For the love of leisure biking

Bikers from Visakhapatnam posing at Khardungla, the highest motorable road in the world.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

A ride on a monsoon weekend, a trip along the long coastline of the country or heading to the ‘mecca’ of biking in India, Ladakh – leisure bikers revel in the feeling of being one with their machines and letting the wind take over. Far from being used as a means of commute, leisure biking has turned into an indulgence, a hobby. The boom in India’s leisure motorcycling during the past five years has happened simultaneously with the rise of a middle class. The expanding market has also lured foreign companies to Indian shores like the Harley-Davidson that entered the domestic market five years ago. While the metros lead the trend of leisure biking, tier-2 cities have seen a growing buzz among bikers taking to the road to explore places near and far.

Leisure biking and serious biking adventures aren’t new to Vizag. In 2007, city-based biker Bharadwaj Dayala was the first person to travel across the globe on his motorcycle. Having covered nearly 50,000 km across five continents — Asia, Africa, Europe, America and Australia, Dayal became an inspiration for several young bikers in the city who later followed the trend, though at the country level. “The situation has changed a lot since the time I went on my world tour. Now, international motorcycle brands have come and people are willing to put in money in powerful bikes. The leisure biking market has expanded considerably,” says the passionate traveller, who is gearing up for his second world tour on his motorcycle in March next year.

Says Prathik Ramesh, a young biker and travel enthusiast, “The culture of leisure biking is expanding beyond the weekend drives. From exploring the hills of Eastern Ghats, bikers have extended their excursions as far as the Himalayas.” Prathik himself had gone on a road trip from Vizag to Delhi and attended the Kolkata and New Delhi edition of Rider Mania, the annual gathering of Indian Royal Enfield motorcycle owners organised to commemorate the spirit of motorcycling. Riders and biking clubs across the country gather for the two-day fest.

The first India Bike Week (IBW) held in Goa last year saw 6,500 motorcycle enthusiasts gather at the festival. This year the numbers soared to over 10,000 bikers. City-based photographer Sudhir Damerla, who attended this year’s IBW, says it was an event that threw open many fascinating biking tales. Perhaps this experience triggered the idea to embark on a countrywide bike tour. Sudhir, along with his two friends Kishore Taneti and Karna Raj, recently returned after a biking expedition across 16,000 kms spread over a month and 25 days. “Up in the North, leisure biking is quite popular. It is not an unusual sight to see a group of bikers armed with different kinds of safety gears zipping across the hilly terrains. But the South is still new to the culture of leisure biking compared to the North,” says Sudhir. He remembers receiving strange looks from roadside dhabas in the South when they said they were heading to Kashmir. “One person told us – why can’t you simply take the train!” he chuckles.

The craze for leisure biking in the North has led to a growing market of travel agencies specialising in motorcycle holidays. In Vizag while there are many informal biker groups, a team of youngsters are getting together to form the Vizag Chapter of the Bajaj Avenger Club. “We have nearly seven to nine people right now. We will get the group registered shortly,” says city-based biker Ravi Yellayi, a member of Bajaj Avenger Club – Hyderabad. Ravi has been an avid biker and gone on several road trips including a 42-day Mumbai-Kolkata coastal bike expedition.

The growing popularity of leisure biking in the city was evident when Bengaluru-based solo woman biker Esha Gupta, who was in the city earlier this week as part of her biking expedition across the Golden Quadrilateral, interacted with a big group college students. Not afraid to zip into a space which is typically associated with machismo - rippling muscles, rough rides and thick glares, Esha rides her Avenger with easy confidence. “It is fantastic to see the enthusiasm and a desire, even among girls, to take to the road,” says the 35-year-old biker who kicked her corporate career to fulfil her travel dreams. Esha charts her travel experiences through pictures on her Facebook page Lone Gal Traveller. Interestingly, the numbers of women bikers have been on the rise. The country’s first and one of the largest women’s motorcycle associations ‘Bikerni’ has more than 330 members from cities like Pune, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Guwahati.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2022 8:15:51 PM |

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