THE new sunday express Voices Anand Neelakantan S Vaidhyasubramaniam Anuja Chandramouli Amar Bhushan Devapriya Roy Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev MAGAZINE Buffet People Wellness Books Food Art & Culture Entertainment August 1 2021 SUNDAY PAGES 12 Motorcycle Diaries They believe in defying norms and speeding down roads less travelled. The biking brotherhood, and now sisterhood, are united in pursuit of their passion for leisure riding. By Smitha Verma I t’s a ritual that has barely been broken—except when the pandemic struck—for the last three years. Every Sunday, at the crack of dawn, Sushant Sharma wakes up with an adrenaline rush. He walks past his parking garage, filled with half-a-dozen luxury and sports cars, into a corner where two of his riding beauties await him. He gently preens them, turns on the ignition of one and takes off for his weekend sojourn. The trail left behind by the throttle is a wakeup call for some of his neighbours who may start the day cursing either the Harley-Davidson Street Glide or his BMW GS Adventure. “There’s a certain calm that comes with a full throttle. It can only be experienced and not explained,” says Sharma, a 40-year-old entrepreneur from Jalandhar. There are days when Sharma picks up his Harley and scoots off to places across Punjab, followed by his driver in an SUV carrying his food, safety kit, water and other essentials. You can take the man away from the bike, but not the bike away from the man. Ravi Manikoth, Gurgaon-based entrepreneur and a Royal Enfield loyalist, spent the last two months browsing books that transported him to the world of motorcycles. “As I was recovering from Covid-19, I read books about biking. Some of the titles I picked up include How To Ride Off-Road Motorcycles, Maximum Control and the must-read Motorcycle Roadcraft. These books kept me closer to my passion,” Manikoth says. As the pandemic subdues and lockdown restrictions ease away , the bikers are back on the roads. On the second Sunday of July , 40 superbikers from Pune set out on a ride to Kaas Plateau in Satara district. “We are part of ‘Pune Brotherhood Riders’, a year-old group (@pune_brotherhood_riders on Instagram), and were waiting for the lockdown to lift so that we, owners of 800-1200 cc superbikes, could ride away to the mountains,” says Chaitanya Rathi, an emcee by profession. From BMW GS, Triumph, Hayabusa, Honda Gold Wing, to Ninja... the motorcycles were lined up. “For a rider, sitting on the bike is like meditation.” It was a breakfast ride which started at 6 am and they were back in Pune by 1.30 pm covering about 275 km. “If anyone stops for any reason, the entire group stops to help. Everyone is connected with Bluetooth systems. So we immediately know if there is a problem somewhere. Our rides happen every Sunday One . Sunday is a long ride and another Sunday in the city ending with coffee,” he adds. Just like Rathi, Bobby Singh Sehgal, founder of the Gurgaon-based Riders of the Storm Motorcycle Club (ROTS MC), has chalked out plans for the next ride. The club—also a registered company—sells its own merchandise, conducts skill and safety training workshops and works for various charitable causes. When Aesha Upadhyay Vyas rode a Royal Enfield Bullet to the wedding altar in 2016, the bride made many young women take up motorcycle lessons. The then 26-year-old Ahmedabad resident became the toast of the town for riding a bike wearing a heavily embellished lehenga and sporting aviators. “There was both criticism and praise,” confesses Vyas who now lives in Canada. There is a new breed of leisure bikers who are redefining the goals of biking. Some travel around the country in their superbikes with a car in tow carrying their essentials, while some are riding up to the altar. Some feel “empowered” on a bike, while for some it’s about “staying alive”. Even the pandemic hasn’t subdued their enthusiasm. Over the years, hobby bikers have grown in numbers. When the former Chief Justice of India Sharad Bobde posed on a Harley-Davidson, the news went viral on social media. Spiritual guru Sadhguru flaunts his love for bikes openly In the world of . leisure biking, age or gender is no bar. Passion for biking has blurred all boundaries. At Full Throttle Not many can understand why Sharma is “obsessed” with his bikes. A third-generation entrepreneur with a fleet of luxury cars at his disposal, it was difficult to let his family understand the need to ride bikes. “Finally I could convince them and started biking three years ago,” says outfit.” heavy bridal rtant than a ore impo uple and a bike was m where the co bai ire as riding maker, Mum dding att ding in Ladakh wed rma Film ed on my we a destination Shachi Sha ur to opt for “I compromis Rikhil Bahad m r and her groo to the venue. ” prompted he their friends rode Bullets sual wedding have an “unu Their desire to “There’s a certain calm that comes with a full throttle. It can only be experienced