In conversation with Tanya Nirmal – a chef and motorcycle rider
How did it all start?
Back in 2004, I saw my dad riding big bikes. They fascinated me and he took me on some of his Sunday rides. It was all fun and games until Fast and Furious 5 released and I saw Gal Gadot entering on a bike. That was it!! I just had to learn to ride those beastly machines. I asked my dad to teach me to ride a bike, but at that time I had only ridden an Activa. The kind of crazy dad that he is, he started me off on his Honda Hornet 600, which he had at that time. This was in 2014. And that’s when it all started.
I had my first crash on Dehu road just 3 months into riding and luckily got out of it without a scratch, but the bike looked bad. A lot of people told my father to make me stop riding as I am just 5 feet tall and balance my bike on either of my feet when I have to halt. The crash didn’t break my spirit or scare me and a supportive father decided to buy his daughter the Honda CB 1000 R. That was my second bike, and it was customised with a Redbull racing paint job which was one of its kind.
I joined a biking group and did my first ride to Goa with them to attend India Bike Week (IBW) 2014, after which attending every IBW became mandatory. After the Honda CB 1000 R, I wanted a bike with better technology and something that was more current. Enter, the Kawasaki Z800. It was a stunner and had all that I asked of a bike. Dad decided he needed a bike too, because I had gone and stolen his bikes and the spotlight too. I decided to go for the Kawasaki Z1000, the elder Z-Sibling which did a wheelspin the moment I revved her on my way home. In 2016, I decided to enrol myself at the California Superbike School in Chennai. I did levels 1, 2 and 3 of the course and it made me a much better and more confident rider. At the end of 2016, it was time for me to move to Australia for further studies and I bid the Z1000 a sad adieu. After a couple of days of using public transport and watching bikers shoot past me, I knew I needed a bike but didn’t know which one. So, I did my level 4 at the Eastern Creek Motorway in Sydney, Australia making me the only Indian woman to do the CSS level 4 on an international racetrack. This was achieved on a BMW S1000 RR. I then bought myself a Honda CBR600 RR and continued riding in Australia for the whole year that I was there. It has been a crazy journey and will only get crazier from here on.
How do you feel as a woman biker?
It feels great. All the guys that I ride with from various groups are very kind and helpful. They always take care of me and praise me. They have been very supportive and treat me like a little sister. Apart from that, the endorphins released when someone waves at you or whispers, “look look it’s a girl” is just amazing. There have been very few experiences apart from drivers’ egos on highways, but I have made some good friends along the way and am also associated with this amazing group of women called the Lady Riders of India, who ride superbikes. One of the craziest things I have done as a woman biker has been riding a Honda CB 1000 R in a nine-yard saree, leading a rally of 150 superbikers in Pune on the ocassion of Ganesh Chaturthi.
Juggling riding and your profession
Work always comes first. Back in the day when I just started riding, I was in my first year of Culinary Arts. It was an easy life and everything was simple until I was studying in Australia. Now that I am back and am a chef by profession, it becomes slightly difficult to juggle the two. But I always keep riding and look at it as my outlet and make sure I ride once a week, even if it’s just in the city. Riding is an escape and a form of meditation after a long week of work, so it has to be done to balance your work and passion. I do a long ride once a year and can afford to take a short break from work when I am not too busy. But as mentioned earlier, now work comes first as that is going to help me to get my next bike.
Favourite motorcycle yet?
The Kawasaki Z1000 has been the best bike I have owned and ridden so far. Perfect for someone as short as me, stable, a good city ride and an absolute beast on the highway. The Z1000 is extremely good looking, so much so that you want to cry every time you see her in person. The Z1000 is everything I wanted.
Being an inspiration
It’s very humbling and nice to know that you inspire people when you get messages on Instagram and Facebook. Specially women who are trying to ride and don’t have much support from their families. They look up to me with so much respect and I try to help them in whatever way possible. I like to inspire people by telling them that “I am only 5 feet tall, so if I can do it, you can definitely do it. No excuses!”
Message to girls
Just go out there and ride those bikes. Don’t be scared and don’t let anything act as a handicap. Be it family pressures, height, weight, finances. Everything falls in place when you work towards it positively. You are stronger than you know and greater than you can imagine! Be yourself and keep moving towards your goals.
As told to Afzal Rawuther