It had always been me and my bike and then one day it suddenly became my wife, our bike and I! I called her Specky… ah! No, not the bike, I mean my wife. The bike had no name but we loved it anyway. Specky gave bike riding a totally new meaning because she sat behind me observing, thinking, and when at home, reading about bikes.
‘Let’s go for a moonlight mile,’ she said one day as I came back from work.
I looked at her with a question that radiated through my quizzed pupils and she simply murmured, ‘Well, a moonlight mile is a short adventure with a lady friend away from home.’
I had always prided myself as having gone deeper into the dictionary than most of my friends and acquaintances but here was a term that I had not read anywhere. Expectedly, I was unsure about the correctness of the term until Specky handed me a few type-written pages with a list of words that was all Greek to me.
‘An interesting compilation of biker’s terms,’ she replied, and then added, ‘we love our bike, don’t we?’
Well, we weren’t like the typical American biker that I too had often read about in newspaper reports and some sundry article in some magazine and I told her so. But she insisted that ‘what you do’ must necessarily be accompanied by ‘what you know’ and I had no choice but to agree with her.
‘So does a moonlight mile necessarily have to be a ride in the night?’ I asked a bit apprehensively.
‘No,’ she replied, and went on quite confidently, ‘we will do a Delhi – Mussorie trip with a one night halt there. So a weekend with one leave will do.’
‘Great. Let’s go tomorrow.’
Thus began one of the greatest and the most memorable rides for the two of us. The ride began with an early morning rear wheel puncture even before we had touched the highway near Sahibabad. As we sat watching the road-side repairman do his job, Specky opened her back-pack and took out a sheaf of papers.
‘You want to read on the Number Theory on the highway,’ I asked with a smile.
‘What’s that?’ she pointed to my helmet, and had apparently no intention of replying to my punch.
‘My helmet,’ I said and pointing to hers, added, ‘And that’s your helmet!’
‘Well, bikers don’t call them helmets,’ she informed me, ‘it is a dome or a lid or a skid lid. And if it is one of those small beanie-styled ones, it is a brain bucket!’
‘Interesting,’ I said, ‘hey, why don’t you keep updating me on words from this list of yours during our ride. I’ll start talking like a pro-biker by the time we touch Dehradun.’
So there we were, our trip now poised to be laced with a lot of interesting words. The first one was fired at me even as we were about to resume our ride once the mechanic was done.
‘These mechanics over-charge!’
‘Yes, but real bikers call them wrenches, and remember that in future,’ she said, and then asked, ‘Bikers normally ride in groups, but we’re riding alone. You know there is a term for this too.’
‘Let me guess. Would that make me a lone wolf?’ I hazarded a guess. Specky patted my back and replied, ‘You are a good guesser because a lone wolf is indeed a biker with no club affiliation,’ and after a pause, resumed, ‘but we’re running 66 and it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that we’re riding incognito!’
‘With our full-face helmets we’re surely unrecognizable!’ I said and laughed out loud.
‘And probably end up with fanciful helmet heads by the time we reach anywhere,’ Specky added, ‘which means…’
‘I know that one,’ I interjected, ‘isn’t difficult to guess what a helmet head could mean.’
‘But you cannot even guess what the biker slang is for a rider who doesn’t wear one.’ I honestly tried to guess this one by coming out with terms like ‘cop favourite’, ‘wind lover’, and ‘hair care’, and was genuinely appreciative of the correct term for its deep insight, for one who doesn’t wear a helmet would be called an organ donor! Phew! That was a bull’s eye!!
As we sped through the truck- and bus-intensive highway crossing Meerut, Muzaffarnagar and Roorkee where the drive was, at times, rather chancy and full of surprising appearances of man, animal, and slow-moving vehicles, Specky was busy feeding me with juicy terminology that was full of biker-isms! When I was speeding, she said I was flying low, sections with a lot of turns were twisties, and a fast ride on these twisties was canyon carving! Surely there was no canyon carving on the flats here but would be there in the Dehradun – Mussorie stretch, I reminded her.
You be careful, this isn’t your backyard,’ was the sentence she spoke most often until I told her to stop and that I’d remember this forever. Obviously, a backyard is a stretch of road where you ride often… and the highway wasn’t my backyard!
