Man & the machine

Biking just got easier for all those with dreams in their eyes but no wheels in sight. From rentals to organised tours, there is finally someone who will do it all for you. Read on to know more...

When 19-year-old Alexandre Zurcher first reached India from France in 2005, he came as an exchange student of international studies at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. However, a bike ride from Delhi to Leh changed everything for this Frenchman. Since that ride, he has made India his home.

Seven years on, Zurcher is now the managing director of Vintage Rides, a Delhi-based company that focuses on maintaining and building the cult of Royal Enfield by organising tours across the country, and renting and maintaining the classic cruiser.

"I was not a very sporty man, but India instilled the adventurous spirit within me. On my 20th birthday, I boarded a train to Kanyakumari with my bike. I traversed the whole of south India riding an Enfield. That was my first bike tour and it was an exhilarating and an eye-opening experience," says Zurcher.

Though the verdant hills and sand-washed shores of south India whetted Zurcher's appetite for exploring the rest of the Indian terrain, it was the ride through the mountain ranges of Ladakh that sealed his fate. Says Zurcher, "In the summer of 2006, my friend Sanjay and I decided to ride through Ladakh. We also decided that if we came back alive, we would start a company dedicated to bike tours. And that is how Vintage Rides came into existence." In 2007, another Frenchman and namesake, Alexandre le Beuan, bought out the Indian partner's stake in the company.

Started in 2006, Vintage Rides initially focused on tourists and bike afficionados coming to India from Europe. Today, the company has over 1,000 clients and also takes Indian tourists on rides across Europe through its partners. It is now branching out into countries like Mongolia, known not just for its off-the-beaten track destinations, but also for its long roads and beautiful snow-capped peaks. Now, Vintage Rides is vying for an 'official tour firm' status with Royal Enfield's most recent owner, Eicher Motors.

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