In the fast lane: Meet Chandigarh’s feisty trailblazers on two wheels
Women bikers from the region are breaking gender stereotypes on the road.punjab Updated: Apr 21, 2018 13:03 IST
Riding burly bikes, going on adventure trips and competing in motorsports, women bikers are breaking gender stereotypes on the road.
Sarah Kashyap, 30, cross-country rallyist
There are lot of firsts when it comes to Sarah Kashyap. She is the only Indian woman biker to have finished all major cross country rallies in India and she’s acing the races when most of her male contemporaries are looking to hang up their boots. “My aim is to win the toughest rallies and be the first Indian woman biker get a podium finish,” says Kashyap. She’s not let her age or her petite frame get into the way of motor racing. This year she claimed the eighth position overall in ‘Desert Storm Rally’, one of the most challenging races in the desert. She was honoured with the Coup-de-dames trophy for being the only woman finisher in the gruelling event. “The terrain is really tough and challenging but I love it,” says Kashyap, an alumna of Government College for Girls, Sector 11, Chandigarh.
Interestingly, her love for riding a bike began when she was in college. “When other girls were riding automatic Kinetic scooters, I chose to ride a geared Chetak scooter. I just loved the fact that you get to run the machine,” chuckles Kashyap who first tried her hand riding a bike when her brother taunted her about her height and girls riding a bike. “Later he was the one who taught me how to ride a bike,” says Kashyap who now works with an automotive company and rides an imported KTM EXC 250 bike.
Passionate about biking, Kashyap feels she didn’t have any women bikers as role models when she took to motorsports. “I started competing only three years ago and there aren’t many women bikers. But there is a growing interest and I hope more women join in,” says Kashyap. Competing in a male dominated environment is not easy but this spirited bikers says it’s important to stay focussed and determined in the head. “I was the first to finish Raid-de-Himalaya in 2015,” says Sarah who finished the race with a broken collar bone. “I fell in the last leg but I was determined to finish and just rode despite the pain,” says Kashyap, who believes women are stronger and we bear much more pain than men on a daily basis.
Now Sarah dreams of finishing the Dakar Rally, the most prized off-road endurance event, in the future. “It is the toughest rally in the world and no Asian has ever participated in it. I hope to qualify for it and also finish it by 2020,” she declares.
Kiran Chahal, 33, mother and entrepreneur
There’s a unique relationship that Kiran Chahal has with her Royal Enfield Thunderbird. “Firstly, it’s a girl. So you will hear me address her as she,” says Chahal as she introduces us to her customised bike. One look at the pretty painted flowers and bubblegum pink hue and you can’t help but squeal – ‘so cute’. There’s a helmet to match too. “I spent many days in the motor market getting the look customised,” shares Chahal.
Mother to a six-year-old and wife of a Merchant Navy officer, Chahal is an entrepreneur herself and also owns a Harley Davidson bike. She credits her fauji genes to her loves for bikes. “I have been riding for over two decades now. In fact my Thunderbird bike is very popular,” Chahal smiles.
While she admits there aren’t many women bikers in the tricity, she does find that their number is increasing every year. “Riding a bike is one of the most fun things to do. You are at one with the surroundings. I love going for long drives,” says Chahal who rides solo too.
But safety is one of her top priorities. “As a woman on a bike on the road, you are always noticed and sometimes car drivers will try and bully you. But I have learnt that it’s best to stay alert, seek help if needed and avoid after dark rides.
Dr Nikita Reddy, 42, dentist
It’s hard to miss this affable doctor on the road. Togged in her biking gear, Dr Nikita Reddy rides the big machines and she does it in style. This dentist rarely misses her Sunday outings with the Chandigarh chapter of the Harley Davidson Group (HOG). “I have always been a passionate biker,” says Reddy. The 42-year-old dentist from Panchkula owns a Harley Davidson 750 and a Kawasaki Ninja superbike.
“I enjoy the thrill of riding a bike, not the attention. For me, it’s the perfect way to de-stress after a day’s work,” says Reddy. Going on long distance rides with fellow bikers is something she truly enjoys and wishes more women would join her. “The Harley Davidson group is a wonderful platform to connect and it’s always fun to ride in a group,” says the lady biker who first started riding a bike in college.
She steers the ‘Ladies of Harley’ wing in the tricity and feels nothing matches the “feeling of freedom” when riding a bike. “It also gives you a lot of confidence and since there aren’t many who take to it, there’s a novelty to it as well,” says Reddy who is looking forward to a long out-of-town trip soon. “Grab life by the handle bars,” she says before signing off.