His passion for biking remains unchallenged and uncompromised at the ripe old age of 66, after all he firmly believes in the adage “you don’t stop biking when you age but you start aging when you stop biking!”
He’s clocked 2,00,000+ kilometers till date and he’s still raring to go! That is Lt. Colonel Sohan Roy for you!
A seasoned biker & retired army personnel, Mr. Roy has been an inspiration to bikers all across the country. Clubs and riders have been inspired by him. A novice rider to an experienced rider, everyone has something to learn from his experiences. Across his vast journey, Mr. Roy has gained numerous achievements and accolades spanning both his military & riding career. An established figure in the industry, Mr. Roy’s name has been entered into the Limca book of records & what’s more the message of ‘Save the girl Child’ that he carries on every ride of his. He’s already made 5 consequtive trips to Ladakh from 2009 to 2013, when as on date some of us are yet to even visit the place. Mr. Roy being the passionate rider that he is, has even rode extensively in the North Eastern part of the country in Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and also rode in Mizoram & Manipur. This army man has been riding for years, riding since an eon.
The Army Man
The Army had always been a fascination for him. After completing his schooling at Allahabad & graduation at Kolkata, the first step Mr. Roy took was to enroll for the Army. Having enrolled in the Army, he felt like it was a childhood dream achieved. Mr. Roy was deputed to the city of Chennai for training. and later on assigned to the 15th Kumaon battalion. Being in the infantry meant that every one of those thousand army men in the battalion make up the front line of the attack; be it a launch attack or an attack from the enemy line.
While in Kolkata for his graduation, Mr. Roy undertook to fulfilling his social responsibilities by working for one of Mother Teresa's organizations. This was in the peak of the Naxalite movement in Kokata at that time.
A tribute to the Martyrs of Rezang La
The Battle of Rezangla was led by Major Shaitan Singh of the 13th Kumaon Regiment. Though India lost this part of the Sino-Indian war in 1962, Major Shaitan Singh was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra. It was to this very war memorial in 2010 that Mr. Roy paid homage as they were both eventually from the same battalion. His return trip from Rezang La to Delhi was his first solo ride & this marked the path for many other solo rides that he would soon undertake.
At the Rezangla War Memorial in 2010
And today it’s been a decade since Mr. Roy has retired from the Army & he’s still in touch with many of his colleagues from the Kumaon battalion. After all, a trip down memory lane or the exchange of war stories is always a welcome treat. But apart from that, being a part of one battalion brings you to forge bonds that last a lifetime & you gradually become more than family.
The Biker & The Fighter
All through his Army days, Mr. Roy had kept up his love for biking. And in those days he says there weren’t many options for one to choose from. All that was there then was the Yezdi, Rajdoot & the Royal Enfield. But you’d probably think that he opted to purchase a Royal Enfield considering his current Wizard, but he took up the Yezdi back then. In those days as service options were few, people learned to fidget with their bikes & repair them eventually. Mr. Roy rode 8000kms on his timeless Yezdi classic for a good three years! And guess what, Mr. Roy travelled for his honeymoon on that awesome bike!
But after an awesome journey with his Yezdi, Mr. Roy was struck with an acute case of osteoarthritis in the year 1984. The attack was so severe that doctors compelled him to give up motorcycling. He then shifted to riding the gearless Kinetic Honda for twelve years. But a soldier always has a fighter spirit and for Mr. Roy nothing was impossible. He didn’t let his knee ailment come in the way of his passion for biking. He ditched the Kinetic Honda after twelve years and shifted to the Hero Honda Splendor. By then Mr. Roy was using a walking stick to support himself while walking which he eventually ended up tying at the sides of his bike while riding.
A young Mr. Roy in the Army
But in the year 1999 Mr. Roy was referred to the Army’s premier Research & Referral Hospital in New Delhi. At that point in time he was aged only 53 years. The doctors there said that he should immediately enroll for a knee replacement surgery. Just like the fighter that he is, Mr. Roy completely refused to go in for the surgery. When the doctor learned of his passion for motorcycling, Mr. Roy was offered an anthroscopy, a procedure conducted to repair/remove damaged tissue. Post this procedure, Mr. Roy found immense relief; relief to the point that he could give up using his walking stick. Over the years in addition to physiotherapy he went in for various alternative treatments that greatly reduced the effect of osteoarthritis.
The Bikers’ Journey
Although Mr. Roy loved his bikes and biking, he had never really rode long distance until the year 2008. It was in 2008 that he was invited to the Renault Formula 1 Road Show which was to be held at Rajpath, New Delhi as a countdown to the 19th Commonwealth Games. It was the first time that he decided to ride solo from Ahmednagar to Delhi. It was obvious that due to the osteoarthritis and his age, many people did try their best to dissuade him from making the solo journey. But adamant he was. And with the support of his family, he made his first solo trip from Ahmednagar to Delhi on his Pulsar 220. Needless to say he attended the Roadshow but he also had the privilege of meeting Renault’s F1 driver Lucas di Grassi. Onward, Mr. Roy continued his solo ride to Patiala, Nahan, Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh & back to Ahmednagar.
5th Time to Khardun-La in 2013
This solo ride gave birth to the biking enthusiast in him & in 2009 Mr. Roy made a trip to Ladakh on his Pulsar 220. During the ride he also paid homage to the Kargil War Memorial. On this trip he was accompanied by four Royal Enfield riders from Bangalore. This was when motorcycling and riding to Ladakh were not a fad. Onward from Leh to Khardungla in the year 2009, Mr. Roy undertook a solo journey which is a milestone for him. This was on 14th June 2009. He dedicated this ride to his late father who was strict about physical fitness.
