A group of bike lovers in the city is on its way to Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the Himalayas

The natural crisis unfolding in Northern India didn’t stop avid bike lovers of Chennai embarking on a Himalayan Odyssey — a journey to Khardung La, the highest motorable pass in the Himalayas at 18,365 ft.

The Chennai contingent taking part in this arduous journey organised by Royal Enfield was flagged off recently in Delhi along with other bike lovers from across the globe.

Unable to contain his excitement, 18-year-old Sai Sandeep, one of those bikers belonging to the Chennai contingent, said, “I recently got my licence and Royal Enfield Thunderbird! Biking has always been my passion, and I am so excited to be part of this odyssey.”

The bikers never miss an opportunity to drive home the point that owning and riding a Royal Enfield bullet is somehow extra special. The tone and stress of their voice revealed the love and obsession they possess for their Royal Enfield bullets.

What makes the Royal Enfield bikes so special in the hearts of these bikers? “The Royal Enfield’s thump and muscle is unparalleled. You cannot experience this with any other bike,” says Raghav, a software professional, taking part in the Himalayan Odyssey for the first time. Santhosh Govindarajulu, who shares his love for the ‘Bullet’ with Raghav, managed to realise his childhood dream of owning a Royal Enfield bike only recently. “Ever since I rode my friend’s bike, I wanted to own one. The muscle the bike packs in itself is unmatched,” he said.

Kosalraman, the oldest amongst the bikers of Chennai, has no love for the Royal Enfield. In fact, he was ‘tricked’ into buying the Royal Enfield Thunderbird by his friend instead of the Superbike he was originally planning to buy for himself. Today, he doesn’t regret it, “After buying this bike, it has taken me back to my college days. I turn 40 in August and this bike has made me feel young again,” he said.

Raghav goes on step further and anthropomorphises his bike. He says his heavy motorbike can slot in as a friend and provide solace when he desperately needs it. “Whenever I have a tough day at work, I just take off on a ride it to the beach on the ECR and sit next to it. I feel better that way,” he said. For the non-Royal Enfield bhakts and non-bike enthusiasts, however, this could sound a bit over the top and perhaps even silly.

The Chennai group also has one woman rider, Snigdha Chavan. Incidentally, she has been a part of two previous editions, and is also the most experienced within the group. “Riding a bulky bike on such difficult terrains is a challenge, but once you get used to it, it is easy.” It is easy to imagine that cruising on a bullet on a tarmac can be blissful. But, what kind of conditions do the bikers expect to encounter enroute to the top of the Himalayas? “Muddy roads filled with stones is going to be a challenge,” said Raghav. Snigdha, said, “The weather too needs be handled since it can become quite unpredictable in the mountains.”

Close to Nature

Unlike the ‘bike’ lovers, Snigdha is in it for personal glory. “Reaching the Khardung La is an achievement. Yes, people look at a woman doing these things a bit differently. When you ride a bike so close to the mountains, you feel as though you are so close to Nature. You will never get that feeling if you are driving around in a car. The feeling cannot be explained in words.”

What would she tell women who aspire to experience the Himalayan odyssey some day? “Go get a bike and start riding right away!”