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.