Special: The world of stunt bikers

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Thiruvananthapuram: The death of a Delhi youth after a midnight stunt-ride and the subsequent police firing, has triggered the demand for proper avenues for stunt performances in Kerala, where the profession is catching on among the local youths.
Since stunt performances are considered illegal as per our laws, professional teams now carry out their stunts after getting special sanction from the police.
While the number of professional stunt performers in the state comes to only around 20 to 30, the number of youths who have come up with stunt shows on the streets is shooting up.
Professional stunt performers have been repeatedly demanding that the government allow them special tracks. “It’s because we lack a proper avenue that our youths are being forced to carry out their dare-devil performances in streets and that too at odd hours."
Professional stunt performers in the state are now left with no other option but to depend on the tracks in Chennai to carry out regular practice.
As the police tightened its grip on illegal stunt racing on city roads, amateur stunt performers have now moved out to remote areas.
A proper venue is one of the key aspects of safety as far as stunts are concerned. It was for want of a proper stunt track that a youth was killed during a performance at Varkala. Despite being attired in sufficient security gear, the youth had to jam his brakes suddenly when one of the viewers jumped onto the track.
“We have approached the state Tourism Department seeking space to set up a track. Though we cited the parking ground of Sooryakanthi near Kanakakunnu as an ideal place, it was rejected citing that the zoo nearby would be affected by all the air and noise pollution”, said Mikhil Mohan of Ghost Ryderz.
It was for want of a proper track in the city that Narain Karthikeyan’s performance had to be dropped.
“The only solution to curb illegal stunt performances is to have a proper venue for the sport with all safety measures in place”, said Narain’s associate and M & N Racing Club owner, Jose Pottamkulam.
Stunt biking not a recognised sport
Parents frown on children taking to stunt biking because they are mortally afraid of  the exotic sport. Most of them haven't witnessed extreme sports in their lifetime and do not even reckon stunt biking and racing as major sporting events.
The fact remains that in a controlled environment with proper safety gears,  motor sports are as risky or as safe as any other contact sport. Indian Army stunt bikers are popular and the finest example of responsible sporting.
Recently at the Army exhibition at Pangode military area, stuntsmen displayed a spectacular repertoire of feats on Royal Enfield  bullets, the like of which are seldom seen  in the capital city.
These included a rider climbing a ladder atop a running bike,  formations of bikers crossing each other  through gaps at controlled speed and the oft-displayed human pyramid formation on bikes.
What's wrong with bike stunting in the country is that it has not been accepted as a sport whereas in  US and Europe, bike stunting is a major adventure sport  for the youth who have a passion for speed.
Authorities here are either ignorant of the sport or perhaps are obsessed with the  danger quotient involved. This is appalling when video games are easily available even for those who have never been on the wheels in person.
Extreme sports  are popular in the developed world as evident from the huge draws at X games competitions, especially in the US.
Ice games, mud games , motorcross games and BMX events offer innumerable opportunities for the modern gladiators. In developed countries, local race tracks offer them an easy vent to their passion.
Despite Kerala's penchant for embracing modernity, the state does not have a proper racing track while Coimbatore and Chennai already have it. Stunt bikes usually have a minimum capacity (engine displacement) of 150 cc. Racing is spread over  various categories according to engine displacement.
Next: Safety comes before stunt

Safety comes before stunt
 
Proper safety gears right from the head to the toe, condition of the track and vehicle plays an integral role in professional stunt performance. Ghost Ryderz and DFG are among the few professional stunt performing groups in the state.
Stunt performance is often done on either tarred or concrete surface to ensure better road grip. The track should be properly barricaded to avoid viewers from entering into the track.
All professional stunt performers wear helmets with international safety standards, armour jackets that comes with elbow, shoulder and chest pads, backbone and spine protector, and abrasion resistance jeans that do not tear even if dragged along the rough surface, angle protecting boots and gloves with wrist and finger protectors.
Bajaj Pulsar 200ns, a 200 cc motorcycle, is the most preffered Indian-made motorcycle used by stunt performers in the state. Modifications are made on the handles and tyres and other safety guards, but not on the engine side.
It was a misadventure, says ghost ryderz
Anamika M Kumar ‘Ghost Ryderz’ ,the local motorcycle stunt riders, have come out against the manner in which the Delhi bike riders resorted to gross misadventure which led to a biker’s death in police firing.
Reacting to the tragic death of Karan Pandey who was ‘accidently' shot by cops, Mikhil Mohan, a member of Ghost Ryderz told DC that the biker should have avoided the stunt in the middle of the night and that too in a highly protected area.
“Motorcycle stunt riding is a popular and recognized sport throughout the world. But the bikers in Delhi were clearly on the wrong side of the law”, he added.
He said the excuse put forth by the Delhi police that they had fired at the bike in a bid to puncture its rear tyre,  clearly indicated the force’s lack of training in handling such cases.
“I’m earning and looking after my family because of this sport. Such incidents are sad. Tomorrow, if Valentino Rossi starts riding at 300 km/hr on a public road at midnight, he would be setting a bad example.
He became a champion by dint of hard work and determination. Most people, especially youngsters here, are not aware of  stunt riding. My team mates and I, would love to go to schools and colleges to conduct workshops and create awareness about safe stunt riding”, he added.

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