Ajith Sudhakaran is a businessman who owns a resort near Kovalam beach at Trivandrum. He is an active member of HOG (Harley Owners Group) and is currently its treasurer. Ajith always finds time to quench his thirst for long distance trips. He owns Harley Davidson Street and Fatbob model bikes.
Which was your first ever long ride?
My first long ride was to Goa. It was back when I was in college. I had a Suzuki Samurai at that time and I took it on a 3-day trip to Goa.
When did you buy a Harley and become a HOG member?
It was in 2015. I bought my current bike, Harley Davidson Street. Becoming a Harley owner was my long-time ambition. I had worked in England for 6 years. It was from there this spark got into my mind - to buy a Harley. When I was at Lake Village, I saw a group of Harley riders - around 36 of them. That moment got etched into my mind. I got spellbound. Their riding gear and the posture while riding gave them a special charismatic aura. I feel there is a special kind of dignity while riding a prestigious bike like Harley. It was at that moment I decided that I want a Harley Davidson. I need one! But when I checked the price of those models I was shocked. 5 million Indian Rupees is far more than I expected and way beyond I could afford at that time. I was disappointed, but I had cherished that dream for years.
It was at that moment I decided that I want a Harley Davidson. I need one!
Wow! You were really passionate about buying a Harley. When did you make that dream come true?
After 9 years! When I was back in India, I noticed an ad in some travel magazine. I realized that Harley Davidson starting models are not that costly - much more affordable for me. I didn’t wait any further to buy one for myself. I became the proud owner of a Harley Davidson Street model bike! A dream that I carried with me for nearly a decade became true!
Did you go on long rides on your Harley?
Yes. I used to go on shorter trips earlier, to places like Valparai. Later, when I felt confident enough to go on long stretches of distance, I rode to Nepal and Bhutan. I took the path through India’s East coast. Staring from my hometown, I went via Chennai, Vizag, Puri, Kolkata and then to Nepal and Bhutan. I couldn’t travel to North-East India, but it’s on my bucket list. I am planning to do a Ladakh trip soon. But I might rent out a Royal Enfield from Manali and resume the trip on it to Ladakh. A Thailand-Malaysia trip is also being planned. I might take the path via Assam from where I can ride to Myanmar, then to Thailand and reach Malaysia. Recently, I went with my friends in HOG (Harley Owners Group) on a trip to Dhanushkodi. It was a 2-day trip that covered 800 kms. We usually go there from time to time and we even have a regular hangout place - a restaurant near Panagudi. We usually call the owner beforehand and he would arrange special tables and chairs for us friends to chill.
Find regular places to hangout on trips. You can get discounts and good service.
Do you prefer riding solo or with a group?
While I love to cruise long distances all by myself, the experience of riding with a group of friends is unmatched. We go on trips from our club - Travancore Knights. Becoming part of the HOG community is really special. There are a lot of passionate riders in our team. Getting new friends with similar interests is always great. There are people who are well knowledgeable about motorcycles and riding. I have learned a lot of new things from them. We also do many charitable activities like constructing houses for poor people and donating money to the ones in need. HOG community is a strong part of why I am proud to be a Harley owner.
Ajith with his Fatbob
Are there any rules or guidelines you follow within your team?
Yes, there are some rules we always follow. We give utmost importance to safety. I always tell the younger HOG members about how the ride should be for one’s own enjoyment, and not for the validation from others. It’s not a race, it’s a ride! I also insist on using all the safety gear and helmet while riding. We even have excluded some members from our club who disregarded these rules. We elder members are responsible for the safety of younger members. There are some riders who are just 18 years old. So they had a tendency to ride carelessly. So there has to be a strict code that should be followed.
Never ride without safety gear and helmet. Follow this rule even on smaller trips.
I always tell younger riders about how the ride should be for one’s own enjoyment, and not for the validation from others.
Have you made new friends on your travels?
Yes, I have made so many good friends while travelling. Most of them are really helpful, some even to an extent where they offer selfless effort in helping us. I once met with a minor accident on my way to Goa. My bike slipped while riding over gravel. I was riding at an angle when I lost my balance. Luckily, a group of riders who came after me noticed the accident and stopped to help. They were riders from Bangalore who rode luxury bikes like BMW and Ducati. All of them were doctors. They promptly helped me to get back on my feet and gave me first aid. One of them even checked out my bike and tried to repair it. I was really surprised by the effort they put into helping me, whom they just met.
Do you thoroughly plan your trips before you hit the road?
I usually make plans about the route, where to stay and where to hang out. It will be posted on our online chat groups to discuss with other riders. If anybody is interested to join, they will respond. Sometimes, plans will be changed to accommodate their convenience too. I usually rider faster and longer than most of my friends. But I usually adapt to the riding style of my co-riders. Coordination is the key while going on long rides. I prefer starting from 5 AM in the morning as I can cover as much distance as I can. I don’t ride much past sunset.
View from Danushkodi
How do you coordinate while riding as a group?
While riding in groups, we have a Captain in the front and a Sweeper in the back. Both of them will communicate via Bluetooth headsets. They should maintain a distance that’s within the range of the Bluetooth connectivity, normally around 2 kms. If the signal breaks, they will adjust the speed and distance to get back within the range. We follow this rule that each rider should be able to see the rider who tails him in the rearview mirror. We also use hand gestures to signal things like obstacles on the road, huge potholes, animals etc. This hand signal is passed along until it reaches the sweeper. Nobody should break this chain. During our Dhanushkodi trip, one inexperienced rider met with an accident when he failed to catch this signal and hit a cow on the road. He went into a state of shock for quite some time. Later he recovered without any injuries. I cannot stress this enough on how every rider should be vigilant of such things while travelling. Even a small obstacle can kill you while riding at more than 100 kms per hour.
Do you stick to a speed limit or cruise through at your own pace?
Again, it’s not a race but a ride! I occasionally ride fast, but abiding by the traffic rules. I was awarded a badge from the Motor Vehicle Department denoting that I’m a responsible rider. I usually pin it to my jacket while riding. So traffic police officers can see that I’m a recognized rider. This is particularly relevant since our roads are plagued with too many rash riders, especially from the younger crowd. They have no respect for traffic rules. When I ride, I often see many of them provoking me for a race. They also overtake me showing gestures as if they have beaten me in a race. I love blazing through highways, but I never do pointless speeding on the roads. At least think of the other drivers on the road. A mistake can harm not only you but also several others. I’m totally against such stupidities on roads. Also, Harley is not about speed. Harley bikes are cruisers. You can ride as long as you like without any back pain or such hassles. I didn’t feel any problems after completing my Nepal-Bhutan trip.
Always make sure that you have full riding gear and helmet while travelling.
If possible start riding as early as possible and reduce riding after sunset.
Get in touch with as many riders as you can, they can teach you a lot.
Always respect traffic rules and traffic police officers.
Never use the public road to show off your speed.
Make your own travelogues
Article Info & Credits
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- Interview byCharles Andrews