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Bikes, camera, action: Women motorcyclists in India are going full throttle into adventure trails

From being a few solo riders, they’re now a thriving bunch as they set out with grit and determination to ride their dream.

Bikes, camera, action: Women motorcyclists in India are going full throttle into adventure trails

Friday December 02, 2022,

9 min Read

If there is one thing you cannot ask Dimple Singh to stay away from–it’s her bike! This youngster who works as lead, patient relations, at a hospital in Mumbai, calls it her travel companion. 

Just back from a 12-day trip to Arunachal Pradesh, Dimple does at least three long trails a year, “And so many in between; it’s my de-stressor,” she grins. Yet, years ago if she listened to others, she wouldn’t have been where she is today.

“Way back in 2016, I was told by my colleagues not to buy a Bullet but an Activa as a motorbike can be too heavy. Glad I didn’t pay heed to that,” she says. 

women biker

Dimple Singh

Many women like her have faced the same question, in different ways. They’ve overcome criticisms and it’s now a different scene. From being pillion passengers, women are now grabbing the handlebars.

Today, they’re biker-moms, homemakers, students, and entrepreneurs–all part of the growing fraternity of women motorcyclists. Hailing from all walks of life, they do what it takes to ride their dream. 

YS Life spoke with a few of them and found they had inspiring stories to share.

Sisterhood of travelling bikers 

Biking conventions are the best place to meet these women. Take Sameera Dahiya, for instance, who doesn’t miss any of them. Someone who has the title of the ‘Fastest Women to do an All-India Ride’ under her belt. 

She’s covered 16,300 kilometres, with 28 states and its capitals, six Union Territories and 100 plus major cities, in just 24 days and 9 hours! 

“I look forward to meeting others, relating my stories and my challenges as a rider,” she says. More of an off-roader, Sameera does not do stunts, but takes up uphill and circular races. “Fastest one wins, so watch out for me,” she laughs.

woman biker

Biker Sameera Dahiya

But that’s a long way from, say, even 10 years ago, when the women's biking scene was non-existent. Another biker, Maral Yazarloo-Pattrick recalls how back then, she was the only woman biker who either rode solo or would have to sit pillion. 

“It was just me among 600 to 800 guys. We grew to two, then four and slowly started gathering more ladies together and now, when you look at it, it’s amazing! So many ladies ride, it does not matter what bike–a Bullet, a Triumph, BMW, Harley, Ducati, anything you name it, they ride it. All these women ride above 600CC bikes, they’re all strong professionals from so many fields,” she adds.

Sameera also recalls how the first India Bike Week was organised only for Harley riders and how it’s grown to include the whole biking community. 

women bikers

Maral Yazarloo-Pattrick

“I am so glad for the attention that women riders are getting and the platform it gives them. It’s heartening to see the change. We are reminding the world that there is no other way except for equality,” she says.   

Roadblocks 

These training programmes, events and meetups make for a whole lot of fun and learning. It gives women a chance to imbibe some biking culture, chill and do a few ride-outs, too. But the highlight is always the conversations that feature bikers sharing their tales of learning, what it was like for them on a ride, adjusting to short and long trails, understanding riding basics and about equality on the road. 

Maral, who’s done a solo world biking tour across seven continents with no backup, is always glad to share her pointers. Her experiences also resonate with other biker moms and homemakers. 

“I have had women say to me in the past, ‘Oh, tum firangi ho na, toh aap ke liye easy hai, problem nahi hai’ (since you are a foreigner, it [solo biking] is easy for you, it is not problematic). But I tell them I can show them examples of so many riders here who have achieved a balance. Between home, their business, work, and everything. It’s possible if you believe in yourself,” she says.

Candida Louis from Hubli completed her incredible solo bike journey from Bengaluru to Sydney and recently, did a four-month ride across Europe. She can’t wait to bust a few myths this weekend. Relating them to her own experience, she says women usually feel apprehensive about riding as they feel they won’t be safe on the road, but that is not true. 

“When I rode across India back in 2015, I was alone. Also, I would get a lot of comments and stares as I was this lone lady on a motorcycle on the road. But I have talked to a few people and explained what I do to them and I have realised that they were just curious. I’ve also seen that with biking gear on, everyone treats you with respect,” she shares. Candice was also told she can’t ride a heavy bike, but ended up riding a motorcycle that was 410 kgs! 

“Anyone can ride a bike as long as they practice on it. The more you ride, the better you get at it, is the mantra,” she states.

