SHE IS the only woman in ‘Free Riders’, a group of bikers in the Tricity. The other 249 members are all men. Not just that, 41-year-old Nikita Sood Reddy is also a proud member of the Harley Owners Group (HOG), and an active participant in the many rallies and trips organised by the group. A dentist by profession back in Auckland, New Zealand, Reddy is now a resident of Sector 2 Panchkula. She is here to do higher studies at the dental college in Barwala. “I ride my Harley Street 750, gifted by my husband, to college and it’s a trip I really look forward to,” says Reddy, whose kids address her as ‘Muscle Mom’.
Reddy’s love for bikes began when she moved to Bangalore for studies, where she borrowed bikes from her seniors and friends. Thus began an adventurous life as a woman biker. “My eyes are set on a Kawasaki Ninja this year, and my husband is only too happy to buy me the latest bikes, for that’s all I want, as the thrill of being in control of a mobike is unparalleled,” she says.
Reddy was recently part of a workshop at her son’s school, where she was invited to talk about bikes and how to be a responsible rider. “The most exhilarating thing about riding a bike is the speed, the feeling of complete freedom, independence and control,” says Reddy, who rides in full gear with helmet, boots, gloves, leather jacket and glasses. Safety is paramount, adds the biker, whose weekends are booked for bike rides to Kasauli, Bharatgarh or anywhere her bike and dreams take her.
But woman bikers are not an uncommon sight anymore. Although Reddy is the only woman member of her bike group, the number of women motorcycle riders on Tricity roads is steadily on the rise, and for most it is a passion that takes them places and makes them experience new paths and destinations. Many are now also planning to have bike clubs exclusively for women, with Chandigarh’s wide roads providing the ideal launch pad.
Harjit Walia, a 30-year-old Mohali-based entrepreneur, recalls how her first experience of riding a bike was a bit scary, as she crashed a TVS Splendor into a heap of sand. But the mishap didn’t dampen her spirit for riding, as during her graduation, Walia went on rides on an Avenger, Pulsar, Royal Enfield, Harley, all borrowed from friends. “I still don’t own a bike, but I have access to various bikes and my biking expeditions to Shimla, Kasauli, Dagshai on a Harley are all memorable adventures. Once you sit on a bike, you just live the moment and forget everything else, it is like mediation for me and I love riding late at night, when the roads are empty and you feel the wind in your face,” says Walia.
The young woman doesn’t want to own a bike, for she feels it will limit her to just one machine. The idea, says Walia, is to try new bikes and get better and better. “I have no agenda, no competition to win, I ride for my own pleasure and like many other women riders, I feel liberated. I feel all girls must learn how to ride a bike and experience the fun of it and no, it is not tough to master,” says Walia, who takes bikes on rent for excursions and planned motorcycle trips. As for the upkeep of a bike, Walia says it’s a matter of putting your heart into what your passion is.
Priyanka Goyal, a 21-year-old law student at Panjab University, was taught how to ride a bike by her father, with her brother adding his bit to the ‘training’. Back home in Sunam, Goyal has experienced riding a TVS Sports, Pulsar and Royal Enfield, and she now owns a TVS Sports, her constant companion here in Chandigarh. “I love going for rides to Kasauli and Shimla, and I often borrow a Bullet from friends and hope I can buy one soon,” Goyal loves the fact that while riding, she is completely with herself and nature. The young woman wants to start a Women Bikers’ Club, so that more women are encouraged to ride and also find friends to ride with. “If you can ride or drive, no matter what your vehicle, it gives you wings to fly and so much independence. Every woman must experience this freedom and never be discouraged,” believes Goyal.
Ishita Uppal, yet another Law student at Panjab University, inspires many with her work at her NGO, Strong Women and Girls (S.W.A.G). Since childhood, Uppal has been fascinated with bikes, with a TVS Splendor which she borrowed from her mother’s accountant giving her a real feel of riding a bike. “Later on, when he bought a Bullet, my interest progressively shifted towards it,” says Ishita, who grew up in Jalandhar and often heard remarks like ‘Ladkiya bike thodi na chalati hain, yeh kaisa shauk hai’. “But my parents had no reservations, as long as I was careful. Riding a bike makes me feel free, gives me a sense of adventure and so much confidence. My brother owns a Royal Enfield Classic 350, and I often take it for solo rides. My brother doesn’t really appreciate it, for he knows I’m a better rider,” laughs Ishita.
The rider is all set to go to Bhutan and Leh-Ladakh on her Harley, the traveller in her always ready to go on an expedition. “I want to establish a club for women bikers and I feel women are better on roads, as they are more patient and responsible and keep their vehicles in great condition,” Uppal, says speed is not what excites her, but the entire idea of setting oneself free. Join the journey.