As a school kid in Chennai, M. Arun Kumar was fascinated by older kids performing stunts on their bicycles. He wanted to try the stunts on his own. He followed the older group to Marina Beach and observed them.
Five years later, Arun can be seen cycling around Race Course, Trichy Road, Avanashi Road, Ukkadam and Ondipudur in Coimbatore with the front wheel of the cycle suspended in mid-air.
His ambition is to set a new record for doing the longest bicycle wheelie. The current record stands at 10 miles (16 km) and Arun is geared up to top it.
When he started practising, encouragement was hard to come by. People ridiculed him when he cycled on a single wheel on the main roads. “People would laugh when I fell off the cycle. Traffic policemen would warn me that I would get hurt.”
But encouragement followed. Even former Police Commissioner C. Sylendra Babu had kind words for him.
Arun is a final year student at Suguna Polytechnic College. He spends two hours every evening practising the front wheelie on his Hercules Thriller. He has covered 7 km in 45 minutes so far. He plans to do other stunts such as lying horizontally on the cycle and pedalling with his hands and balancing the cycle at the same spot for an hour.
He has performed with local stunt motorbike rider group ‘Throttlerz.’ Arun also made a brief appearance as a stunt double for actor Srikanth in Paagan, and shared the stage with Chris Pfeiffer, motorcycle stunt riding world champion in 2011.
While he enjoys the thrills, safety is of utmost concern. “I wear knee pads, elbow pads and gloves during practice. Even a slight loss of balance can be dangerous,” he says.
Arun is looking for sponsors for a new bicycle and safety equipment. His father works in a courier service and it is hard to make ends meet. “Education is my priority, as I will need to support my family financially. Cycling will always remain my passion,” he says.