Very few women are open to riding bikes. Sangeeta Vinodkumar, an avowed biker, is now the first woman in the State to own and ride the Harley Davidson.
The garage at Link Heights apartment in Panampilly Nagar is suddenly shaken up by a deep rumble that seemed to grow louder until it steadied into a roar. The unfamiliar noise, amplified a great deal by the walls of the low-roofed garage, has obviously startled a few visitors lounging around in the compound. Before they can grasp the origin of the noise, Sangeeta thunders past them on her Harley Davidson.
Riding the macho machine with the élan of an experienced motorcyclist, she says there is nothing quite akin to the feeling of steering a Harley.
According to the Harley Davidson showroom in Kochi, Sangeeta Vinodkumar is the first woman in the State to own and ride a Harley Davidson. It was a birthday gift to her husband, who shares her passion for bikes, she says. The surprise turned out to be one of the most pleasant ones for Vinodkumar, a maritime consultant based in Kochi. “He didn’t have an inkling that we (her daughters and her) were gifting him ‘the Harley’. I drive a Scorpio and was quite happy doing so until the Harley dream came to haunt me. And now, the duty of keeping the bike running when my husband isn’t here is on me,” she says.
Ever since her college days, when not many women found it proper to ride bikes, Sangeeta has been doing so. “I started with the Yezdi, the bike that fascinated an entire generation of youth those days. In fact, I have ridden most of the bikes that were around — the 100cc ones included,” she says. She remembers having borrowed a Yezdi from a friend and riding it with her brother. “My father, who was an Army officer, was very sportive and I had more friends among boys. That probably explains my fascination for bikes,” she says. After a “near-fatal” accident a few years ago in Hyderabad, where she was living with her parents, Sangeeta gave up two-wheelers for good. It is only now, after getting a Harley that she is getting back to riding. “There is no better way of doing it, right?,” she asks. There is still a niggling pain in her ankle left by the accident. But that is not going to deter her from living the long-cherished dream.
Sangeeta decided to go in for a subtler model such as the Iron 883, as her husband was not for the boisterously showy ones. “Personally, I am a fan of the bright-yellow Fatboy. What a bike!” The Iron 883 is a lean bike, comparatively “sedate” in appearance. It weighs approximately 250 kilos and has cast-aluminium wheels. Though the most popular colour in the Iron 883 model is a stylish matte black, Sangeeta bought a brilliant metallic blue one. “I was lucky to find a colour like that,” she says.
The only modifications Sangeeta wanted were in the silencer and the seats. “I put in the ‘Screaming Eagle’, as it has the distinctive sound of a Harley. All the models are usually single seaters. I asked for a back seat, too.” Since the showroom opened in Kochi, the bookings have been going up steadily. Sangeeta’s was the 100th booking and she got the bike delivered in two months. “I made the booking in November and by January it was ready, after the minor modifications I had asked for.”
A road trip is on the cards, though she has not yet chalked out the plan. “As everyone would know, the Harley is not suited for regular city rides, especially on Indian roads. It’s not a bike you take to the supermarket to shop for vegetables,” she says. The bike also requires a dedicated maintenance regimen. “The air here is corrosive and it needs hours of painstaking maintenance more than mechanical care,” Sangeeta says. But there are no complaints as she sees it as a labour of love.
The Harley lives up to all the hype surrounding it— the brute power, the enormity and the meanness. But these should not keep women away from it, Sangeeta says. It is one of the best and safest bikes to ride. “It may be an incredibly heavy machine. But since it is a very balanced bike, one would not feel the weight while riding,” she says. However, it takes a while for one to get used to riding a Harley. “It would certainly be easier for those who have ridden other bikes,” she says. Sangeeta is not a fan of the Royal Enfield, another of the celebrated two-wheelers which attract a lot of attention on the roads.
Just as women have taken to cars, they should also be open to riding bikes. She says: “I wish more women bought the Harley and then, perhaps, we could form a Harley riding group or something.”