Known to be a male-dominated sport, motorcycling is witnessing a change in the trend with many women bikers participating in the sport. India Bike Week currently happening at Vagator will see participation of women bikers from across the world. NT BUZZ speaks to some women bikers to find out why they got into motorcycling and how does it feel to ride into the man’s space, and how they keep their skills updated
By Padmavati Prabhu | NT BUZZ
At once, motorcycling was typically being associated machismo and was totally restricted to men. But today’s woman has made her way through that space dominated by men. Not only she has followed her passion, but also achieved greater heights by riding solo to various destinations.
Similarly, the number of women participating in various bike festivals is also increasing. India Bike Week is one such festival which is witnessing participation of women bikers from across the world.
Based in Seattle, Rashmi Tambe who is the editor of the Global Women Who Ride project that brings together women motorcyclists from all over the world, can boast of what she has achieved – riding all kinds of bikes, right from the cruisers, to sports bikes, to dirt bikes and so on. She has ridden solo across North America and Europe.
Sangeetha Jairam, a traveller and yoga instructor born to a father passionate about riding, grew up in the coffee estates of Coorg, travelling exclusively with motorcycles. Sangeetha’s quest for adventure has taken her across terrains – from India, to South East Asia, and to a more exotic route, in Central Asia across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Sonia Jain, a biker, traveller and marketing professional who has been riding since 2009 was so passionate about biking that she gave up her father’s business to work for a motorcycle company.
GETTING INTO BIKING
Now more than any other time in history, women are taking up motorcycle riding in record numbers. Today, woman riding a motorcycle is certainly not alone as one in four motorcycle riders on the road is a woman!
“I’ve dabbled in a lot of things just to try them out and see if it sticks. Motorcycling is the one thing that stuck. It is something that brings me joy and makes me happy to be alive. Not every time I’m riding of course. Not when it’s pouring, windy, muddy, or challenging in a way that’s mentally taxing, although even those days I’m still happy that I’m on my bike rather than at my desk job. When conditions are good though, and I’m riding my bike down a twisty road on a sunny day, it’s a gift, and I’m happy, joyous and grateful. There is simply no better feeling than blasting down a winding road, throwing the bike around corners, rolling on the throttle and feeling the power of your machine as you melt into one”, says Rashmi Tambe.
For Sangeetha Jairam, she has always been on a motorcycle, as her dad owned a motorcycle and her family travelled on it extensively.
“Getting on a bike was the most natural thing for me, considering my dad was a motorcycle enthusiast. When I was home after my SSC exams, dad taught me how to ride the bike when I was 15”, says Sangeetha.
In 2009, Sonia Jain auditioned for India Bike Rally (IBR) initiated by BiGadda and Yamaha, the prize for which was a bike.
“This was the only chance for me to get a bike. It was a 21-day 4500 kilometre rally which started from Mumbai and then Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and concluded in Mumbai”, says Sonia for whom this ride was her first long distance riding experience.
“Ever since I knew this is what I’m going to be doing for life. After the rally, there was no stopping for me. I participated in another Yamaha promotional rally in 2010 which started from Noida (UP) and concluded in Cochin”, she says.
RIDING INTO A MAN’S SPACE
As earlier bikes were associated with machismo and were restricted to only men, there were hardly any women who were into motorcycling. But today, women are into motorcycling as they don’t really feel it is a man’s space.
Rashmi says, “I consider this to be ‘my’ space, not a man’s space. However, it’s true that there aren’t as many women role models whose stories you hear. To address this, I started a project where I would interview a woman motorcyclist in every country in the world. I am trying to give great female role models to both men and women riders.”
Sonia feels, “I think bike being a man’s space is only the mindset, I don’t think I ever considered it as one. It’s only when I started riding and got some experience people started asking me this question; I still wonder why is it any different for a woman? We girls can be as pro at biking as a man can be! It’s just about how much you want it. Although I won’t deny the fact that every time I lift my wiser at red lights and people appreciate me more because I’m a girl, it does feel special.”
Sangeetha doesn’t really feel it’s a ‘man’s space’ to start off with. I think all of us who love a motorcycle are a kindred spirit, she says.
THE BEST MEMORIES
Memories are something that last forever. And for these women bikers, every ride is a memorable which is completely different from the other.
Sangeetha’s first journey was in Bhutan and while they travelled through Bhutan there were no cell phones, ATMs or credit cards used.
“The trip was pretty basic and we had real interactions with the local people which is one of the best aspects of travel for me”, says Sangeetha.
Rashmi has ridden 3000 miles from Seattle to Alaska with her friend Sarah, 5000 miles solo across North America, and 5000 km solo around Central and Western Europe.
“Every ride has been great in its own way. I’ve been fortunate enough to get to visit a lot of the places, I’ve only read about. I’ve gotten to ride on some amazing twisty roads that are a motorcyclist’s dream. And the best part is usually all the cool people you encounter along the way”, she says.
KEEPING SKILLS UPDATE
To keep her skills updated, Sonia watches a lot of motorsports, MotoGP and others and rides as much as possible, every other weekend. Sangeetha says, “Learning can happen anywhere and at any time. So when on the road and you see other motorcyclists, chances are that we can learn something new from them. But I have also enrolled in Track School to learn some technical aspects of bettering my riding ability.” Rashmi, however, feels that she doesn’t work as much as she should. “The best way to keep your skills sharp is to ride a lot, as often as you can. Try to do some parking lot practice with soccer cones when you can. Take a safety course every couple of years. Do track days if you can afford it. Take a dirt bike class and get used to riding on unpaved surfaces. Listen to more experienced riders. Ride like you’re invisible and always anticipate the worst case scenario”, she says.
(India Bike Week is on till February 21 at Vagator. For details log on to www.indiabikeweek.in)