The Fat Biker -2

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Is the old world charm of aggressive engine braking under threat with all these new technologies coming in?

The December issue as the cover suggests has been a ‘clutch-less’ edition. In fact, it does not even carry Clutch Tales – our in house superhero comic strip! However all the scooters that we spent our last one month with gave me a big blow on my face and made me realise one, very very important necessity of my riding style…

I’m not a hardcore tourer. I prefer my odometer ticking by gobbling corners than munching highway miles. I like approaching a corner, optimally using a combination of engine and front braking, coasting through the corner before powering out of it. But as we took the scooters to Pune’s local ghats for a shoot, things went rather uncomfortable. One of the corners that I’m used to tackling at over 75km/h on most of the Indian bikes, suddenly turned out to be a nightmare even at 60km/h! Yes, it was on the Rodeo. Though I had applied the brakes and initiated the turn-in in good time, I did not get the same rev range, the braking feedback and the confidence that my beloved engine braking gives me! I lost the line and almost went down the valley. I put that scare behind my back and continued riding; but just couldn’t come to terms with those stupid drum brakes…

Then came along the clutch-lever-less wonder from TVS – the Jive. Amit was the first one to ride it, followed by Eshan. Both of them returned impressed. When it was my turn, things got scary yet again. Purring through the stop and go traffic, the bike felt like a dream with absolutely no dabbing of the clutch lever again and again. But the moment I got an empty stretch, my right hand ran wild as usual. But when it was time to slow down, there I was gunning for engine braking and ending up with a scary fish tail that almost had me kissing the tarmac. Why? Well, there was no clutch lever to help me apply the engine braking gradually, and believe me, it’s annoying…

It’s getting really hard to imagine riding hard without the presence of controllable engine braking. And if this issue was restricted only to these little scoots and commuter bikes, I wouldn’t be too worried. But it isn’t stopping there. The new VFR for example has hand switches for its gear selection instead of a conventional peg mounted shifter. How in the name of god do you bring engine braking into the picture? Guess they want you to rely solely on the ABS. These new breed of electric bikes, that threaten the future of IC engines, too don’t facilitate engine braking for there is an electric motor that will never return the kind of feedback that we are used to already. I’m elated the FIM is not supporting these ‘galvanic monsters’ anymore as far as mainstream racing is concerned.

Why do we need these auto g’boxes anyway? They are either for the unfortunate kids who are legally not allowed to perch their arse on a motorcycle or for the totally lame riders who are afraid of manual transmissions or hardcore sport riding! My dear bike manufacturers, please don’t fall for these automatic gearbox hugging worms; don’t take away the charm of the clutch lever and the toe shifter; don’t take away the engine braking from us…please…please…please…

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