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Man, machine and the mania

DC | Kedar Koushik | January 20, 2014, 12.01 pm IST
Royal Enfield Riders’ Association of Meghalaya, Shillong
Royal Enfield Riders’ Association of Meghalaya, Shillong

The Gods of thunder have descended on the shores of Mahabalipuram for the 12th edition of the annual Brotherhood of Bulleteers Motorcycling Consortium (BOBMC), Rider Mania 2014. The roaring, rhythmic thump of passion-fuelled Bullet engines filled the atmosphere as around 1,200 bikes from all over the sub-continent came together for what is the biggest Rider Mania ever.

‘Madness’ is an understatement if one takes into account the wheel burns, spins, wheelies and the grand entry each of the 52 clubs had, complete with growling engines from hell. This year’s edition of Rider Mania had clubs from as far as Kashmir, Chandigarh and Shillong besides one riding all the way from Nepal.

If one ever wondered what ‘brotherhood’ was all about, Rider Mania is the place to get to know it first-hand. The love, the compassion and the camaraderie shared by each of the riders from across the clubs is a sight to see. On the other hand, the customised, over-hauled super beasts from netherworld scream of a culture and a lifestyle that is here to stay.

The meet was organised by the Madras Bulls, a home grown group of dedicated riders and adrenaline freaks. The Madras Bulls was started in 2002 and over a period of 12 years, the club has seen an exponential growth of riders, consisting of 110 main members and around 1,060 newbies (sophomores) with the number growing by the day.

For David Ebenezer of the Madras Bulls, Rider Mania is all about bringing together the brotherhood where the riders share their ride experience, stories and get introduced to new clubs along with the old.  “Rider Mania is the mother of all biker meets,” says David. “Every year, in the month of January, we meet at a different city. Though the whole idea is to have a ball, and party, it is the journey that gets us going all the way from where we are to that city/place where the Mania is happening. Whatever be our situation, we make sure to slot the calendar according to these meets and the rides. I have seen people shift jobs during this time, take leave from their office and some even quit jobs to come for Rider Mania,” he adds with a laugh. For inveterate bikers Rider Mania is “for the community, of the community and by the community”, according to him.

David also points out that every club under BOBMC gives extra importance to riders’ safety. The Madras Bulls conducts special workshops on road safety for new members so that they follow the rules and not get carried away by their newfound freedom. “The main criteria for joining the Madras Bulls are that every rider should have a jacket, a full face helmet, gloves and shoes,” says David. “Those who don’t follow this are not included  because we don’t believe that a person is a rider and belongs to the brotherhood if he can’t follow the traffic and safety rules.”

M. Kodandapaani, chairman of Mahabalipuram Municipal Council, visited the venue and wished the organisers well. He added that when he was young he used to ride a two-wheeler and was obsessed with speed. “The best thing about any Royal Enfield rider is that we have absolutely no accidents by any of them. Every rider follows the traffic rules and this shows their level of awareness.” He also said that such meets that brought in people from all over the country would help spread the beauty and aesthetics of a heritage town like Mahabalipuram.

The biker and his bike
The understanding a rider shares with his bike is unique. Books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance expound on the relationship a biker shares with his bike. For David, it is the bike that makes the biker in the beginning, and through time and rides; it is the biker who makes the bike. “The bike is the external manifestation of the biker’s personality,” says David. “There are two kinds of riders, those who ride as a hobby, and the other, for whom the bike eventually becomes a part of them. The individuality of the biker is reflected through the bike and this is where custom bikes speak volumes about the rider. One customise the bike according to one’s individuality which also reflects the commitment one has towards the bike,” says David.

Biker veteran G. Subhash Chandra Bose a.k.a ‘Bullet Bose’ is surprised when riders  complain that their Bullet’s oil is leaking or that it is making a noise. “For me, if your Bullet is not leaking oil or not making a noise, it is not a Bullet at all. The bike is trying to communicate with you when such things happen. It is asking for more attention from the rider and the rider should know at this time that the bike should be pampered more than ever,” says Bose with a smile. Modifying the specifications of the Bullet and tweaking the engines was a passion for Bose, who, when in school, used to run out of the classroom the moment he heard a motorbike from afar to get a glimpse of it. Bose, who is now an expert consultant for Royal Enfield says, “My hobby was my passion and when this became my job at Ucal Fuel Systems’ Rand D, things started getting more interesting since I could get to know my bike inside out. Now, by hearing the thump of the Bullet I can psycho-analyse the bike.”

The will to break free
For Subhashree Sampath, a freelance marketing consultant by profession and a motor-head by birth, the bike gives her freedom to be what she is. When on the road it is all about the thrill of being on the highway. “Once you get the taste of freedom it is impossible to get out of the zone,” she says. “Whether on the highway or elsewhere, it is the passion that takes control of you and this feeling is very liberating. There is no one to set limits for you. You set your own limits and you keep pushing the limits. You don’t care about any judgments, there is nothing to hide or run away from and this lets you be yourself all the time when you are with your bike,” says Subhashree.

For David, being on the bike is a feeling nothing else can come close to. “The freedom of just being yourself is very unique in every rider’s life. There are no constraints. When on your bike, the sky is the limit. The wind in your hair, the open road in your eyes is something to be experienced.”

P.S. Warjri, who has journeyed all the way from Shillong with the Royal Enfield Riders’ Association of Meghalaya (RERAM), says that freedom is all about “you and the machine. You are free to do anything when you are on your bike. There is no one to stop you or give you moral lectures. It is just you, the bike and the journey. The only thing we don’t do is drink and ride.”  

The Brotherhood 
They might be from different clubs, different states, speaking different languages, but what unites them is the brotherhood that every biker is proud to share. It is events like Biker Mania and anniversary gatherings of individual clubs that exemplify the brotherhood every biker talks about. David says, “The road brings us bikers together and the brotherhood is all about like-minded people coming together to share the same passion. When you are on the road and come across a problem, all you have to do is call a brother in that area or someone from your club, and within seconds, you have a bunch of guys to help you out. No one is alone on the highway and you can get support some way or the other.

For Subhashree, the brotherhood is like an acquired family. “Everybody is a brother here,” she says. “If you are a young rider like me, there is always somebody to help you progress, train you, give you riding tips and even help you with the modifications on your bike. We all share the same passion and there is no ego in anyone of us when it comes to standing by your brother. When you are in a club for long, you can see that suddenly, you have a new family and will get to a point where you cannot live without them.” Warjri recalls how when they were travelling from Shillong to Mahabalipuram, somewhere near Kolkata, one of their riders met with an accident. We had to send him back as soon as we could, so we called a few of our friends in Kolkata, and within half an hour the entire Eastern Bulls Club of Kolkata was there with us with an ambulance to help the guy out. This is the brotherhood we share. It is like a family bonded together,” he says.

Rider Mania 2014 is a one-of-kind experience where you not only see  bikers coming together for a party, but also have families with their kids coming to the gathering.

With the craze of biking getting into the heads of youngsters, there are more women riders than ever before and one can also see all of them living as one.

As Warjri puts it, “Join the brotherhood. I bet it will be one hell of a journey.”   

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