Goa is the place to be in February 2013, a culmination of sorts for biker fever which seems to have hit the country hard. India Bike Week, to be held on February 2 and 3, promises to be the largest congregation of bikers, over 8,000, that India has ever seen in a celebration of the biker culture, a subculture of sorts that has never been truly acknowledged in India, until now, that is.
“There's going to be a lot of events, exhibitions and riding obviously, “ says Sheetal Iyer, consultant with 70 events Media Group in Mumbai and member of The Bikernis. “An exhibition of vintage models and customised bikes will be held. Also, three bike builders will be competing to win the title of the best-made bike.
It's going to be a blast and I can't wait!” she enthuses. People with 50cc bikes or 2000cc bikes are all welcome, she specifies.
In recent times, much greater awareness about biking has come with festivals, exhibitions, race tracks and endorsement of the sport by celebrities -like John Abraham, M.S. Dhoni and Gul Panag, all of which has led to many youngsters taking up professional racing. Many of them plan long road trips around the country.
Adventure junkies plan even longer trips and many perceive riding as a stress-buster.
It's not just cruisers, but even sports bikes have become a craze in the country. Bike enthusiast Bipin Kumar, roustabout at Greatship global offshore, has owned a Yamaha R1, a Suzuki GSXR 750 and now owns a Suzuki GSXR 1000.
Rajini Krishnan, inspired by Moto GP races, started racing on the roads before moving onto professional tracks. “A friend of mine introduced me to race on tracks and ever since I haven't been able to stop. I compete at an international level and was the runner-up at the Malaysian Super Series Championship 600cc category.
There are a lot more young enthusiasts who now want to take racing seriously. Celebrities like Dhoni are definitely an inspiration, now that he's even started his own race team MSD R-N Racing Team India,” says Rajini.
Amidst so much enthusiasm for riding sport bikes and despite the growing awareness of biking as a legitimate sport, the sad reality, as Bipin points out, is that “India lacks the infrastructure for riding these bikes. We're pretty frustrated with Indian roads, where we're a danger to everyone on the road -beggars, dogs, even cows! I prefer to get hurt than hurting someone else,” he says, “We really do need good racing circuits in the country.“
While professional racing is one aspect of it, the other is celebrating biker brotherhood with one-of-a kind festivals. Recently the Royal Enfield Rider Mania was held, again in Goa, from November 23 to 25. It had over 700 Royal Enfield enthusiasts participating in the festival that was packed with events, titled `Carry your Bike, `Cleanest Bike', `Beer Guzzling', `Dirt Track Races', `Figure 8', besides performances by besides performances by Shaa'ir n Func and The Raghu Dixit Project. “It's a great way of meeting other motorcyclist from across the country. The festival has been very well received and has stuck to its motto: The thump that binds, “says Sachin Chavan, General Manager, Product Development, Royal Enfield. ACTOR ABBAS, seen cruising along on his Harley Davidson recently, went on a trip from Chennai to Bhubaneswar and back.
“The rider culture in India has grown by leaps and bounds. When you're in college it gives you an adrenaline rush, but now biking helps calm me and sort out issues clocked up in my head. Biking is a community in itself and I'm very passionate about it. “ Not far behind too is the biker sisterhood! Who says only men look badass on those heavy hunks of machinery? Women too get their adrenaline rush from riding bikes, and The Bikernis, a national motorcycle club exclusively for women, founded by Urvashi Patole, Pune-based biker, has over 100 members. “We women don't just ride on Royal Enfields and Pulsars. We have many who ride 100cc bikes as well. We also teach newcomers, who are usually owners of non-geared scooters, how to ride motorcycles, “says Urvashi.
The group sure does prove wrong every stereotype about biking being a guy thing. “Obviously, we deal with quite an amount of sexism,” grants Sheetal, who is also a member, “But trust me, 90 per cent of people out there actually respect women in the rider's seat. I've personally received a lot of support from my co-bikers and clubs across the country.
It's been great. “
Last September, the group rode to Khardung La in Leh, Ladakh on a record setting journey. They were the first and largest group of female motorcyclists to reach the highest motorable road in the world. Chithra Priya, one of the bikers on the team, covered 1,600 km in 24 hours all by herself. “To me riding is like breathing, like yoga. It calms me and is highly addictive, “she says. “It lets me push myself to my limits. I absolutely love it. “
A professional racer, Chithra attended the Rider Mania festival. “We need more forums to talk about professional biking and showcase talent. India has one of the largest markets for bikes but it hasn't been explored enough, “she says.
If this were to be done, there'd be a market for biker fashion too, waiting to be mined. For its true, there’s nothing cooler than a biker sporting a leather jacket and that laid-back swagger.
For riders, whether they're cruising on their Enfield or zooming past on a Ducati, there's one thing they all share in common, passion. And looks like it's not dying down anytime soon. Actor Dino Morea, who's been a part of road trips, speed races and more, since his college days, thinks bikers are definitely tagged “cool“. “Initially, it was all about commuting, but now biking is definitely a fashion statement. It's always the rough and tough bad boys you see riding along on their heavy bikes. It's hard to separate the image of a biker from the leather jacket and the boots, so yeah; style is definitely connected to biking.”