Posted by Philip Smith
Smithy is a Rotarian and a member of the Rotary Club of Crows Nest, and he rides a BMW R1200RT LC, and has ridden across the USA, and Route 66, and circumnavigated Australia on the Coast Road.  He is also a member and the Secretary of the International Fellowship of Motorcycling Rotarians (IFMR).  This is his experience in India, in April 2018;
India is inviting yes?  I saw the ‘Ride for Rotary2’ highlighted on the IFMR website and a visit to the ‘Ride for Rotary2’ website made you read every word, it was very well produced.  A ride of 1,500 kilometres in the south east of India on a Royal Enfield 500cc motorcycle.  The wife said, “Go, what an amazing opportunity!!”
I got enthused and applied on line.   Fellow IFMR member Colin, from Rutherglen, Vic, also signed on, and at the finish, I was mighty glad to have a friend accompany me on the ride.  The cost was US$3,000, yes, a lot of money.  But the project was fund raising for the Rotary Foundation so being a Rotarian, the cost was accepted.  The cost covered, hire of the bike, fuel, all food and accommodation.  All we had to do was fund our airfare, and alcohol throughout the ride, ie beer, when we could find it!   Flights were booked with Singapore Airlines out of Sydney and into the city of Bengalore, India. 
I have since learned that northern India is more affluent than southern India, and when I arrived, it showed.  Naïve as I was, what hit me was the vast number of people, and the traffic is so busy, I wondered how it ever moves! 
I quickly learned that there are no road rules, except driving on the left.  When I did come across a traffic light, which were few and far between, most drivers stopped, but not all.  The condition of the roads in southern India are not even on a comparison with Australian roads.  What Australians call terrible roads with pot holes etc, can be called ‘excellent roads’ in India.  Thank goodness I took my Air Hawk blowup seat!  Although a lot of the time I was standing on my pegs just driving down the road. 
I was a combination ride, ie, avoiding the stray dogs, hundreds of them, stray cows (holy protected animals!) pedestrians, who didn’t appear to have any value for their lives, drivers who had no idea of road rules as we know them, road humps every 2 kilometres or so, and pot holes that you wondered how you ever remained on the bike afterwards.
I booked into a 4 star hotel in the centre of Bengalore for a couple of days rest from jet lag, and another in Mysore, where I met up with two other international riders, both Rotarians, one from England and the other from Venice, Italy.  The organisers of Ride for Rotary2 picked us up in a mini van and drove us to another hotel to start the ride with the other participants.  
That evening the seven Internationals and two Indian riders, were briefed by the Leader, and were given, to keep, outfits of jackets, gloves and plastic strap-on leggings, full leggings, and we were asked to select the helmet and bike we would like to ride.   However, I always take all my own bike gear when I go overseas, I get on the plane dressed in jacket, boots and carrying my helmet, with wet weather gear, dragging jeans and gloves etc in your suitcase.   Regardless of the bike you hire, or the country you ride in, you always feel comfortable dressed in your own gear. 
At the briefing, we were also unexpectedly presented with a two page disclaimer document which we were asked to sign, which overall exempted the organisers and the supplier of the bikes, from any claim what so ever imagined!  After much discussion, many of us refused to sign it.  When introduced to the bikes, we found them to be a mixture of allsorts of bikes, both road and off-road bikes, that were other than new, and only two were Royal Enfield road bikes.
That night the general standard of the hotel fell short of what most internationals call acceptable.  And the ongoing hotel standards continued to fall throughout the ride.  On top of that, on the first night we were asked to share a room with another rider.  After discussion, most of us paid extra to get a separate room.
Now I’m not knocking the overall premise that this was a fund raiser for Rotary International, but after paying such a lot of money, it was expected we would stay in at least 3 star hotels and the bikes would be new or fairly new.
The Royal Enfield road bike I selected, had been around the clock many times and on day one, I had to mention to the mechanic (who came with the support vehicle), that the clutch was slipping.  He adjusted it and assured me it was now all good, but afterwards, it slipped and shot out of gear whenever I hit a large pot hole, which was most disconcerting.  It was difficult to communicate with the mechanic so I learnt to put up with the gear slips.
Unbelievably, at every stop, including fuel stops, the local Rotary Club was there to meet you! Rotary is very big in India!  Refuelling was a photo opportunity for every Indian, regardless of being a Rotarian or not. This resulted in huge loses of time.  But, that was what we were there for, and we all enjoyed meeting the local Rotarians. 
Lunches were a feast of presentations to the Ride’s organisers and endless speeches, most of which were in a non-understandable local dialect, which really got on your nerves, as their first language is English!
The roads during the ride were in extremely bad condition and the traffic was full on, which made progress very slow.  On one day we covered 150 kilometres and it took 6 hours.  For a week we had a heatwave with 41C each day, which was a bit overwhelming for some riders, not for the two Australians.
The good thing about the ride, and there were some, was mainly the camaraderie between the participants.  We all laughed off the Rotary presentations and bikes that needed mechanically attention throughout the ride and we shared a beer when we could get it.  The Indian participant from northern India, Arun, was a great help, interpreting, and explaining the food, local customs etc.  Without him the ride would have been a chore.  We all became great friends with him.
The unexpected low standard of accommodation was unacceptable to some participants who on occasion, insisted they be taken to a proper 3 star hotel, and for which they paid extra.
So all in all, the ride was an experience, but the thought given to managing the International Riders, lacked any appreciation of what was expected.  So if you feel you would like to participate next year, in Ride for Rotary3, expect to suffer inadequate accommodation and bikes that have seen better days.  Shame really, they could do so much with the appeal of visiting India. 
Whats the key message? ‘beware of the unknown, well advertised organised motorcycle tour’,