They are an impressive sight: black leather jackets, atop imposing motorcycles, long beards and bright turbans winding their way up the Sea to Sky Highway.
Malkiat Singh Hoonjan, 60, is one of the Legendary Sikh Riders who is sure to be leading the group on his 2008 Honda Gold Wing. Hoonjan, a heavy-duty mechanic by trade, has been nicknamed The Flying Sikh.
The Chief caught up with Hoonjan, who has clocked more than 100,000 kilometres on his bike, for a chat about the group, our highway, being Sikh and what it all means.
What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
Q: Can you tell me about your start with the Legendary Sikh Riders?
A: Originally, there was one club, the Sikh Motorcycle Club, and we are a branch of that. When I started, it was about 15 guys, and then it was up to 200 guys. Like a family, as it gets bigger, people have their own ways. We were the mature guys. We branched off five or six years ago. Keeping the guys disciplined was always my thing. The biker image has always been to be rowdy, badass, long hair and tattoos, and all that. We give it a clean image. That was my duty. We have to behave ourselves when we go out.
We are about 13 veteran, seasoned riders and we call ourselves the Legendary Sikh Riders because we are like the old school pioneers. In any community, from here to India, people know who we are.
We are all riders who go by the codes, including we have to be Sikh, wear a turban, and have a beard.
Q: What is the mission of the group?
A: We ride and explore and spread the word — we are Sikhs so we talk about what kind of religion we belong to, what kind of people and riders we should be.
And have adventurous fun.
Q: What is it about Sikhism you would like people to know?
A: I was born in India, and was seven years old when I left India. I was raised in Glasgow, Scotland, believe it or not. Between seven until 14 years old, I was there and attended a private Christian school. So, I know all the biblical stories.
My base was Sikh, but when I went to school it was Christian. I started in Canada in Grade 8.
When I looked at both faiths, they both meant the same thing. All religions, they all believe in a god, but they put a different name to it.
The Sikh religion is about trying to be a good human. To me, people want their own identity, but the way the Sikh way of life is to live life the way you are — the way God made you. We take everything the way God made you and we accept everything for the way it is.
Q: How do people react to you guys when you all pull up somewhere?
A: We just did the ride to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota last year. This filmmaker, Jordan Halland, did a documentary about it: "The Legendary Sikh Riders of Surrey."
He filmed us going down there. He asked me what happens if we encountered a fight or something. I said, "Look, to me, we are going into unknown territory for us. We've never been there. Sikhs have never been there with turbans. It could be a boom or a bust. Either we get our heads kicked in, or people will love us."
We can't really help how people think.
I have confidence in myself — who I am and what I do.
We also went to ride in India. In Delhi, they had a big party for us. Everywhere we went, people knew us. We ended up going on the radio over there.
Nobody harasses us. Actually, people love us.
We are friendly people.
Q: What is the difference between riding in India and riding here?
A: It is a night and day difference. They ride on the opposite side of the road.
You know how there is freestyle wrestling? Well, there they have a freestyle of riding. You can go on the side of the road or any which way, as long as you are safe on the road. They are more defensive riders there than they are here, believe it or not.
Q: If readers are interested, can they join you?
A: In our club, it is all Sikhs only, who have a turban and a beard, but we will ride with anyone. You just can't wear the logo if you aren't Sikh.
Q: Why are you called The Flying Sikh?
A: In the motorcycle community, you have to earn that. It is a title that was given to me. I did an Iron Butt ride in 2017, from Vancouver to Prince George; from there to McBride and then back to Vancouver. It is a triangle. They give you the routes and destinations. It is like the triathlon of motorcycles. They want to see the gas receipts and how much fuel you put in the bike. You do 1,800 kilometres in 24 hours. I had the best time, so they gave me that title. Other titles of guys in our group are: Grandpa Grandpa, Heartbea, Diese and Surlee.
Q: Do your kids ride too?
A: No. I always encouraged my boy, but he never really did. Even my wife, Gurdeep Kaur, tells my son, "Why don't you go like Papa and go on tours and go out scouting?" But he says, "No, no this is not for me." And he always asks what kind of mother tells her son to go out and ride a motorcycle.
Q: How often do you ride?
A: I ride every day until it rains. As a group, we recently did the Duffey Lake loop ride.
We do charity rides, too. We do the Vancouver Motorcycle Christmas Toy Run every year and the Ride to Live for prostate cancer research.
We also do the 9-11 Memorial Ride to commemorate the first responders who were killed in New York. It goes from River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond to the Peace Arch border.
Q: How is our highway for riding?
A: The Sea to Sky is the ultimate highway. It is the best highway from Horseshoe Bay all the way up to Squamish.
I always tell the boys that we are going to stop in Squamish.
The stretch between Squamish and Whistler is not bad, and from Pemberton on is really beautiful, too, because now you are in the wilderness, with less traffic. It is beautiful.
*Please note, this story has been updated since it was first posted with the names of the other titles given to riders.