Braving the blistering afternoon sun at Roaring Farm in Malad, perched under a massive umbrella, Rustom Kersi Patel, an eight-time National Dirt Biking Champion, watches his youngest pupil, a seven-year-old boy barely taller than the bike he sits on. Covered from head to toe in protective gear, Kersi’s protégé navigates the dusty obstacle course with remarkable gusto, kicking up a dust storm in his wake.
The low down
Dirt biking, a form of off-road bike racing, involves riding on non-metalled surfaces: think up-and-down tracks, mud, or rocks. Think Dadar flyover undergoing road repair during the rains. Or worse.
The advent of the sport in Mumbai dates back to the 1980s, when Brabourne Stadium in Churchgate played host to its first ever dirt-biking event. “When I started racing, we didn’t have any technical support. We wore shirts and jeans, and rode bikes that didn’t have suspension. This was before the internet, so we didn’t even have the luxury of ordering bikes and safety kits from abroad,” Patel recalls.
With nearly five motocross events now organised annually, it only speaks of the growing interest. “We have an increasing number of people enrolling for the event. Currently we have about 60 students, of which most are kids and young adults. As dirt-biking is a physically challenging sport, your age and fitness levels matter,” he adds.
While most bikers in the city train with the hope of pursuing the sport professionally, for others, it is an exhilarating hobby. “I recently returned from training in USA, and realised that even though we don’t have the same quality of bikes and equipment in the city, my biking buddies here share the same enthusiasm as those I met abroad,” says Donesh Joshi, a 23-year-old professional dirt-biker. Still a fledgling sport in the city, there are only a few places that offer facilities to learn it. “Barring the training schools, Mumbai doesn’t have venues for dirt-biking. So, we head to nearby hill stations like Lonavla and Panchgani for the right terrain,” he adds.
Dirt biking for women
If you think dirt-biking is strictly a testosterone-charged sport, Chetna Nagesh Pandit, an entry-level dirt biker proves otherwise. “Even though we are just a handful in the city, the sport is a great way to empower women. In my first race, people were stunned to see a skinny young woman furiously competing with over 100 male riders.”
How to get started with dirt biking
You need to be a decent biker at the very least before you enroll for motocross events.
It is also mandatory to buy a safety riding kit which includes a helmet (Rs 4,000 to Rs 35,000), boots (Rs 7,000 to Rs 40,000), knee and elbow guards (Rs 1,500 to Rs 15,000), goggles (Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000), gloves (Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000), chest protector (Rs 5, 000 to Rs 6,000) and specially designed biking clothes (Rs 8,500 to Rs 15,000). You cannot ride in your everyday clothes as they don’t provide padding for your safety.
— Inputs by Rustom Kersi Patel
Learning the ropes: Where to train
I-Land Racing Academy (Roaring Farm)
Where: Vaithy Farm, PathareWadi, Madh Road, Malwani Village, Malad West & 92210 56605
When: Group training sessions every weekend
Price: Rs 5,000 for group training/Rs 15,000 for individual training
I-Land Racing Academy (Wadala)
Where: Wadala IMAX, Bhakti Park, Inside Cricket Ground & 92210 56605
When: Group training sessions every weekend, timings for individual
sessions are flexible.
Price: Rs 5,000 for group training/ Rs 15,000 for individual training