The Bikerni: All-Women Bikers Who Grind Stereotypes Into the Dust
If ever you thought the sweaty, muddy arena of 1,000-CC superbikes was a male bastion, you couldn’t be more wrong.
A small but steadily growing group of female bikers are currently taking to the streets and by-lanes of India, leaving onlookers gawping.
Busting Stereotypes, Creating Records
The Bikerni, founded in 2011, is an all-women group of passionate bikers – the “First All-Female Motorcycle Association of India” as their Facebook page describes them. In 2013, the group organised the largest all-women motorcycle expedition from Delhi to Khardung-La in Ladakh. The route includes the highest motorable road in the world. This won them a mention in the Limca Book of Records in 2013.
Less Muscle, More Skill
Of course the champs at The Bikerni continue to be asked questions. “I don’t think it is any different for a man than it is for a woman,” declares Shabnam Akram, proud ‘bikerni’ and graphic designer. “It gives the same sense of freedom, the same rush, irrespective of whether you’re a man or a woman.”
But what then of the common perception that superbikes (these babies are both super quick and super powerful) are too cumbersome for a woman rider? Akram scoffs at the idea, stressing that it isn’t muscle but technique that makes all the difference. “If my bike were to fall on the road, most men on the road would not be able to pick it up. I will be, because I know the right way.”
Social conditioning, she argues, has led to categorising women as fragile and vulnerable, a supposition she vehemently protests. “Women aren’t any more fragile than men. Women are trained from childhood not to have muscles. They are discouraged from doing any weight training for fear that they won’t look ‘feminine’.”
Rowdy Roads: A Confrontation
And what of the barrage of roadside ruffians, the hoodlums who wink, lech and ogle? Akram agrees that they’re a constant problem, but refuses to be fazed by it. “People stare, some try to follow us on bikes. We’ve even had incidents where people tried to push us off the road. In which case, we have a member among us who simply stops her bike right in front of them and demands to know what they’re up to. They usually run away at confrontation!”
What any member of The Bikerni or any female biker ultimately wants, however, is to do away with the binary of male-female spaces completely. The goal is to ride, to experience the rush of un-gendered adrenaline. In fact as Akram stolidly puts it, “We’re all riders. When you’re on a bike, ‘male’ or ‘female’ pretty much flies out of the window!”