A primary teacher with a passion for his two wheels, Narender Kumar Gautam has carved his unique identity into the Indian riding scene by setting out and testing the limits of not a powerful motorcycle, but his trusted and simple scooter. Comfortable with his Stepney and easily understood, hence repairable, engine in case of emergencies, Narender challenges himself looking to conquer any and all terrains. Continuing with the #IamLivingit Series, where we interact with people who live their passions, Rachana from Livingit connected with Narender Kumar Gautam who has been visiting Ladakh every year since 2011. An avid scooter enthusiast and photographer, he is passionate about his rides and loves his unusually simple set of wheels!
We’ve got stories on more riders too! Twist the Throttle with Sigmund Quadros and A Software Engineer by Profession, a Rider by Passion – Rohit Upadhyay.
RJ: What inspired you to take up a long distance ride on two wheels?
Narender: I once saw a travelogue on a travel forum where a group of 2-3 guys was riding scooters in Spiti valley, with a Scorpio as a backup vehicle. I was very thrilled to see scooters in the tough terrain of Spiti. That scooter travelogue encouraged and inspired me to travel on my two wheels. Within five minutes of reading that travelogue, I decided to ride my scooter to the high mountains and use it for long term touring. I did not look back after that episode.
RJ: Why did you choose your scooter as your mode of transport?
Narender: My scooter has a Stepney (a spare tire) and it has a very simple engine which I understand and hence I can do most of the repairs. It is a lightweight scooter with a fast pick up due to its small tires and it protects my legs from winds. I feel comfortable and secure with my scooter as I understand it. These are few factors which made me choose my scooter as my mode of transport. Lastly, it also gives me a unique identity among two-wheeler riders of which 99.9 percent are bikers.
RJ: When did you start riding a scooter?
Narender: I taught myself the nuance of riding a scooter when I was in 11th standard.
RJ: What is your best memory related to your scooter?
Narender: My best memory on my scooter is when I scaled 18,953 feet altitude on a mountain pass – Marsimik La in Ladakh in June 2016. No scooter has ever reached such heights. Riding my scooter to this high pass was my long pending dream which I realized in June 2016. Marsimik La pass is located very near to the border of China border at the same time it is only 42 kilometers from Pangong Lake in Ladakh. It’s a very steep road, totally broken and unmarked. When I finally reached the pass, I was all alone. Fast cold winds were blowing and it was goosebumps moment for me. I offered my prayers in a small temple at the pass and thanked God for this. Marsimik La Pass in Ladakh is the best memory for me so far.
RJ: When and where to was your first journey on a scooter?
Narender : My debut scooter ride was in March 2011 when I had ridden solo on my Bajaj Bravo scooter to Winter Spiti Valley. That Winter Spiti Valley ride gave me lots of confidence and faith in a scooter’s ability.
RJ: How do you plan your route for your scooter trips?
Narender: I usually include a new route every time I plan a ride. Generally, I include tough and less visited routes for bringing forth that challenge to inspire other people. In 2011, I planned my trip to Winter Spiti Valley. In 2012, I planned a less visited, off road, remote region of Suru-Zanskar valley in also in Ladakh. In 2013, I planned again a different route of reaching Ladakh via Batalik region. The Batalik region is close to the Pakistan border and was the epicenter of the 1999 Kargil war.
In 2014, I planned for the Umba La pass in Ladakh which is exceptionally remote, only a handful of people have been to Umba La Pass. The Umba La pass starts at Drass town and ends at Sankoo village in Suru Valley, Ladakh. Also in 2014, I explored the complete broken route of Agham-Shyok. Agham-Shyok connects Nubra Valley to Pangong Lake directly and saves a day while riding. However, it’s a very treacherous road and I had to cross the raging Shyok river by pushing my scooter in the fast flowing cold water. My idea behind planning a route is to explore the unexplored, gather information and share it with others for exploring.
RJ: What are your essentials when packing for a journey on your scooter?
Narender: My essential list includes 2-3 spare tubes for the scooter, spare spark plugs, spare wires and cables, a spare electric coil, spare levers, a foot pump, a puncture kit, a medical kit, my asthma medicine, a toolbox, 1 Jerry can for extra petrol as well as my 3 DSLR cameras as Photography is something that I’m extremely fond of.
RJ: How do you manage with unpredictable weather?
Narender: Unpredictable weather is the biggest enemy for a two wheel rider. Rain, snowfall, storm and cold can actually make the ride very difficult; but at the end of the ride when you make it irrespective of all the difficulties, there is a different kind of happiness. I manage the weather by wearing good quality rain gears and planning my ride on a safe period when volatile weather chances are slim. However, I definitely keep myself prepared for all kind of hostile weather.
RJ: You’ve been to Ladakh every year since 2011. Why Ladakh?
Narender: Ladakh is my favorite destination any time I think of riding on my scooter. Ladakh offers tough roads, high passes, and unmatched beauty. My hunger for an adrenaline filled adventure along with photography are fulfilled in Ladakh, so I have been regularly going to Ladakh and exploring its every nook and corner.
RJ: Where else would you like to explore on your scooter?
Narender: I would love to ride my Scooter to Tibet, Mongolia, Karakoram Highway and Upper Mustang valley in Nepal.
RJ: Have you ever been stuck somewhere while riding? How did you overcome it?
Narender: After scaling Marsimik La pass in June 2016, my scooters electricals failed at 18,000 feet. Being stranded there could prove life threatening. Well, I couldn’t have done much at such a high altitude. I parked my scooter, filled my pockets with food, wore all my warm clothes and trekked down 5-6 kilometers to seek help from the locals. They helped me; loaded my scooter onto a truck and we got it down.
RJ: Any safety precautions that you follow while you’re riding?
Narender : I ride at a slow and steady pace. I always drive extreme left and make it a point to end my ride before dark.
RJ: What do you wish you had known before you went on your first scooter trip?
Narender : I wish I had known about finger numbing at minus degree temperatures on my first scooter trip. My fingers were burning like hell because I was not aware that I should be investing in good quality gloves against the cold.
RJ: What effects have the rides had on your life?
Narender: I feel confident and somehow I am content as a person now. The rides have made me mentally tough and increased my knowledge about mountains.
RJ: How do you balance your passion with your profession?
Narender: I am a government primary teacher by profession. My job gives me enough time for planning my ride without hampering my duties as a teacher. I always go on long rides during the summer vacation, winter vacations and autumn break when schools are closed. So, it is very easy for me to maintain my passion and my profession. I always feel blessed and lucky to be a teacher as my profession gives me plenty of time to pursue my passion and there is zero clash between two. Perks of being a primary teacher!
RJ: What are some tips you would give to new riders facing the Indian Highways?
Narender: My tips for newbies would be –
- Start your ride early in the morning so that you can enjoy the journey without rushing.
- Drink plenty of water during rides as it keeps your body hydrated and keeps one motivated.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Never over-speed and always wear protective gear.
A true passion for long distance touring isn’t put on hold when you feel you don’t have the right vehicle to drive. There is no right vehicle. A true passion overcomes these obstacles and becomes unique through our own creativity and dedication!
Just like Narender, you don’t need to follow a trend or the norm, you need to follow your passion. You can also follow him @transhimalayanscooterist