This Woman’s day, we got lucky to interview Samiksha Bali, a biker from Mumbai. Read on as she tells us about what it has been like, about trails and biker communities, and what she’d like to change.
What do we need to know about Samiksha Bali?
I’m 26 years old & have been dreaming of riding motorcycles, the Royal Enfield in particular ever since I was a kid. I have always been fascinated with the power & look of cruiser bikes especially. I finally bought my own Royal Enfield Machismo 500 with my husband a year ago & we have covered more than 10,000 kms on it in the past year. Since both of us are avid riders but share a bike for now, we take turns riding. We call our bike ‘bijli’ as in “lightning” because the day we got her home it was after sundown and her chrome tank shone like lightning in the dark. Later on, when I rode her and discovered her ability to power up beautifully, the name stuck.
How did you stumble upon and what is it that keeps you hooked to biking? Which one was your first ride ever?
I decided that I wanted to get a motorcycle of my own & go around exploring on 2 wheels even when I was barely a teenager. My first recollection of standing & staring at a RE was when I would see my karate instructor’s steed parked outside the dojo & I would just picture myself riding a machine as grand looking as that one day. I think that’s what drove me towards this obsession with motorcycles – the whole idea of being in control of a beautiful machine on two wheels and taking it just about anywhere. My parents always encouraged me to try adventurous things & my dad taught me to ride the old hand geared vespa . I would ride all over the place with his oversized helmet falling off my head. Till I had my own bike, I would borrow friend’s bikes for short durations.
Motorcycling takes very little to get hooked to if you’re the kind who likes outdoors, exploring, testing your limits & learning every day that you ride. As clichéd as it may sound, the sense of freedom & happiness I get when I’m riding & pushing beyond my comfort zone to ride in new terrains & weather is what gets me going. The adrenaline rush is crazy & even the small breakdowns become a part of the whole riding experience. I’m not much of a speed freak, so riding at a comfortable pace is what works for me.
My first longish ride was to Harihareshwar, when it had been just 2 months that I got my bike.
What all routes, trails and machines have you been on till now? Any favorites?
There is so much to ride to even close to where I stay in Mumbai. I have just started out & have covered closer places like Harihareshwar, Western coastal route, Goa, Malgund, Tarkarli, Vapi among others. I have unfortunately not ridden a lot of other motorcycles apart from the Enfield & Pulsar.
My favourite trail has been Ladakh so far. It’s a really challenging trail which requires enormous amounts of will power to attempt. I rode through Spiti valley, which is a desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh. The route involved a lot of off-road riding in extreme terrain, through melting glacial water crossings, and sand, rocks and gravel most of the way. Another challenge was extreme altitude at which we rode, which made it difficult to breathe at times because of the paucity of oxygen. We also had to deal with the bike’s depleting performance at that altitude. This was a memorable trip.
There seem to be a number of communities and riding groups for riders? How does someone who is just starting get involved? How do these groups really work?
Yes, there are loads of motorcycling groups & associations which are unisex & even women motorcyclist special groups. Information on these groups is easily available on the internet & you just need to get in touch with the Group administrators to know how you can be a part of these groups.
I am currently not a part of any group, because I prefer to ride with a few friends & my hubby. However, I have loads of friends who are part of Groups & one thing commendable about passionate motorcyclists is that they are happy to help with advice of any kind on motorcycles even if you are not a part of groups. So connecting with like minded riders is very helpful & you can learn a lot from those riding for quite a few years.
A dream ride?
I dream of travelling the world over on motorcycle with my hubby. But before I do that there is so much to explore & ride to in India itself. I look forward to exploring uncommon trails in India, specially the North eastern stretches. An international trail I would like start with Mongolia or Kenya.
How is the riding scene in India different for women than for men, if at all?
Women motorcyclists in India are still a very uncommon sight & it takes time for people on the roads to get accustomed to seeing women on these machines. Constant stares of intrigue & the apprehensiveness of loads of families to allow the women to ride is something of an issue. So it’s definitely easier being a man riding a motorcycle , but women are slowly coming to their own & taking their passion for motorcycling to a greater level. There are loads of Indian women who do a lot of touring on motorcycles & help inspire others. A lot of motorcycling clubs now also encourage women to ride responsibly.
Any tips for people, and especially women who want to or are already involved in biking?
Do not wait for long if you know that motorcycling is something you want to pursue as a passion! Go ahead & rent a motorcycle & start doing short rides with friends!
What keeps you busy, other than riding?
On the professional side, I am a marketing professional and hope to someday start something of my own, preferably something related to motorcycling and travelling. I love writing about my travels and sharing my experiences with others. I have a blog as well as am a guest blogger for holidify.com & a few other online forums.
I’m a shameless peoples person & like interacting with others. I often surprise myself with my inclination to experiment & cook unconventionally, making friends & my hubby the tasters. My instagram page has an array of random clicks so I like taking a lot of pictures. Apart from that you will mostly find me with a book during commuting in Mumbai trains.
If there were one thing you could change about the way people perceive or see or think about riding, it would be?
A lot of people who start motorcycling do not pay much attention to proper safety & riding gear. I think more awareness needs to be created to encourage people to actually go out & spend money on quality riding gear that can keep them safe on the road. A helmet is compulsory for every biker, but not all realize this.
Read more by Samiksha Bali here :