and just wasted. The last thing you want to do is wander around lost trying to find a place to drop your bags and get situated. Screw that, I have done my rough traveling, and this is just perfect to get my traveling mojo back. Freedom.

In regards to safety, well, it could be safer in India. Standing on the sidelines it looks a bit scary. Seeing all the foreign tourists with bandaged knees, elbows, and faces, you would assume it is a path for destruction. Once you get into the flow of things you realize that there is a system to the madness. First, take your time. Second, go with the flow. Don’t worry so much about what is going around you as you do in front. The standard rule is that you maneuver based on what is happening in front of you. The people behind you make their moves based on what you are doing in front of them. Third, honk like you have never honked before. Honking is just a polite greeting that establishes contact and lets everyone know what you are doing without having to actually see you. Fourth, animals also just go with the flow even though there flow is not actually the same flow as the humans. Animals have learned to move in slow motion so that humans can factor them into the whole plan. They don’t even acknowledge vehicles, so you just have to react based on that. I have been stuck behind elephants, buffalo, cows, pigs, dogs, cats, and even a squirrel. Fifth, keep your head on straight. I think a lot of people get into accidents because they lost focus. Start day dreaming or getting lazy and wham your hamburger. Me, I sing the theme to the Love Boat. That keeps my stress level down and helps me to stay focused. Last, I am a cruiser. No need for speed as I have been there and done that. Getting there is three quarters of the fun, so why blast by it.

Code words so it doesn’t worry my mom.
Schwinn II = Royal Enfield Bullet Motorcycle
Bicycle = Motorcycle
Bicycling = Motorcycling

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3 responses to “Bicycling across India… Schwinn II”

  1. Judy says:

    Your Schwinn looks great. I can just envision you on it! I know what you mean by “freedom”. We loved our camper in AK. Will be going back in just a couple days for the whole different scene and temps! I caught a program on TV this AM about dogsledding~~got me reenthused but guess where it was!!!! Right in my back yard in northern Minnesota!! Couldn’t believe it~~I never knew they were doing that and I guess my family doesn’t either. Oh well, if I go for it, I’ll go back there next year. Sure will save me alot of moolah!

    As always, it’s good to keep up with you. I’ll let you know about the AK adventure. The best to you, judy

  2. Jessica says:

    I really liked the way they came off

  3. Immanuel says:

    Hi ,

    Liked your Article , Great way to explore! You got a dinosuar to ride 🙂 mine is also similar one. I just love to ride to hear the thumper ! I have my Bullet uploaded in flick.Hope that makes u smile 🙂
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/46514948@N02/4272263113/in/set-72157623080919421/

    Cheers
    Immanuel

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