Rent, Buy, Buy-Back – And A Promise

To Rent Or Not To Rent, That Is The Question …

In India a visitor with a tourist visa can not register a vehicle. While it used to be common during past decades to just ride a bike without much attention to paperwork, that has changed in the last few years. Riding an unregistered or uninsured bike can get you in severe trouble these days, not to mention financial consequences in case of an accident. In this regard India has almost reached “western” standards.

So unless you have an Indian friend who registers the bike for you there are few options left. If you purchase a factory new bike some dealerships will register it for you in their name. This is not common as the dealer does take a risk, but it is done. The other option is to purchase a used bike from someone who agrees to a buy-back, meaning if you ever sell the bike you must then sell it back to him while the bike remains registered and insured in his name. While this is often presented as a great opportunity it has its drawbacks, one of which obviously is the limited room for negotiations when selling it back. But because the bike never legaly becomes property of the new owner it is also a matter of trust, particularily if the buyer plans to park it for extended periods before returning to India after a trip.
Parking fees range anywhere from zero (roadside parking, very risky and prone to theft, untimely rusting and general detoriation of the bike) to 1500 INR/month in a dry garage or storage room of some kind. Often long term deals can be made but nothing below 700 INR/month to our knowledge.

So “owning” a bike has its drawbacks. But of course in some really long term usage cases there is no other option at a reasonable price.
Rentals on the other hand have a whole lot of different drawbacks, and in actuality in the overwhelming number of cases.

We will only consider the Himalayan here as this bike needs particularly intense nursing and consider you to be a “lone rider”. For groups with support cars and technicians obviously other rules apply, that’s why Indians and generally people of the “hive mind” prefer them.

First and foremost there is the issue of how well the bike is maintained. Lets not beat around the bush, this bike has a shitty quality record.
To give you an idea I will mention only my own experience and only from our first two bikes:
The worst was the breaking of the timing chain at 25.000km resulting in a general overhaul of the engine. This chain should have been checked at each inspection but Indian service lacks the thoroughness we have grown to expect from western equivalents. This chain is due for change at 30.000km which also is often simply forgotten. Engine repair takes 4-6 weeks due to spares that need be ordered from the factory. Same for the frame which broke, it took 6 weeks for a replacement to arrive. Four (yes, 4) alternators in 25.000km, they are dead so often, all workshops have replacements. Broken swing arms used to be in the mix too, not so much anymore though, the new ones must be better.
Then there where three left switches (turn indicator and horn) and two right switches (starter and light). One rear suspension at 12.000km as well. One carburetor due to long term parking without clearing it out before parking the bike. Three or four full overhauls of the t-stem with associated bearings (now we have German made ones and it seems that fixed it).
Several left and right front turn indicators as they are prone to break off.
One instrument panel, the speedometer gave in at 20.000km.
Three batteries in a span of only 3 years.
One windshield which is prone to cracking after a while.
Of course on top of this is the regular scheduled maintenance and replacements like chain & sprockets, brake pads, spark-plugs, oil+filter, air filter, tyres and one damaged front wheel.

All of this is on you should you own the bike.
But it also goes to show how unrealistic it is to expect a rental – unless its sparkling new – to be anything but an unreliable means of transportation.
The Himalayan is just too expensive in maintenance and repair to be profitable if kept up in top condition in the current rental business price war. The adage “you get what you pay for” is very true in this case.

Whilst the group traveler can care less as any breakdown is fixed by the accompanying technician or a replacement bike from the truck is provided the lone rider has to really know what he is getting into.

That is where we come in.  It is our honor and privilege to only hand you a bike that is in its topmost possible condition – in many cases “better than new” as you won’t be able to get a factory new carburetor model in India anymore.

It is still a Himalayan, so we are there if anything goes wrong, but we give you the best possible pole position for your trip. That is a promise.

Gunnar Kossatz

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