ride the rocket
Cool and sensible hardly ever go together. Think of stiletto heels versus flip-flops, ice cream versus carrots and James Bond versus Dr Phil. Bikes are the quintessential cool ride of choice.
Boss of impracticality
No matter what people tell you, bikes are not meant for practicality. People buy motorcycles because an inner rebel secretly prods them in the nether regions to go get squished. Yes, bikers are a breed of people who either had a big accident or will have one. It's a guarantee. So why do people still opt to ride bikes? Call it an inner demon.
Abdul Kader: age 53, building equipment retailer. Bike: Pre 80's Honda S110.
Practicality went out the window with the purchase of this bike. It is a small bike, he is a big man. He still loves to ride this machine purchased nearly three decades ago. “It has been faithful like a dog. But it is strictly for one or two-up riding. Carrying more than one passenger is just plain stupid.”
A certain portion of riders (the majority) will say that bikes offer great practicality. Considering the price of fuel and the state of traffic jams you would have to agree. But when family people start considering practicality it borders on insanity. Carrying a wife, three kids and shopping is a disaster waiting to happen.
Die, biker die!
Bikers are one of the most hated road users. Many bikers think they are invincible and sadly find out they are not. It is so easy for a bike to be tripped up. It is a common misconception that a bike allows great flexibility and maneuverability. That is not the case when a car clips you from behind and you go flying.
Rana rides a customised Kinetic GF125 that has seen its share of accidents because of a wild riding habit. One day, he was going fast as usual and a car nudged the rear and Rana found out what it is like to be a rag doll. It was an end-over-end flip resulting in several screws to keep his knee ligaments attached to bone. He got well only to have a few more less serious crashes. The bike always came out fine.
Amit, age 28, graphics designer/visualiser. Bike Xingfu 125 Cruiser
“It's not fast or even that good but it is cheap to run and comfortable.” Using this bike as a workhorse, Amit mainly commutes between home, work and girlfriend. “It gets me where I want to go when I want to go there. I prefer to ride slow and safe.”
Bugs in the teeth
The one joy of having a bike is to be able to ride without any frills or fuss. You enjoy the scenery and breathe the fresh air (outside the city) and occasionally chew on bugs that get in your teeth. Don't worry; bugs usually have high protein content.
Unfortunately, in Bangladesh there are a few places where you can actually ride. Cruisers offer the best comfort and the high handlebars provide great relaxed steering but the usual wheezy Chinese models available here don't really do justice.
Rizvi, age 33, restaurateur in Australia. Bike: 2005 Harley Davidson V-Rod
This is not the first bike he had. While he was in Bangladesh he had scores of bikes notable among them were a Honda Roadmaster 200, a Honda Rebel 250 and the first Hero Honda CBZ. Now living in Australia he can realise his ultimate dream of riding the open roads on a big bad bike. “The Harley combines sporty looks with the attitude of a cruiser. And don't forget the power. It's a biker's dream to go out on weekends on really long road trips.” Lucky bugger!
All show and some go
Speed freaks love the Pulsar, CBZ and the old two stroke Yamahas and Hondas. You can customise them to no ends and have a bike that reflects your personality. Stickers are a simple way to spice up the ride but too many can ruin that. Shorter handlebars, alloy wheels and different headlamp units make for a modded look. What's not cool is having a loud exhaust that sounds like the traditional “murir tin”.
Sabbir, age 23, student. Bike: Bajaj Pulsar 180
Speed is apparently his cup of tea. Call it hot young blood. “It's a monster. It's fast but it can bite.” Does it get the girls? “Not really! It's the guys who have fluttering hearts when they see the bike.”
Gone with the wind
The cooler your bike, the more someone else will want it and that is not necessarily a good thing. Bikes get stolen easily but a current trend is that of hijacking. It's all done with a car where the bigger vehicle is used to smash into the biker. You may think you can outrun and outmaneuver a car, but that is only if you have something like a 140 bhp Suzuki GSX. In most cases the hijackers use a brand new car (likely stolen too) with plenty of power. Most importantly, no one ever expects a car behind them to come up and hit intentionally.
Before writing this article a simple and grin inducing drag test was carried out between a 20 year old 1300cc Toyota Corolla and a Bajaj Pulsar 150. The bike quickly accelerates up to 30 kmph. Then the car starts catching up. Fast! Also, cars come and hit when they are already at speed where bikes don't have much left in their engines. Late night commuting around empty streets is a risk not worth taking. Remember that most mugging incidents leave the victims with knife or even gun shot wounds.
Chicks dig it
Biking is a predominantly male thing in our country. Women are seen usually perched at the back with their hair flowing in the wind, without helmets!
Meherin, age 29, executive. Bike: Yamaha RX115
This woman loves bikes. She can't yet ride one though because her husband Asif (who actually owns the bike) is too worried about her having an accident. “He is more likely worried about scratching the bike.” Asif owns one of those lusted after original Japanese RX bikes that still retail for a wild 2 lakhs in mint condition.
They had a nasty spill from a blown tyre once where luckily both were wearing helmets. Meherin fell and hit her head on the curb. The hit was powerful enough to crack her skull but the helmet saved her executive brains from spilling onto the sidewalk. The helmet though was history but that's replaceable. And not just any helmet will do but one that covers the entire head. Better if it also covers the face and chin.
Meherin owes her life to the life-saving plastic headgear. “Most women (and men) find it uncomfortable and mostly uncool to wear a helmet.” My question is, how comfortable and cool will you be laid out in a morgue?
And there you have it. Different folks and their different strokes on riding a rocket. It's a joy for some, practicality for others and an accident waiting to happen for everyone. Morbid as it may sound, bikes are a risky proposition but their cool factor usually negates all negativity. End of the day, it's not the bike but the biker who determines the quality of the ride.
By Ehsanur Raza Ronny
Photo: Amirul Rajiv
Special thanks to Raihan, Yusuf, Jawad, Sannan, Sumon and Kabir for arranging the photo shoot. Raihan and Yusuf are the proprietors of Yamin Auto Parts 1, 142 (1/12) Bongshaal Road, Dhaka.