OFFBEAT Very few women are open to riding bikes. Sangeeta Vinodkumar talks about riding a Harley
The garage at Link Heights Apartment in Panampilly Nagar, Kochi, 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 Vinodkumar thunders past them on her Harley Davidson.
According to the Harley Davidson showroom in Kochi, Sangeeta is the first woman in Kerala 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. “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 riding bikes. “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.
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.” 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 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. “Just as women have taken to cars, they should also be open to riding bikes. I wish more women bought the Harley and then, perhaps, we could form a Harley riding group or something.”