Beyond the long rides: Indian motorcycle clubs that try to make a difference in society

Breaking the ‘bad boy biker’ stereotype, a few Indian motorcycling clubs are revving up for good causes

Updated - February 27, 2023 10:37 am IST

Published - February 27, 2023 02:29 am IST

Bikers Troop Bengaluru, The Bikerni, and Rashtriya Riders

Bikers Troop Bengaluru, The Bikerni, and Rashtriya Riders | Photo Credit: Special Arrangment

Robert M Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, elevated the functional activity of riding a motorcycle to a near-spiritual pursuit, when he said, “Riding a motorcycle is a kind of meditation. Riding becomes a form of therapy, providing a retreat from the world and a connection to oneself and the environment.”

However, motorcycling, like meditation, is an individualistic ritual. It is a self-enriching pastime. But a few Indian motorcycling clubs, along with the enjoyment of riding, also seek to contribute to their respective communities.

Shattering the stereotypical ‘bad boy’ image associated with bikers, the members of these clubs do not just go about flaunting their muscular motorcycles or ride to faraway lands, they try to do their bit for social welfare too.

Shattering stereotypes

Urvashi Pathole, 35, rode a bike for the first time when she was 14. She was inspired by her elder sister’s friend, a national boxing champion, who rode a Royal Enfield. A few years later, she and her friends in Pune, influenced by the movie Dhoom, got into stunt biking. But when they went to participate in stunt meets, they were seldom allowed. They were discouraged, warned, jeered at, and mocked for riding motorcycles because “they were not for women”. Motorcycling was considered a man’s arena. So, they asked themselves, “Do we need to be in a space where we must keep fighting? Why don’t we create our own platform?”

So Urvashi, along with 10 other women on Royal Enfields, rode to Khardung La, the highest motorable road in the world then, making it to the Limca Book of Records. It also marked the birth of The Bikerni, an all-women motorcycle club that seeks to normalise women riding bikes.

Twelve years later, The Bikerni has 17 chapters across India with over 2,500 registered members. “These chapters are free-flowing. Women meet, go for rides, attend DIY workshops regarding motorbikes, and meet riders from other clubs,” says Urvashi, who works in the automotive industry.

Unlike most motorbike groups, they are not exclusive to riders with high-powered vehicles. Even moped riders are welcome, says Urvashi. “We want to promote women riding bikes. Being a part of The Bikerni, they feel safe and united. They can just be themselves without judgement,” she adds.

Saluting the army

The Jaipur-based group, Rashtriya Riders, meanwhile, seeks to celebrate the country’s armed forces. The members of the club ride to locations where the Army has fought and meet the jawans and the families of those who died in action in-person. “Though we keep hearing about the sacrifices of the Army, we barely interact with them in person and get to say ‘thank you’. We just wanted to do that,” says Himmat Singh Shekhawat, who founded the club with his friends Shivaditay Modi and Ravindra Jangir.

Himmat is from a family of officers in the armed forces. His father, grandfather, and uncle served in the Army and his father-in-law in the Navy. Since he could not realise his Army aspirations, he did the next best thing he knew to be associated with it.

After obtaining the required permissions, on Kargil Vijay Diwas 2016 (July 26), Himmat and five of his friends embarked on a 16-day, 4,000-kilometre long-ride from Jaipur to Kargil. “It was an unforgettable experience,” says Himmat, “We handed them a large artwork, which had signatures of people across Jaipur.”

Ever since, Rashtriya Riders claims to have done 20 more rides, spanning 27,000 kilometres, where they have met soldiers and their families. One such ride even yielded a book, The Tiger of Drass (HarperCollins India), which tells the story of Capt. Anuj Nayyar (who fought and died during the Kargil war of 1999). Himmat co-authored the book with the captain’s mother, Meena Nayyar.

“We also look to help the families of those who died in action in whichever way we can,” he adds, “All our rides revolve around the armed forces. We do not do recreational rides or roam around merely for the sake of riding.”

Litter-free destinations

The Bikers Troop Bengaluru, meanwhile, started as a regular motorbike club that went on recreational rides in and around Bengaluru. But the founder of the club, Harshith BK, was bothered by the litter tarnishing the beauty of the riding destinations. So, along with his club members, he started organising clean-up rides once in three months, where they pick up garbage. “People make fun of us for that. Some even throw trash while we clean,” says Harshith. Plastic bottles and covers are the most commonly discarded items. But during the club’s latest clean-up ride to Thottikallu Falls in Bengaluru, they found over 700 used diapers.

Despite this, Harshith and his fellow riders go to places armed with gloves and garbage bags. Sometimes, they get outside support as well. For instance, students of Siddaganga Institute of Technology, Tumkur, took part in their cleanliness drive at Shivagange mountains, where they collected 150 kilograms of used plastic bottles.

“We try to educate people to carry reusable plastic bottles or, at least, discard used bottles in the trash cans. When we go on our regular long rides, we make sure we don’t litter the place,” adds Harshith.

From four people in 2020, the club now has over 400 members, according to Harshith. “We’d like to see more people come forward to help us make these lovely places litter-free.”

Contributing to the community

Madhusudan Singh used to ride for recreation before becoming socially responsible. His Delhi-based club, The Harmony Of Riders, has raised funds for the education of girl children, donated blood, and helped out the families of soldiers. “The club’s motto is seva (service), shiksha (education), and suraksha (protection). We try to help people at the grassroots-level as much as we can,” he says.

When asked what made him become a socially responsible rider, he replies, “You get a sense of satisfaction when you give back to society.”

Despite the acts of charity, it raises a question: why does one need motorcycles to do good to society? In all these stories, people had to come together to attempt to do something they believed was good. And, guess what brought them together?

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