Wednesday, 26 September 2012

India's women bikers

India is already the second largest motorcycle market in the world after China and, according to SIAM (The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers),  13.4 million two-wheeled vehicles were sold last year - that's a pretty impressive figure by anyone's standards.  Motorcycles are hugely popular in India because they are so much cheaper to buy, and then to run, than cars. They are also good because they can negotiate India's heavy city traffic without getting snarled up - although the riders do need to have nerves of steel!  The two-wheel market has in fact increased since last year by 14%, and out of that estimated 350 million riders, one third of those riding scooters, and 5% of bigger bike riders, are women.

Women on two-wheels

These figures are indicators of a trend in India as women are increasingly starting to take to the roads on two wheels. The reasons for this developing trend are various. India is on the move economically, technically and culturally, and attitudes are beginning to shift. Women have traditionally had to fit into the role of either wife, mother or daughter, but this is gradually changing and although it is still difficult for women to break out of the stereotype, it is now possible.  One sign that women are on the move in Indian society is the increase in women motorcyclists. Owning and riding a motorcycle is a way in which some women are able to gain independence and a feeling of self-worth and freedom and they are grabbing the opportunity with both hands.

 Motorcycle market

Another factor which is significant in this change is that bikes are now far more available in India.  The market used to be dominated by Royal Enfields but now other manufacturers have gained a foothold and a far greater variety of bikes are on sale in India. All the major manufacturers have spotted the potential growth market in India - firstly of motorcycle riders per se and of women riders within that market. Women still predominantly ride scooters as they are light, for example a new bike launched this month aimed at women is the Yamaha Ray Scooter which has a 113 cc engine, and Yamaha are using Deepika Padukone, an Indian actress and model as their brand ambassador to increase this bike's appeal to women. However other companies are broadening the market by offering lighter bikes with lower stands which are not necessarily scooters, to tap into the growing female market and add variety. For example Ducati have recently introduced the Monster 795 bike to India which is lower to the ground and is a much lighter bike than usual so is easier for women to handle.

Sisters are doin' it for themselves


Now more women are starting to ride motorcycles they have begun to see the value in joining together for mutual support and have started up female only motorcycle clubs to help women riders.  In Mumbai Aparna Bandodkar has started a female Royal Enfield riders club called 'The Regals' and in Bangalore the 'Hop on Gurls' is another women only Royal Enfield club.
There are also now motorcycle workshops springing up to teach women how to mend and repair their bikes.

Nationally across the whole of India the female riding population have started up the Association of Female Bikers in India known as 'Bikerni'. Since its birth 18 months ago, Bikerni has already attracted 100 active members who regularly go out on rides and have female only bike meets across India.

Some of India's biking women are also increasing their range and moving from simply commuting to work on scooters, to riding bigger bikes and off-roading in rough terrain as a sport and a way to have adventures at the weekend.

A virtuous circle 

As more women take to two wheels there is more incentive for the manufacturers to cater for them and as more bikes become available more women are having a go so the trend is positive, India is one to watch from a motorcycling point of view, as women take to the roads.

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