When a woman rides a motorcycle, she’s already challenging stereotypes and gender norms that say adventure is only for boys.
But when a woman rides a motorcycle and makes it her profession, she is taking the challenge to a whole new level.
Meet Sarah Kashyap, a motorcycle rally-racer, and Candida Louis, a Motorcycle Tour Manager, two bold, adventurous women who have done just that.
We spoke to both women and we’re in awe of their grit and courage!
Sarah Kashyap, 32, Motorcycle Rally Racer
Sarah Kashyap is the first woman to have completed Raid De Himalaya, one of the world’s toughest high-altitude rally races. This was in spite of breaking her collarbone in a fall 200 kilometres before the finish line.
That instance alone is enough to show you what a spirited woman Sarah is.
Sarah grew up in an adventurous family that had a soft spot for two-wheelers. In her college years in Chandigarh, Sarah attracted attention being the rare girl riding a bike. But it was only later when she was working as an assistant professor in a college that her interest went beyond the occasional road trip.
“In 2014, I took an organised trip with Royal Enfield in Rajasthan. That trip changed things for me. I had never ridden 3,000 kilometres at a stretch back then. After that I wanted to work on something related to motorcycles,” Sarah said.
She left her job in the college and moved to Bengaluru. Luck was in her favour because after a few months of working for a digital media company, Sarah was approached by her dream company Royal Enfield with a job offer.
Sarah joined Royal Enfield as an assistant manager in the Rides and Communities department, the first woman to be on that team.
Soon, Sarah was not only organizing national and international races, she was taking part in them.
Rally racing is extremely challenging. It’s as much about mental strength as it is about physical, Sarah explained.
“There are times when I am racing in the middle of a desert and I wonder why I didn’t choose to sit at home with the AC on 16 degrees. But the kick I get out of reaching the finishing line I would never get if I stayed home,” she said.
After three years at Royal Enfield, Sarah left to focus more on races. She went back to Chandigarh to start a motorcycle track where people could come and practice.
“There aren’t enough tracks for people to train. I wanted to make it more accessible. But it is temporarily closed now because we are looking for investors,” Sarah said.
But rally racing has taught Sarah to be brave and light-hearted in the face of challenges.
“I face death every moment when I am racing so nothing to me is scarier anymore. I have unrealistic and impractical dreams. As a single woman, it is not a cakewalk but I will always keep giving myself big goals because even if I don’t achieve them because it makes the journey so interesting,” Sarah said.
In the meantime, Sarah leads groups as a motorcycle tour guide occasionally. She is also preparing for India Baja, an off-road motor sporting event, in August this year.
Her piece of advice: It is challenging and it can be difficult. Try to save some money before you take off on your own down such a path.
Candida Louis, 27, Motorcycle Tour Manager
Not too long ago, 27-year-old Candida Louis used to have a regular 9 to 5 job at a software company. But she got restless and took off on her bike for a road trip that lasted seven months and changed the course of her career.
On that first trip, Candida travelled across the country covering 30,000 kilometres. There was no game plan back then. Even her Facebook page started as a means to update her extended family on her whereabouts.
“After I got back, I told my parents that I couldn’t go back to my old job. I asked for a year to prove that I could do something in the biking field. If it didn’t work out, I would go back to my old job,” Candida said.
She started working as a guide, leading motorcycle tours for a living. In the beginning, she was working in a company where she would be in the office on weekdays and on weekends she would be out leading motorcycle tours.
“It took a toll on me. Then I realized that I was working too hard and not making enough so I decided to work independently and freelance,” Candida said.
The first year was difficult and challenging. It still is, she says.
“It is a demanding job because you have to take responsibility for everyone in the group. You have to make sure the people are safe and having fun, and that the bikes are in good condition,” Candida said.
It’s tough and being a woman makes it tougher.
“People in this industry don’t take girls seriously. People think that if a girl goes on one trip, she will take a long break before the next one when I actually work for several months at a stretch. It has taken me a long time to change that perception,” she said.
In spite of everything, Candida loves what she is doing now.
“The most rewarding thing is that I get to explore new places. Through my travels I have met some great people who have become like family now,” she said.
Over the last two years, she has led 38 guided trips and been to five continents. By the end of the year, Candida hopes to start her own company offering guided motorcycle tours.
Her piece of advice: It is going to be struggle. If you establish yourself well then you won’t have to worry about reaching out to brands because they will approach you. And you will get clients through word-of-mouth if you offer them tours which are off the beaten track.
We are cheering for both women, their new ventures, and many adventures!
(Apologies. The pun was too tempting)