While the Coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on across the world, the motorbike industry has also seen a considerable dip in the number of sales of their two-wheelers. In the month of July, Bajaj auto sales declined by 33%, Honda two-wheeler sales reduced by 36.82 % while Royal Enfield sales tanked by 23%. The virus has now spread across almost every region in India, which has lead to cancellation/postponement of several events and races where brands used to showcase their new bikes. According to a report published by Advances in Automobile Engineering, the already struggling motorcycle industry has been hard hit by the Coronavirus onslaught. There has been a sharp decline in sales, inconvenience associated with the conventional dealership system.
Major premium motorcycle brands such as Harley Davidson and Ducati already have to shut down a number of their production facilities. Nevertheless, there is a silver lining at the end of the cloud, as manufacturers are optimistic that following the lockdown, commuters will be more likely to avoid public transport, boosting the demand for private vehicles including motorbikes.
Riding solo seems safe
However, a decline in the number of sales of two-wheelers does not necessarily translate into a diminishing love of motorcycles. Of course, not everyone is travelling now, but a surge in travelling is expected soon where bikers would take precautions and start their solo rides across the country.
“While the upcoming months will be new to the many of us, taking out a bike for a spin on a deserted road looks comparatively safe. Though group motorcycling should be discouraged, there is no harm in riding on your own without interacting with people. Also, bikers need to check with the current health mandates with the local public health authorities before doing so.”
However, before going outside for a ride, the rider should assess key risk factors such as the level of community spread in their area, whether they have been exposed to Coronavirus, and could be at risk for asymptomatically spreading it.
At the most, riding with a training partner or small group of two to three people that one can trust is likely safe, depending on the area you live in and the precautions you all take.
The virus spreads only when people congregate together and someone sneezes or coughs, Bottom line, if you have any symptoms, including fever or a cough, or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, one should self-isolate and avoid going outside for a ride, as you risk infecting others.
Precautions while riding
The best plan for riding right now is to go out, ride slow, enjoy the outdoor areas, and try timing the rides when the routes will be less crowded. Crowded places increase the risk of exposure to the virus.
Now, if you are travelling alone, you might be wondering whether wearing a face-covering mask will be useful at all. I would suggest that perhaps it’s best to bring a mask along in case of an emergency such as a crash or you need to stop for a drink.
One should also avoid taking long biking trails for now, as you might find yourself stranded in a completely new place, as a result of government curbs which now change very frequently.
Overall, a biker should be mindful of your interactions with others and take basic steps to protect yourself, like washing your hands, limiting direct contact with others, and avoid touching your face, one can reduce your risk of many different infections.
Ways to help out
Mahesh Prasanna, a professional biker who used to travel as a solo rider across India has now found an opportunity for riding by helping the Emergency Food Response team. Prasanna took care of the logistics and ensured that the vehicle left on time to deliver food to the needy.
Another bike enthusiast cum automobile engineer Partha Saha has created a modified bike with a one-meter gap between the rider and the passenger to ensure social distancing.
Indeed in the times of the virus outbreak, everyone has to be extra careful including bikers, but I am sure as soon as the situation normalizes, bikers will once again throng the bike trails in India from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to the North-East. Till then stay safe.
Author: Shahnawaz Karim, Founder, UlkaGear, and IIA certified off-road enduro trainer with BMW Motorrad
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not represent those of The Indian Express Group or its employees.
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