At young impressionable ages, when most adolescents were figuring out matters of the heart, these young women had already found their true love. The sweet sound of engines revving, the feel of the wind on their faces, and the thrill of the ride continues to be the panacea for their soul. Diverse in ages, different in interests, yet sharing one strong bond, meet members of Women’s International Motorcycle Association (WIMA), India (Vizag), the first of its kind women motorcycling group from Vizag. Jaya Siva Murty brings the story of this bunch of amazing women in Vizag.
Vaishali Kulkarni More
All of 52 years young, Vaishali More thanks to the good-old-times, when social media wasn’t so prevalent, and people still had their privacy. “I was into dirt biking and stunts on bikes at college, and thanks to a lack of social media, more often than not, my parents did not know what I was up to”, she laughs. Often found competing with boys, her father decided to put a stop to her biking and got her married. “This worked out in my favour, she shares, for my husband gave me all the freedom I wanted.” Having taken a break when her son was growing, she’s been back in the biking scene since 2015, as the first solo woman motorbiker of Andhra Pradesh. “The day I got my bike, an ex-student was visiting, and she was my first pillion rider. She was also the one who gave my bike her name of ‘Esprit Libre’ meaning free spirit.” This was shortened to make her name Ellie, an entity which has been with Vaishali through her fascinating times and over 26,058 km of riding till date.
Awards and recognition
Recently nominated as the MotoGirlIndia of AP by the biggest biking app Throttle and 2019 recipient of the Sangamitra Award from Visakha Media Services, Vaishali has been a guest of honour and guest speaker at many events. Felicitated by Big Biking Commune at Mahabalipuram; Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, West Bengal and Kalinga Motor Sports Club, Bhubaneswar this biker mom is known for her work in spreading awareness among rural women on genital hygiene, cervical and breast cancer during her long rides through India’s villages.
Coming together as WIMA India (Vizag)
While Vaishali More had always been a solo rider, it was her long-standing dream, to get women together and form a group. “As a riding club, you can do many things. You can go for longer rides, take up social causes and uplift each other.” That’s when the Women’s International Motorcycle Association (WIMA) came to her notice. Founded in 1950, in the US, this was the first organisation to recognise women in the sport. Today it is the largest motorcycle association in the world for women and also the oldest. It has 29 national divisions across the world, with Women’s International Motorcycle Association India being formed in June 2017. Vaishali soon became their core member, and on Teachers Day in 2019, the group was formed in Vizag as well. Creating the first women’s biking club in Vizag, was thus a dream come true not just for Vaishali, but for all its members.
“The first thing we did as a group was, of course, to go for a ride. But that’s not all. We stopped and sat at a park and shared our stories. And it was then that we realised how crazy and equally excited we all were.” Vaishali is also enthusiastic to share details on group dynamics. “When you ride as a group, there’s a leader who leads the team, a sweep who stays at the end and ensures everyone is before them, a marshal who rides on the side to maintain line and discipline and the novice riders who are kept in the middle, so they can be assisted and guided. Usually, in groups, ego kicks in and a person wants to hold the same position for a long time. However, here we want everyone to grow, and all positions except Group Admin will be dynamic. This way everyone can understand the power, roles and responsibilities equally.”
Having bonded over a common passion, each member of this group in Vizag is enthusiastic and excited about the future. Looking ahead, Vaishali shares that they definitely plan to do plenty of rides, to different destinations. “Each member has something to teach us, and we are looking to create a great environment of learning, developing and bonding.” She also plans to go for social rides and start ‘Spark-plug evenings’, where different riders and experts would be brought in to share biking experiences, amazing rides, impart knowledge on new bikes, mechanics and repairs, meet and greet other bikers and help the team grow. Lastly and most importantly, Vaishali hopes that the group will grow meaningfully, with more like-minded members becoming a part of this circle.
Being the only girl in her family, both her brother and father were extremely supportive, and in fact pivotal in teaching her how to ride. So when she got good CGPA during her Board exams, she approached her father and asked for a bike. “I still remember that he took off his glasses and wiped them clean. He didn’t say anything that day. But the next morning he took me to the showroom and I purchased my Royal Enfield. Dexter came into my life in 2013.”
The Rider’s life
All of 22 years and riding for a long time, she recollects travelling approximately 100kms very often to her grandmother’s village. “I would, in fact, do many back to back rides, giving breaks only so that my bike could rest. I would also ride with anonymous people. Before riding, I would simply post that I wanted to ride on social media, and people would respond. I’ve often ridden with strangers, and it has been a great experience meeting new people.”
“Often people look me up and down, and I wonder whether they’re checking me out or the bike.”
Best riding experiences
“My longest ride so far has been from Vizag to Bengaluru at a stretch. I’ve met many interesting people along the way, and I look forward to more rides through this group.”
