Most Goans might have rubbished the end of the world claims for December 21, last year, apparently as foretold by the Mayan calendar. But on a Saturday afternoon, this February, some there, for a few seconds, might have feared that Armageddon had arrived. Traffic came to a standstill, shops put business on hold, onlookers switched on to camera or video mode on their mobile phones and children clung onto their parents in fear. Thundering down the road, like the sonic boom from a meteor streaking across the sky, were nearly 500 Harley Davidson motorcycles. Just one of them can wake up the neighbourhood; now imagine 500 of them in one place. What was going on? Riders from across the country who had come together to ride on at the beach State’s roads, rumbled on to Vagator located in the northern tip of Goa, which was the venue of the annual motorcycle festival – India Bike Week 2013.

IBW 2013

Goa is called a state, a union territory, a holiday destination, a beach-combers paradise etc. But, most of all, it simply is a state of mind. What better destination than this to host a three-day motorcycle extravaganza!

The IBW that commenced on February 1 was a rendezvous of various motorcycle groups including owners of Royal Enfield, the iconic Rajdoot Yamaha RD 350, vintage bike clubs and the most important of all, the two-wheeler enthusiasts. Supported by Harley Davidson India, the limelight on the inaugural day of the IBW was hogged by the HOGs – the world-renowned name for the Harley Owners Group.

Nine Indian chapters – Capital Harley from Delhi, Himalayan Harley from Chandigarh, Bengal Harley from Kolkata, Nine Bridges Harley from Ahmedabad, Seven Islands Harley from Mumbai, Banjara Harley from Hyderabad, Tusker Harley from Bengaluru, Coromandel Harley from Chennai and Spice Coast Harley from Kochi – of the legendary American cycles who form the country’s HOGs attended the IBW. Calling it enthusiastic participation will be better illustrated when we point out that many of them rode all the way from their cities to Goa for the fest.

Day one belonged to the HOGs, and the venue bristled with rider camaraderie and a lot of ostentatious display of some of the most elaborately decorated Harleys owned by Indian bike enthusiasts. Harleys, right from the Superlows to Iron 883s to Fatboys to V-rods engulfed the open ground on Vagator. A few Softail Classics, Road Kings and Street Glides that rolled for the IBW were an awe-inspiring sight for the other HOGs themselves. Unlike the ordinary, the motorcycle parking area took centre stage at the IBW venue located on a foothill, due also to the stalls brimming with motorcycle merchandise including helmets, jackets, t-shirts and more.

What would you do next after return from burning rubber and you grab a chilled beer under the scorching, but welcome, Goan sun? It was time for some head banging with Delhi’s famed rock and roll band Parikrama whose members were appropriately clad in leather and belted out some of their popular numbers for the attendants.

Maiden 110th HOG rally

Day two, as penned earlier created a roar in North Goa. Many HOGs could have been unaware that the ride from Fort Aguada to Vagator that they were a part of was the first 110th HOG rally in the world and the country’s first HOG rally. The ride put Goa as a preferred destination on the HOG rally calendar. Coming to my experience of being part of the HOG rally, I think a special thanks is due to the custom-made Harley Davidson Forty-Eight that I sat astride. The 20 kms odd ride from Aguada Fort to Vagator, with perhaps the longest single file of Harleys ever on Indian roads, was a special moment of pride that I have been managing to envious stares from my biker friends even when we all last met on the Sunday that passed. Karen Davidson, Creative Director, General Merchandise, Harley Davidson Motor Company, who is also the great-grand daughter of the company’s co-founder William. A. Davidson and Anoop Prakash, Managing Director, Harley Davidson India were active riders in the contingent.

Nearly 500 roaring Harleys entering IBW one after the other with an awestruck biker fraternity watching was indeed a feast for many of the trigger happy photojournalists amongst us. And mind you that was despite the huge amount of dust that the bikes were kicking up. The rides parked, time flew with HOG chapter members sharing motorcycle tales as some of the HOGs rode all the way from Kochi, Kolkata, Chennai, Chandigarh and Delhi to the IBW.

Irresistible IBW

February 2 at the IBW was the time you should have been in Goa if you are a motorcycle nut. Biker build-off, vintage and custom-built motorcycle displays, stalls selling a wide range of motorcycle merchandise (some rare to find pieces as well), a music concert, speeches by veteran Indian bikers, motorcycle stunt arena and last but definitely not the least, a bikini bike wash. Custom-built machines on display were indeed thronged by the IBW participants; many did not miss a photo opportunity with the maverick machines. A must mention was the Royal Enfield built with a ‘handgear’ probably inspired by the pre-war James and Indian models. While RE custom machines hogged the segment, a slim-built Rajdoot 350 on display grabbed the attention of the speed lovers. Interestingly, a motorcycle substituted by a NOS tank instead of the conventional petrol tank was the most-photographed bike.

It was curtains down for the biker fest on Day Three. But in the minds of many of the bikers returning back to their homes the one voice echoing must have been “next is when”.

petlee.peter@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 27, 2013)
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