And we loved our little adventure with the road-side vendors in the little villages that we passed as we rushed on this highway. We bought tree-fresh guavas from them and haggled for a yet lower price than the ridiculously low ones they quoted… and won! So we bought more guavas and distributed them among the little kids who were ogling at Specky in her tees and denim jeans!
It was near Roorkee where there were a lot of trucks rushing, that Specky fed me new terms related to it. Buffeting, which was all about the bothersome wind turbulence when following large vehicles and shimmying which was the wobble you feel on a bike at high speed!
It was at one of the dhaba-breaks we noticed a couple of Harley-Davidsons and this made Specky take out her sheaf of papers once again.
‘Let’s see how many of these parts we can identify on the bike.’
‘Sure,’ I said, ‘it’ll be like a spotting test that we had in the Bio lab at school.’
Yes, we could see the buckhorns that were a style of handlebars that pull back toward the rider. There were the Buddy Pegs or the foot-pegs for a passenger and the Sissy Bar or the high passenger back rest! Just then we heard a gruff voice right behind us, ‘You like bikes, eh?’
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘though we’re on that bike.’ I pointed to my bike which was a far cry from this very masculine Harley Davidson, and continued, ‘We love the feel of the ground rushing below us. And the collar flapping and punching some unheard message from the wind… and the treacherous swishes and zips of other vehicles passing by. And…’
‘It means you really like riding hard,’ he smiled at us, and added, ‘let’s sit and talk.’ And he then told us how much he missed his chopper or his customized motorcycle that had taken various forms through the years. ‘I’ve driven a crotch rocket and ‘ave hated ‘em,’ he said, and then seeing our puzzled look, added, ‘Ah! A sports bike. But I love dirt bikes, that are off-road monsters and even the street fighters that are styled with minimum accessories for street racing.’
‘You like my leathers here?’ he asked, showing us his riding armour.
‘Awesome,’ said Specky, ‘I’d love to wear this.’ And she did, walked a bit and still remembers the strong emotion that filled her during those few moments. Our new friend then told us that car drivers were called cagers in their lingo and those who had only a temporary interest in bikes were nicknamed posers.
‘And a tail gunner is the last rider in a group,’ added Specky excitedly. She had been reading a lot and found this a great opportunity to show off a bit of her interest and knowledge, and so continued, ‘And you never call a tattoo a tattoo but ink and the tattoo artist an ink slinger!’
This made our new biker friend laugh out loud and say, ‘Not that bikers are any different from any of us. They speak the same language as you or anyone else and eat the same food, love the same bands, go for movies, have families…’
He paused before he continued, ‘…and they ride always with the shiny side up and the rubber side down which read anyway means they ride safe! They too have road rashes and monkey butts and love to protect their bikes from the gremlins!’
‘I can understand what a road rash and a monkey butt could mean,’ I asked, ‘but what are gremlins?’
‘Actually nothing,’ he said, ‘they are little mythical creatures who the bikers love to blame for any mechanical problem… just like any of us!’
After a few more minutes of such bikey banter and an exchange of phone numbers he said, ‘Let me leave my mark here and blip the throttle. Have to reach Delhi in less than 3 hours if I want to complete my iron butt now!’ he left and Specky frantically searched for the mysterious words that he had spoken before leaving.
‘Found them all,’ she exclaimed, and explained, ‘leaving a mark indicates the oil puddle on the ground where you parked your bike and to blip the throttle is to simply accelerate fast.’
‘What about iron butt?’
‘Wow!’ she said, ‘this iron butt seems most interesting. Can you believe that it means completing 1000 miles in 24 hours!’ We were so impressed by this last term that we tried going faster than our usual speed and actually reached Mussorie in record time.
This bike ride was more than 20 years back and now that we have bought our own car, we go for long car drives… and no, we haven’t done the iron butt yet but the dream is still ON. Those bike lessons are still in the memory and now when I had to write about it for this contest on indiblogger, I thought it would be good to refresh some of those lovely terms and convert them all into a crossword.
So, here is a crossword dedicated to all the bike enthusiasts in the world!
Note: Every clue has the answer too hidden in the gap between the clue and the number of alphabets in the word. Just select that area and look at the answer.
Some of the words in the crossword can be found in the terms used in the post… but you’ll need to either be a real biker to know the rest OR simply find them in the various glossaries existing all over the net.
29 April 2012