A Graphologist by profession, she began learning to ride two-wheelers when she was in the fifth standard. “We lived in a village, and my grandfather wanted me to be independent and bold, and I would ride on the Luna at a very young age.” By the time she was in the 12th standard, she had learnt to ride motorcycles, her first being the Bajaj Caliber. She went on to ride different kinds of bikes like Splendour, Passion and the Pulsar.
Trip to Ladakh
It was during her trip to Amarnath in 2018, that led to the triggering point of owning a bike. Finding many AP registration bikes parked there, she went and enquired, only to learn that the group was on its way to Ladakh. This was when she learnt about the Mecca for bikers. “After that, I was hooked. I saw many Youtube videos, learnt about the tough terrain and the low temperatures, riders need to endure.” The long-standing desire to own a bike thus bore fruit, and she invested in purchasing her very own Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350x. People soon advised that she needed to get used to her bike before taking the ride to Ladakh, and Lavanya started doing many rides to Araku and her hometown Kakinada. “That was when my cousin taught me a few things, including how to start the bike in 3rd gear during a climb.” On July 3, she packed the bike and sent it to Delhi. Teaming with her cousin and his best friend, the trio, purchased their gear in Delhi, readied the bike for the tough terrain and also did an Amarnath yatra trip before heading to Ladakh. “It was fascinating to see bikers everywhere and how they help each other out. No one laughs if you and your bike falls, or if it breaks down, often in the middle of one of the 14 water crossings en route. It’s tougher at Khardungla, where visibility is negligible and temperatures are at -5 degrees.”
How people react
“Often boys try to race and zoom past when they see a woman on the bike.”
Family and friends
The support of her father also led her to learn biking, however, her mother would often worry. “She was happiest to hear that I’m part of a group now.” Sharing the best thing about being in Women’s International Motorcycle Association, she talks about her first ride, “I would often see many men going on bikes to Bheemili, and would want to go too, so during our first ride as a WIMA group member, I felt thrilled and powerful, that my dream had become real.”
Having learnt how to ride in the ninth standard, Supriya was gifted a Vespa and her brother was given a bike. She would ride it often, even going to the neighbouring shop on her bike. Always a Tomboy, she had also enrolled in karate during the college days, learnt skating and gone for championships. While her mother was supportive of her, family members would often tell her to be more girl-like. When her choice to get into defence was quashed again in favour of interior designing, she decided that she would at least marry a defence officer. “I did not want to lose my identity and be tied down by limitations.” This part of her desire did come true, and soon she married a Naval officer, who was supportive. She learnt to ride his CBZ, and would take it to nearby places. She then had a son, and yet again, her biking dreams took a backseat.
Her husband had traded the CBZ for a car, and when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, it seemed like the last straw. “That moment was a jhatka for me. I felt that I was not living my life. After finishing my treatments, I told my mom, that I wanted to buy a bike and go to Leh Ladakh. I tried my brother in law’s Thunderbird but wanted something I could balance and control. I made my choice, and on 26 December 2018, finally bought an Avenger.”
What people usually say
“Be more like a girl.”
“Today, biking is what makes me want to wake up early in the morning. While I was always hesitant to rise early for a run, on riding days, I happily wake up as early as 4 AM too!”
P. Ramya Sree
The story was similar with Ramya Sree, who is a student of Computer Science in Vizag. Other than that, she is a state-level rifle shooting champion and has a black belt 2 Dan in karate. ‘I always enjoyed unusual hobbies I think and learnt to ride my father’s bike when I was in 9th standard. My dream has been to go to college on a motorbike, but that’s still to come true.’
Proving her mettle
While Ramya is still to buy her bike, she has definitely learned to ride many different kinds. “Whenever someone with a bike would come home, I would practically beg them for a ride. The first question would be ‘Can you ride this?’ I always had my answer ready in the form of videos of me riding, which I would show them. And this would often win them over.”
“Are you a boy to ride this? And I tell them, do you go to a boy on a scooty and ask them if they are girls to ride it? Bikes don’t care about the gender of their riders.”
What the first ride as a group felt like
“It’s nice to know that there are others who are as passionate as you are. In fact, the first ride that we went on as Women’s International Motorcycle Association India (Vizag), was to Bheemli and was very memorable. I had goosebumps, and our convoy looked like one right out from the movies.”
Srujana Reddy Ginni
Love for biking
At the age of 10, when other children were learning to ride bicycles, Srujana had learnt to ride her father’s Chetak scooter. Enamoured by vehicles at an early age, she soon learnt to ride different kinds, which included a 12-ton lorry, which her father readily taught her. As for biking, her father being a contractor meant that people would often come home with different bikes, which Srujana would borrow for a ride. “I would request them for one ride, and most of them would readily give me their bikes”, and that’s how she learnt to ride.
“Can you ride this?”
While Srujana has driven different kinds of vehicles, bikes are closest to her heart. Having been on short solo rides within AP, being part of the Women’s International Motorcycle Association in Vizag has been exciting, she shares. Srujana also hopes that she can contribute more through her work at the RTO, and talk about traffic rules and road safety to people. “The fact that these rides will touch upon social causes makes them much more interesting.”