In the Limelight With Sagar Sheldekar: Living It Up Series

It started when I was just out of school.  My elder brother made me wear all the necessary safety gear and took me for a bike ride to Mahabaleshwar, a hill station near Pune.  Once we entered the ghat section, I was scared for my life as it was for the first time that I felt the footpegs being scraped on the tarmac.  It was a completely new experience for me.  Midway through the ride, I settled into a rhythm and by the time we rode down to the foothills, I was totally hooked! I loved the rush of adrenaline and craved to do it again.  As the younger sibling, I wanted to do it better than my brother and that is when it all started; the journey towards betterment.

But it was a long wait because my dad insisted that my first motorcycle had to be purchased from my own hard-earned money. So it wasn’t until I was 25, after saving up for two years at my first job, that I could make it happen. But after that, there was no looking back.  That is when the wait to enter the world of racing and motorcycling was finally over.

Favourite:

Helmet Brand – AGV pista GP RR
Race track – Mugello
Weekend riding road – Lavasa
Choice of music – Rock
Highway food – Butter chicken
Mountains for riding, beaches to relax
Motto – Keep pushing, never settle

Living It Up Series

In a world where people consume online content at an infinite scale per second, my dream was to create something which attracted worldwide recognition.  I was in the pursuit of creating content that could appeal to an international audience, in any given part of the world.

However, flooded with work and time commitments, I wasn’t able to find the time to grow as a rider.  I felt my life had stagnated.  Which is when I decided to explore the potential within me and create content which showcased what motorcycles are really capable of.  That is when I left Powerdrift and started to work on the ‘Living It Up’ Series.

Most Exciting Motorcycle destination you have ever ridden to?

It has to be Mugello in Italy.  I was super excited, as our organisation was one amongst just eight other publications in the world to be invited by a renowned OEM in the industry to ride their flagship machine of the time – The 1299 Superleggera.  That moment marked the realisation of the dream we had pursued, to put India on the world automotive map.  The way we were treated by the enterprise, along with the ride on that masterpiece of engineering was an experience which I will cherish for a lifetime to come and will no doubt take it back to my grave.

The most exciting destination you wish to ride to?

Although it sounds a bit surprising, it’s a fact that I haven’t ridden to Ladakh, yet.  Starting my career as an auto journalist, I always thought that I would get a chance to be a part of a team which will cover some of the numerous stories about the land of high passes, but somehow, it never happened.  Now, it dawned upon me that Ladakh isn’t the same as it was back in the day.  Hence, Spiti is where I plan to ride one day with close friends, to the middle of nowhere.

How do you manage family commitments and find the time to ride?

When I was working with Powerdrift, professionally and on paper, we were doing well.  Those were the times when we attended almost every event, as well as rides happening around the globe.  I would end up travelling a good 18-20 days in a month.  It is this living out of a suitcase which made me realise that my daughter was growing up very fast, and I was missing out on being around her during her formative years.  That thought got me thinking.  It started to eat me from the inside.

That is when I decided to work according to my own timeline; admitting to this and a lot of other factors, I resolved to start my own ‘Living It Up’ series.

My wife and parents are a big part of the support system, which I’m grateful to find at home.  It’s because of them I can find the time to do what is necessary on the field.

On the Road or Off the road? Why?

If I was asked this question a few years ago, my answer would’ve been, the mountains.  Now, it is the racetrack.  However, quite recently, I introduced myself to the joys of off-road riding. Adding to that, my wife has gifted me a Dual-Purpose motorcycle, so for sure, I’m going to be riding off the road for quite some time.  However, once this lockdown is behind us, the first thing I would love to do is hit the racetrack to blow away all the cobwebs and get back to pace.  Until the current situation improves, I’m going to be riding off road mostly.

Your favourite essentials on a motorcycle touring ride?

I prefer to travel light.  Other than the bare basics, I usually carry lot of protein bars and electrolyte solutions with me.  Apart from that, there are some essentials in my bag, considering the length of the journey.

Amongst many, some necessary accessories I would advise people to carry are:

  • Hydration pack
  • Tyre Pressure Gauge
  • Tool Kit
  • Puncture Kit
  • Right and Adequate Gear for the ride
  • Spare Cables (Clutch/Accelerator)

The best piece of advice you received about motorcycling?

Being surrounded by some true gems, I got my ‘advice’ by observing the people I looked up to, while they struggled, but continued towards excellence.  I have been extremely lucky to have observed some of the masters of the industry work their way through difficulties, towards greatness.  Being an auto journalist, I had the opportunity to interact with the best people in the industry, sometimes on a personal level.  Their passion was fuelled by their commitment and dedication towards their goals and by observing them closely is how I found the best advice I could ever ask for.

