Mounting passion for bikes in the hills: Can motorcycle riding become an investment opportunity?

Mounting passion for bikes in the hills: Can motorcycle riding become an investment opportunity?
Photo Credit: Sikkim Tourism

Motorcycles can be fun during the weekends or it can be useful for commuting but can an individual turn it into a career? 

There are a few passionate Indian riders who have made it to the racing tracks. But unlike cricket and football, motorcycle racing is not a highly emphasised sporting event. Despite this, Rajini Krishnan, a nine-time consecutive national road racing champion from Chennai happens to be the first Indian to win an overseas motorcycle racing championship: Malaysian Superbike Championship – 2015 (1000 cc). This is proof that the possibility of a career in motorcycles is possible. 

The majority of bikers these days opt for bigger cc bikes, they pack in a lot of power, so keeping in mind the rules and regulations of the road one cannot fully enjoy the motorcycle to the fullest. Plus, it becomes unsafe. There are a lot of avid riders in the north-east region. From Boomers to Gen-Z's, old or young, there is an equal number of those who love either touring or racing.

Tourers and adventurers can travel and satiate their wanderlust but what about the speed freaks? The kids who dream and look up to the likes of Valentino Rossi or Marc Marquez. Many people from the NE region are avid bikers and a lot of them are promising riders. They can flourish well in the motorcycle industry if given the chance. 

There are no proper racing facilities in the vicinity of the hilly region. Motorcycle racing should be considered as a sport and the bikers need a proper racing track to take the edge off. It sure is unsafe to ride recklessly but a proper race track could end the problems faced by bikers because people don’t mind spending money on big bikes and the liberty to enjoy their machines in a proper race track should be considered. This will prevent a lot of young bikers from speeding in the roads and maybe out of all the riders, a young Rossi or Marquez could be discovered and can pave a way for other motorcycle aficionados.

There are associations and groups participating in promoting road safety and responsible riding, riding for certain causes and spreading awareness around town. So, why are the same people who do things for the community seen as a nuisance? Excluding those who drive under influence, many keep the safety of pedestrians as a priority. 

People should try to empathise and look for a solution over screaming at responsible riders, again irresponsible riders do exist but that doesn’t make every single rider speeding in the highway or a small alley “irresponsible”. The emphasis is on the word empathy because bikers pay taxes as well. 

It’s easier for the people in the south or the people in the national capital region as they have proper facilities to hone their skills. People in the hills should support more and associations should be formed in our region so that the government recognises motorcycle as a sport and funds our growth. 

Plus now, lots of bikers have infused motorcycles with the digital age with vlogging. The availability of action cameras like Go-Pro has made it easier for people to record what they enjoy doing. Taking onboard footage and creating content for the audience is a really good way to share what one loves. While talking to vloggers, they gave us a bit of an insight into what they do. Avid motorheads are mostly glued to their phones, watching motorcycle content just to satiate their thirst for speed and big bikes. Like every rider out there, the passion for motorcycles only grows.

To these people, riding is poetry in motion. It might just be a materialistic object to the naked eye but it’s more than that for people who enjoy the machine, for people to feel alive, like every other artist out there, bikers burn rubber instead of ripping mics or stroking paintbrushes. It’s more than a machine and so, a career in motorcycle racing could be fulfilling to motorheads.

The passion for bike riding is part of a culture in the hilly regional parts of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim, it can be said due to its high altitude terrain roads as well as riding sprits among the youths in the region, motorcycles are preferred more rather than four-wheelers. 

Mrishal Rana, a 22-year-old boy from Darjeeling is representing his hometown in the Indian National Motorcycle Racing Championship at Madras Motor Race Track in Chennai. 

He was born and raised in the queen of hills and completed his education from the renowned St. Joseph’s school, North Point and later went on to get a B.A. degree from Bhawnipur Education Society College. He is now being pitted in the championship alongside some of India’s most prominent and promising riders. He managed to complete the qualifying round with a 2.22 Lap time. Yesterday he set off from the 35th position in the race when the light turned green and managed to finish at 33rd position in his first race. “Other racers are very competitive and racing in a track is so different from riding in the mountain curves. There are rules to follow otherwise you get penalised. You either pay money like a sum of Rs. 500 or a 10-second penalty is charged which will take a toll on your overall performance”, says Rana. 

The championship consists of three categories Pro-Stock (301-400cc), Pro-Stock (165cc) and Stock (165cc). It’s a six-lap race.

The Dirty Angels Motorcycle Club (DAMC) and Open Road Wanderers (ORW) are one of the most popular motorcycle clubs in Sikkim. The DAMC is one of the first registered clubs in the state, formed on October 10, 2010. The club does a lot of charity work as an association and was one of the very first who rode to Bhutan from Sikkim as a group.

On 18th October, The executive members of DAMC met Hon’ble Minister for Forest and Wildlife Karma Loday Bhutia and asked him to inaugurate the 10 Years Anniversary Celebration of the club that was held on 18th October 2020 at  Fhamrang Lho Wildlife Sanctuary, to which he had accepted the honour. 

Then there's the ORW club, formed in the year 2013, by a group of like-minded friends to explore and promote motorcycle culture in the state. The club now has 90 members 

Naresh Chettri, a member of ORW said, “If a rider wants to take riding professionally then one can always start tours around the world which remains the biggest scope of motorcycle culture”

“As we can see the taxis are getting replaced by bikes wherein tourists are being catered by bikes around the state,” he added.“In 2016 we started a campaign called making Sikkim an ultimate riding destination, with that theme 8 members from our club rode across India, with that now we can see many riders visiting Sikkim. Tourism in motorbiking can be diversified by owning a couple of bikes and stating adventure biking”

Motorcycle riding in the Himalayan region can be said as a part of culture since due to narrow roads and upstream conditions preference levels for motorcycle remains at the top. In 2018, a motorcycle wedding was organized wherein the groom and bride opted for a motorcycle instead of a four-wheeler as their means of transportation, accompanied by 45 other bikers.

K. T. Machongpa the groom stated, "The reason of conducting the function in the bike was to make aware people on how pollution can be controlled just by adapting easier medium of transportation and also how to control traffic by riding two-wheelers instead of a four-wheeler. My wife has a big role in this initiative, as she accepted my proposal for a biker wedding  and I am happy that it went all good and was a successful event."

By Druhin Subba and Sherap Palden Bhutia