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Va va vroom

Nights out on Saturdays are a strict no-no for Abhishek Nayak. He has to get to bed early so that he can be up with the birds to wash and wax his superbike. Once that’s done, he is ready for a long adrenaline-pumping ride out of Visakhapatnam before seven on Sunday mornings.

This is pretty much a drill that Nayak, 30, has been following for the last year or so on his Harley-Davidson with his friends. Initially, they were a group of four. Now the strength of V! Superbikers — V for Visakhapatnam — is 23. Apart from Harley-Davidsons, the bikers ride on Ducatis, Suzuki Hayabusas and Hyosungs.

The drives could take them 250-300 kilometres out of the city and sometimes they reach the outskirts of Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha, almost 450km away. But more often than not, they are back home for a late lunch.

Adrenaline junkies zipping around on their fancy bikes on the highways may be passť in the metros. But in the smaller cities, a new breed of bikers is coming up. And from Kochi to Bhubaneswar, from Raipur and Indore to Baroda, lovers of high-end motorcycles are joining hands.

Samyak Modi, 30, takes off on his Ducati from Indore, while Sumeet Khimji, 32, rides his Harley-Davidson Roadking out of Bhubaneswar every Sunday. Raipur resident Sameer Shah, 27, is the proud owner of a Hayabusa. Modi belongs to the Torque Club and Khimji to the Superbikers Club. Shah and his group of friends are still to decide on a name, while Nayak and his friends named their group a few months ago.

“On any Sunday morning you will see 10-15 bikers riding in a single file in search of good roads to the north of Kochi. It’s like a pack of wolves in search of prey,” says Prajeesh Premachandran, a Kochi-based service head at a Hyosung showroom. Harley-Davidson has opened a showroom in Kochi and others are announcing their plans of opening new dealerships in the Kerala city.

Bikes of more than 600cc are considered superbikes. But along with speed and power, what makes them “super” is the acceleration (0-100 kmph in three seconds). And of course, they are exclusive and expensive, with the cost of bikes ranging from Rs 7 lakh to Rs 23 lakh. “We don’t merely buy a Harley; we buy into a culture and lifestyle,” says Calcutta-based Ayush Chaturvedi, who owns several superbikes, including a Harley-Davidson.

The surge in demand for superbikes has left even Harley-Davidson surprised. “The sales are ahead of our expectations,” says Anoop Prakash, managing director, Harley-Davidson India. In fact, 240 Harley-Davidson bikers converged in Bangalore recently and roared off into the ancient city of Hampi.

“When I started superbiking in the early 1990s, I was almost the only guy with a great bike,” says Dr Arun Theraja, a Delhi surgeon whose club Gods (Group of Delhi Superbikers) has around 70 enthusiasts. “But now there are several superbiking clubs.”

The club members stress they are choosy about whom they open their doors to. In Bhubaneswar, new riders are enrolled only after a majority vote. The clubs mostly reach out to would-be members through social media sites such as Facebook. “We look for like-minded people. We don’t need people who just want to race. We want to have fun, exchange ideas and feel the thrill of being together,” says Nayak.

Most of the 20-odd bikers in the Torque Club, including Modi, are businessmen. “Our group of 28 in Superbikers Club also includes doctors, lawyers and software engineers,” stresses Khimji, who belongs to a jewellers’ family.

The clubs follow their own rules — and safety is of paramount importance. “We have our safety gear in place but we can experiment a great deal,” says Shah. Most of these clubs have two speed marshals leading the group, and members are forbidden from overtaking them.

The clubs interact with each other. Quite a few have links with the Harley-Davidson-recognised HOG (Harley Owners Group), the only stand-alone club. Whenever a BBSR Superbikers’ Club member is in Delhi, he can get in touch with HOG for a ride and Vizag’s superbikers can do the same when they are in Bhubaneswar. “We may come from various backgrounds and places, but superbikes bind us,” Khimji says.

But unlike HOG, clubs in smaller cities do not restrict themselves to just one kind of superbike. “It’s complete camaraderie when we travel to other places,” says Chaturvedi. “It’s wonderful to see so many superbike enthusiasts coming together.”

That could land them in a bit of trouble too as it happened a few months ago when Superbikers of Calcutta and Bhubaneswar met in Chandipur, almost the middle point between the two cities. “So many people landed up to see our bikes that we had to call in the police to control them,” recalls Khimji.

Do the traditional biking enthusiasts feel threatened by the superbikers? “Not really,” says H. Ponnappa, a Royal Enfield biker in Bangalore who goes on biking adventures in south India with his friends. “Superbikers may feel great because they have monster machines under them. But at the end of the day, it’s all about biking and having fun,” he says.

Nothing, clearly, can stop these machine lovers from following their heart. After all, it takes them on a joy ride like no other.