A superbike can be a source of fun if handled with care. If not, it can become a weapon of destruction. If young riders are given proper training to ride responsibly before they are allowed to buy such powerful machines, accidents like the one involving Ayazuddin in Hyderabad can perhaps be avoided, says Navroze Contractor.

I was a witness to an incident at a BMW showroom in Toronto. A 57-year-old man walked into the showroom, went straight to the area where the latest R1000S was parked and told the salesman that he wanted to buy the bike right away, cash down. The man said he had a 24-year-old girlfriend whom he wanted to take for rides and wanted to buy the sports bike, the most powerful sports motorcycle in the world today.

The salesman very politely asked him when he had last ridden a bike. The man said it had been about 25 years ago. The salesman suggested that it would be better if he attended BMW rider's training course for a weekend or so before making the purchase. The buyer was visibly offended. He thought the salesman believed neither in his riding ability nor in his power to buy. They argued for a while but in the end the salesman refused to budge! The man huffed his way into the manager's office and was out in a minute and out of the showroom. BMW had concluded that even though he was a customer with means, he wasn't ready to ride off on one of their machines. All this unfolded in front of me.

Cut to our own country. Boy asks father for a superbike. Father says wait till you are 18 (sometimes). Boy gets superbike on his 18th birthday. In two months or even less he has met with an accident; if not a fatal one, then one that cripples him for life. It has happened so many times here but still there seems to be no end to it. The latest news in all the national newspapers is the tragedy unfolding in former cricket player Azharuddin's family. I suspect something closely similar to what I have described must happened. My heart goes out to Azharuddin. I am sure he must be regretting the day he bought his son such a powerful machine.

Often-asked advice

Very often people ask me what bike they should buy for their son who is dead keen on a motorcycle. Should they not buy a Yamaha R1, or a Suzuki Hayabusa, or maybe a Honda 600RR? I reply that anyone who wants a bike must first buy a 150cc bike, live with it for a while and go up from there. The father usually laughs and says his son would kill him if he asked him to do such a thing. So nowadays I usually say, “Buy him a gun instead. At least you won't have to deal with a cripple in a few months.” My advice is taken only two out of 10 times. Every few months we hear, in and around Bangalore, of a young man losing his life or limbs in a senseless high-speed accident on a Superbike.

I thought the salesman at the Toronto BMW showroom would lose his job when a customer with money in hand is refused a purchase. Not only did he not lose his job, his boss also stood by him. Two such different attitudes to what money can and cannot do.

Respecting realities

If I say that a 1000cc machine is fast and dangerous in unskilled hands, it may go over some people's head. I have stopped owning hyper sports bikes over the last three years. I am 67 and my reflexes have slowed; I must respect that. Nowadays I ask people who come for advice to go ask other riders like Dinesh Reddy, Bhaskar Ramani, Mazar Ahmed, Anand Dharmaraj or Amit Sandill, all terrific riders who own superbikes. If people still don't feel confident enough to trust their opinion, I ask them to call Aspi Bhathena, our one and only rider to have raced in the Isle Of Man TT. If they still don't believe the advice they get, they can ask Mahendra Singh Dhoni and John Abraham, both superstars in their own fields and lovers of super bikes. But they don't.

Motorcycles are not killers. By themselves they don't do anything but get admiring looks. It is the rider who turns them into either a fun, safe and fast object, or a killer weapon. Besides, the road conditions in our country are not yet suitable for the speeds these machines can achieve, specially in untrained hot-blooded hands. In fact, most riders can't take out even 30 per cent of the performance these bikes are capable of. Today even the small Indian bikes are fast. It is safe to say that any idiot can ride fast. But down there on the roads, hurtling down at unbelievable speeds, what happens is a different matter. Nothing less than death could be round the next corner, the next pot hole, the next time another idiot turns in front of you… the combinations and permutations on our roads are endless.

I request all fathers with enough money who can buy their sons superbikes to first insist on smaller bikes, insist they go do track time in Chennai and Coimbatore, ride with mature people over some weekends and then buy them a superbike. Or else your sons are waiting to become just a statistic.

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Sunday MagazineJune 28, 2012