‘No regrets’

The women bikers address a thought that is probably running through every bike lover’s mind–whether they can make a successful career out of their passion for riding. 

Heard the line, ‘Never be a quitter’? Well, in this case, quitting may be just the thing you need. If you’re worried about bidding adieu to your formal work to take up riding a bike full-time, take a cue from these women who have been there, done that!

Sameera, an ex-IT professional who turned into a full-time motorcyclist, is someone to relate to. She left her 9-to-5 job six years ago and now gets paid for curating rides and events.

She admits that the switch is never easy. “It took me six years to get to where I am. But I think sometimes you just need to take risks and see where it goes. Today, I train women riders and also work with brands and curate rides so I want to tell others about how motorcycling can be paying. Plus, when I am appreciated, it feels great and motivates me to continue. I’ve grown from a 180-cc motorbike to a 900-cc one as I like to upgrade from motorcycle to motorcycle and my own knowledge is also increasing each day with my work,” she says. 

Sameera adds that today, there may be few jobs for women riders, but the platform is opening up. The area is nascent, but with the way things are going and expanding, opportunities will come up. 

Candida Louis

Candida Louis quit her job as a finance specialist at Infosys seven years ago and has turned her riding into a profession

Candida quit her job as a finance specialist at Infosys seven years ago and has turned her riding into a profession. She’s now a motorcycle tour manager and an entrepreneur and wants those starting out to get rid of self-doubt. 

“I never thought you could make a living from riding motorcycles. But I didn’t give up. I sold travel and biking merchandise, I kept riding and posting about my journeys online.” She struck it big when she won one of the biking photography competitions that took her to the US and brought her closer to bikers’ groups there. “We are in touch today and it’s like a close-knit group. Remember, with technology today, there are so many ways you can work remotely and still ride,” she says. 

Growing community 

Today, there are more bikers groups than ever in the country as women are finding their own turf in a sport predominated by men. Urvashi Patole Sane, who co-founded an all-female association of serious bikers exclusive to India called Bikernis, affirms that sentiment. 

She explains how back then there was no platform for women riders who were just starting out. And the group gave them a connection among themselves while also inspiring others to get astride a motorcycle by addressing the doubts and inhibitions they faced. “Here was a group where they could ride sans any judgement. It gave them a sense of togetherness and safety,” she recounts. 

Today the group has 17 chapters across India and there are quite a few others that have sprung up, such as Lady Riders of India, Hop On Gurls, and WIMA (Women’s India Motorcycle Association). 

Urvashi Patole Sane

Urvashi Patole Sane

These organisations get women to ride in different motorcycle expeditions, enjoy the camaraderie and educate and train people in the art and skill of motorcycling. 

When you look at women riding, you think of the word, ‘freedom’, right? Maral says it goes beyond that. 

“I don’t adhere to women seeing freedom on riding motorbikes because you can have a sense of freedom when painting or even travelling. Why it has become a symbol of biking is because it’s a concept put out by society that biking is a manly thing and that women can’t do it. To me, just the fact that a woman can tell her husband and children she wants to go out riding on a bike, is equality. It’s about making space for what you want to do,” she adds.

Message to other women bikers 

If riding a bike seems empowering, remember with power comes responsibility so follow rules. Start by knowing your bike well and ensuring it is serviced and in good condition. Begin with small rides around town.

Women bikers like Sameera have shared other key advice and tips. She says riding covers physical and mental aspects and asks bikers to have adequate physical fitness before taking any trail. And if one is riding long-distance, it’s important to get at least six to seven hours of sleep. 

“Never try to chase miles without giving yourself rest,” she cautions, adding, “When I began, I was riding close to 1,000 kilometres a day and I made discipline my key mantra. Be mature and responsible on the road and always be in control of your reactions when you ride.”

Maral underlines how safety is an everyday thing and not just for a special ride. She says that before the advent of biker clubs and gangs, riding a motorcycle was simply an option to commute. 

“It is affordable and convenient and a lot of women ride a bike to go shopping, and pick up kids from school. But safety must be paramount at all times. I often see that riders skip wearing a helmet and other gear. I stand by biking for anyone, but only as long as you are not putting your life at stake. If you don’t follow rules, your experience does not mean anything,” she adds. 

Been chasing your biking dream? Sameera sums it up for you: “Biking is an investment of love, time and emotions. It’s not just about a ride.”

Ready to rev it up?


Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

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