Inspiration: Big Trip

Sonia Jain: breaking taboos on a Tiger

Changing attitudes in India

As Sonia Jain chatted with locals midway through her six-day, six-city ride across one of India’s most stunning states, she suddenly realised a part of her mission was complete.

Sure, she was excited about covering 1,900km through Pushkar, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Longewala, Bikaner and Jaipur, but for a woman travelling solo on a Triumph, the beaming faces of villagers had a whole different meaning.

Sonia, a passionate traveller and fitness enthusiast from Delhi, embraces the unconventional, the ink on her left arm boldly declaring in Japanese symbols ‘Dare to be different’.

Triumph Tiger

So when she parked up her Tiger along the way and was instantly surrounded by children and slightly surprised village elders, she knew she was living her dream.

“I could see their faces beaming with amazement that a girl who looks Indian and speaks good Hindi is happily riding such a big bike with no pillion rider,” she says.

Sonia is no stranger to distance on the road and has covered the length and breadth of the country on two wheels, completing a 21-day motorcycle ride from Shimla to Ooty for MTV’s bike adventure reality show Chase The Monsoon.

That wasn’t enough though and another adventure on the Lahaul Spiti trail for 30 days last October followed, giving her the taste for an end-of-year Triumph journey of discovery.

21 November 9am – New Delhi

“The thought of experiencing the roads, people, culture, traditions, food, forts, landscapes, camels and deserts got me excited from the day I started drafting my route for this trip.
Being a woman rider in India, I need to be extremely conscious about safety at all times because I know for a fact that I won’t be able to ride for long if I’m not safe, and that’s a scenario I would never want to put myself into.

Triumph Tiger in India

I’m on a Speed Triple until I get to Jaipur and it was my first experience of riding a bike like that for 250km. The pick-up, torque and overall performance were excellent and manoeuvring a 1050cc bike in traffic was surprisingly smooth.

The other bonus was that the engine didn’t heat up either, which is a common thing in the heat with higher cc motorcycles.”

22 November 6am – Jaipur

“A pit stop to pick up the much-awaited Triumph Tiger to continue my journey towards Pushkar and I’m joined by other Triumph Tiger riders for a breakfast run. In a perfect pack to cruise the beautiful roads with no traffic, the real limits of the motorcycles were put to the test. Great fun.

An early-morning long ride, coupled with invigorating breeze, scenic landscapes and the sound of the Triumph Tiger, was such bliss that I missed the signs leading to Pushkar, only to realise that Jodhpur was just 100km ahead.

Having had a hectic ride on day 1 and having completed a 21km Airtel Delhi Half Marathon the day before, I had a tough start to this journey. But instead of going back to Pushkar, I continued on to Jodhpur.
They say unplanned journeys are always better than the planned ones and they are right.”

23 November – Jodhpur, Mehrangarh Fort

“After a long ride, the experience of being at one of the largest forts in India, standing tall on a high cliff above the skyline of Jodhpur, was something else. I went on a camel ride around the fort, which was fun. How often does one get to sit on a camel in Delhi after all?

I then carried on with my journey to Jaisalmer and got my hands on my most favourite Rajasthani food, Dal Baati Churma – a spicy local delicacy of lentil and flavoured dumplings – yum! My mouth still waters thinking about it.

Triumph Tiger

Interacting with the village kids and people whenever I’d park my bike and learning about their lives and daily routine are memories to cherish. I could see their faces beaming with amazement that a girl who looks Indian and speaks good Hindi rides such a big bike with no pillion rider.

The children were overjoyed to see and meet me and I felt that I inspired a few of them to go beyond the conventions and to #LiveLife and #JustRide.

Their smiles certainly got me more excited about what I was doing with my life and this journey.”

24 November – Jaisalmer and Longewala

“I remember sitting next to the bike for almost two hours just to see the sunrise in the clear blue skies of Jaisalmer, recalling the experiences I’d had in the previous three days and thinking about what the latter part of this journey held for me.

I just couldn’t stop smiling. At that time, I was quite content with the journey and how it had shaped up so far, but Longewala was another breath of fresh air.

Riding through the city, you are assailed by colourful cafes, the orange tinted fort, traditional artwork on street walls, colourful dupattas (long scarves) and the traditional vibrant hues of Rajasthani clothing on people as they go about their business.

Triumph Tiger

This is when you realise that the state’s tourism tagline ‘The incredible state of Rajasthan’ holds true. It really was incredible.

This was the furthest point of my ride, where the weather was heating up and dehydration setting in, meaning a stop every 50km. With the current tensions going on with our neighbouring country, visitors were not allowed beyond the check post due to security issues. The closest point that one could reach is 20km near the border.”

25 November – Bikaner

“Having to ride 400km, I started early and covered a good 200 non-stop on some of the best scenic roads through the desert. At the pit stop, I came across this fizzy local drink in a bottle. Sometimes on the road you need to take chances and I tried it. It was good but I still don’t know what it actually was.

The route in North India

Reaching Bikaner in the evening, I visited the oldest market near the Kote Gate, the beautiful main entrance to the city, and tried some fantastic churma dessert. This was my last night in Rajasthan and feeling a little nostalgic, I was reminded of my dad, who used to make me churma whenever I didn’t like the food prepared at home.”

Last day – back to Delhi via Haryana

“It was now that I realised that in our country, things are different and beautiful every 100km. The food, the language, people, perceptions and almost every other thing.

When I entered Haryana, I found cucumber, which I didn’t find in the entire state of Rajasthan. I didn’t see any flies in Rajasthan and the 3km Haryana stretch was filled with them.

There were so many colourful experiences from the ride, but now I am back in the city already planning my next travel plans and adventures.

When you’re back home thinking about having lived a life you had always wanted, you can smile and say to yourself: ‘Yes I did #LiveLife’.”