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Too hot to handle?

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PEOPLE Superbikes are synonymous with style. But, how safe are they?

S laves to images that equate style with riding fast, adolescents gravitate towards superbikes. Reports of accidents involving youngsters and superbikes raises the question: should we stop our kids from riding them?

“Risk and riding are inseparable, but the risk factor is multiplied when an inexperienced young rider teams up with a mean machine,” says K. Karthik of Speedfreaks, a performance modification company. “Youngsters must graduate slowly from less powerful bikes to superbikes. I started with a 125cc TZR and progressed to a 250cc Ninja, which prepared me for a 600cc bike. Finally, I settled for a 1,000cc Suzuki GSXR. Lack of such preparation can prove costly. I was witness to a motorcycle crash at a drag meet four years ago, which involved an inexperienced 18-year-old rider and his Suzuki Hayabusa. When he knew he was going to crash the 1,300cc bike, the boy did not lower the gears but went higher up.”

Karthik suggests that enrolling for courses on how to ride superbikes – offered by riding schools in the West – can prevent mishaps. The truth is these kids need not go too far: legendary riding guru Keith Code's California Superbike School brings its ‘classroom' every year to Chennai. “Showrooms that sell these superbikes can nurture a club consisting of senior riders who can teach young buyers the techniques of handling a superbike.”

Senthil Kumar of RoadRockerz, a group of bikers who go on endurance rides for records, thinks the long arm of law is required to keep a check on speed.

“In certain Western countries, license is restricted on the basis of a bike's displacement and power,” explains Senthil. “A youngster should be first be given a licence to ride a 250cc bike for two years. If he does not have any case of rash riding against him, he should be issued a licence to ride a 600cc bike. When he is 23 or 24 and has passed the initial ‘tests' he should be considered eligible for riding bikes with more power.”

Sceptical of the role such legislation can play in curbing accidents, Karthik suggests a forum that would sensitise young superbike riders to the dangers they are exposed to. “This forum should list out the dos and don'ts of superbikes. First of all, it has to impress on these youngsters that bad roads and traffic indiscipline can conspire against the rider of a superbike. Unlike racetracks, city roads do not provide a controlled environment that promotes safety. With a full gear, a rider can walk away intact from a 190kph crash on the track.” Timely advice at a time when the whole nation is shocked by the tragic death of 19-year-old Ayazuddin – son of former India cricket captain Azharuddin – in a 1000cc superbike crash on Hyderabad's Outer Ring Road.

“Superbikes are many times faster than what our highways and other major roads can handle,” Senthil says. “It's safe to keep superbikes off public roads.”

Says Vivan of RIMS (Racing Is My Saviour), a racing management and motorcycle performance modification firm: “The most progressive superbike education will be ineffective, unless it is backed by strong laws. What can solve this problem is taking these toys out of the hands of kids. A special licensing programme has to be adopted for superbikes. Until that happens, we have to live in trepidation.”

PRINCE FREDERICK

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