Not many can say they’ve explored the width and breadth of India, as well as traveled to 33 more countries on two wheels with an engine roaring under your seat. That is what we call #Iamlivingit – living your passion to the extent that it becomes a priority in your life, just as it does for Rohit Upadhyay. A Software Engineer and a true Rider by the weekend, his story inspires everyone who loves biking. Rohit Upadhyay and our Co-founder at Livingit, Jasmeet Singh, exchanged a simple face to face interview for the #IamLivingit Series.
JS: Tell us about your journey. When and how did you start riding? Tell us about your first motorcycle?
Rohit: I started riding during my college days. My uncle gave me his scooter, a Bajaj Chetak, for commuting but I never had enough money to buy Petrol. So, riding used to be a rare affair back then. My addiction to riding started due to the fun factor involved in riding a motorcycle. I was untouched by the effect for the initial years, but when I bought an R15 everything changed for me. The 5 days of regular life were only bearable as the weekends were eagerly awaited as I couldn’t wait to be in the saddle and disappear. The only factor in which I struggled was ‘Money’. Around 6 years on the job and I never had enough money for the rides, there were occasions where I took a personal loan or loan on credit cards to go for a ride.
JS: Were you afraid of riding at first?
Rohit: I was afraid when I started riding my uncle’s scooter. When he gave his scooter to me I told him with utmost confidence that I knew how to ride a bike: that was a cold-blooded lie. I still remember an incident when I took the scooter to college for the first time. My friend Jassi asked me for a lift. The moment he sat down and I pulled the scooter into first gear, releasing the clutch, the scooter flipped 90 degrees and Jassi was all sitting on the parking lot.
JS: What would you have done differently back then?
Rohit: I should have understood the importance of riding gear. While riding, it’s your second skin; your second chance to live.
JS: People usually don’t immediately start doing ‘long rides’ when they get a bike. Did you get help from someone when you started riding?
Rohit: I’ve been very lucky in that aspect. More than a mentor I found good friends who not only taught me the nuances of the motorcycling world, but also guided me to be a better person and rider. I found these guys through the Xbhp forum, and since then they have become an integral part of my life supporting me, motivating me and inspiring me.
JS: You decided to start riding overland in other countries. Tell us more about it like – when, where and why did you start? What motivated you to do it?
Rohit: My first overland ride was to Nepal. Even though the landscapes are similar to India, there is definitely something different about it. People and empty roads were my first observation. That was where my curiosity took over and I wanted to explore distant lands, experience the difference we find across countries first hand.
JS: Where was your recent overland ride? And how did you decide to go via road on the bike?
Rohit: My recent overland ride was from Iran to the Isle of Man. The decision to embark on this road trip on a bike was pretty straight forward for me. I have traveled around places on other means of transport such as car, train, bus and ferry. But the excitement, adrenaline rush, adventure and experience for which our life exists…it only comes with two wheels and engine pumping in between your legs.
JS: Tell us about the bike(s) & gear that you used for your overland travel.
Rohit: I have used my KTM duke 390 on my most recent adventure. The Kawasaki ER5 and Honda CB500 were my earlier possessions with which I used to explore Nordic countries and Northern Europe. Travelling in Australia wasn’t an overland trip, but I used Hyosung GT250 there. My Gear includes: RevIt Textile Jacket, RevIt Mesh riding pants, Yoko riding gloves, Probiker Boots, HJC CS14 helmet
JS: The Isle of Man is one of a dream destination of every rider. How did you happen to ride there with your KTM and how did you plan it?
Rohit: After MotoGP, IOM TT is the next favorite thing for motorcyclists. While my plan included the UK and the Republic of Ireland, I wouldn’t have missed visiting this tiny island in between at any cost. The Isle of Man is well connected by ferry from England, you can easily get onboard with your bike from Liverpool or Heysham to Douglas in IOM.
While riding into another country the things that you must know are the speed limits, entry requirements for an Indian national, fuel availability, toll motorways, offline maps and documentation needed to ride a motorcycle in that country. I didn’t contact any individual on the planning part, but there are forums like HUBB and Advrider where you can get tons of information about route planning, safety updates and much more details from the overland motorcycle adventure perspective.
JS: What are the most common set of issues you encountered in all your overseas rides?
Rohit: Chain issues and Battery problems have been worst for me. Back in Australia, while I was returning from a ride from Sydney to Melbourne, the chain came off right in the middle of the motorway. I somehow managed to pull the bike onto the emergency lane without getting hurt. A similar problem happened in Switzerland where chain of my Honda CB500 broke into pieces 20 kms before Bern. That day was one of the most expensive day of my life where I ended up spending 1200 Euros in a single day.
JS: Tell us about your most memorable ride and memorable moment?
