A girl’s guide to exploring the mountains on two wheels

When Royal Enfield took 12 women riders out on a Himalayan Odyssey, the results were electric

Slow-motion helmet removal and hair-flipping aside (I can’t be the only one in love with Lucy Liu in Charlie’s Angels) there’s nothing sexier than a girl on a motorbike. And when said girl rumbles through the Himalayas on roads that could make even the meanest Hell’s Angel whimper, you’d better hold on to ye asses, lads. For girls looking to up their cool quotient, and those who want to conquer the Mecca of all bike riders, (we’re talking K-Top, the world’s highest motorable pass) Royal Enfield is here to make your dreams come true with their flagship ride, the Himalayan Odyssey Women.

As someone who knows as much about riding as a giraffe does about rocket science, I was rather alarmed when asked if I wanted to tag along as a spectator on such an epic journey. But tag along I did, (because who can say no to those gorgeous mountains and the chance to escape reality?), and I’m happy to report that I’m back in one piece ready to tell you what’s in store if you sign up. And because I like you, I’ll also tell you how you can prepare yourself for the journey and how you can one day aspire to ride, even if you’re a noob like me. So ladies, let’s get ready to rumble.

Words and photography by Sharmeen Hussain / Shot on OnePlus 6

THE RIDE

The Himalayan Odyssey Women is no walk in the park. It’s 18 days of riding through some of the most challenging terrain in the mountains covering more than 2,000km and 12 destinations. If that wasn’t tricky enough there are unruly truckers to contend with - the type who like to run you off the road for a giggle - rain, snow, and fast-flowing rivers that decide to fast-flow right across the road.

Luckily, though, there’s a team of people who’ve got your back, so you can ride with nothing but the road on your mind.

The convoy

The Himalayan Odyssey Women 2018 (HOW) had a smashing group of riders from all walks of life, their collective passion for riding bringing them together. We had two Majors from the Indian army, a spritely Spanish lady who flew in all the way from Barcelona and tried her best to learn some Hindi, a couple of entrepreneurs, a moto-vlogger with the sickest helmet accessories, a journalist and a bassist from a band in Nagaland, among others. All in all a motley crew of badass women.

The crew

RE Represent! The Royal Enfield dream team was headed by Hema Chaudhary, a woman I secretly suspect is more comfortable on two wheels than two legs. Hema’s job was to lead the pack, making sure all 12 riders made it home safe. Then there was Anshu Bhattacharya, the no-nonsense woman driving the hulk of a media car. Legend has it she can drive anything anywhere. And finally Pooja Murthy, a diminutive co-lead with a passion for riding that you can almost smell burning.

The medics

Scraped knees? Altitude sickness? Frostbite? No worries! The doctor on duty had everyone covered. Armed with an oxygen cylinder and enough Diamox to knock out a small nation, she was ready for anything.

They've got your back

Following the convoy in a mean-looking Force van lovingly called the Gunwagon was tech support: Rahim, the trusty mechanic from Chennai who could fix a bike in his sleep, and Karma, a chatty little man from Himachal who could talk the pants off a goat. They made sure no one got left behind, sweeping the convoy from behind like a mother duck, and come sunset, had everyone’s bikes oiled, fuelled up and squeaky clean for the next day.

LEARN TO RIDE

If you don’t know how to ride, then you’re definitely not doing all this research to ride pillion. No, sir. You want to grab life by the… handlebars, right? Great! Because Royal Enfield wants you! Uncle Sam style. They conduct the RE Riding Program, a specially designed course that will have you bike confident by the end of it. The program is for men and women both, and the only prerequisite is the ability to ride a bicycle. Sweet!

It’s currently being upgraded to something bigger and better, however, so keep your eyes peeled for RE’s announcement about the new programme. If you’re looking to start learning right away, The EagleRider Academy conducts beginner courses for girls.

TIME TO RIDE!

If this hasn’t inspired you to get out there and ride, it’s quite likely you are dead inside. There’s something about the smell of gas, the dug dug dug of the engine and looks of sheer admiration that bikers receive in the mountains that make it seem like coolest thing to do. And if a noob like me - who hitherto feared bikes more than flying cockroaches - has already signed up for the riding program, then you can (and must), too.