OFFBEAT With 200-odd members across the country, The Bikerni at its core has one fervent purpose — women empowerment through biking

Even as you wonder aloud what image do the words The Bikerni conjure up, “Indian women on motorbikes,” Urvashi Patole, one of its founders, is quick to reply. “We wanted an Indian-sounding name, and Bikerni seemed to fit just fine.” And two years later, this association of Indian biker women continues to grow.

Bikers Firdaus Shaikh and Urvashi Patole wanted to create a platform for other women who share their passion. And so, in January 2011, they set up Bikerni. “We were these girls on bikes, hanging out in a small group of four or five. The men always hung out together, and had their own biking clubs. And we thought, why not one for women? But we couldn’t limit it to Pune, and thought we’d reach out to all. It’s a place where like-minded people can meet,” says Firdaus, while Urvashi adds, “They can share their skills and help each other pursue this hobby.”

While the group is headquartered in Pune, its 200-odd active members are spread across the country. “We have members from Delhi to Chennai. Each city has a road captain who looks after the group’s activities there,” says Firdaus.

“We arrange rides to nearby places every fortnight and the road captain organises it. We’ve even partnered with a few causes such as CRY ride for child safety and education, and another one recently for the Delhi rape. Bikerni rode across six cities along with other groups.”

In 2011, a group of 10 bikernis undertook a trip from Delhi to Khardung-La, creating a record for the Largest All-Women Motorcycle Expedition to Khardung-La (the highest motorable pass in the world). “We also conduct motorcycle workshops for women,” says Urvashi. “We also discuss technical details, route maps or destinations on our Facebook page.” The group aims at educating women on safe riding too. “We teach girls how to ride, show hand signals and so on,” says Firdaus.

Bikerni’s Chennai chapter has four members, and among them is racer Chithra Priya, who was part of the Khardung-La team.

“The Chennai team meets once in a while, and we usually do biking trips to Mahabalipuram and stop there for breakfast,” she says. Chithra is India’s first woman to traverse 1,600 km in 24 hours, making her a Saddle Sore record holder.

This group is planning a trip to Goa in February. “We’re trying to see if Bikerni members from across the country can make it there,” says Urvashi, adding “Bikerni is all about empowering women through biking.”

For details, visit www.facebook.com/TheBikerni.

ANUSHA PARTHASARATHY

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