Motorcycle diaries

Motorcycle diaries

Women riders

Eighteen months ago during a dinner conversation, Meghana Wavhal’s husband subtly told her that she won’t ever be able to ride a ‘Bullet’ because it was ‘not meant for women’.

“He said it was too heavy to manoeuvre,” the 40-year-old recollects. However, Wavhal wasn’t happy with this rationale and decided to challenge this proposition. “After thinking through, the first thing I did was to book a Bullet 500 to leave no room for excuses,” she says, smilingly, and continues, “I have been riding a gearless two wheeler for many years, so all I had to do was focus on graduating to a heavier, gear bike,” says the mother of 10-year-old twins.

The Pune-based teacher, with a little help from her husband, got acquainted with the Bullet and then started taking it out for smaller rides. So far, she has covered close to 20,000 kms since January 2015 and ridden through Kerala, Goa and Gujarat on the mean machine.

Now she is gearing up to realise her long-cherished dream which she has been nursing since childhood. “I wanted to travel within India on my bike and it is every bikers wish to go to Leh,” she says. The wish has finally come true, as she is one of the 20 women who will be participating in Royal Enfield’s maiden ‘Himalayan Odyssey -Women’ edition that will kick off from the capital on July 9.

The Himalayan terrain is considered a bikers’ pilgrimage and every year hundreds of enthusiastic riders  solo or in groups— ride through one of harsh environments to test their endurance and passion. Since 2003, Royal Enfield has been organising Himalayan Odyssey every year during which riders cover a distance of 2,500 kilometres over a fortnight. It had always welcomed women riders, but this is the first time an all-women crew is going to reach one of the world’s highest motorable roads — Khardung-La.

“We always wanted to start the ‘all women’ ride, but somehow things were delayed. We know it is a bit late, but the good thing is that we have finally decided to go ahead with our long-pending plan this year,” Sarah Kashyap, assistant manager, rides and community, Royal Enfield, tells Metrolife.

The 30-year- old was the first women to be employed for ‘riders and community’ division. But she isn’t the first women to be hired by the motorcycling group which has been the first choice of the Indian government for its police force for several decades. Their manufacturing factory in Chennai has women employees whom they train in different verticals.

“When we say ‘all women’ riders, we really mean it. Apart from the 20 women participants, our support staff is all women, which includes, service staff, technicians and doctors,” says Kashyap who has been riding for the past 14 years.

The Gurgaon-based rider has a petite frame: she is 5.2 feet and weighs 52 kgs. “These things really don’t matter because one has to be confident on the road. All participants would be riding the Bullet which weighs close to 200 kgs because of the luggage. But this is the challenging part of the ride,” she says enthusiastically.

However, this is not the first time women bikers, riding the mean machine are part of a group. Way back in March 2011, Bengaluru-based Bindu Eswara Reddy felt the need to create a platform for women where “they can learn the Bullet and even access a bike”. “It all started in 2010 when one of my friends taught me to ride,” recollects Reddy who started the group, Hop on Gurls, to explore their passion.

“Our group is for women who are individualistic, energetic and empower other women by their charisma. It is also a great platform to unwind, build network and boost self-confidence,” she adds, saying the group goes on a bike trip every month, and longer trips every three months.

The more one rides, the better one becomes. But when it comes to riding on a rough terrain like the Himalayas, going by past experiences, even veteran riders have struggled to battle weather blues.

Hyderabad-based Asmita Misra, one of the participants of HO-women edition, fully understands the challenges that lay ahead. “I know it is not going to be easy because the distance I am going to cover in this journey isn’t even close to what I have covered in my three years of riding,” she says.

“Acclimatisation is going to be a major issue, but only when you face the challenge, you know your worth. If you sail through, you will never be afraid of anything,” adds Misra.
But for Wavhal, encountering cold weather, altitude sickness and gravel roads,  is to set an example for her children.

“They see me as a hero. I want to make them proud and tell them that everything is possible in this world, only if you are dedicated and determined,” she says.
Shilpa Raina

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