Racing Through The Glass Ceiling: Meet Kalyani Potekar, India's Fastest Woman Motorcycle Racer

From judgmental aunties to condescending seniors, Kalyani Potekar has faced up to them all with a smile that knows a deeper secret of liberation being mined. 

Tanvi Akhauri
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Kalyani Potekar
Kalyani Potekar has had a running romance with motorbikes since she was only of single-digit age. She rides with the big guns now, leading the pack from the front. At 27, she holds the coveted title of India's fastest female biker, having overtaken the best of the best on the racetrack with a record 2.08 minute lap on NCR's Buddh International Circuit.

Though she had immense support from family, her journey hasn't been without hurdles for standing out in a male-dominated sport where a woman behind the helmet still sticks out. From judgmental aunties to condescending seniors, Potekar has faced up to them all with a smile that knows a deeper secret of liberation being mined.

Potekar got into biking because of her dad who is into motocross racing. He took her to the racetrack ever since she was a baby, "the motorcycles, the racetrack, the speed," all fascinating to her, she tells us. At the age that other children were learning how to pedal on a bicycle, she was mounting herself atop heavy machines as early as 9 years old.

"It was dad’s RX100. My feet barely used to reach the ground… he sat behind me and taught me to use the gears and the clutch. It was fun and a great start." In fact, she says she learnt how to ride a motorcycle before she did the scooty, a vehicle of comparatively lesser intensity.

Today, she has ridden at Raid-de Himalaya, famously one of the world's highest rally-raids, and the Indian National Racing Championship, an event backed by the country's motorsport governing body Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI). By the latter, she has also been recognised in their Outstanding Women in Motorsports category.

She has represented the country internationally, in Thailand and Taiwan, having raised the tricolour and holding that as one of her fondest, proudest moments.

But at the time, a young Potekar did not know she could and would take up motorbike racing as a profession since there wasn’t much awareness, scope or facility.


Watch Kalyani Potekar in conversation with SheThePeople &feature=emb_title">here

Kalyani Potekar: What It Takes To Be A Trailblazer In Biking Sports

"As I grew up, I realised this was something I wanted to do in life," Potekar says. She researched to find out where she could train and more about biking events. In 2017, she trained at California Superbike School, honing her skills further. All this while, was there ever pushback for her position as a woman whirring around on motorbikes?

"I come from a royal family and have always been into adventure sports. My parents have exposed me to horse riding, paragliding, skiing... They have been supportive." The world beyond, not so much. "While growing up, there were comments from society. On the roads, there were people who were not used to seeing a girl riding a motorbike."

She recalls an incident from college. "I went to a go-karting track where other people also practiced. There were some experienced riders from whom others were taking guidance. I went to them for advice and asked where I could improve. They said to me, ‘pehle bike stand se nikaalna toh seekh. That kind of dominance was there."


"I once parked inside my colony on the side stand, which takes up more space than usual. An aunty told me, ‘Agar tujhe bike jhepti nahi hai, if you can’t handle a bike, then why do you ride it?’"

In due time, she shut down her naysayers.

Among her most prominent achievements is when she clinched the honour of being India's fastest female biker, a feat she achieved atop a Ducati Panigale V4 superbike, downsizing 2.16 minutes to a record 2.08 minutes. "My only competition is me."

Another memory that stands out for Potekar is her debut race in 600cc in the JK Tyres Superbike Cup, where she competed alongside very experienced professionals with race prep motorcycles. "I had a normal supersport bike and was the only woman. I beat the boys to come in at the top ten," she says.

Even with the status she has gained through years of work, proving her worth as a key face of India's motorbiking club, Potekar says there is still a section of people sitting by to demotivate her, most of them internet trolls. But over the purr of her mean machines, Potekar chooses not to hear those pulling her down.

"Take their comments, step onto them and make your way ahead."


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