Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway; looking for adventure in whatever comes our way. Yeah, darlin’! Gonna make it happen, take the world in a love embrace, fire all of your guns at once and explode into space. Steppenwolf’s Born to be Wild rose to acclaim as an unofficial bikers’ anthem in the late '60s. As it opens the iconic Easy Rider, the song sets the tone for a candid portrayal of the hippie dream and American freedom - a ride powered by a full tank of gas and drug-fuelled money.
There are many who swear by the goodness of a full tank, an open highway, zero connectivity, an aimless ride, the roar of an engine as sole company, and K S Prabhu leads this league. He is no stranger to the by-lanes and ways of the city but loves what the roads have to offer for the comfort of his ride. He is a '60s kid, but not in the usual sense of the phrase, for his ally is the legendary 1962 Royal Enfield, that he plans to take to his grave.
The legend motif continuing, Prabhu ran the Legends Motorcycle Café and Museum at Wheeler Road for nearly 10 years, before shutting shop, a year ago, to go on sabbatical in the Himalayas. With two trips to the mountains, the country’s only individually-owned motorcycle museum to his name and knowledge of the city and many parts of the country at the back of his hand, Prabhu is an authority when it comes to navigating the motorcycle scene in the city.
Prabhu opines the motorcycle culture is slowly making in-roads, if the number of biking clubs and riders are anything to go by. “With the IT crowd taking to riding and embarking on weekend road trips, riding is in the limelight. Although this might merely be a fad, for one road-trip or owning superbikes does not make one a biker. Hardcore biking is in your soul,” he emphasizes.
While there are exclusive clubs, marked by the wheels that people own, like the Bangalore Pandhis (Harley Davidson), the Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club (Enfield) and the Bangalore Jawa Yezdi Motorcycle Club, open clubs like the Bangalore Motorcycle Club find a large following. Kicking the cliche that women can’t ride in its face are the two exclusive women’s biking clubs - The Bikerni and Hop on Gurls that have been enjoying a good run in the city.
For Bindu Reddy, founder of Hop On Gurls, the club stemmed from her desire to ride the Bullet. “I fulfilled my childhood dream of riding a Bullet by pestering a friend to teach me. It was when I realised there were no avenues for women to learn to ride a Bullet, I started this to provide a platform for passionate potential women riders. It isn’t an all-women’s group as I started the group with the help of three male friends and they lend their bikes for training. .”
Ask her about discouragement from the streets and Reddy quips that though men were liberal with comments of women being unable to handle a beast like the Bullet, times are friendlier now. Genevieve D’Souza, who rides the Avenger to work every day, says the attention, good and bad, has ceased to matter. “I have been riding my dad’s Avenger for two years now. I have received quite a few women’s compliments and “thumbs-up” signs from women on the road, including a woman in a burqa. Men, usually just stare. Some whistle. I’ve once been told off by a man, saying- ‘Stop trying to be a man. The motorbike is not for women.’”
Glory brought back
With more men and women hitting the road now, Anand Dharmaraj and his venture indiMotard Adventures, are upping the grease and speed quotients to ensure a smooth ride. In the business of restoring vintage classic motorcycles and superbikes for nearly four years, Dharmaraj views the trend of unique customised vehicles doing the rounds for a few years more.
“We restore and modify, at least, one bike per month and find our customers stressing on performance first and looks next. There is a lot of potential in the biking sector but manufacturers primarily concentrate on sales volume in the commuter category, the focus is only now shifting to performance bikes,” he says. Dharmaraj has also been conducting the country’s only motorcycle track day every quarter and the event comes with a whole gamut of wheels, instructors, tracks and medical services.
The avid biker, who left behind a career in the US to kick-start his venture, dreams of a day when the motorcycle scene in the country matures to a level where safety is prioritised over speed and performance, technical knowledge is shared and people discuss travel plans and routes. “That is the place to ride to,” he signs off.