The Biker girl- Kalyani Potekar
Motorcycle racing is the sport of racing motorcycles and varieties include motorcycle road racing, off-road racing, and track racing. Other categories include hill climbs, drag racing, and land speed record trials. But overall it’s a male-dominated sport with not much scope for women riders to grow. But these shackles of sports and professions created by the chauvinist society must be broken and liberated in order to create an equal and deserving environment.
Kalyani Potekar is one such woman who has had her romance with motorcycle and racing. Her enthusiasm to ride a bike came much early in her life and since then there was no stopping for her. Be it the demotivating tantrums of the orthodox society or the growing male dominance, Potekar managed to pass the nuisance efficiently. This is her story.
Kalyani Potekar is today India’s Fastest Woman Motorcycle Racer.
Kalyani Potekar hailed from the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and is the fastest Indian motorcycle racer. Kalyani got into biking because of her father who himself was a motorcycle Racer. He would often take her to racetracks and the motorcycles, the track, and the speed further fascinated her. At the age when children barely learn how to pedal a bicycle, Potekar found herself sitting on the mount of a bike and sharing her romance with the heavy machines at the age of just 10.
“It was dad’s RX100. My feet barely used to reach the ground… he sat behind me and taught me to use the gears and the clutch. It was fun and a great start.” says Kalyani Potekar.
On top of it, Kalyani learned how to ride a bike much before she learned scooty, a comparatively less intense vehicle. In 2017, she trained at California Superbike School. Potekar during the final year of graduation in 2013, successfully completed the ‘Raid de Himalaya’, which is one of the toughest biking rallies in the world before switching to circuit racing. She had also participated in the Indian National Racing Championship which is an event backed by the country’s motorsport governing body Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI).
But despite her talent and success, Kalyani had her share with the judgemental orthodox society that finds her profession alienated and unacceptable. Though she received immense support from her family, society never supported her stand. Be it the judgemental aunties or the studs of the sport, Kalyani faced backlash being a woman.
She recalls, that once in her college, she went to a go-karting track where others also practiced including some experienced riders. She went to them for advice to which they replied ‘pehle bike stand se nikaalna toh seekh.’ (Learn how to get the bike off the stand.) In another incident, a woman told her to stop riding a bike and get a more feminine job. As the whole, except for her family, Potekar faced dominance firsthand.
But despite such incidents, she never gave up on her dreams and improved herself day by day. She had her debut at 600cc in the JK Tyres Superbike Cup where she competed alongside men. She had a normal sports bike and was the only woman in the race. Kalyani Potekar managed to beat most of them and astonishingly came in the top 10. Since then she never doubted her skills!
Potekar has represented India on the international level in Thailand and Taiwan. She recalls that holding the tricolor was one of her fondest memories. At the Ducati Panigale V4 superbike, she was honored with the title of ‘India’s fastest women rider’. She achieved this by downsizing her track speed from 2.16 minutes to a record 2.08 minutes.
The scope for women Bikers in India
Though the gender roles in the 21st century are blurring, there are still places where women are rather shamed or not allowed to compete. But the change has to happen as women today are growing like never before. Be it cooking or aviation, women have their feet set to whatever they chose to do, and Kalyani Potekar isn’t the only woman who is crushing the stereotypes and living their passion for Biking.
Maral Yazarloo is an off-road racer and has won the prestigious title of India’s Best Female Superbiker, while another biker Dr. Neharika Yadav is ‘India’s Fastest Lady Super Biker’. Roshni Sharma rode solo from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and became the first woman biker in India to ride solo. Another biker Anam Hashmi took biking to the next level by becoming a stunt athlete. Anam is the only Indian to have participated in an international stunt competition and won it.
Not only them, there are hundreds of women bikers in our country who are left unnoticed either because of their families, resources or lack of awareness. Thus, women riders are not new in the field, the only thing that stops people from having faith in women is the deep-rooted prejudice in our culture. This prejudice has to stop in order for women to grow and go beyond the shackles of gender roles, partisanship and intolerant traditions.