and not explained.” SUSHANT sharma, Entrepreneur, Jalandhar “It’s an exp ensive hobb y. But the a drenaline ru is worth the sh and the s cost.” Dr N olace it The only pro eharika Yada fessional fem v Dentist, Gurg brings with it ale racer ev aon er to com the Buddh In ternational pete in the 1000cc cate Circuit, Noid gory at a Mean machine : Ducati V4 1100cc Mean machines: Harley-Davidson Street Glide, BMW GSA Sharma. A few months back he rode across Punjab, covering 600 km in a day the driver trailing , him in his Ford Endeavour with everything that he needs. Sharma isn’t alone to travel this way The advantages are . manifold from safety to not having to worry about running out of fuel. While company-organised group expeditions always have a follow-up vehicle, solo drivers having a backup is slowly picking up. Delhi resident Rajeshwar Gill is a case in point. “I am a hobby rider and on long solo trips, I would want someone to be around,” he says. Gill is chalking out an itinerary for a 1,000-km trip this year and would have a mini-van follow him with his medications, safety kit, clothes, food and so on. “The last two months, I was dreaming of my next trip. I am planning to ride through the Eastern Coast, starting from Delhi, and return through the Western Coast.” Sukhdeep Singh Delhi Mean machines: Indian Chieftain, Honda superbike The 69-year-old Supreme Court advocate is a cancer survivor and a heart patient. “These ailments have not shattered my spirit or passion for biking. I would rather be a cautious driver than not drive at all,” he says. Gill has 18 cars, including a vintage Rolls-Royce, Mini Cooper, Mercedes, to name a few. And yet, weekends are reserved for his Harley-Davidson 1800cc. “It gives me a reason to be alive,” he says. That there’s a certain snob value attached to owning bikes running up to lakhs of rupees is unsaid. “But it’s positive arrogance. It’s like riding a thoroughbred horse,” says Gill. If anyone were to ask Jai Kishore what it is about his Ducati Scrambler that makes him speed off to rough terrains, he will say “It’s therapeutic.” , The 39-year-old digital marketing professional from Bengaluru, rode a motorcycle as a means of commuting. But sometime over the course of the ride of two decades, he took to mid-highway trails and dirt biking. “The passion started with riding my first Bullet from Bengaluru to Mysuru where my mother lives,” he says. It was during these monthly rituals that Kishore encountered unknown trails and followed them and realised how biking can be pleasurable. Clubs are also a way to network and make life-long friendships, believes Kishore, who was a member of Rolling Thunder Motor Club, one of the oldest and largest Royal Enfield biking communities. “We are part of ‘Pune Brotherhood Riders’, a year-old group (@pune_brotherhood_riders on Instagram), and were waiting for the lockdown to lift so that we, owners of superbikes (800-1200 cc), could ride away to the mountains.” Chaitanya Rathi Emcee, Pune On July 11, 40 group members set out on a ride from Pune to Kaas Plateau in Satara district and back, covering about 275 km Mean machines: BMW GS, Triumph, Hayabusa, Honda Gold Wing, Ninja Business of Bikes That even during a year ravaged by pandemic and lockdown, motorcycles did business that outdid expectations is noteworthy BMW . Motorad showed one of the best sales in India last year. According to Vikram Pawah, president, BMW Group India, even though the luxury motorcycle market is at a nascent stage, the growing aspiration has led to growth. “A motorcycle is more than just a means of transportation. This is why we don’t talk only about model series but about riding experience worlds. And no matter how different these experience worlds are, they all share our message of ‘Make Life a Ride’,” he says. The company sold 2,563 units in 2020, a sales growth of 6.65 percent year-onyear, a significant number for the German automobile major that started its operations in India in 2017. Then there is the ubiquitous Royal Enfield, which almost every biker would have owned or aspires to drive at some point. “Our motorcycles cater to experienced riders as well as enthusiasts,” says Lalit Malik, Chief Commercial Officer, Royal Enfield. In December 2020, their sales saw an increase of 37 percent compared to the same month in 2019. In the October- December 2020 period, the company added 129 studio stores increasing retail touch points to 1,889 stores across India. “There is strong resonance and affiliation among consumers for Royal Enfield in the premium motorcycle segment as we have a 96 percent market share in the mid-sized (250-750cc) motorcycle segment in India,” he adds. Motorcycling has, indeed, come a long way in India. It all began a decade ago, when international bikes forayed into the country This was also the . time when home-grown companies reinvented themselves. There’s a Bullet Baba Turn to page 2
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