The Bikernis: The queens of the roads!

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A first for women in India

It was the first time ever, in India: 11 women between the ages of 19 and 52 rode to the highest motorable road in the world, the Khardung La.

For those who might be hearing the name for the first time, Khardung La is a mountain pass in Ladakh, located at an altitude of 18,379 ft.

These women won the Brave Hearts Limca record for being the ‘First and largest group of women to ride motorcycles from Delhi to Leh.’

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Bikernis are born

This was mere months after a young woman biker from Pune started a community to bring women bikers together. Urvashi Patole started Bikerni when she was just 22 years old. Back then, she was the only woman rider in a group of men going on long rides.

She says, “I wanted to create a platform where women who shared their love for riding could meet, exchange notes and ride together.” She founded Bikerni and managed to make contact with 14 women who were enthusiastic. By the end of the year there were 40 Bikernis, and today there are about 600 Bikernis across the country. And the number continues to grow.

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 The growth of the Bikerni

Fanning quickly out from Pune, the Bikerni now has 17 chapters across India. There are Bikernis not only in the major metros, but also in smaller cities and towns, places you would never have thought could boast of any critical mass of women bikers. These include Kutch, Rajkot, Surat, Mysore, Hubli, Guwahati, Bhubhabeshwar and Kulu-Manali!

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The superbly managed rides

The group’s chapters in every city are headed by an administrator who takes responsibility for managing members and assigning road captains for every ride. Each chapter ensures that there is at least one ride a month and a zonal level meet once in three months. The zonal level meet is usually an overnight weekend ride. Also, every year the Bikerni organizes two major all-India Bikerni rides – one for the group’s anniversary and the other to commemorate International Female Ride Day.

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For the Bikernis, nothing is too far to reach

A number of Bikernis have ridden their two-wheelers not only across India, but also to Bhutan, Nepal and other neighbouring countries. The founder, Urvashi Patole, has herself clocked 4 lakh kilometers riding around the country. When asked what she found the toughest route to ride in India, she says, “The North East can be pretty tough due to mud landslides and black ice. Otherwise, terrains around India are quite manageable if you know how to handle your bike and quick fixes and repairs.”

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Handling safety concerns

Observing that women bikers are gaining societal acceptance, Urvashi says,”Earlier it was not uncommon for us to be subjected to eve teasing during rides. But today, it has reduced considerably.” When asked what they do when they feel a sense of danger on rides, she says, “If someone makes trouble, we either speed up or else slow down or stop at a crowded place. As a norm, we avoid interacting with other people during the rides and try not to draw attention.” The Bikerni also organizes self-defence workshops and introductory classes that equip members to handle tough situations.

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Beyond Just Fun

The Bikernis don’t always ride just for fun. Teaming up with various social organizations and causes, they have organized or participated in several mass rides.

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Trivia about the Founder

Urvashi has won several dirt track championships and been felicitated by celebrities like M.S. Dhoni, Deepa Malik and Gul Panag. She was awarded ‘Female Biker of the Year’ by and Castrol Power 1, and ‘The Bikerni’ received the ‘Motorcycle Club of the Year’ award, beating many other clubs on the way. But Urvashi insists that her most significant achievement has been “kick-starting the movement of women bikers in India on a grand scale. Before the Bikerni, not much was known about women bike riders, nor were there many who rode motorcycles passionately.”

Image courtesy: | Standing at extreme right is Urvashi Patole

Kudos to the spirit of the Bikerni

The Bikernis unanimously agree that a bike is better than any other vehicle because it “brings them closer to nature; as they ride past they can truly experience all the elements of nature in full force.” The Bikerni tagline best describes the spirit of this path-breaking group:  “We like mud for makeup and petrol for perfume. We are the Bikernis.”

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A vrooming salute to the spirit of the Bikerni!