HOG members with their mean machines at Prinsep Ghat. A Telegraph picture
The signature rumble of Harley engines will shatter the morning silence on Saturday as 40-odd bikers roar through Rajarhat on their way to Puri for the first eastern India HOG ride.
Twenty-five Harley owners from across the state, and Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Mumbai will assemble under the HOG (Harley Owners’ Group) banner to take part in the 520km ride and back, the biggest event organised by the group’s eastern chapter since the Founders’ Ride kickstarted it in June. The journey will start from Bengal Harley Davidson, the sole Harley showroom in the city.
Navin Sehgal, the secretary of the Bengal chapter of HOG, said: “The riders will be divided into three or four groups. Each will have a lead rider and a sweep rider. The lead rider will set the pace, lookout for hazards and map the route. The sweep rider will ensure that no rider is left behind. It’s a long drive and the roads are good.”
Sehgal did a recce of the Calcutta-Bhubaneswar-Puri route during Durga Puja and feels the riders could easily hit 120-140kmph.
The company, however, focuses on pleasure more than speed with its manufacturing line made up of mostly cruiser bikes.
“The roads from Calcutta to Bhubaneswar are fine. But one has to be a bit careful on the single lane highway from Bhubaneswar to Puri, which has potholes,” added Sehgal, who will ride his 1200cc Forty-Eight. He recently took part in the southern India HOG ride to Hampi.
Another participant in the eastern India ride will be Debabrata Dey, who had got his Iron 883 HD from Delhi in June 2011 and was a part of the HOG brotherhood even before the city dealership came up. “Irfan, the first Harley owner in the city, and Chandrajit Bhattacharya, who later shifted to Mumbai, and I used to get together every Sunday for our HOG rides,” said Dey, for whom the Iron is “an extramarital affair”. He and six-seven other members ride to Burdwan every Sunday, have breakfast there and return to the city. The top speed he has hit on his mistress is 185km, for 10 minutes, Dey declares.
Another participant, Ayush Chaturvedi, an automobile dealer, is keen on the Puri ride after recently travelling 1670km in 24 hours on his Harley. The feat would earn him the title of Iron Butt, a certification from the US-based Iron Butt Association that promotes safe long-distance motorcycle riding. “Six of us rode from Calcutta to Allahabad-Kosambi and back. I am the only one who completed the distance within 24 hours and will stake claim on the title by submitting documentation from fuel stations and pictures of my odometer.” Chaturvedi, whose seven-year-old son rides a 50cc two-stroke on the house terrace, will ride his Forty-Eight to Puri and back.
Hotelier Zubin Songadwala’s affair with his Harley began when he bought his Forty-Eight. He became the director of the HOG Bengal chapter later upgraded his bike to Super Glide Custom, on which he has already done 3880km. “This is the first eastern India HOG Ride after the Bengal Chapter started in June. The dealership came up in April. Before that, we had the Signature Ride to Mandarmani where only members of the Bengal chapter had taken part. Now in this Eastern chapter ride, bikers from the northern, southern and western chapters would get together,” said Songadwala, the director of the eastern chapter.
And Irfan, who went “from door to door” to form the HOG in Calcutta even before the dealership came up, will also ride to Puri. “When the company opened the Bengal chapter, it became easy to organise rides. Otherwise, it was very difficult for me to keep the HOG going,” said Irfan, who has done the Calcutta-Puri route twice in his Harley but is still looking forward to some leisurely action come December 1.