These bikers put disability in the backseat

Trichakra, a group of three biking enthusiasts from Chennai, two of whom are physically challenged, is trying to drive the message that disability does not hold one back from pursuing one’s passion
These bikers put disability in the backseat
Trichakra group with their refurbished KTM Duke 200cc bikes


India Bike Week, the country’s largest gathering of bike enthusiasts, is set to take place from November 24. More than 20,000 bikers from all over India will ride to Goa to celebrate a week of brotherhood, bikes and music, while also displaying daredevil stunts and sharing some of their inspirational and success stories.
Although being held for the fifth consecutive year, what makes this year’s event special is a group of bikers from the city, who will be the special guests. The trio, who call themselves Trichakra, comprises Dilip and Veeramallu, two members who have physical disabilities, while Shanker, its third member, has put himself in their shoes to drive a message. “I’ve known Dilip and Veeramallu as they’d got their cars refurbished at my shop. Over time, we realised that we shared a common love for bikes. However, it was their disability that was holding them back from exploring their passion. So, I put forth the idea that we refurbish a few bikes to suit their needs. To my surprise, Dilip and Veeramallu agreed without a second thought. That’s how Trichakra happened. I decided to remodify my bike in a similar fashion to experience what it meant to be disabled and the challenges that come with it,” says Shanker, a senior technician who modifies bikes and cars according to the needs of the disabled. 
Dilip Muralidharan, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, says, “We decided to demonstrate the simple fact that people with disabilities are not objects of sympathy. We can do exactly what normal people can do, if and only we have access to solve our mobility problems. Also, the concept we’ve used is very simple. It is very easy to redesign a two-wheeler to make it accessible. There are very few people like Shankar who tirelessly work for that cause. But, the lacklustre support from the society or the regressive attitudes of the government, are major stumbling blocks to an accessible world.” 
The biker group is also the first in the country to retrofit high-powered bikes to tri-wheelers with precision and agility, enabling the riders to be on par with two-wheelers on road. “The main idea behind our initiative is to ensure people with special needs are given an equal chance to prove their mettle,” says Shanker.
Veeramallu, on the other hand, already holds a record for being the first person in the country to officially acquire the government’s approval to ride a high-powered motorbike, despite his disability. “The disabled community in India does not have access to better options when it comes to mobility. A small scooty or at best, an activa is our only choice. Modifying and registering that as an ‘Invalid carriage’ is a difficult task since RTOs are full of red tape and unfriendly. But now, they take my case as an example to issue license to people who want to legally drive any bike above the range of 110- 250 cc,” says the biker.
Veeramallu, who was paralysed below his hip after an accident at the age of 23, decided to experience some adrenaline rush all over again. He says, “I was a passionate biker and loved every journey I took before the unfortunate incident which left me disabled for life. But, when Shanker approached me with this idea, my joy knew no bounds.” 
The greatest challenge that the trio faced was while selecting an apt bike for refurbishing. “We explored Bullet, Pulsar, other Indian motorcycles and finally chose KTM Duke 200. This bike is highly performance orientated with a unique design. The underbelly silencer enabled us to fit side-wheels in a symmetrical manner, which is not possible with other bikes,” muses Veeramallu. 
Diving deep into the technical aspect of retrofit process, Dilip enthusiastically says, “We have extra wheels on the sides like any scooter that is built for a disabled person. We have modified the rear brake that is operated by the right foot, to be used by our right hand, along with the front brake. We have also used a simple DC motor with reverse polarity to actuate the gear system to upshift and downshift gears with the flick of a button. The clutch is interlocked with the gear. Gears do not apply without clutch action. Nothing else on our KTM Duke 200 has changed. Everything else is as is from the factory.” 
The group was invited by the organisers of India Bike Week, after a chance meeting at a workshop in Chennai. “Dilip attended a workshop on techniques of bike handling and bumped into one of the key people conducting the event. Finding our initiative very fascinating, they wanted us to share and inspire thousands of people at the event,” says Veeramallu.
The trio has also planned a road trip from Kanniakumari to Kardung La pass, the highest motorable road. For the nonce though, they say in unison, “Go big or go home. That is our moto. We hope our story encourages many more people to break barriers and take that leap of faith.”

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