When the Takidars found
out that their teenage
son, Sahil, was doing
stunts on his bike the sort that involve
leaning over the seat and sticking
both legs out of the moving bike they were mortified enough to ask
him to stop immediately. No parent,
they reasoned, would want their child
to try such dangerous deeds.
However, back in 1975, German
motorcycle enthusiast Mr Pfeiffer
thought differently. And it's a good
thing he did had he not modified
a SACH100 for his five-year-old son,
Chris, the world of freestyle riding
or stunt biking, would have had one
less record-making champion.
Christian Pfieffer (40), an international
freestyle riding champion
from Germany, was doing distance
wheelies by the age of 10. In his
teenage years, he was already winning
national trial biking competitions,
which involved jumping over
obstacles on his motorbike. And at
26, he became a professional freestyle
rider who could do intricate and
breathtaking stunts on his bike.
"We're not stuntmen motorcyclists
who go crashing into cars. A freestyle
rider is creative with his bike," said
Pfieffer, who showcased some of his
best flatland stunts in Mumbai on
Saturday. "Which is why I prefer to
call them tricks instead."
The choice of word is telling. 'Stunt'
conjures up a picture of a reckless
young rider, a hooligan of sorts, who
puts his life and that of others too
at risk without reason. Whereas
a freestyle rider who does 'tricks' on
his bike puts much thought, and even
more effort, in to getting a move right.
Ironically, in the world of freestyle
riders, safety is the primary concern.
Respect fear, get creative
"I'm not a daredevil," said Pfieffer.
"You have to respect your fear, as it
helps you avoid injuries." A freestyle
rider, it's obvious, falls from his bike
a lot. "A little fear is a good thing,
since it sharpens your senses."
"What my parents didn't realise
at the time, was that I was taking
great effort to protect myself while
I did those stunts. I wear kneepads,
elbow pads, back pads, shin pads, a
strong helmet, and a thick jacket
while doing stunts on the bike. And
before every new trick, I'd be really
scared," said Sahil Takidar (19), who
began riding freestyle at 16.
"But stunt biking is all about not
letting your fear hold you back," said
Takidar, who had ridden down from
Pune to see Pfieffer perform.
Injuries and falls are part of the
deal in freestyle riding. The fun lies
in inventing new tricks, and mastering
the bike. "This is a sport without
limits and it's all about being innovative,"
said Pfieffer, who admits to
thinking about new tricks all the time.
And to get them right, he videotapes
his practise sessions so he can see
where he needs to improve.
Amarinder Sandhu (35), who won
the National Motorcycle Rally
Championship in 1996 believes passion
for the sport is inborn. "Even if
there is no encouragement, we'd still
want to do it. You just get hooked."
Safety comes first
Beginners should start with a light bike
that is easy to control and balance on.
The first and most important lesson is that
safety is paramount. Pfieffer wears his
gear even when he's practising. Here's
the champion's safety checklist:
Helmet. He's worn a full-face Italian
Airoh helmet ever since he fell on his face.
High shoes. Even if you wear sneakers,
make sure they're high ankle.
Guards for knees and shins.
Motorcycle trousers, or a pair of denims.
A thick motorcycle jacket.
A well-serviced bike, to prevent overheating.
Take care of the rear brakes if
you like doing wheelies.
Choose a safe and lonely spot to practise,
so you don't endanger other people.