CHENNAI : Zipping through the highway, firmly seated on her motorbike, Kalaivani J is the embodiment of determination. The 42-year-old, mother of one, recently set the record for the longest ride in a single sitting, covering 2,300 km from Chennai to Pune on her trusty vehicle.
Kickstarting her passion
Her first brush with riding was in her village Cheyyar near Kancheepuram, when she was 12 years old. Jumping onto her father’s motorcycle, she used to zoom through the streets, completing errands for her mother. “I was a tomboy when I was younger. I loved motorbikes and biking. My father was supportive. The joke around the house was that friends came to see me after school, only to find that the motorcycle and I were missing,” said Kalaivani.
It was only three years ago when Kalaivani decided to take up riding seriously. After her marriage, her husband always supported her passions. Kalaivani was stirred to join The Bajaj Avenger Club in the city. She then bought herself a Bajaj Avenger 220CC Groove. With the assistance of fellow club members, she learned maintenance and upkeep of the bike.
Setting a record
Upon hearing her love for motorbikes, her colleague at the law firm suggested that she try to set a record for the longest bike ride by a woman. “I saw that the record set for the longest bike ride by a woman was only 1,600 km. I had never done any long-distance riding before. My longest ride was only 700 km. But I was intrigued to do it. Well, I’m the type of person who cannot sit around waiting once I get an idea,” she laughed.
In June this year, she conducted her first test ride to Vijayawada. The trip revealed a lot to her about long-distance riding. “As a woman, you need to be extra careful when you take bio-breaks, that is, bathroom breaks. I had to make sure I was safe. You cannot stop for anything, and you have to maintain a certain speed limit always,” she said. Later that month, she decided to take a test ride to Nagpur. “My club members were incredibly helpful.
They organised with the club members from other cities that I would be stopping by, so that my trip would be smooth. They also took care of my son while I was away,” she said. This test run failed as her motorbike began to run into some technical difficulties in between. She returned to Chennai, not defeated, but with the knowledge to succeed the next time.
She also decided to make some adjustments to her initial route. Finally, on the morning of her record-breaking ride, she went to a temple and prayed to Saibaba. Renewed with confidence, she embarked on her 2,000-km ride to Pune at 4 am. Halfway through the ride, she fell off the bike, injuring her foot. She ignored the pain and got back on. She completed the ride at 10 pm the next day and set the record.
Women and vehicles
Upon reaching home, the realisation did not sink in until she received the email from the India Book of Records, which she then excitedly showed her family and friends from the club. Thrilled, she has her sights set on the next ride.
But the record is not the only thing Kalaivani has broken – gender roles too, lay smashed on the floor. “There is nothing a woman cannot do. We can do anything a man can. People may say we are not supposed to do certain things, but let them say it. You decide what you want to do, not someone else,” she said.