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A woman's art of motorcycle maintenance

May 28, 2009 15:58 IST

A woman's art of motorcycle maintenance

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It may not be politically correct to say this, but the term woman biker is an oxymoron.

In my experience, it's a rarity to come across a woman who can talk confidently about stuff like rpm, acceleration and other technical details of a bike. A woman who knows and understands even the minutest details of a bike is, I had thought, as rare as snow in the Sahara desert.

Ambika Sharma, national head, Jagran Solutions, falls in that unique category. In her own words she "was on a bike even before her feet touched the ground" and since then her passion for bikes has only grown.

Text: Aabhas Sharma

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Image: Ambika Sharma
Photographs: Courtesy Ambika Sharma
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Born into a family of bikers, Sharma says that her father, brother, sister, and pretty much everyone else are all avid bikers, so it wasn't a surprise that she too followed in their footsteps. Needless to say, for her family this was par for the course.

But what about others, because surely seeing a woman on a superbike is bound to draw some gasps? She says that she does get all kinds of reactions ranging from shock and surprise to sometimes envious glances.

She says confidently, "I have become used to people getting surprised and it actually doesn't bother me what people think or say." She understands the shock but says that biking to her is just like any other hobby.

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Image: Ambika Sharma
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Sharma's first bike was a Royal Enfield Bullet, which she rode for more than five years. She messed around with her father's old Yezdi and a 100cc bike as well. But it was the Bullet that turned her into an avid biker.

"I love the Bullet and have some really fond memories of riding it." Sharma feels that it was important to ride the so-called lighter bikes to get used to the riding comfort as well as gain confidence to ride one.

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Being a part of an all-male bikers' club called Group Of Delhi Super Bikers is something she is very proud of. Currently, she owns the Honda CBR 600, a superbike and finds it easy to ride.

"Honda bikes have always been fast, powerful and classy, so it was an obvious choice to move to a superbike," she says. Sharma did ponder over other bike brands but found the Honda to be superior.

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Image: Ambika Sharma is part of an all-male bikers' club.
Photographs: Courtesy Ambika Sharma
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With GODS, Sharma goes on biking trips every weekend, mostly on the Delhi-Jaipur and the Delhi-Agra stretch. She hasn't been on a long biking expedition but would love to be part of one, even though riding superbikes on difficult terrain can cause damage to the bike.

We get back to discussing her current machine and Sharma says that the Honda is relatively easy to handle despite its rather mean looks. In fact, Sharma points out, she did a fair amount of research before zeroing in on the Honda.

She says that the riding posture of the Honda is extremely comfortable. Busting another myth, Sharma claims that superbikes don't require too much maintenance and are mostly trouble-free.

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Image: Honda CBR 600

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Sharma has considerable expertise on the technical side as well. "I can do basic servicing on a Bullet on my own, though the Honda is handled by experts," she says.

The Bullet, being a moody bike, broke down on more than a couple of occasions, she reports, unfortunately, in the middle of nowhere. "I had no choice but to learn basic troubleshooting," she says.

At least twice a week she makes it a point to ride her bike to work. But the weather these days doesn't permit her to do that. But there is no stopping the weekend trips, as they tend to be short.

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Image: Sharma with her biker friends, Group Of Delhi Super Bikers.

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It's no surprise that Sharma is fond of other adventurous activities as well. Rock climbing, trekking and bungee jumping are just some of the other activities she enjoys.

 Says Sharma, "I make sure that my vacations are spent on such activities only." She says that she has always done things that aren't conventional, be it in her personal or professional life.

Did biking at any point of time affect her work-life balance? "No", she repeats, "it's like any other hobby. Would any other hobby, like, say, painting, affect my work or anything?"

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Almost all bikers have that one dream machine that they want to own at some point in their life.

I ask her which one it would be for her, and her answer surprises me. "It has to be the Hayabusa," she says excitedly. She has only been on it once (one of the club members has one) and absolutely loved the feeling.

Says Sharma, "It's the ultimate bike and some day I do intend to buy one."

As a caveat, Sharma adds that the Hayabusa is a much more difficult bike to manage than the Honda. "The plan is to graduate to a 1000cc or a little bit more powerful bike like the Firebird and then move on to a Hayabusa," is her answer.

Sounds like a perfect plan, doesn't it?

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