It seems that India's women have caught the biking bug, and manufacturers want to cash-in
FEMALE motorcycle buyers in India rose by 40% over the past couple of years, and now manufacturers are cashing in on the growing women's market.
India is the world's second largest motorbike market, and manufacturers have enjoyed good sales there for years - but now they are turning to women who, thanks to employment opportunity and increasing equality, are establishing themselves as a viable opportunity for new sales.
Earlier this year, Ducati launched its Monster 795 (chassis of a 696, engine of 796) in India, deliberately chosen for its light weight and low height - and aimed squarely at India's female biker.
This is in response to the growing popularity of big bikes among India's women in recent years. Major manufacturers Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI), Royal Enfield and India Yamaha Motor all saw a marked increase in sales among women, particularly in the under 30's market. India Yamaha alone saw 30 percent growth in this area of the market.
In recent years, a number of female-only motorcycle clubs have sprung up across India. About time, some might say, considering the enormity of India's bike culture.
Although it is impossible to know how many people are actually riding bikes in India, Autocar India estimate the number at well over 350 million. It is possible that one third of scooter riders are women, although the number on larger bikes is still thought to be very small.
There are clear signs, however, that things may be starting to change.
The Association of Female Bikers in India, Bikerni, started a mere 18 months ago and is the first India-wide motorcycle club for women. Co-founder Firdaus Sheikh explained to BBC News why she felt it was time for a female-only MC: 'we started Bikerni to empower women through motorcycling...some men have a very narrow mindset, they say that girls should only be riding (smaller) scooters, but I don't understand the difference. Both have an engine, both have two wheels and both consume fuel, so whether you choose a bike or a scooter shouldn't make a difference.'
Other clubs include the Regals, a club in Mumbai for female Royal Enfield riders and in Bangalore, Hop on Gurls, for Bullet riders.
It appears that the greatest hurdle for women's motorcycling in India to overcome is cultural - Indian culture is deeply conservative in a number of ways, particularly when it comes to gender differences. As Hormuz Sorabjee - editor of Autocar India - says: 'It's still not going to be like it is in the West, you're definitely not going to see women riding off on Harleys into the sunset.'
But with a progressive and vocal minority increasing awareness of women's motorcycling in India, and female-only clubs offering technical support and a social aspect for new riders, there may yet be an even greater surge in popularity among India's women. Manufacturers will be queuing up to take advantage of this potentially huge market.
It could be that, in the longer term, this could lead to bikes being produced with a lower seat height and lighter weight - aimed at the female biker.
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