However, the many questions that come to one’s mind when they hear about a woman going solo biking are:
● Is solo riding safe, especially for women?
● What precautions should they be taking?
● What kind of people should they trust?
To help everyone get answers, we connected with an avid Royal Enfield biker, Dnyanadaa Prakash Mhaskar, a lawyer by qualification, a teacher by profession, and biker by passion. She is a member of this famous women’s bike club, Bikerni. She calls herself a newbie biker as it's only been five years since she started biking, but along her journey, she has picked up a lot of wisdom about solo biking.
Honestly, I purchased RE before even learning to ride it. I asked one of my students to come with me to the showroom to get it. But I learned eventually and met a girl who said that if I really wanted to improve my skills and learn more, then I should join a boys’ group of bikers as they would often go on night rides. What I really wanted to do the most was to go on a solo ride, be independent and not wait for others to schedule a ride.
So, I ventured into solo riding on my Royal Enfield within six months and began riding to Pune (from Mumbai) and back. Twice I took an incorrect route because I didn’t know what the right way was. The first time I was lucky that nobody caught me. But the second time, the traffic police stopped me. In your riding gear, people don’t really know if you are a man or a woman. I told them that I did not know the right way since it was my first time, so they gave me a receipt which I could show at Lonavala in case anyone else stopped me and also asked me to ride from extreme left. So lesson learnt - always pre-plan your route using an App and never fear to ask people the right path.
I have been to South (India) all by myself which taught me many things. The thing about solo riding is you should be confident but not overconfident. If you are overconfident, then you will make mistakes.
Dnyanadaa: This incident was all over the news, so probably a lot of you might be aware already, that on July 23, 2018, there were three of us women riding to Palghar on our bikes. There was a truck ahead of us, and he saw us riding but wasn’t letting us pass. Unfortunately, due to a pothole, one of my co-riders, Jagruti Hogle, lost her balance and came under the rear tyre of the same truck and passed away. I witnessed the entire incident and that traumatized me for many days. The next day I had to ride back and I constantly kept on thinking, ‘What if something like that happens to me?’ And to rid myself of the fear, I decided to take the solo ride to the South the same year that she passed on.
The percentage of accidents happening even if a rider is responsible is 2%. Now many times, accidents are caused due to other’s mistakes and irresponsible riding/driving. On our Indian roads, you must have noticed, animals cross the roads very often, so that is also one of the biggest causes of accidents.
I remember we were once riding to Malshej Ghat and a small tempo carrying vegetables had toppled which made the road slippery. The group with whom I was riding, was alert. The riders in the front had notified the ones behind them to slow down. This way as responsible citizens, we must be alert, and also help others.
First of all, I would recommend all new bikers to be comfortable within their own areas. Each road teaches us different things. Even though Pune-Mumbai is my regular road, I can’t afford to be overconfident because anything can happen.
Next, ask yourself, what is the purpose of your ride?
Don’t forget that you are riding because you are passionate about it, and not just to show others. Showing off is not important, your safety, your life is. A bike is a machine, and you don’t know the heart of your machine, therefore you need to be careful.
Now that we have established comfort and the purpose of your ride, next I would suggest is being alert and having a 360-degree view. Especially in the monsoon, visibility is an issue due to fog, and roads are slippery. We have to look ahead and be alert about the things happening around and pay attention to the rear-view mirrors.
Know your bike and your ability:
As I mentioned earlier, the comfort level matters a lot and what matters the most is how well do they know their bike? First of all, the bike should be suitable. It is all about skills. You may be owning a Royal Enfield, a BMW, or a Ducati, but do you have the right skills and training required to ride it successfully? Do you know how it behaves on different roads in different weather?
Learn the skills and gain the experience of riding on different roads. India alone has so many different road types. If you are used to only a tarmac road and you come across a rough, unstable patch, you will need to be skilled enough to ride that patch solo or have the presence of mind to reach out or think on your feet to figure a way out.
Panic doesn’t help, as your confidence goes down the drain. People you might encounter on the road are very important because you might need their help.
If you are grounded, and if you are able to converse with them politely, they will go to any extent to help you out. If anytime you enter a village because that is your route, and someone notices that you are a woman rider, they will try and bring your morale down, but make sure you don’t lose it. Remain polite and talk it out rather than having an argument, because they know the roads and they may create problems for you.
Be an early bird:
If you are riding solo, start your day early and end it or pause before sunset. If you are planning for a multiple-day ride, then keep a minimum buffer of two days to rest, and for any unforeseen incidents like tyre punctures, road conditions or other accidents on the road that may cause you to slow down.
A basic tool kit is always a must. Sometimes the tools that the company gives are not enough, so take guidance from experts and make your own tool-kit. Always ensure that your bike is in proper condition, whether it’s a quick ride or a lengthy ride. Pay attention to what all your bike needs from time to time and don’t keep it until the last minute because, literally, your life is at stake here.
Tyres for example. Tyres for bike trips, whether short or long, play a very vital role and Royal Enfield tyres need to be properly cared for! The RE in general needs a good amount of attention and care. Generally, CEAT bike tyres are considered as the best bike tyres for the cult-brand motorcycles. Check out the tyre condition, look for wear marks and examine the tread depth of the tyre. Depth plays an important role when traversing through different terrains and watery surfaces. Ideally, safe bike tyres are those that lend optimum grip under diverse weather conditions.
Don’t rely on ‘On Road Assistance’ numbers. They are effective up to only 1% because they can’t reach you in certain areas and they are very expensive. However, you will receive great help from other riders. Keep the numbers ready and handy of all those (relatable) people who will definitely guide you.
Limit Social Media updates:
Don’t announce on social media that you are about to go on a solo ride. Especially if you are a woman! Update2-3 days after reaching your destination but surely keep your near and dear ones informed and the ones who are definitely going to help you out. The more people know, the more danger you are in.
Be street-smart: Know your roads well. Plan your route well. Know what all stops are on your route. I don’t have a direction sense, so I rely on maps and local people to help me.
As an avid and smart Royal Enfield biker, Dyaanada has shared all types of tips, right from mapping your routes in advance to not sharing your destination on social media, to ensuring that your bike is in tip-top shape, including your tyres.
As a company, CEAT has pledged towards the safety of our consumers, and we salute the spirit and determination of women bikers like Dyaanada who inspire many others like her to overcome all fears and go to the other side.
Like our tyres, you too could get a grip on the roads, breakaway free, and gear up for the adventures waiting to be discovered.