Beyond long rides: Indian motorcycle clubs that strive to make a difference in society.

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Robert M. Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, equated the practical activity of riding a motorcycle with an almost spiritual pursuit when he said, “Riding a motorcycle is a kind of meditation. Riding becomes a form of therapy.” is, which provides retreat from the world and connection to self and environment.

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However, riding a bike, like meditation, is an individual ritual. It is a self-enhancing hobby. But few Indian motorcycling clubs, along with the enjoyment of riding, also want to contribute to their respective communities.

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Breaking the stereotypical ‘bad boy’ image associated with bikers, members of these clubs not only ride their muscle bikes or ride in remote areas, but also try to do their bit for social welfare. do

Shattering stereotypes

Urvashi Pathol, 35, rode a bike for the first time when she was 14 years old. She was inspired by her elder sister’s friend, a national boxing champion, who rode a Royal Enfield. A few years later, he and his friends in Pune, inspired by the film Dhoom, got into stunt biking. But when he went to attend stunt meetings, he was rarely allowed. They were discouraged, warned, ridiculed and ridiculed for riding motorcycles because “they weren’t for women”. Riding a motorcycle was considered a man’s domain. So, they asked themselves, “Do we need to be in a place where we have to keep fighting? Why don’t we build our own platform?”

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

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

Unlike most motorbike groups, these aren’t just reserved for riders with high-powered vehicles. Urvashi says moped riders are also welcome. “We want to promote women bikers. Being part of The Bikerni, they feel safe and united. They can be themselves without judgment,” she adds.

Salute to the army

The Jaipur-based group, Rashtriya Riders, meanwhile, tries to celebrate the country’s armed forces. Club members ride to places where the Army has fought and personally meet soldiers and families of those who have died in action. “Though we keep hearing about the sacrifices of the army, we hardly ever interact with them in person and get to say ‘thank you’. We just wanted to do it,” says Humat Singh Shekhawat, who Founded the club along with his friends Shivaditya Modi and Ravindra Jangir.

Hemat belongs to 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 couldn’t sense the desires of his army, he did the next best thing he knew was associated with it.

After obtaining the required permissions, on Kargil Vijay Divas 2016 (July 26), Himmat and his five friends embarked on a 16-day, 4,000-km trek from Jaipur to Kargil. “It was an unforgettable experience, we gave them a large artwork, signed by people from all over Jaipur,” says Himmat.

Since then, the Rashtriya Riders claim to have undertaken 20 more rides, covering 27,000 km, where they have met soldiers and their families. One such ride also spawned a book, The Tiger of Drass (HarperCollins India), which tells the story of Captain Anuj Nair (who fought and died during the 1999 Kargil War). Himmat co-authored the book with Meena Nair, the captain’s mother.

“We also support the families of those who may be killed in action,” he adds, adding, “All our rides revolve around the armed forces. We don’t do fun rides or just rides. They walk around for sake.

Litter-free floors.

Bikers Troop Bengaluru, meanwhile, began as a regular motorbike club that went on recreational rides in and around Bengaluru. But the club’s founder, Harshit BK, was worried about the litter tarnishing the beauty of the riding spots. So, along with his club members, he started organizing cleanliness drives once in three months, where they pick up garbage. “People make fun of us for it. Some even throw garbage when we clean,” says Harshit. Plastic bottles and lids are the most wasted items. During the last cleanup drive, they found more than 700 used diapers.

Nevertheless, Harshit and his fellow riders go to the spots armed with gloves and garbage bags. Sometimes, they also get outside support. For example, students from Sadaganga Institute of Technology, Tumkur participated in their own clean-up drive on the Shivaganga hills, where they collected 150 kg of used plastic bottles.

“We try to educate people to carry reusable plastic bottles or at least throw used bottles in the trash. When we go on our regular long rides, we make sure So that we don’t pollute the place,” says Harshit.

From four people in 2020, the club now has more than 400 members, according to Harsheth. “We want to see more people come forward to help us make these beautiful places litter-free.”

Contribute to the community

Madhusudan Singh used to ride for fun before becoming socially responsible. His Delhi-based club, Harmony of Riders, raised funds for girls’ education, donated blood and helped families of soldiers. “The club’s motto is seva (service), siksha (education), and khasaf (protection). We try to help people as much as possible at the grassroots level,” he says.

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

Despite the charity work, it begs the question: Why do motorcycles need to be used for the good of society? In all these stories, people had to come together to try to do something they thought was good. And, guess what brought them together?

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