At least you guys in the Indian motorcycling / biking / riding / Motorsport fraternity, as we may call it, would be aware that in 2015 I became the first Indian woman to finish the coveted Raid-de-himalaya Motorsport rally. I like to reiterate on the phrase ‘Motorsport rally’ time and again because there still are a lot of young Indians who aren’t aware of the format of Rally-Racing! So I’m taking this platform to educate you all, and hopefully inspire too
A Stage rally, worldwide is run in 2 stages
A transport stage is a section where you run normally with the rest of the traffic in normal speed limits, however, you do have a time limit to follow. Which means you can’t take unnecessary stops but even if you are really slow, you’ll make it to the check points in time. Generally, time given in the transport stage is more than the time taken on the route! This is done, so that you have time to pee, eat, recuperate & get your bike fixed in case of an issue.
A rally generally starts with a TRANSPORT STAGE
A competitive stage, as the name suggests, is where you are RACING! Each rider / driver is flagged off at an interval of generally 2 minutes (in some rallies 1). There is no oncoming traffic and you are allowed to go as fast you can! However, with the kind of terrain you are racing on, you can only go AS fast and not more, really!
The time given to finish a competitive stage is generally LESS than what even the fastest bike will take, say 40 minutes for 55kms! On every extra minute you take, you get a minute penalty and the guy with the LEAST penalty is the winner of the STAGE!
For motorcyclists, Raid has 2 categories
Same route however Alpine runs only for the first 3 days and has more liberty in the time limits during competitive!
Xtreme is a 6-day rally which gets tougher & badder after the Alpine ends and requires more endurance & more focus to see the finish line! Of course has tighter time limits as well in the competitive stages!
You can do Xtreme if you are confident and experienced however, many people do Alpine first and Xtreme the following year
One more thing you should know before you think of Raid (or any other rally-race for that matter) is MPL & DNF.
MPL is the Maximum Permissible Lateness which means if you exceed the overall time each day which is even beyond MPL, you’ll be a DNF & be sent back home the next morning!
DNF ofcourse is DID NOT FINISH! Something you don’t want reflecting against your name on the grid!
Now that you know what rallying is and how it works, let me tell you what RAID is & how IT works
Regarded as the 2nd toughest rally in the world after Dakar rally Raid-de-himalaya is the only one of it’s kind that runs on THOSE altitudes. Nowhere else in the world you will see people racing at say 12,000 ft (and more!)
There has been only 2 women, as of today when I’m writing this blog, who’ve finished the Xtreme raid on a motorcycle, my Austrian friend Claudia. And ME
There has been only 1 woman so far in the 18 years’ history of Raid-de-himalaya who has finished the raid on a ROYAL ENFIELD motorcycle (without getting MPL or DNF as many had betted ). Yours truly
WHY I DID IT? WHY I WILL DO IT AGAIN? WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT TOO?
1.It tests you buddy! Tests everything you’ve got! Your riding skills, your endurance, your focus, your patience, your camaraderie, your love for your bike, your trust in yourself, your limit to push, your never-say-die spirit as most of us claim and most importantly, your fitness – both physical as well as mental! Makes you a man out of a boy!
2.Being a rallyist is the next best thing to being in the Army! Makes you so disciplined! You start valuing time! I try not get MPL even when I come to office now, haha
3. It made me believe in myself even more! Last year when I barely managed to finish the Raid (I was 3rd last until last day but then a small crash & some wastage of time put me as last on the grid! I still finished though! Many in the industry thought I was there for a picnic! yeah! I’ve been told this on my face by the biggies of the game:
- Sarah, buy a smaller bike. This one is too big for you.
- You need a bike where your feet reach the ground.
- This is too heavy!
- What’s the fun competing when you are always the LAST!
- We know you can FINISH but only that’s what you can do! You can’t WIN!
- Girls can’t ride faster than boys, leave aside overtaking! Boys are more fearless!
So, ladies & gentleman, boys & girls, in the first competitive stage of Gramphoo – Losar of 77kms this year, yours truly
- Overtook 16 bikers! All boys ofcourse!
- Was 12th overall out of 32 bikers who finished the Leg 1 of the Xtreme raid and another 9 of Alpine, roughly 41 bikers! Rest approx 30 of both Alpine & Xtreme got DNF/MPLd in the first leg of the Day 1 itself.
- I was ahead of 6 Hero Impulses, 5 Royal Enfields, 5 KTMs and 3 Triumph Tigers!
- Was the fastest Enfield in the lot of-course and also 2nd in Group B which is a category for ‘All Indian bikes with foreign parts (not just Enfields)
Day 2 had me falling 3 times in 3 stages due to which I not only lost my time but also confidence, and here comes my gyaan point no. 4!
4. Raid teaches you the NEVER GIVE UP theory in practical! I got up and continued and maintained my position! I dropped down from 12th overall to 16th overall but was still the fastest Enfield out there!
5. The 3rd day of Raid-de-himalaya this year saw an unfortunate event due to which the rally was called off. A fellow biker passed away in a sad crash! In the same stage some 25-30kms back, after I declined from the mighty Kunzum pass pretty quick there was ice stuck to my rear tyre. That resulted in total loss of traction, from pretty much everywhere; my rear wheel fishtailed off the ground & my backside went upsy-daisy off the saddle! I held the cliff & let the bike go down, sheer presence-of-mind which I’m very proud of!
I still didn’t lose hope. After I was rescued by the officials, I also requested them to help me recover my bike after the last car leaves the track! Which they did. We got the bike out from the valley. To your utter surprise, the Himalayan started with a single flick. Nothing was bent! Not even the handle bar! I made it to Sarchu well in time (before MPL though, but since I had missed the TC in between, I was given a DNF this year!)
And this is when you realize never to take your life or your position seriously! Nothing stays forever! Also, it’s easy to lead, hard to maintain!
Some quick go-to-info about Raid that will help you prepare and plan better
When do entries start?
When does Race happen ?
October every year! And yeah, it’s quite cold in the himalayas then
Can you bring any bike?
Yes. If it’s road-legal
How much does it cost?
Depends on how you wanna do it! Roughly, if you don’t squeeze much and spend enough on your bike modifications, service backup, transport, crew etc. the expenses fall under 2-3 lakhs.
Do you need a GPS?
Yes! And no, if you know the area already or have recced earlier
Is Recce required?
When are the routes out?
One month before the rally.
If I’m MPL, can I get a restart?
No. You are sent back, however, you may cry or abuse
How’s the weather & the terrain?
Very cold. And very tricky. In that order
What kind of gear do I need?
The best that you can get! In any case, you won’t pass scrutiny without a good helmet, knee brace, armour / protective jacket, gloves & boots!
How hard it is to get sponsorships for raid?
Pretty hard! Read this: https://indiasflipside.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/the-sad-state-of-motorsports-in-india/
What do I get when I finish Raid?
Bragging rights! That will last you a lifetime
On that note, I will come back better & faster next year and hope to see a lot of you on the start line with me