Motoring

Rebels with a cause

Women bikers of the city who are getting together to form a club to encourage more women to take up biking expeditions in   | Photo Credit: K_R_DEEPAK

Biking may be an adventure for many, but for these women it’s a symbol of liberty from the clutches of stereotypes. Clad in leather jackets and armed with safety gears, this group of women bikers from the city are on a mission to form Visakhapatnam’s first women riders’ club and perhaps the first in Andhra Pradesh.

Last week, women riders of the city, across all age groups, got together at Gluttons Garage organised by Vizag United Bikers. While a handful of riders turned up, the resolve was to get bigger and stronger.

But even before the women riders group gets formalised, they have many challenges to conquer.

Fifty-year-old Vaishali Kulkari More zips her Avenger Cruise motorcycle through the busy streets between rows of drivers who gawp at her incredulously. “Now I don’t care. I have always been a rebel,” says More.

Being the senior-most and the most experienced woman biker in the city, More is spearheading the task to bring together more women riders from the city. “I prefer to call it a women rider’s group, because I don’t want only bikers to join us. Female riders on any roadworthy machine from scooters to super-bikes are welcome. My idea is to get the group together for breakfast rides and eventually go for long distance tours,” says the retired teacher.

More has inspired many women riders in the past three years from the time she actively took to biking again. From bravely overcoming challenges when she lost her way near a forest during her solo biking journey to overturning gender stereotypes, More — the first solo woman biker from Andhra Pradesh — has etched a name for herself in the growing community of women bikers across India.

Overturning gender stereotypes

Not only has she challenged the perception of biking being a gendered hobby, she has also given a loud message that age is just a number when you are pursuing a long, cherished passion. Recently, the biker shared her story of picking up the motorcycle in her mid-40s, at an interactive session called Peregrine Chronicles organised by Road Thrill, Visakhapatnam chapter, at Moksha Restocafe.

“When things keep going your way, sometimes you tend to get overconfident. That’s what happened with me when I lost my way for a good five hours on the Karnataka–Maharashtra border during my solo journey from Visakhapatnam to Shirdi. That was one of my first lessons as a biker. Always keep your eyes and ears open and never go for shortcuts,” she says. In July 2016, More embarked on her first solo motorcycle ride covering a distance of 1,700 kilometres in five days, making pit stops at Vijayawada, Hyderabad, Solapur and Pune before ending her journey in Shirdi. The following year, she along with two other women bikers went on a 2,500 kilometre bike journey that they termed as the Heritage Trail, covering six States and one Union Territory. Hailing from a conservative Maharashtrian family in Pune, More faced lot of opposition from her family when she participated in dirt biking in her college days. The issue now, as it has always been, is changing the mindset of Indian families, who seldom support girls who want to ride bikes,” says More.

Riding high

It took a long time for Allu Meena, 21, to convince her parents to support her dreams of making it to National-level track racing. She started her training with Hyderabad-based group Motovation Track Days followed by Atomic Motorsports in Bangalore and at Madras Motor Race Track.

“I love biking for the thrill of speed,” says the management graduate, who rides a KTM RC 390. When she realised being rebellious didn’t help in gaining the confidence of her parents, she decided to make them understand what biking meant to her. “I still don’t have much family support,” says Meena. Being a part of the women riders group in the city, she feels, will certainly help break the shackles of stereotypes. For now, she is focusing on losing weight to participate in track racing and also aims to do a solo bike journey across India one day.

Unlike Meena, Poornima Dhanala always had her father’s support when she first took his Royal Enfield 350 CC as a 16-year-old to get her first lessons in biking.

Once she got her driving license, her father brought home a new Royal Enfield for Dhanala. That very year she rode along with a bunch of male bikers from Visakhapatnam to Bangalore. Bold and unapologetic, Dhanala was once admonished by her university professors for riding to the campus on her motorcycle.

“I got a lot of strange looks. But now, I make it a point to also encourage other women who have always wanted to ride to pick up the machine,” she says. More says the main idea behind starting a club is to convince women who’ve always wanted to ride, but never had the gumption to get on a bike. “I want to tell them that this is the time they can get going on the road,” she says.

(To join the women riders group, contact 9849469346.)

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 4:58:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/motoring/rebels-with-a-cause/article24229825.ece

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