For a majority of Indians, a two-wheeler is a vehicle for commuting from point A to B. For many others, it is an aspiration, a joy. For a few, it is freedom. Freedom to explore places a ‘regular’ tourist usually doesn’t, freedom to just ride. Companies such as Triumph Motorcycles, Royal Enfield, Harley-Davidson and Ducati run an experiential riding calendar through the year, where the riders who take part — these may or may not be company customers — usually ride to faraway and often exotic locations. These are paid for curated rides, i.e. food, passes, support cars, accommodation, etc, is taken care of by the organisers. These rides not only bring in revenues, but more importantly strengthen the brand value of the company as well as brand recall. These also help create a community, which often keeps in touch even when rides are not happening. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown, even these rides have come to a halt, and with social distancing here to stay for a while, there isn’t enough clarity on how these will restart.
Shoeb Farooq, business head, Triumph Motorcycles India, is optimistic. “Over the years we have built a strong community around experiential riding,” he says. “I think the return should be quick. Our curated rides are expected to start from July onwards — the major ones are the Spiti and the Zanskar rides, and then there are weekend rides in Himachal later this year.”
Farooq adds that, going forward, Triumph India will put some processes around social distancing during these rides, especially when the riders take a halt or when these culminate. Triumph India’s riding properties include the Adventure Weekend, Triumph Track Days, Splendid Spiti, Zanskar Trails and Thar Desert Trails, among others.
Royal Enfield has nurtured the culture of leisure riding under its Rides and Events programme. “From rides across snow-capped mountains that test endurance and skill, to the leisurely rides that bring together riders and stories, we’ve built an engaged riding community across the world,” says a Royal Enfield spokesperson.
The current situation is concerning, and so the company has temporarily cancelled all its planned rides and events. “It is difficult to predict how and when the situation will become conducive to riding again,” adds the spokesperson. When Royal Enfield restarts the rides, it will make some operational changes to certain ride formats to ensure distancing and safety for the riders. “But the spirit of Royal Enfield rides will remain the same.”
During the lockdown, its engagement with the riding community has, in fact, increased via social and digital media. Royal Enfield has the largest online motorcycle brand community in the world — a social media community of over 7.5 million users. “We have been riding through the lockdown with campaigns like #TripStory (participation was 24,000 people) and #WhatYourAdventure (14,000 people), the riders have shared their stories with the larger community. We are also inspiring the riding community to personalise their motorcycles and explore a differentiated avenue for self-expression,” the spokesperson adds.
While rides are halted, the company has reopened training at its Slide School in Bengaluru — it encourages motorcycle enthusiasts to experience flat tracking (a kind of dirt track racing) in batches. Full opening of experiential riding events will happen only when the lockdown is lifted fully. At the same time, some of Royal Enfield’s community-led riding clubs have started organising their own rides in a fewcities.
Ducati and Harley-Davidson
Ducati organises Dream Tours both in India and globally. Indian rides include Royal Rajasthan, Hidden Himachal, Konkan Coastal Ride, Spiti Valley and soon. Harley-Davidson India runs the Riding Academy that focuses on making a rider feel comfortable on big motorcycles. But probably its biggest contribution to the community is the HOG, or the Harley Owners Group, reportedly the largest factory-sponsored riding club in the world. In India also there is a substantial HOG membership. On June 27, adapting to the new normal, the Eastern HOG Rally will be organised virtually, which will have live-in concerts, unveiling of the Low Rider S motorcycle, and a digital contest as well.
So while for the country’s riding community rides may have taken a backseat, a lot of activities are being held virtually. As the Royal Enfield spokesperson put it: “A passionate riding enthusiast never really stops. It is only a break between journeys. We hope to be back soon.”
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