Inspired by her father, she is now India’s fastest female motorcycle racer and speeding up for more glory
Riding a motorcycle ain’t just a guy’s thing now. This has been proved time and again by women who are acing the two-wheeler over the years. From making cross-country trips to beating men on the road, Indian female bikers have come a long way and are inspiring every enthusiast along their journeys.
Their feats have been further multiplied by 27-year-old Kalyani Potekar, who now holds the record of being India’s fastest female motorcycle racer. She recently achieved the title with a record 2.08-minute lap on NCR’s Buddh International Circuit.
This is the second time Kalyani Potekar has made the record by beating her previous record of 2.16 minutes atop a Ducati Panigale V4 superbike, proving that her only competition is herself.
Life Beyond Numbers got in touch with the woman who literally talks to the wind.
Kalyani shares that she loved speed right from her childhood. She belongs to a royal family that has always been into adventure sports. They exposed her to several sports, from horse riding to paragliding, skiing, etc. And the racing was technically passed on to her by her dad, who practiced it back then. Mr. Potekar would take his daughter to the track while she was a baby, and she fell in love with what he did.
“The motorcycles, the racetrack, the speed; all of it was fascinating for me. At the age when other children were learning how to pedal on a bicycle, I was mounting heavy machines, to be precise as early as 9 years old,” says Kalyani.
“I started with dad’s RX100 even though my feet barely touched the ground. He sat behind me and taught me to use the gears and the clutch. It was fun,” she adds.
In fact, the first two-wheeler that she learned was the same bike. She learned the Scooty later on.
Yet Kalyani didn’t exactly make her mind to take up motorbike racing as a profession since there wasn’t much awareness, scope, or facility. But then one day it dawned upon her that this is it. And there was no stopping her.
“As I grew up, I realized this was something I wanted to do in life. And then I researched to find out where I could train and more about biking events. Gradually in 2017, I trained at California Superbike School, honing my skills further,” Kalyani Potekar informs.
Despite all the support from family and her training, she still had to face society’s bias. For decades, this has been a male-dominated sport. And Kalyani Potekar was tested and humiliated by men in the field who looked down upon her caliber.
“I wasn’t given an opportunity to ride a particular brand motorcycle by giving this vague reason that I’m too short to handle the bike as my feet barely reach the ground, even though I was able to manage and ride it well. A year later, the same person who said that clicked a selfie with me while I was riding the same bike. This is how people make judgments, and dominate,” she narrates.
It wasn’t just men. The hypocritical aunties too bothered her.
“One of the aunties went to the extent to tell me, ‘Itna petrol phook ke kya milta hai.. Kahi Naukri karle .. char paise kama’ (What do you get by spending so much on petrol? Go, get a job and earn some money’ ”, Potekar adds.
She triumphantly got over them all.
But then there’s the internet. Everyone has a say here and also the power to troll and demotivate. But Kalyani remains unwavering.
“Take their comments, step onto them and make your way ahead,” Kalyani advises with a smile.
Kalyani Potekar holds a lot of other records. She has ridden at Raid-de Himalaya, one of the world’s highest rally-raids, and the Indian National Racing Championship, an event backed by the country’s motorsport governing body Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI). She has also been recognized in the Outstanding Women in Motorsports category.
Kalyani has also represented India internationally, in Thailand and Taiwan.
But her favorite memory is that her debut race in 600cc in the JK Tyres Superbike Cup, where she competed alongside very experienced professionals with race prep motorcycles. She had a regular supersport bike and was the only woman yet she could beat the boys to come in at the top ten!
You go, girl! We hope that you keep on making more records and keep aiming for the stars.
This was story was first published on Life Beyond Numbers.