Dr Sheetal Maniar, a physiotherapist by profession, a PhD holder in Alternative Medicine and a passionate biker recently became the first Asian lady rider to get the ‘King of the Road’ designation. Dr Maniar also holds a 4th Degree black belt in Military Martial Arts, and is an Apprentice Instructor in Bruce Lees Jeet Kune Do. She owns a Royal Enfield Classic Chrome 500 and a Yamaha R15 since last three years. She recently received a Long Distance Riders (LDR) certification for covering 2,415 kms in 36 hours.
Her journey as a biker started with a bang. Within two months into riding she rode down from Delhi to Ladakh. Nine months into her riding career, she achieved full throttle LDR certification for covering 1,610 kms in 24 hours and in 18th Months she clinched the King of the Road LDR certification for riding 2,415 kms in 36 hrs.
We recently conversed with her about her achievements, her life as a motorcyclist and her advice to aspiring women riders.
Q. We understand that you failed at the attempt in your earlier run? What went through your mind when you didn’t succeed?
I had decided that I will attempt the treacherous task again in six months and I have achieved my target. The quote that inspired me the most was, “Don’t fear in great attempts, as it’s glorious even to fail” – Bruce Lee.
Q: Now that you have achieved the feat, what is your next target?
My next target is to ride from India to London on a motorcycle, covering 18 countries in 83 days.
Q: What is the checklist that you follow before commencing every ride?
My protective gear such as the helmet, knee guards and a riding jacket tops my priority list. Apart from that electrolytes like sodium, potassium, calcium provided by salt, jaggery and a cheese cube form part of my list. But most importantly, I carry the unquenchable thirst of doing the impossible to prove mind over matter and to set an example for the women out there in the world. If I can do it, you can too!
Q: Do you follow a fitness regimen to stay in shape? Can you suggest a few simple steps to lady riders to stay in shape for endurance rides?
Yes, I follow a fitness regime which includes weight training, 5 km run twice a week and Martial arts. I also follow a nutrition rich diet. One stands no chance during endurance rides without fitness. If women walk for an hour everyday, some staircase climbing and Pilate workout, it would make them fit for the ride.
Q: What according to you are the biggest challenges faced by women while riding in India? In what ways can women prepare in advance for some of these adversities?
One of the biggest challenges is to ride at night during the endurance rides. At times, there is absolutely no one on the highways to help you in case of a break down. Also, stray cattle can suddenly block your way when you are at high speed which can lead to accidents.
Learning Martial arts is certainly a plus point when you want to venture alone. Besides that, a few sops like sending your GPS location each night to your family and friends is advisable. I tend to inform the hotel to keep options open for a friend who would be following so that they feel I’m not alone. Carrying a pepper spray, a taser or stunt gun would be a good idea too.
Q: On the flip side, what makes the Indian conditions favourable for women riders?
The most favourable condition is the Indian climate as there are no sudden showers or snowfall. We have fixed seasons so one can plan the ride accordingly. In most parts of India, women riders are awed and people go out of their way to help them.
Q: What has been your most memorable ride to date?
My most memorable ride undoubtedly has to be my last ride which also has been a milestone achievement of my lif,e the King of the Road LDR certification.
Q: We understand that you have a 4th Degree Black Belt in Military Martial Arts and you are also an apprentice instructor in Bruce Lees JKD. Do you still carry self defence devices, for example a pepper spray? Do you use any smartphone applications to notify friends and family about your location?
I don’t carry any such devices as I know I can handle the situation correctly. Carrying a GPS location device is advisable.
Q: What are your plans for the future in terms of trips and other aspirations?
I want to leave no place unexplored in India and in all the other countries as far as riding is concerned. Also I want to inspire women to ride in spite and despite of facing mockery and criticism by men in a male dominated society.
Q: Do you prefer riding solo or group riding? Why?
I prefer solo riding or with a few friends, because you can dictate when, how and where you want to ride. Riding a motorcycle is meditation in motion which happens only if you are riding alone.
Q: What message would you like to give to aspiring women riders in India who aim to achieve a similar feat?
Not only India but I want to spread the message to women around the world that if I can, you can. Don’t think sky is the limit when there are foot prints on the moon, soar high and reach up to your maximum potential.
Q : Any other aspects of your life and adventures that you would like to mention?
My life has been full of adventures, right from learning martial arts since my teens where I have dropped big giants on the mat, to teaching the cops martial arts, to riding the treacherous Ladakh roads. So I ride on, on this beautiful journey called Life.