Before the iconic Parle-G girl entered our lives, she was preceded by 6-year-old Rustom Patel and his Glucose-D, in a little pink and white packet. Ad agency Lintas approached Patel’s family after seeing him manoeuvre his 39 CC Japanese Dandy pocket bike on a race track, defeating boys twice his size. Rustom Patel is the second in a three-generational line of motorbike racers. “Racing is in our blood,” he says and after hearing his stories, I believe it. After 37 years of racing, he is the only member of the second generation out of seven living his life on wheels and coaches over 150 young children at his racing track in Wadala. After retiring in the early 2000s at the insistence of his wife, he began his new life as head coach in India and is now a factory rider for KTM India, as well as a brand ambassador for Castrol.
Patel’s family is known as the Patel Racing Family, which took off after Kersi and Fali Patel found a love for the high-octane sport, moving from four-wheelers to two-wheelers. Fali’s oldest son Kaizad became a multiple-time national champion and Kersi’s son Zubin is a racing legend in the industry.
The family continues to dominate the track with Zubin’s son Kayan following in their footsteps, who picked up the bike at the tender age of 4, and races at a national level. Currently, he is fresh off the podium at round 2 of the 2022 Indian National Championship for circuit racing, coming home with three trophies as well as a dislocated shoulder from a crash at the same competition. He is currently gearing up for the third round of the competition to be held in Chennai in the coming week. Kayan is very sure of himself for a 21-year-old. He’s confident that next year he will be riding in the pro category, along with other biking big wigs like Rajini Krishnan. From there he aims to race internationally, reaching the Asia Roadracing Cup and finally the Moto3 Cup. He has already won almost 85 trophies in his burgeoning career and has a natural talent for racing that he attributes to his uncle, father, and mother- all three avid bikers in their own right.
For the uninitiated, such as myself, Patel Senior explains to me that there are 5 types of motorbike racing — circuit, motocross, dirt track, rally, and go-kart track. Each varies in speed, risk, and the type of bike that you ride. With motocross being possibly the riskiest, and dirt track relatively less risky, there is something for everyone.
Zubair Agloria, biking enthusiast and owner of Venom Ancillary, adds that the biking community is a small one and that it is admittedly expensive to start biking. Both Patel and Agloria agree that the way to begin is to start young and small, to find races at local tracks, and find local clubs that will take on talented riders as sponsors. Agloria, who also sponsors his own team, works hand-in-glove with manufacturing and racing, souping up his teams’ bikes covering everything from the suspension to the carburettor and the engine. But his real love is the superbikes, bikes that exceed 260-270 MPH on a straight run of only 400 metres, which cost over 12 lakhs, not including modifications.
In addition to the costliness of the bikes, Patel adds that there are systemic problems with the industry in India. “Illegal street racers that ride on public roads at crazy speeds on souped-up bikes are tarnishing the name and reputation of actual professional riders who take racing seriously,” he says. Additionally, TVS Motor Company is the only motorbike manufacturer that actually sponsors a team as well as several races around the country. Patel’s frustration at the lack of sponsorship is palpable, especially when compared to sports like cricket that receive crores of rupees from companies that really have nothing to do with the sport, simply because of the eyeballs that it brings. He holds all of these as factors responsible for the lack of interest in the sport in the country. Additionally, the prize money for first place is only INR 15,000, which is an unsustainable amount considering the amount that is spent only on the bike, not accounting for the registration fee, fuel, a mechanic, travel and stay to competitions outside the rider’s home city. He attributes this factor to a loss of incredible talent for the country. Patel recognises that so much raw talent comes from people who cannot afford to take part in these competitions and thereby we lose out on representing ourselves on international platforms.
He concludes by saying that the only way the industry will grow and our riders will gain recognition, appreciation, and legitimacy on an international stage, is when Indian motorcycle manufacturers will take more of an interest in the very thing they are creating and contribute to making the sport more popular by sponsoring events and teams while paying their riders a living wage. At the end of the day, it is the passion and love of the sport that keeps these riders going. He adds that young bikers like 15-year-old Sarthak Chavan and 13-year-old Jinendra Sangave are making waves in the biking community as up-and-coming young riders and are winning awards and titles that are making India proud. It is our responsibility to make sure that we are able to provide the infrastructure and other amenities that they need to adequately represent our country at an international level.
Follow Kayan Patel on his journey to a National Championship here.
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