Photos by Suraj Khan
Merry Christmas and Happy Harley Days! I am going to take you to Goa, India, to a huge country that, until eight years ago, was dominated by Royal Enfield, Triumph and other British, Japanese and Indian brands of motorcycles. With its long history of all sorts of people riding bikes, a spark was lit in 2007 and by 2009 the iconic Harley-Davidson brand took its place on the market.
A little history: Harley-Davidson India is based in Gurgaon, Haryana, commencing operations in August 2009 and appointing its first dealership in July 2010. The company now has 18 dealership facilities across India: New Delhi, Gurgaon, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Indore, Pune, Goa and Jaipur. Harley-Davidson India also sponsors the country’s H.O.G. rally.
To celebrate the successful completion of five years of the H.O.G. rally in India this year, 3,000 Harley-Davidson owners gathered in Goa February 16-18, 2017. I had been in contact with the folks at India Bike Week and H.O.G. India for several years watching as the Harley scene expanded. Thanks to my friend and brother Bikram Puri, the regional director of H.O.G. India, I was booked on this year’s 5th annual event as a solo artist on the opening night.
I was, needless to say, very excited about going to a new country to perform my Harley biker-themed music and to ride around on new roads with new Harley-riding nuts. Having grown up in Canada I knew lots of Indian kids at school. They are a people smile a lot and like making jokes. This bunch of Harley nuts were smiling much more than the average Indian. Riding the Harley bikes is more than just riding to get from point A to point B; it is a lifestyle and mindset as we H-D riders in the west know. The Indian Harley riders embrace this and live the life for real.
I had many of the H.O.G. chapters (there are 26 in India now!) members in my Facebook group “Savage Harley Country” so they were excitedly waiting for me. I was in London wrapping up recording sessions in January so I booked my flight and got my visa which is very easy for those of you interested in riding there—72 hours online and I had it.
Upon my arrival in Goa late Thursday night my road manager Mick and I walked into the main street and down towards Tito’s by the sea where the first opening night party was to be held, and where I would play my solo show. A large three-tiered nightclub with different music playing in all three sections was impressive but closed so we walked back up the street only to find several of the regional directors having some beer. We joined them for last call then headed to our rooms for the night.
Friday morning I walked around looking at all the small shops and little tents with clothes, jewelry and great Indian crafts. A large restaurant made of logs was just across the street from my hotel and served me amazing breakfasts for the next three days. Friday afternoon things were buzzing with Harley-Davidson officials and some press people discussing the evening while I was setting up my stage. With a sound check at 6:00 p.m., I was all set to rock.
People poured in from all over the country, some having ridden for two or three days. There are also some motorcycle clubs in India and several were there–the Born to Be Wild MC, Ace MC and others. I played a 90-minute set of original Harley-themed music as well as some familiar covers to a hardcore group from different H.O.G. chapters enjoying my tunes.
The first event happening Saturday morning was a tribute to a special chapter of H.O.G. India, the Armed Forces H.O.G. Chapter. At a small hotel nearby, the guys were given awards for their service and also for miles ridden. After lunch the bike show was assembling at yet another amazing location high on a mountain overlooking the sea. A huge food area was set up and the cooking smells were driving me crazy with hunger! A beautiful DJ gal was perched up high on a truck trailer and her music was calmly waving above the gathering crowds.
The bike show had so many bikes I was dizzy after checking all of them out. Bikes from many chapters were there to compete and the competition was stiff. I followed the judges around for a while and was told that the winner of the Custom Champion bike show would won tickets for the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Mick and I grabbed some food at last and as we ate the band did their sound check. They sounded like a really gifted bunch of players and they were excellent.
The band came on and really rocked some old ‘70s and ‘80s tunes. There was easily a couple thousand people in attendance by the end of the concert and all were having a great time. Wiped out and overwhelmed we headed back to our hotel, first pit stopping at the restaurant for some late-night food and refreshments.
India has around 30 women riders who form Ladies of Harley India. And on February 17, these happy few rode together as a band of sisters participating in this H.O.G. Rally. The afternoon belonged to the gals who enjoyed a lunch together and were given out awards for miles ridden. I just love gals who ride and these women are very serious about it; they ride all over the country.
Later in the evening at a third location a round of awards were given out for the bike show and for best chapter and so on. The Big 5 Riders honors were awarded to riders who complete all five H.O.G. rallies in a calendar year—Western, Northern, Eastern, Southern and one national rally. Also, all the riders who have individually covered more than 10,000 kilometers on their Harleys were awarded the Triple Five honor. The awards list also includes the H.O.G. Chapter of the Year which was awarded to the most active chapter, for their collective effort and contributions in one year. The night went on late but I was knackered so said goodbye to many new friends and headed back to my room.
I loved the spirit of the Indian riders and made lots of friends. I will be rolling back to India in 2018 to film an episode of The Savage Roads and to see much more of the big beautiful country that is India. Harley spirit and lifestyle? India has it big time and you are most welcome to come visit with Eagle Riders rentals and H.O.G. Fly and Ride programs. I want to thank Bikram Puri and H.O.G. India as well as Karan Malhotra for having me as a performer and guest. Well done, guys. A successful event well planned and well pulled off. I’ll be back for more Harleys in India. Vroom!