Motorcycle diaries

Women riders

Motorcycle diaries

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. “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 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 km since January 2015 and has 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 biker’s 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’.

The Himalayan terrain is considered a bikers’ pilgrimage and every year hundreds of enthusiastic riders, solo or in groups, ride through one of the harshest environments in the country 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 an ‘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, says.

The 30-year- old was the first woman to be employed for the ‘riders and community’ division. But she isn’t the first woman 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 rider has a petite frame: she is 5.2 feet and weighs 52 kg. “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 kg because of the luggage. But this is the challenging part of the ride,” she says. However, this is not the first time women bikers riding this mean machine are part of a group. Way back in March 2011, Bindu Eswara Reddy felt the need to create a platform for women where “they can learn about 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 help women 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, network and boost self-confidence,” she says, adding that the group goes on a bike trip every month and on 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, even veteran riders have struggled to battle weather blues.

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, battling cold weather, altitude sickness and gravel roads,  is all 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.

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