The year 2010 saw him make another journey to the Patkai ranges on the India-Myanmar border. The route he took was Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Tinsukhia, Digbhoi, Margherita, Ledo, Lekhapani to Patkai ranges. He also attended the Dehing Patkai festival with riders from Guwahati. This journey was again on his trusty Pulsar 220.
In Comes the Wizard….and so does the many Journey’s
His growing confidence in long distance riding led Mr. Roy to finally purchase the coveted Royal Enfield in the year 2010. He christened the bike ‘Wizard’ and owns his able ally till date.
His other ride in 2010 was to Leh-Ladakh accompanied by four riders from Mumbai. Fortunately for Mr. Roy, his ride coincided with the Hemis festival held at the Hemis monastery near Leh. The Hemis festival is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava. This was when he rode solo from Tangstge to Rezangla to pay homage to the Rezangla War Memorial where the Late Major Shaitan Singh and 114 JCO’s and OR’s from the 13th Kumaon Regiment who laid their lives down in the 1962 battle between India and China. The Indian Army fought to the ‘Last Man. Last Bullet.’
Young in the Army
The year 2011 proved to be a series of achievements for Mr. Roy. He attended his first Rider Mania, an annual gathering of Bullet clubs from across the country. He joined the Royal Enfield Riders Association of Meghalaya and was honored with a Life Membership of RERAM. Mr. Roy was also awarded the title of an honorary member of the Arunachal Bullet Club by the club’s president Mr. Nabum Jose who also gave him his personal Arunachal Bullet Club waistcoat.
In continuance to his achievements in 2011, Mr. Roy embarked on what was his third journey to Khardungla and it was an emotional ride. He was accompanied by his son on the ride and it was the first time in his riding career that he was riding with his son. Mr. Roy dedicated the ride to his mother & his niece whom he lost in December 2010 and May 2011 respectively.
One of his major achievements in the year 2011 was when Mr. Roy’s name was written down in the Limca book of records. He was recognized as the oldest person to reach the world’s highest motorable pass on a motorcycle on 14th June 2009.
Mr. Roy's name penned down eternally into the Limca book of Records
2012 was another year of milestones for Mr. Roy. 2012 marked the golden jubilee year of the Sino-India war. Mr. Roy prepared a scroll with details of the battle, names of the units and the gallantry award winners who fought in Chushul sector of Ladakh. During his journey to Rezangla, he showed the scroll to people and spoke about the battle to the public & displayed the scroll on the wall of the Khardung La pass. The Indian army based out of Srinagar and Leh complimented & congratulated him on his ride and for his efforts. This ride was sponsored by his daughter, Trisha. Again, it was another emotional & heart touching journey for Mr. Roy.
Another feat achieved at the North East Riders Meet 2012; NERM honored Mr. Roy by making him the Brand Ambassador for the 2012 meet and also requested him to lead 250 bikers across the North East on the inaugural from Dimapur to Kohima. And they rode straight into the village where the Hornbill festival was being held and were applauded and cheered on by the crowd. While in the NE part of the country, Mr. Roy also rode to Majuli which is the world's largest riverine island, taking the motorcycle by ferry.
2013 saw Mr. Roy embark on his first international ride. He was invited as a guest rider for the 5th Royal Enfield rendezvous & poker run at Kathmandu. He was the oldest among riders from 17 other countries. Mr. Roy was felicitated by Friends of Royal Enfield Club (Kathmandu), Vintage Motorcycle Club (Narayangarh) & Travel Nepal Time (Pokhara). He covered a total distance of 2900 kms in eleven days.
Homage ride to Siachen base camp in 2013
However, his journey for 2013 didn’t end here. His landmark ride was to the Siachen Glacier war memorial in 2013. Mr. Roy was given the opportunity to pay homage to the martyrs of the Siachen glacier. He started this historical solo ride after the wreath laying ceremony at Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate, New Delhi on 15th August 2013. Along with him he carried a plaque that detailed out the number of casualties and the conditions under which those brave soldiers protected the Siachen glacier; all this to generate awareness among the common people.
Come 2014, Mr. Roy was invited by the Bike Festival of India held at Buddh International Circuit as a guest attendee. He rode solo to and fro for the event. The highlight of the event was a one on one discussion with captain of the Indian cricket team, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
The list definitely doesn’t end here. To say the least, Mr. Roy is an established and an accomplished rider. Every ride that he has undertaken till date is filled with a sense of purpose, filled with determination and dedication. One does wonder as to what is his source of motivation to ride to such lengths to pay homage to the martyrs of our country. He met three soldiers in 1976 who were PoW’s or prisoners of war during the Rezangla battle and from them he learned of their sacrifices during the battle. And from then on he decided that he would visit Rezang La and all other war memorials to pay homage & respect to them.
Leading the 5th Enfield poker run, Nepal
Until this day Mr. Roy has made five trips to Ladakh & there’s no stopping him from gunning for more rides. Each ride has held its own importance for him. Each ride has made him the one solid rider that he is today. And before he does go in for the inevitable knee replacement, he wants to ride as much as he can and cover many diverse cities that India has to offer. On his list is now a ride from the Siachen base camp to Kanya Kumari. We wish him all the very best for the rides that he has planned.
With Lucas di Grassi, F1 racer Renault