Metroplus

Rev up and vroom away

Biking enthusiasts in the city say that it’s passion that fuels their rides and forges bonds.

The route is mapped out, the gear in place, the phone tucked away and the bike revved up for a long ride. All you’ve got are your thoughts and the whistling wind for company. Milestones and cedar trees whizz past as you cruise along at a comfortable 80kmph. You’ve got miles to go before you rest, but there’s no gruelling schedule to stick to. The din and chaos of city life left far behind; all you feel is the rhythm of your bike and an unexplained freedom. For most city bikers, these are reasons enough to pursue their passion; either through bike clubs with like-minded friends or through solo trips. In fact, it isn’t uncommon to see a group of riders cruising in two-lane formations along the East Coast Road.

Weekend rides to Puducherry, monthly rides covering multiple cities and annual rides to Ladakh or participating in biking events are usually on top of their itineraries. “I love to travel and believe that the best way to explore places is on my bike. For me, it is not a point-to-point journey; it is all about the experience,” says Venkat Raman, who works with an event management company and is one of the moderators for the Chennai chapter of India Bull Riders (IBR). “I prefer riding with a group because I find it’s more fun. Also, there’s that feeling of brotherhood (it’s what bike club members refer themselves to as); we help each other out whenever glitches arise,” he adds.

Saravana Kumar, the other moderator of IBR, says “Each bike trip is well-organised and planned. We meet regularly as a club to decide the next ride, the route and also the formation that we will be following according to the road conditions. For instance, if it is a four- or six-lane highway, we follow a two-lane formation. For narrower roads, we ride single file. The lead (the person who is in front of the formation) and the sweep (the person at the tail-end) are pre-decided and the group is expected to stick to the formation for safety. In case of larger groups, we appoint a ride captain, who rides back and forth coordinating with the lead and sweep about ride conditions.”

Group members are required to adhere to speed limits and certain guidelines but, for the most part, it is all about meeting new people, exploring new destinations, creating memories and bonding over a common passion. Venkat, who rides a Royal Enfield Desert Storm, says that IBR comprises Royal Enfield riders, who also routinely participate in the annual Rider Mania event that is held nationally. “Every ride we undertake is a unique experience. The one ride that I particularly enjoyed was the 2014 Rider Mania where 19 of us rode all the way from Chennai to Goa via Hassan, Jog Falls and Karwad. The route was scenic and covered varied terrain,” he recalls.

According to T. S. Vikram, “ For me, biking is a time to think. I started biking because I was passionate about it. I believe the first 50 km is devoted to the ride, the rest of the distance is taken over by my thoughts.”

Every rider’s experience is different. If one began biking for fun in college, another took to it as a way to relax and get away from the daily grind. For Akshay Chokhany, senior specialist at Shell, riding was more an act of rebellion before it turned into a passion. “As a child, I was not allowed to own a bike. So, as soon as I could afford it, I bought one and began to go on rides. In fact, my parents didn’t even know I owned a bike for the first couple of months,” laughs Akshay, adding, “What eventually matters, though, is the amount of dedication and discipline biking requires. A couple of years ago, I formed an informal bike club called Thump City Disciples along with a few friends. We meet once in a while and plan trips. All of us ride the Royal Enfield, but I also own a Triumph and love riding it as well. I enjoy solo rides, since I can drive at my own pace, stop where I want to and be left alone with my thoughts. The only disadvantage is that in case of emergency I am on my own; I’ve learnt to work my way through situations though.” He says, that he makes it a point to go on a ride at least once a month and the duration usually varies depending on his schedule. “The longest ride was an 18-day journey from Delhi to Ladakh and back with three of my close friends.”

The biking scene in Chennai has picked up over the last few years. “When I started 10 years ago, there were just a couple of clubs. Today, there are several bike clubs that organise rides regularly,”says Vikram, a biker and co-founder of Date-A-Bike, a bike rental outfit and biker café on ECR.

Keeping in mind the growing demand for high-end bikes and the fact that they remain out of reach for many, Date-A-Bike lets people rent bikes like Triumph, Continental GT and Harley Davidson, apart from Royal Enfield. “We do have a strict screening process though; we don’t encourage people below the age of 25 to rent our bikes. Also, we charge a hefty deposit to discourage those who aren’t serious about biking or may not take care of the vehicle,” says G. Girish, co-founder of the rental service.

However, since its inception in February this year, Vikram and Girish have noticed an increase in the number of people renting vehicles. “We also have a lot of corporates signing up for our bikes and rides by way of team building exercises.”

As for biking gear, Akshay, says, “Today, there are several stores that stock accessories like jackets, gloves and knee-pads.” So, are all set for a ride?





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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 4:44:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/rev-up-and-vroom-away/article7333525.ece

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