Biking has been loved by women as much as by men, and these ten inspiring Indian women bikers prove that every day. From defence personnel to actors, these women come from all walks of life, and the one thing they all have in common is their love for motorcycles.
With women breaking the glass ceiling in many male-dominated fields, gender roles can no longer define our dreams and aspirations. The normalisation of men as caregivers and women as breadwinners has challenged preconceived notions of gender and society, and biking is no different. Bikes were considered a vehicle for men, but many Indian women now are disrupting this idea.
They have been making significant strides in the world of biking, riding the biggest bikes and racing at top speed. This International Women’s Day, we share the stories of Indian women whose love for biking will inspire you to pursue your passions no matter what people say.
Here are 10 women bikers with inspiring stories
Gul Panag – Actor
The former Miss India holds many titles — producer, actor, aviator and biker. She is one of the few female Bollywood celebrities who are passionate about riding. Her biking journey started at 17, and she has never looked back since then. Panag took her love to the next level and included her bike even in her wedding! Panag’s doli (when the bride leaves with the groom after the wedding rituals) was replaced by a Royal Enfield Bullet, with the bride sitting in the sidecar and her husband on the wheel.
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Gul Panag even shared the story behind her two-wheeled doli: “I’m often asked about the doli or ‘getaway vehicle ‘. The initial plan was to go on a bike. Since I was wearing my mother’s lehenga, I was afraid of getting it stuck in the wheel. So the husband found a fabricator in Nangal who made side cars and ordered one. It arrived the night before the wedding. Husband, his brother @rusty_clicks and @sherbirpanag were up all night attaching it to the bike (it’s quite a task). We then got all our friends and family to ride Royal Enfield bikes as part of the procession that included women riders (@Simrit kaur34 @simranpotnis and my Bhoa their mother, then 65 years old) along with the doli. This ride was definitely the highlight!”
Jyoti Mehta – Airforce Officer
For Group Captain Jyoti Mehta, “motorcycling is not all about speed and stunts, it has taught me patience, acceptance and equanimity.” Mehta is an officer in the Indian Air Force and she started riding when she was just a teenager.
Riding pushed Mehta down unknown roads and gave her the strength to handle various issues, making her self-reliant. However, when she had just started, she failed to complete the National Thunderbolt Motorcycle Rally as her bike broke down, and she had to push it through almost five to six kilometres of rocky terrain. “But this incident instilled in me the confidence that I had the strength, skills and ability to face whatever challenges lay ahead in the future”, Mehta shared with Travel + Leisure India and South Asia (T+L).
She was also a part of the Woman Riders World Rally (WRWR) in 2019, where a baton was carried across six continents to unite women riders globally. Mehta and fellow women riders received the baton at the Wagah Border and brought it to the Nepal Border to pass it on.
The camaraderie and bonds she created with fellow riders on such adventures are what she values most. No matter what background people are from, the mutual passion for riding unites women and brings a sense of sisterhood.
Jesslina Nayyar – Model & Actress
Nayyar brought her passion for riding to her career, she told T+L, “Acting and modelling as a profession involves a lot of travelling, and so does biking; I just combine the two!” Whether it is an audition or a shoot, she makes it a point to use her bike to reach the location.
Her passion for riding started at 18. “I always wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. Riding gives the freedom to go where you wish to,” she mentioned. Before she got her own bike, she would borrow her friend’s motorcycle and ride it for hours from Noida to Gurgaon with her friends as a pillion.
In her modelling career, she even had the opportunity to ride on the job as she starred in a campaign for Royal Enfield. With over eight years of experience, Nayyar makes it a point to give time to her passion by taking a few days just for riding, she shared.
Priya Puri – Golf Instructor
Puri always wished to ride a bike as a kid, but no one around her was a rider. As a golf coach and owner of a golf academy, she met people from all walks of life during lessons.
“A very good friend of mine, Dev Amritesh had several times mentioned his biking adventures, during our golf lessons. And I used to always have the same zest in telling him ‘I wish I could also do that’. I think after the 3rd or 4th time, he piped up and said why don’t you? And my response to that was ‘How?'” she shared with T+L.
This is a question that many aspiring bikers ponder, just like Puri did, and she found a way to pursue her passion! Her friend introduced her to a riding school, and after four sessions, she was ready to live her dream.
Puri has only been riding for about a year and within this journey, she took up the challenge to ride to Ladakh and cover the Zanskar valley on her bike. “It was so exhilarating to be able to uncover new terrain in a place like Zanskar and challenge me to learn new riding prowess,” she added.
To pursue her biking passions, Puri tries to work for 6-8 weeks without time off and then takes a break for a biking expedition. “Of course, there are times when it’s not possible, but so far, it’s been manageable.”
