July 9, 2016 5:30:38 pm
Two years back, when Priyanka Kochhar first started riding a motorbike, little did she know that an impulse to zoom through the streets of Mumbai to get over a bad phase in life would turn into a full-fledged passion. The 30-year-old model took to the streets on a Royal Enfield Classic 360 and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Kochhar is a motorcycle blogger and owns a KTM Duke 200. Impressive, for someone who taught herself how to ride and is gearing up for Royal Enfield’s maiden edition of Himalayan Odyssey – Women (HO-W) scheduled to start on July 9.
But she is not the only one. These days, it’s not really unusual to see women bikers out there. More and more women are shattering stereotypes, albeit it’s still a rarity in India and it might be need years before eyebrows are not raised in surprise at women bikers. The reason behind it might be, as Kochhar aptly puts it, “There’s a lot of stereotype attached to women riding bikes. There was this one photoshoot that I was modelling for and I was asked by the director to act as a pillion rider despite them knowing that I am an experienced rider. His reason was simple; people would connect more if I take a backseat.”
But it’s not just stereotype alone which stops women from experiencing the joy of riding a bike. There are classic cases of cat-calling and racing on the streets too that make it difficult to enjoy a quiet, nice ride. Kochhar has now learnt to take things in her stride, but for Sarah Kashyap, motorcyclist and one of the brains behind the Himalayan Odyssey, these things never mattered at all.
Kashyap’s tryst with motorcycles started when she was only 16. “Stereotyping never bothered me. There were times when people asked me if my feet can even reach the ground. I just laughed it off,” she recalls, adding, “The kind of connect that I have with my machine happened at a very young age. My first bike was a Yamaha RX100 and the day I rode it to school, my mom told my dad, ‘She’s not coming back today.’ Over the years, I have travelled all over India, including the North-East, mostly solo and they are more accepting now. In 2014, I travelled from Bengaluru to Ladakh too.”
So, what’s next? Kashyap wants to take her love for biking to others too.
Since Ladakh is the ultimate goal for road junkies, Kashyap and Sachin Chauvan have conceptualised a 17-day adventure ride covering 2,200km in some of the roughest terrains and highest mountain passes.
Through the Royal Enfield Himalayan Odyssey – the first all-women’s edition – women riders will get the opportunity to thump all the way to 18,000ft to Khardung-La to experience one of the most gratifying motorcycling journeys in the world.
Both men and women contingents will be flagged off together from Delhi on July 9, but the women contingent will take a more picturesque route before converging at Leh, Ladakh.
Kashyap says, “We conceptualised it for women so that they can enjoy the terrain and also satiate their love for biking. It was challenging but fulfilling.”
But is it safe?
“Life is not that bad. There was this instance when I was travelling solo and was stuck in a curfew in Srinagar. I was completely drenched and I stopped at a police post. They were amused but really helpful. I think it helps you grow as a person and you start believing in the goodness around you too. You just need to let go of your apprehensions and believe in yourself. Be positive, that’s all you need to get yourself through,” she says.
Things you need to be a serious biker?
First things first. Don’t be a miser, get yourself a proper biking gear. Safety is of utmost importance.
Kochhar says, “It’s very important to get the right gear, from jackets to helmet.” “Also, it’s really important to work on your fitness. You need a lot of stamina and so, working out regularly and eating healthy helps, while travelling and otherwise too,” says Kashyap.
But more than anything else, you just need to stop thinking and just go ahead with it.
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