Rohit: It’s a difficult task to pick one as each ride has its own special place in your heart and head, connected with countless joyous memories and life lessons. To mention one, my solo ride to Spiti in April 2014 was one of the most challenging and memorable rides. After three failed attempts I was able to ride until Kibber with even while encountering a lot of snow and negative temperatures.
Of so many memorable moments, riding around the big fjords in Norway is one of my most cherished memories.
JS: What is one word of advice you wish someone had given to you much earlier in your offshore rides?
Rohit: During my trip from Iran to the UK, I spent a lot on sea shipping. Later someone told me that air cargo would have been comparatively cheaper and faster. I wish someone gave me that advice when it was needed.
JS: Is motorcycling a dangerous activity? Any bad experiences?
Rohit: Yes it is, irrespective of any country there lie many great dangers on the road where motorcyclists become victims of someone else’s mistake. I had few crashes on the road in my career of riding, some were my mistake, some due to mistake or others and some due to lack of alertness on either part. Sometimes it might just be bad luck. The important thing is recovering from all these with a lesson for rest of your life.
JS: Tell us about your work and what you do professionally, the other side of Rohit Upadhyay?
Rohit: I am a Software Engineer by profession, one of the most common and popular professions in India. I worked in Mainframe application development until they started moving things to newer and cheaper platforms. Have moved on to workload automation these days, but still, a software engineer or “Gadha Mazdoor” people like to call us.
JS: Has riding ever conflicted with your work?
Rohit: Yes, very much. There were many occasions where I wanted to ride out on a long weekend or during festival times but I couldn’t because there was some production release planned or support activity in place. But, you don’t have much choice; this is after all the work which fuels your passion.
JS: Has it helped you in your work life in any way?
Rohit: I would say yes and no. It helps clear your head after a long and tiring week at the office. A long ride helps you to regain confidence and makes you feel fresh, energetic and ready to deal with the same routine which the week ahead holds. However, professionally I’ve had moments where I wasn’t given a raise or bonus simply because I was taking too many leaves. I still remember when I went to Australia for official purposes and I was asked to provide a written notice that I won’t take much sick leave as I used to take in India.
JS: How have your colleagues reacted to your riding? What about your parents and friends? Did they support you in your decisions and how did you get them to say YES?
Rohit: Some of the colleagues who themselves love travelling do understand me, but most of them usually think it is a waste of time and money. My parents haven’t supported me much; I have to always lie to them about my plans just to make sure they don’t get worried. I told my parents I went for a backpacking trip when I took my bike around Europe. However, my brother has been very supportive and helping.
JS: What is the latest ride you’ve done? Share your experience with us?
Rohit: The latest ride I’ve done was to Sandakhpu, the highest point in west Bengal. It was a back-breaking experience where I rode about 24-30 km on a 4*4 road. Pretty sure other than trekking enthusiasts the road is only used by Land rovers from the British Era. I managed to break the rear suspension oil seal of my bike on that trip.
JS: Do you have any idols in RIDING who inspire you?
Rohit: Mr. Bharadwaj Dayala. He is the first Indian to complete a solo tour around the world on an Indian-made Karizma motorcycle.
JS: So you’ve been riding for quite some time, what excites you about riding even now? What keeps you going?
Rohit: The frequency has gone down a bit due to money matters, but it shall resume soon I promise. The “fun” factor of riding a motorcycle; the excitement of new experiences and happiness induced by thoughts of reaching out to distant dream lands.
JS: How much would you have spent on RIDING till now approximately?
Rohit: I can guarantee I could’ve bought a Mercedes for that amount.
JS: What are your favorite events around RIDING that you cannot miss?
Rohit: The Motorcycle Travelers Meet.
JS: So do you feel you’ve achieved a lot from riding? What is coming next? How long do you see yourself continue to ride?
Rohit: I haven’t achieved or accomplished anything yet. I am even not sure if I want to achieve or accomplish anything. All I want in this life is to be happy and do things which make me happy.
My next goal is to save money for a big adventure which will go all the way to New Zealand, Russia and Mongolia. Setting goals is not a fixed procedure; it evolves with time and situation. Some other rides which I want to do include Ride to Mongolia overland, Ride from Canada to South America and Ride to Road of Bones.
Riding is a lifetime thing for me. I will try to achieve my dreams as much as I can and as for the rest of those dreams…there is always a next life.
JS: You mentioned you like travelling/backpacking as well, what are you more likely to be doing in future (riding or backpacking)?
Rohit: Backpacking has its own fun moments, but nothing beats riding.
JS: Do you have any tips for people starting out?
Rohit: Wear safety gear, be alert, be focused, be fit and live by below lines. “Take a leap of faith, Forget all your sorrow, Never let this life pass us by, ride like there is no tomorrow.”
Here’s a short video of Rohit’s journey from India to UK on his KTM 390.