Anita Krishnan – Tour Captain
A part-time model and full-time rider, Krishnan has made a career out of her passion. She is a Women’s Expedition Tour Captain at Two Wheeled Expeditions, an organisation that helps bike lovers take a two-wheeled journey to different corners of India. She has led more than 15 tours throughout the country and is also the president of the India division of the Women’s International Motorcycling Association. While Krishnan had learnt how to ride in college, she never pursued it. Only later in life did she start biking again after a fellow woman inspired her. Facebook helped her find the first biking event she ever attended.
The plus-size model has over eight years of experience, and the most challenging journey she has taken on her bike was when she had to ride at minus ten degrees Celsius through the Himalayas and deal with snow and black ice, she shared with T+L.
Dr Neharika Yadav – Dental Surgeon
A superbike racer by passion and a dental surgeon by profession, Dr Neharika Yadav has become a role model online as she beautifully manages her two lives. The Ducati Factory Racer runs a dental clinic in Gurgaon during the week and can be found at Buddh International Circuit over the weekend.
With over 2,12,000 followers on Instagram, she has become quite an inspiration on the internet. However, her journey hasn’t been easy. In 2005, she had a car accident that left her with only 50% movement in her right hand. But that didn’t stop her from choosing bikes as her passion. Racing at the top speed of 275 kilometres per hour, she wishes to inspire “as many women as possible to come on the grid and be a part of a completely male-dominated sport”.
Aishwarya Pissay – Off-Road Motorcycle Racer
The first Indian motorsports athlete to win a world title, Aishwarya Pissay is a professional off-road motorcycle racer who is also an 11-time National Road Racing and Rally Champion. While she is one of the many female role models in the world of motorsports, as a budding racer, she couldn’t find role models in the field. “Without a lead to follow, I could not take a leaf out of someone’s book. I had to carve out my own path from scratch,” she said.
Her passion for racing sprung from an unfortunate incident. In 2012, when she was 17 years old, Pissay failed her board examination and was utterly distraught. She joined her friends on a few motorcycle rides to lift her spirits, and the sense of freedom she enjoyed while biking made her fall in love with the activity.
She started her competitive career as a circuit road racer but later switched to off-road racing. However, even her racing career had its struggles. During one of her races, Pissay met with a crash that ruptured her pancreas. She spent a whole month in recovery and had to drop out from the races of that season. But she didn’t think of it as a setback; instead, she took the time to plan the next racing season. The very next year, she won the FIM Baja World Cup, held in Hungary, in the women’s category.
Priyanka Kocchar – Content Creator
Before she became a full-time bike blogger under the guise of ‘Bike With Girl’, Priyanka Kochhar was an editorial model and an anchor producer. Kochhar didn’t grow up biking but fell in love with it when she was unsure about her career. She came from a conservative family and faced much criticism for her passion.
Kochhar started learning about bikes and how they work on YouTube before she got her hands on one. Eventually, she borrowed bikes from her friends and started posting about them on Instagram. Now, with over 1.2 million followers on Instagram and 390,000 followers on YouTube, Kochhar has become quite the sensation as she tries to ride a new bike every day.
Roshni Misbah – Business Owner
Roshni Misbah became famous in 2017 when she was just a college student pursuing her post-graduation in Arab Islam Culture from Jamia Milia Islamia University. People started noticing a woman with a headscarf riding a bike to and from college, and the name ‘hijabi biker’ started catching on. She received a lot of criticism from society but didn’t let herself be bogged down by it.
Misbah comes from a family of Islamic scholars, and her background didn’t stop her from pursuing her passion for riding. The idea of seeing a woman break norms while holding on to her beliefs made her a sensation, with several news organisations covering her inspiring story. However, she doesn’t let the moniker ‘hijabi biker’ define her and aspires to be more than a woman with a headscarf on a bike.
Now she runs her own business that deals with superbikes and is a role model for women who are afraid to live their dreams because of culture and society.
Pooja Rajput – Naval Officer
When Commander Pooja Rajput is not serving the Indian Navy, she is busy riding across the coasts of India. With over 20 years of riding experience, Rajput sees long-distance riding as an “unwinding process.” It helps her disconnect from the world and connect with herself, giving her a sense of clarity and the ability to focus better on her work, she told T+L.
Rajput’s love for riding started at a young age when women weren’t encouraged to venture into biking. Fascinated by motorcycles, she would exchange her moped for her cousin’s bike without her parents’ knowledge, just so that she could ride a bike.
To test her ability, Rajput rode from Goa to Mangalore, Muzhappilangad, Ooty, Coonoor, Calicut, Moodabidri, Karwar and back to Goa, covering over 2000 kilometres. She took this trip to judge the safety of women riding through the country and inspire them to ride without worry. From broken roads to a lack of connectivity, the hurdles she faced during the ride strengthened her. While biking is not easy, Rajput advises aspiring women bikers to “follow your heart…everything will automatically fall in place.”
Hero and feature image: Courtesy Shutterstock
This story first appeared on Travel+Leisure India and South Asia.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Any location that is accessible by road is a good ride for women bikers.
Answer: All you need to do is learn how to ride a bike and you are ready to be a biker.
Answer: The women in this list are some of the best female bikers of India.