'Biking Queens'—Dr Sarika Mehta, Jinal Shah and Rutali Patel—are setting out on a journey of a lifetime on their bikes. The trio’s expedition will be flagged off on June 5 from Varanasi, and they will ride 25,000km, through 25 countries, across three continents, spanning 90 days, finally concluding the ride in London on August 26.
Their journey is not going to be an easy one and will cover countries such as Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Morocco. “We are going to be riding through different kinds of terrain. For instance, we are going to be at the Everest Base camp from the China side and then we are going to be riding through deserts in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. We have to be prepared mentally and physically for various obstacles that may come our way starting from sudden drops in the temperature as we enter different climatic zones,” says Mehta who has in the past, done a 10-country ride starting from Surat and which ended in Singapore.
There was yet another biking trip for women which was an all-India trip with 45 women, she tells us. However, while she has the requisite experience in riding for hours across different countries, it is for the very first time that her companions Shah and Patel will be riding internationally. “We are going to be riding for almost 500-600km every day and on July 19, we will be doing our longest ride which will be 1,000km starting from Volgograd and ending in Moscow. That is going to be a really tough one,” she says.
The chosen bike for the ride is KTM 390. “We chose KTM 390 because not only does this bike have sufficient power but also because it can negotiate any kind of terrain, be it desert, streams, mountains, plain roads. Anything that you may throw its way, it handles beautifully. This bike has been to very high altitudes almost 17,000-18,000 feet without a single breakdown, so that should say a lot. Also, the bike delivers good fuel efficiency and that is important for a journey like ours,” says Mehta. The riders will also have a small car accompanying them that will contain lots of spares such as tyres, rims, brake pads, side mirrors and base plates, to name a few. “We are not going to have bike stations on our routes, so it is best to be prepared for any kind of emergencies,” says Mehta. There is also going to be enough Indian ready-to-eat food aboard the car for these vegetarian bikers. “In places such as China, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, we know for sure that food will be a problem,” she adds.
Safety is the first priority and so the trio have kitted themselves out with a lot of gear from riding jackets to special riding pants that offer knee and leg protection in case of falls. They also have invested in ankle length riding boots and riding gloves and a full face helmet that will keep them protected from the elements of nature. “We also have rain gear, to protect ourselves and our bikes from rain,” she says.
Planning this trip was a big exercise in itself. “Designing the route was the most difficult part because we did not rely much on Google as we did on reading up and consulting riders and riding clubs in other countries,” she says. “We bifurcated countries through cities and communities, which we will be visiting and/or passing through,” she says. They had to ensure that they kept track of border timings, got their Carnet visas for their bikes as well as have Plan B and Plan C in place before embarking on this journey. “Not just our travel documents and visas which are dated visas, if we don’t reach that country within the stipulated time, our visas expire, similarly for our Carnet visas, we will not be able to cross borders with our ‘GJ’ (Gujarat) registered bikes if we do not have them,” says Mehta.
On August 15, the trio will be in Barcelona and they plan to hoist the Indian flag there with other Indians. “Ride for Women’s Pride” is mainly to create social awareness and to tell women that each one of you can do it,” says Mehta. “It is just a matter of taking the first step.”