Tale of Two Wheels – The Shillong Times
By Esha Chaudhuri
Often spotted on weekends, an observer would notice a trail of young (heart and mind), well-adjusted and visibly fit riders on a range of classy motorbikes, heading for their jaunts. Taking note, Shillong Sunday approached some of these cycling groups to acquaint readers with their camaraderie, businesses and unique accomplishments.
Groups and stunts
Unknown to many, Shillong’s cycling community is vast. Among them are groups that engage in car racing, stunts, weekly meet-ups, and trips to some of the most scenic locations on the outskirts of the main city center. Far from the bustle and congested roads of Shillong, bonding friends traverse a world unfazed and alien to city dwellers.
“Motorcycles have become our (motorcyclists’) means of expression,” says Phillip I Marbaniang, member of Shillong Offroad and Adventure Riders (SOAR). Adding a touch of humor to his passionate statement, Marbaniang continues: “The feeling is unique , and that passion only amplifies once we taste mud and dirt.
Engaging in an array of activities, tricks and bike stunts, these groups fascinate the city and younger population with their sense of independence and freestyle. Elaborating on their businesses at SOAR, Marbaniang says: “Our activities generally consist of off-roading, exploring forest trails, participating in motocross and super-cross races, as well as exploring remote areas of our state.”
The practice is similar with other groups, such as Sons of the Hills Adventure and Motorcycling Group (SOTH) and Meghalaya Xpulse Riders (MXR). A member of both, Jonathan Dkhar shares, “Most of the groups are in racing and motocross and they are great with their skills; but I don’t, because my idea of cycling is for sightseeing. I have been to Nepal, Bhutan and all eight states of North East India to attend different horseman festivals.
Other SOAR runners also share their stories of learning and perfecting the sport. After developing an interest and improvising on it, Dapkumar Marbaniang or ‘Dap’ says, “At first, I started as an off-roader, then after extensive practice with friends from the bands, I entered my first race Shillong and later represented the state in different platforms in Assam and Mizoram.
In an approach to broadening horizons, Paominthang Vaiphei or “Paomin55” says, “After our early days with local races and exploring neighboring states like Assam, Nagaland and Mizoram, our thirst for gaming grew. is reinforced and so we decided to participate with national champion riders, only to find that we were nowhere near them – whether in terms of safety measures or even the performance factor of the bike. Without any formal training or career guidance, the team members embarked on a training regimen with other members and in no time they were in top form. »
“We kept working on ourselves and it took years of practice, dedication, discipline and perseverance to get to the top, because we don’t have professionals to train us but only our friends. to check our mistakes and I can only imagine what we could have accomplished under professional guidance,” adds Vaiphei.
Championship winner Banteilang Jyrwa said: “I learned and trained motocross, super-cross and off-road by watching videos on YouTube and it took me 2 years to hone my skills and represent the state at national events in the MRF Mogrip National Supercross Championship.
A national-level TVS factory rider, Jyrwa acknowledges the awards he received after overcoming financial constraints. “When I started as a privateer in 2019, it was difficult to support all the expenses incurred for the races, from the trip to the repair of the motorcycle, including the fuel; but now that i’m a factory TVS rider, the company sponsors all of this and it’s a blessing in abundance for me to have the chance to be part of their team.
A man’s sport?
Drawing an intersection between mobility, masculinity, and a gendered perception of access to public spaces, “bikers and bikers” explains what it takes to be the few women within a traditionally hyper-masculine space.
Pursuing her master’s degree in human resources in social work, Kermica Shangpliang, known as “Miss Independent”, has been riding since 2018. Citing her family and friends as sources of support, Shangpliang says, “My journey has never been difficult. because my parents supported me and my older brother was my rescue point for everything automobile. Recounting snippets of his learning curve, Shangpliang says, “I learned to ride a motorcycle on my own; quite similar to driving a car but with the perfecting of the art of balance and speed control.
Although facing no backlash from private space, a gendered perception of people in public spaces is unconsciously exposed through subtle observations. “Looking around me, I have never received a negative comment about a woman riding a bike; instead, people turn around and say – Wow, bike Kynthei ba niah, jingikhain or Wow, a woman riding a bike? It’s great – not just adults, but also children, where in my neighborhood I should take a little ride with children on motorbikes,” Shangpliang says, recounting his personal encounters.
Another city dweller, Dorathy Syiemsad (25) also known as ‘Miss Black’ comments: ‘Cycling is easy and most importantly with all the safety features, speeds and availability of service and spare parts ; all this interested me. An aspiring home-based entrepreneur, running her own grocery store in Malki, Syiemsad shares, “At the moment I am the only female off-road cyclist, but I hope there will be more women to join us. “
Admitting the limited presence of women in their group, Marbaniang says, “Although we don’t have any women in our group at the moment, we welcome anyone who wants to join us for the rides.” Opening doors to everyone without gender-specific access, adds Marbaniang, “With more women riding these days and with the ease of access to safety equipment, women are definitely proving all naysayers wrong.”
Giving a balanced perspective, Dkhar admits: “Cycling is a universal passion, and although we don’t have female cyclists in our two cycling groups, they are always welcome to join us for the rides.”
“Of course, men have always dominated the field of cycling, but I don’t see that now because there are many women inside and outside Meghalaya who are passionate about cycling and riding everywhere. in India and abroad too. After all, it’s not supposed to be one-sided,” Dkhar says, sharing a note on changing trends.
The growing number of women in participation serves as an example to many, as Jyrwa confirms: “In national events too, I see a number of women participating, which inspires other women to follow suit.”
Disclaimer and Distances
Riding different types of bikes are meant for their individual purposes and activities. Members of all groups vouch for their non-discriminatory policy, particularly with regard to brand ownership of bicycles, with most riding Royal Enfield Bullets, Pulsars, Apache and the Rx series, and Impulses.
As all the bikers interviewed admitted, most of what they learned is self-taught and sometimes they come with their share of disclaimers about safety standards. On this, Marbaniang comments, “Well adrenaline rush is a norm in other adventure sports such as skydiving, bungee jumping too and if they can be considered safe considering of all safety measures are followed why can’t we consider cycling to be safe as there are many safety equipments like helmets, riding jackets, riding pants, overalls riding boots, chest protectors, knee pads, riding boots.
Building on his case further, Marbaniang explains, “Falling off his bike is second nature and we have all had falls and injuries ranging from minor sprains to broken bones, but it could have been worse without our safety equipment, we can therefore only consider cycling as dangerous if we neglect the precautionary measures!
Focusing on their meeting days and many expeditions, while some groups meet on a designated day of the week for an excursion, others meet to practice their stunt skills; another way to strengthen ties. “We ride whenever our members have free time, but as a group we usually go off-roading every other Saturday; rain or shine, the most difficult and adventurous being on rainy days, when the terrain is slippery and full of slush,” says Marbaniang.
Marbaniang adds, “For cycling trips, we prefer to venture on off-road trails and explore unexplored areas where we enjoy the beautiful rural landscapes Meghalaya has to offer and the most memorable so far was Umlareng.
Agreeing with Marbaniang, Dkhar says, “Local biking is routine, but we also attend Riders’ Meets out of state, and for sure on a bike, the journey is what matters before the destination. “.
From being an adrenaline rush, a stress reliever, a means of connecting with nature, bound by lifelong bonds, the riders of Shillong have surely discovered the way to explore uncharted paths through a push interior like no other.