Monday, December 04, 2006

Motorcycle diaries

From the engineer next door to the hotelier down the street, the new biking culture is being spawned by guys-next-door. Nida Mariam finds out who is riding these mean machines on Mumbai streets

Only in that rare instance that a stretch of Marine Drive comes clear does a biker riding a 1000 cc bike dare to open up the throttle and blast across the horizon. His 167 bhp engine takes just six seconds to exceed 200 kmph and while he wants nothing else but to hold it there, he knows that maximum city cannot contain that sort of speed (just as he enters his element and his body begins to feel the rush of the ride, he has reached the end of the road). An odd sort of situation in that quintessential space crunch, it becomes imperative that he brake.

Super bikers in Mumbai, numbering around an estimated thousand, come from all walks of life—from the medical profession to the entertainment industry. While some of them ride alone, others enjoy riding together for confidence and camaraderie. Dealers in the city confirm that the past year has seen the sales of the Suzuki Hayabusa — John Abraham’s bike in Dhoom 1 — go up significantly. But these engineers, businessmen, producers, have no claims to Kabir — the badmash played by Abraham in the movie-and his gang. They are just a bunch of ordinary guys who revel in the sense of freedom that biking gives them. Riyaz Amlani, an hotelier in Mumbai who rides a Suzuki Intruder M 1800 R, said while explaining the thrill, “A bike and an open road is the closest thing that comes to flying.” The culture of biking and brotherhood has caught on, and groups like the Mocha Bikers Association (MBA), founded six months ago on the enthusiasm of Amit Jambotkar, are new and legitimate forums open to all super bikers from around Mumbai.

Kersi is part of that culture and in 2004 when he decided it was time to upgrade, he sold the Honda CBR 400 RR he had bought with his hard-earned savings and invested in some mutual funds. A few months ago he bought his dream bike, the Suzuki GSX-R1000, popularly know as the ‘GIXER’. Bike enthusiasts pay duties up to 120 per cent to import bikes which end up costing them anywhere from seven lakhs to 12 lakhs.

But sport bikes aren’t child’s play. Twenty-eight-year-old Kersi and his friend 24-year-old Afshad are mindful of the fact that the Suzuki Hayabusa — the king of bikes-is mighty dangerous; injury or death could be the slightest slip or fall. Kersi occasionally rides in a group of eight or nine passionate bikers in South Mumbai whose emphatic emphasis on safety and caution is telling of their family and professional backgrounds.

When 27-year-old Baman, an employee at an American multi-national company, moved up from his Yamaha 350 to a Honda CBR 600 and joined the group a year and a half ago, the first thing he recalls being told was, “Go get yourself a helmet, a jacket and some gloves.” “My bike weighs 370 kgs, and heats up quickly. If I were to fall it would be sure to burn my leg,” Amlani explains. "Whenever I decide to speed up, I make sure to drive up and down the road six or seven times and familiarise myself with the road for any bumps on the surface.”

With life at stake, these big boys can’t bother to be bad. “We’re all cautious riders and we wouldn't even bet small amounts on racing; it's too much of an unnecessary risk,” Kersi says.

“Plus our bikes are expensive and it costs a lot to replace the parts. What we enjoy is riding together and later discussing various issues related to our bikes or rides,” he explains in response to various notions about biking ‘gangs’ he’s heard floating around. In distinguishing the group from the road antics of the 100 CC bikers, Baman adds, “We're not trying to cause trouble. We're just in it for the adrenaline rush and the sheer love of the ride.”

But as these bikers negotiate with dawn or with darkness for a linearity of open space, the city invades them from all angles. If street traffic, potholes and stray dogs aren’t enough, the men of Mumbai bring their own nuisance value: young men zigzagging on their little Yamahas; policemen at nakabandis constantly suspect; old men on their morning walks reprimand. In return the bikers vie that they have nowhere else to go.

Source:- DNA India


toddy said...

I love gixers. The Suzuki GSX-R1000's dominance are simple. Sublime, lithe ergonomics and handling, radical styling and full-on usable power. The bikes looks good too. Im thinking of buying one. gonna check out some bike insurance quotes to see how much this beast is gonna cost me to get on the road. then i'll have to sweet talk the wife into letting me have one.