‘Freedom’. the word which is defined as, ‘the state of being free rather than in confinement or under physical restraint’, the word that was most celebrated on this day all across India 69 years ago and still continues to be celebrated by millions in this sub-continent. If there is something that has changed drastically in these 69 years, it is the way freedom is celebrated, and ‘The Freedom Ride 2016’ is probably the biggest example of the same.
Back in 1947, freedom was celebrated in a stately manner with happiness all across the country mostly being celebrated at home or in the neighbourhood, but over the years, people have found many ways to celebrate their freedom, and the motorcycle enthusiasts in Bangalore have found their own way of doing so. For a biker, the word freedom just means one thing – ‘Hitting the open road’ which is exactly what they have been doing for a few years now, including this year. More than 2500 people came together at dawn on August 15 2016, riding their motorcycles as a way of expressing their freedom.
Bangalore has the highest number of two wheelers for any city in the world, and the ever growing number of motorcycle clubs and groups in the city is a testament to that. Some of these biker groups such as, Riders of Bangalore, Bikers of India, BEST etc. are open to riders of a variety of motorcycles while a majority of the groups are for the riders of a particular brand or model, like United KTM, Jawa Namma Jeeva, Bangalore RD 350 Club, RX owners club, Club of Pulsarians etc. There are more than 50 biker groups in Namma Bengaluru and the trend is only increasing by the day.
The one factor commonly shared among all the groups is the love and passion for the motorcycles they ride and also for the open road, away from the hustle and bustle of the traffic in the city, which is why they often head out of Bangalore in order to find some breathing space. Bikers in Bangalore are blessed with many options for a quick getaway. Wildlife reserves, hillstations, beaches, riverside resorts, open highways etc. are all frequented by the bikers, but the most popular destination by far is, Nandi Hills.
Nandi Hills is an ancient hill fortress on the outskirts of Bangalore with great historical significance to its credit, but it is not the ‘British vs Tipu Sultan’ attack that brings the bikers here. Nandi hills, with a distance of 61 kilometers from the city centre, is the closest hillstation for Bangaloreans, and the good tarmac coupled with the steep winding curves is an absolute pleasure to ride on, making bikers love it and hence has been the obvious choice for the organisers of ‘The Freedom Ride’.
The freedom ride started off as a few biker friends inviting a few more friends to celebrate Independence Day like bikers, by casually riding to Nandi hills, but over the last few years, the number of motorcycles taking part in the freedom ride has been multiplying, with last year’s gathering of more than 2000 bikers entering the Limca Book of World Records for the highest number of motorcyclists gathered for a common social celebration. The entry into the book of records was the upside, but the downside to it was that the place was becoming too crowded, hence the destination of this year’s ride was the ‘Tribal Café’, a popular café at the foothills of Nandi Hills with ample parking space and open area for everyone to socialise.
There were three meet-up points for this year’s ride. At around 5.30am, a few bikers started gathering at the Town Hall, and at 6am, a larger group of bikers had gathered in front of the Shell Petrol station located near Isckon temple and the third meet-up point was in front of Palace Grounds’ Gate 7 where bikers had started gathering from 6am onwards though the time announced was only 7am. The happiness was clearly visible on the faces of all the people who had gathered, with the wide variety of motorcycles generating excitement. The Group which had gathered near Isckon temple would ride towards DD hills and the other two groups would ride towards The Tribal cafe.
Some of the Motorcycle Clubs present at the event were, Bangalore Exotic Superbike Team(BEST), Riders of Bangalore, RX Owners Club, Club of Pulsarians, Mojo Tribe(Bangalore), Bajaj Avenger Club – Bengaluru, Bangalore Thunderbird Club, Pulsar 220 Club, Brotherhood of Bikers etc. the bikers from all these clubs attending the ride, resulted in what was probably the best display so far, of the diversity of the motorcycling fraternity in Bangalore.
The BEST group brought in more than 33 exotic superbikes, which set hearts thumping and adrenaline levels soaring as they revved their motorcycles while leaving the destination at the end of the ride. The Mojo Tribe(Bangalore) has to be credited with the most disciplined group award as they were the only group which entered the starting point, left the starting point, rode to the destination and even left the destination while in Formation. These are all a testament to the unity of the biking community in Bangalore and in India.
IT professionals, corporate employees, doctors, engineers, lawyers, students, mechanics, Professional riders and Amateurs, young and old, male riders and female riders, crossing all boundaries of race, caste, religion etc. riding, Activas and Vespas, Pulsars and Apaches, KTM Dukes and RCs, Royal Enfields and Avengers, the legendary RD350s and the modified RX100/135s, Superbikes from Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Benelli, Triumph and even Aprilia and Ducati, from the most common Harley Davidsons to the rarest Indian Chief Vintage.
This ride had them all – A display of the diversity that is unique to the Indian subcontinent, and proof that we can have unity in diversity. That was The Freedom Ride, 2016.
All Images were captured by the Author, except those where attribution is given.
Author – Stephen Neil Gershom
National School of Journalism