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Riding free and breaking stereotypes

To say ‘women break into yet another male bastion’ is a rather cliché statement nowadays. However, some niches of mainstream society such as bike riding are still male-dominated.

chandigarh Updated: Jan 28, 2015 20:52 IST
Ayushi Goyal and Varun Sharma
Ayushi Goyal and Varun Sharma
Hindustan Times
Riding,women bikers,Nambia High Commission

To say ‘women break into yet another male bastion’ is a rather cliché statement nowadays. However, some niches of mainstream society such as bike riding are still male-dominated. So much so that men consider their bikes as a female counterpart with statement such as “she roars like a beast, man!” female bikers were always relegated to soft feminine looking autogear scooters that were slower. But the truth is that a lot of women today have taken to bike riding.

HT City spoke to a few such women who were at Kikar Lodge, Ropar, recently to be a part of the Rider Mania, held by the Brotherhood of Bulleteers Motorcycling Consortium (BOBMC) community. It is the annual gathering of Indian Royal Enfield motorcycle owners every year to commemorate the spirit of motorcycling. Over 64 woman riders from not only India, but Nepal and Bhutan as well took part in the bike summit that was organised for the first time ever at such a large scale in Punjab.

In the name of fun and frolic

“I started riding at the age of 16 with 200cc bikes and finally found my love for the bullet,” says Hyderabad-based Sheetal Iyer, 25. She has been riding for nine years now and is celebrating her 4th rider mania this year in Punjab, her first being in 2010. For someone who began riding out of curiosity as to why boys were so fascinated with this idea, Iyer is very optimistic about the future of women in this profession.

A proud member of the Highway Nawabs, she says, “A lot of women now are able to connect to riding and it feels amazing to see so many women riders here. You don’t need to worry because your male team members will always help and encourage you.” When asked about what riding meant to her, she said, “Everyone has a different philosophy. I ride for the sake of riding, I simply enjoy it. The idea of seeing new places, making new friends and having reunions with the old ones is just too exciting. It is a peaceful journey for me and helps break the monotony of our daily routines."

'Riding is the best teacher'

An associate manager at Royal Enfield, Chennai, Sara Kashyap, was the first female to be hired by the company. Originally from Chandigarh, Sara has now been riding for the past ten years. “Riding means freedom, strength; it makes you feel you can do anything in this world, be it cutting your hair. Height, weight or gender doesn’t hold as much importance for me any longer. I’ve lived for six years in England, and have ridden each and every model of Royal Enfield and almost every other bike. As a girl takes to riding, it also brings about a change in her mindset I feel. You don’t fear anything anymore,” said Kashyap.She maintained that it would take time for a larger population of women to develop an open-minded attitude. “If a male rider smiles at you when you are riding, he smiles because he’s happy to see a female rider, not because he wants to flirt. It’s just how you look at things.”

She rode all the way from Chennai to Ladakh and back to Chandigarh all alone without any team or spare tyre, and went to places like Khardung La, India’s northernmost airforce station. “The17-day journey with Hercules (her bike) helped me realise how our country is full of noble people. When your bike is broken in the middle of the road surrounded by woods and a group of drunk men stop to help you, or when a bold man from a dhaba helps you pitch your tent, your respect for India is bound to grow. It’s unfortunate that the media fails to highlight all this.”For Kashyap, riding is the best teacher. “One learns on-the-go depending on how one behaves in a stressful situation, when one is calm or any other such situations. The best conversations happen on motorcycles,” she said.

'Riding gives you a sense of freedom'

Elaine Frege (58) of Namibia works as a diplomat at the Nambia High Commission, New Delhi. An active rider of India Bull Riders, she has an experience of over 35 years in this field. She has covered many challenging routes including the north- east circuit, Ladhakh, Rann of Kutch, and recently, the 2800 km Goa coastal circuit in November on her Thunderbird 500 and Electra 350.“I ride to explore nature and I love travelling. It gives you a sense of freedom.. Riding brings brothers together. You learn cultures, cuisines, lifestyles, and form ceaseless friendships,” she said.

When asked if she felt comfortable in riding and living with her male counterparts considering she was the only female member of the club, she said there was no difference of gender in riding business. “I stay with them and have to deal with them on a daily basis. So, one ends up sharing a lot. In fact I feel safe with my fellow male riders. They accept you as you are no matter what,” said Elaine adding,“Women must try riding. If it works for them they may continue, and if not then they may leave it, but one must always try.”

An ever-growing passion

Pallavi Fauzdar (37), also the only female rider in her club, Free Souls Rider, Delhi, also covered long distance including Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Kashmir and Himachal on her bike ever since 1995. Although Fauzdar remains busy with her primary profession of jewellery designing and holistic healing, she makes it a point to take out time for riding which she describes has her “ever-growing passion”. She shared that she was very protective about her two bikes, the 1995 Electra and 2014 Avenger.

When asked to comment on the ingrained cliché about how bikes were for men only, she replied as to how that there was no longer a difference between men and women when it comes to pursuing one’s passion. “Women are competing in every field from engineering to sports, so why not biking. It’s only a matter of exposure and one’s mindset; every girl should try riding and explore the enjoyment and freedom that comes with it.”

First Published: Jan 28, 2015 19:14 IST