Female-biker

telegraph.co.uk
Meet the female motorbike gangs blazing a trail for India's women
Over the past few months, more and more women in India have started riding their own bikes (rather than riding pillion). They’re doing it as a hobby and usually to prove a point; whether that’s around solo travel, strength, ability or simply to fulfill a long held dream.

“Riding a motorbike - in a country where women are often told to stay within four walls, or be accompanied by a male member of the family when out, on the pretext of their safety - may seem like a far-fetched idea.

But the trend is fast catching on. India Bike Week, the country’s biggest yearly biking festival which started in 2013, has seen the participation of women riders shoot up in the four years.

The girl biker gangs, apart from being a safe space to grow and learn, help develop female camaraderie while discussing and bending gender rules together.

As with any activity women undertake – despite being told it’s ‘not for them’ by society – the female biker club members feel ready to take on the world.

By busting the myth of feminine fragility- and of female dependence on a men for mobility and protection - it provides women with independence.

Bandodkar says: “A woman on a bike is the best thing to happen for women’s empowerment. Because even one woman on the road can inspire many others - and the chain reaction will lead to liberation.”

Read the full piece here

Flying low in Borrego Springs, CA.

Bike: Kawasaki KLX250S
Photographer: Lanakila MacNaughton for @WomensMotoExhibit

(Instagram)
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Roaring to go: the female motorbike rider who wants to race for Iran

Behnaz Shafiei is among a group of women given permission to ride on off-road circuits, but they are still banned from having licences or competing

“In the dusty hills of Hashtgerd, some 40 miles west of Tehran, a rider on a souped-up bike comes roaring along a rough-and-ready race track, braving steep jumps and dangerous turns.

With a bright orange and black biker suit and helmet, the motorcyclist looks just like any other, until the helmet comes off. The rider is a woman.

“When people find that out, they stop and say damet-garm [Persian for ‘right on’],” Behnaz Shafiei told the Guardian. She feels welcome in an otherwise all-male motorcycling club, where she practises three times a week: “They offer help when I tow my bike with the car or when I run into a technical problem.”

The 26-year-old is among the first group of female motorcyclists in Iran to have recently obtained official permission to practise on off-road circuits, and the one and only Iranian female rider to have done professional road racing.

Although Shafiei and a handful of other existing female motocross riders can operate in clubs, they are not allowed to enter competitions or ride on official race tracks, including one at Tehran’s magnificent Azadi sport complex, currently exclusive to men.

In fact, women in Iran are still banned from riding a motorbike in public, and are not issued licences, although they are allowed to take part in other sports, from martial arts to car rallies.

But things are beginning to change. Shafiei’s story has attracted a great deal of interest at home. A leading national newspaper recently photographed her at play and state-run television has broadcast an interview with her. Shafiei is hopeful that soon she will also be allowed to compete.

“I’ve never seen a bad reaction to what I do. People here are fascinated when they see a woman doing such a physically demanding sport,” she said. “Everyone has something affirmative to say. Women wave hands and say well done, you are brave. There are people who can’t believe a woman can ride a motorbike but they’re generally thrilled and feel very proud.”

These days, Shafiei has changed her bike to a 2012 Suzuki 250cc, focusing all her attention on motocross, but a ban on women riding in official race tracks means she can only practise in rudimentary clubs such as the one in Hashtgerd, where medical facilities are not available.

“We don’t have a single ambulance in the track. It’s an expensive sport and we have no sponsors. If someone has an injury, it might get even worse by the time the rider is taken to the hospital,” she said.

Shafiei has practised abroad, including in the UAE, where women can compete in track races without restrictions, but says she has no intention of joining a foreign team. “I want to be part of my own country’s team, I don’t want to go abroad. I want to bring pride to Iran and show that Iranian women can do this sport too.”

She added: “Outside, Iran is depicted differently. We want to change that view. People ask if women are allowed to drive in Iran. Of course they are.”

Shafiei says she looks up to Laleh Seddigh, Iran’s most famous female car race driver, nicknamed “little Schumacher”, whose struggle to become the country’s first woman champion was the subject of a BBC documentary. “Laleh Seddigh is my idol, I hope that one day we will be allowed to race like her,” Shafiei said.

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, has called for gender equality since taking power and hopes are high, although he has yet to deliver on his promises. In 2013, he tweeted in support of Shirin Gerami, the first Iranian female triathlete to take part in a world championship.

Shafiei was confident Javanmardi and her colleagues were doing all they could to help. She said: “The restrictions in Iran are problematic for us. My wish is that this sport becomes free for women.”

Read the full piece here

Photo: Mohammad Moheimany/jamejamimage.ir

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