Nothing but your hard work and your determination towards achieving something will get you to the summit.  There’s no need for someone to come out and tell you something.  You only have to follow the ways of such people and then you would know what hard work looks like and how it pays off.

The most embarrassing moment around motorcycles?

Amongst many events, the one I still remember clearly is from the time when we used to ride a lot towards Lavasa.  It is a small lake city situated on the outskirts of Pune.  The road which winds up towards the place is probably one of the best roads befitted for riding motorcycles.

Not equipped with the best riding gear back then, I would use a skater’s knee and elbow guards to substitute for the appropriate riding gear I was yet to buy.  That ride turned out to be quite a surprise, one which would keep me in silent vein for days to come.  The newly-spread tarmac over the winding road at the foothills was something I hadn’t yet experienced.  Unaware of the new banking which took me by surprise, my bike and I were lying down on the road in no time after I entered that corner.  The tricky part came into play when I knew that I couldn’t share the incident at home, as my riding days had just begun.

I had to fix the bike before getting it back home.  Apart from that, I also had to act normal in the presence of my family, to avoid any doubts about me going through a crash.  My wife and I were sharing the apartment with my parents back then.  She used to do the dressing for my wounds in secret when no one would be around.  I had scraped off nearly four layers of my skin which took a considerable time to heal.  Those were difficult times.  I couldn’t sit normally as the injury was located below my spine, on the resting cushion of the body.  Thankfully, we pulled it off, but those were one of the most embarrassing days of my life.

What is your view on post-lockdown motorcycling with regards to social distancing and limited riding events?

Only time will tell us what to anticipate.  I think it will take at least 6 to 7 months for things to fall back in their place.  I don’t see most of the events happening this year for sure.  Hopefully, the authorities will come up with a vaccine soon and then maybe we can think about how things can go back to normal.

Apart from that, those riders who are planning to head out amidst these times, I would like to tell them to be very cautious while planning their rides.  Plan all your rides and study the map well before heading out to any destination.  All the hotels and roadside eateries are going to be closed.  It will be difficult for riders to carry every bit of what they need and there won’t be much room for even the slightest mistakes.  Even puncture repair shops might be closed on highways and in small hamlets, so plan well and be prepared on your journeys henceforth.

What is your creative process like towards visual content?

I didn’t want to participate in the rat race which everyone has been a part of in recent times.  For everyone else, it matters a lot whether who brings out the content first and who reviewed what first.  I always thought that the best way to review is by letting the bike talk for itself.  It is that time when you showcase what the machine is capable of doing and if you do that correctly, that is half the job done.  Which is why, instead of riding a motorcycle for one day and editing the content for five days, I believe in doing the exact opposite!

While creating content for ‘Living It Up’ series, I take the bike for a ride and understand what the bike can do and what it cannot.  I try to bond with the machine to an extent that I can tap into its full potential.  Once I’ve understood what that machine is capable of, we then move forward with the surrounding story.  After our direction is set, we plan for the best of the locations, and that is how we plan to get our money shots.  These money shots are the ones which leave an impression on our audience.

It might as well be a fact that our video comes out last, but my audience knows it is going to be well worth it.  It is because of this time that we spend with the motorcycle we can understand it better and deliver a comprehensive review of the machine in question.

One thumb rule you would recommend every biker to follow?

Prepare for the worst, considering that anything can go wrong on the forthcoming journey.  Inspect your bike thoroughly before any long tours.  Double-check if the bike is in a good state to measure the length of your ride back and forth.  Never undermine the value of riding gear while you are on the road.  Check for all the required road maps of locations to acquire the knowledge of places such as fuel pumps or hospitals on your route.

Also Read: Stunt Riding: What it Takes? An Aspiring Professional’s Guide

Your advice for riders and influencers:

One strong piece of advice is that don’t try to be just influencers.  Try to be Auto Journalists.  I would like to request the younger generation to follow a more technical approach towards motorcycling.  Develop your skills by attending professional riding school and race if you can, so you understand vehicles better and then give your opinions.  Your judgment matters a lot if you have a good number of audiences which you serve to.  Be wise and honest and thoroughly examine the vehicle or any kind of accessory in question before releasing your verdict.  Never give up on hard work as you have to realise that automotive journalism is a lot more than the glam show which happens on the screen.  You need to understand that there is a whole lot of work that happens behind the screen for an authentic review to reach the audience.  Try to improve your skills and try to be a better rider with time.  It is only then that you can test a vehicle to its full potential.

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