I love Goa, which I call a “State of Mind” rather than a mere state. And I love riding and driving on Goa’s roads. I have ridden everything, from Yamaha RX 100s to Enfield LB500s, on Goan roads and have driven an assortment of cars, ranging from Hyundai Elantras to San Storm convertibles. But if the 600 km drive to Goa from Mumbai or the distance from any other town proves a bit much to drive, then you can opt to get your set of wheels in the holiday heaven of India.
Goa is the Honda Activa capital of the whole world. Life revolves around the little runabout in the erstwhile Portuguese colony. It is used by fishermen, office goers, children in uniform, women – old and young - and of course, tourists. I briefly talked to Melvin who handed me the key to a blue Activa with a black-and-yellow ‘taxi’ plate against the lean season rent of Rs 150 a day. “It used to be the Kinetic Honda before and now it is the Activa and the Dio (the sportier version of more or less the same scooter) that moves Goa.” It is effortless to ride with no gears to deal with, both brakes are on handlebars and it is economical too. Activas return 45-50 kpl if you are not bent on ripping it in a Baga-Aguada Grand Prix. And rip they do, the local boys who play agents or at times are proud owners of these little devices. “During the peak season, the rentals touch Rs 500 a day,” but most foreign tourists strike a hard bargain and get them for longer periods.
Also getting popular in the tourist ride trade is the new Yamaha FZ-16. Almost every one features bright sticker work. Boys wearing Messi and Lampard t-shirts blast across the streets with tampered exhausts that still struggle to meet the good old Yamaha RX 100 that the FZ has replaced. There are the occasional Bajaj Pulsars, but the radical looks and big fat rear rubber of the FZ seem to be a runaway winner with Goans and the tourists alike.
Another motorcycle that is doing reasonably well is the Bajaj Avenger – so what if the engine displaces only 200 cc, you get the Arnie on Fat Boy looks at a bargain rental price. This little cruiser is comfortable to ride and a great machine to explore the long and winding roads in South Goa.
Of course, the shark in the Goan two-wheeler food chain is the Royal Enfield. I was stunned to see the variety on offer – with chrome, all black, with pannier, chopper jobs, immaculate stock, just wide handlebars, proper Harley wannabes…you name it, there is an Enfield to suit everyone out there. Savio, the big burly guy who gave me a self-driven Hyundai Santro for Rs 1500 a day, rides an Enfield. “My bike is special, but even that is available for rent”, he beamed! It cost anywhere from Rs 300 a day for a basic model to a whopping Rs 600 a day for the LB 500 or a spanking new Classic 500.
During my stay I found an example of the Rajdoot GTS 175, or the ‘Bobby bike’ and of course its elder sister, the RD 175 with a DKW-derived ‘Earl’s fork’ that used to be the staple diet for two-wheeler taxis in Goa. There is a nice sprinkling of open top Gypsys and Jeep clones to add to the charm too. But Honda, take a bow - the Activa is what Goans are swearing by these days! Twist and go and hit the beach of your choice or hunt down that elusive blues and jazz restaurant.