You know you’re at India Bike Week when you hear a lot of machine talk. On January 17, as I stood on a dusty red Vagator hill top in Goa, I heard phrases like 750cc, twin tyres, button gear shift, take-off thrust and model numbers that sounded like the most complicated logarithm. It was my first time to a biker week, in other words I was what people call a noob. I looked down at my brown sneakers, grateful for not picking the floral beach chappals (c’mon, it’s Goa!) I had slipped on first!
Some of these 7,000 bikers at the second edition of India Bike Week (organised by Seventy EMG) were in serious relationships with their bikes. “My bike is my first wife,” said one biker I spoke to. He said it very seriously too.
Some of them were crazy enough to ride more than 3,000km to get here. “Only one-way. We leave tomorrow for the ride back home. We can’t wait!” said another.
Their spirit was intoxicating. As I walked around the huge carnival grounds — bumping into the biceps of bikers twice as big as me — some of that spirit wrapped itself around. I stepped into the Big Cinema Tent and there was Ted Simon, 82, telling his story. Of how he rode around the world on a Triumph Tiger 100 back in 1973 like “a wandering prophet on a motorcycle”. There was Jay Kannaiyan, who gave up his job and sold everything he had — down to his bed — and rode from the US through South America, Europe, Africa into India on a Suzuki DR650. His blog www.jamminglobal.com tells his tale. And Nick Sanders, who holds the record for riding around the world in just 19 days!
There was glamour too — bikini girls washing bikes. Some shopping — the biker flea market. Some firsts — the unveiling of the Harley-Davidson Street 750. And many brilliant stunts. lt wasn’t difficult to fall in love with it all.
At the end of those two days, I found myself wishing I could join the parade. “The least I can do is to ride pillion on one!” I thought. The biking god has his ways. In the few hours we had before our flight back, a 23-year-old girl who I had made friends with, and I, decided to go to Baga beach. We stood waiting for a taxi but nothing showed up for 10 minutes. All of a sudden, a young chappie passing by on a bike offered us a lift.
Under no circumstance would we suggest hopping onto a bike with a stranger in a strange city. But just the day before, I had heard Ted Simon say, “The most important thing is to be willing to take a few risks. On my trip, I made it an act of faith that if any opportunity opened up and people invited me to do something that was not precarious or strange, I would say ‘yes’.”
And so we said ‘yes’.
It was the most uncomfortably sandwich-seated ride I had ever had... but the most liberating.
1 Bike stunts. MRF Freestyle Muscle Mix riders hanging on to a motocrosser 30ft in the air. What. A. Great. Show.
2 Shock and awe. This was like WWF Trump Cards coming alive! The Full Contact Championship (FCC) in the middle of the bike carnival drew a roaring audience — who roared when a tooth fell off and even when this wrestler’s eye was punched clean! We know because we were in the first row, jaw-dropping at each strike.
3 Thirteen Harley-Davidson bikers from Calcutta rode down to Goa covering almost 2,700km one way! “Call it the brotherhood,” grinned Navin and William, who joined 1,000 (wow!) Harley owners at IBW. “We are worse than women when it comes to shopping,” they grinned showing off their bike accessories and sharing tales of how they encountered folks on the way whose questions they would answer patiently. “People would ask, ‘Yeh bike kitne ka hai?’ or ‘Aap kya racing pe jaa rahe hain?’. Finally, when our patience ran out, we simply told them, ‘We are delivery boys who deliver these bikes on behalf of the company!’”
4 Everything was so man-and-machines that it was a relief to see this really cute Polish Scooter as part of the Vintage Bikes display! “I bought it from a foreign civil service officer for Rs 6,500 around 11 years ago. It was a steal,” said owner Desh Dipak Singh. It was!
5 Bike Week brought many big-ticket acts on stage. Everyone rushed to hear bands like Dualist Inquiry and DubVision. But there was this all-girl rock band The Vinyl Records that was surprisingly good. The band didn’t get the attention it deserved because the Bike Stunts were on at the same time. But the three girls from Arunachal Pradesh and one from Assam totally ‘rock’ed!
6 The display of modified and custom-made bikes represented by the words on this tank — Built Not Bought.
7 Bikini wash girls! Yup, they gave the motorcycles all the TLC they deserved!
8 Kudos to this small-town man with big ideas! India’s first electric-concept bike, Nisttarkya (meaning ‘unimaginable’ in Sanskrit) was launched by Santhosh. The man from Mysore said he spent Rs 6,000 to build it. Weighing 40kg, the bike “is built for an aerodynamic position”, explained Santhosh, who holds three Limca Book records. Here’s hoping he gets the attention — and funding — he’s looking for to make this marketable.
9 Amidst clouds of dust left by spinning motorcycle wheels, there was a fashion shoot for a magazine taking place beneath the setting sun at Vagator. It was kind of ethereal because it was too pretty to be out there yet seemed to fit right in.
10 The Loudest Bike Competition — which explains this picture — and other contests kept things speedy. Ganesh Raikar, a 23-year-old who rode 300km from Karnataka to IBW, aced the Loudest Bike Competition thanks to the “4X1 exhaust” of his 1,000cc bike. As he revved it up (to a deafening decibel), he had one thing to say, “My bike is my life”. We believed him!