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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Two Wheels Move the Soul

The following article appeared in July issue of The Rationale

HEDONISM has its followers, be it with rock music, drugs, expensive cars and not to forget, bikes. Motorcycling, as we see it today, is more than just a means of commuting. Oblivious of its humble beginning, motorcycling is loved by many and envied by others. This is where the age or the gender doesn’t matter; ride a bike and you are a biker. The world’s first production motorcycle was the Hildebrand and Wolfmuller, a 1500cc twin with an output of 2.5 horsepower. Evolving from the steam-powered bicycles of the 1860s to the Marine Turbine Technologies’ Y2k of the present day, motorcycles have had their lovers in all ages.
Considering the international perspective the idea of a motorcycle group is perhaps as old as the motorcycle itself. In America alone, the oldest motorcycle club known is the Yonkers Motorcycle Club (YMC) formed as early as 1903. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that perhaps this group enunciated, by organizing America’s first Endurance Run, some 23 years before the foundation of American Motorcycle Association (AMA), what motorcycling would be in America and perhaps they are also the first motorcycle group to have worked for the community service when in the World War II their members worked as Civil Defense messengers for the city of Yonkers and earned great respect for the time to come.
At present, besides being a major mode of transportation around the world motorcycling is also a leisure activity and has even evolved lifestyles. Motorcyclists have suffered a poor public image since long primarily caused by the constitution of the “Outlaw” groups like Hell’s Angels, The Pagans and The Bandidos, which traces its roots to the post World War II America and it would not be out of place to say that the bad image was further intensified by the fear promoted by the media of the time. Though the bad image has still not been completely diluted into oblivion, motorcyclists have gained some respect since then and today they come from all walks of life; doctors, lawyers, engineers and school going youngsters.
You cannot separate passion from motorcycling. I believe that nothing is impossible if you have the passion to do it and the word “passion” reminds me of the tremendous feat of Herbert James Munro, better known as Burt Munro, the Kiwi motorcycle racer who set a land speed record at Bonneville on the 26th of August 1967 at the age of 68 riding a 47 year old bike. Marvelous, to say the least! Burt owned a 1945 model 600cc Scout Indian with an original speed of about 90km/h. A man of modest means, he modified the bike by making the parts himself and set a speed record that holds field till day. It is the icons like Munro who took motorcycling to the heights of fame. Burt Munro’s feat also inspired making of the movie The World’s Fastest Indian starring Anthony Hopkins. His famous 1945 Scout Indian is currently owned by a Kiwi motorcycle enthusiast who has put it on display at E Heyes and Sons, Invercargill New Zealand.
Unlike other countries, in Pakistan the idea of a group of bikers riding together is still very much new where this two-wheeled machine is mostly a means of commuting from home to the work place. The scenario is now, however, on the verge of change. We have several motorcycle groups of young guys who storm the roads on weekends on all kinds of bikes. A rather alarming aspect of this trend is that our new generation is driving motorcycles beyond their limits with no proper protection. By doing dangerous stunts on public roads they not only cause a serious threat to their lives but also create a nuisance to the ongoing traffic.
Touched by the spirit of togetherness, to make a difference, and with a common aim of riding across the country and enjoy the blissful experience of cruising the highways, venture the valleys and promote safe riding among the motorcycling community a small Lahore based motorcycle group was formed on the 15th of August 2007. The group then widened its vistas to create awareness among the biker community of the country in terms of motorcycle maintenance, technology and above all, safety measures and the group’s name was changed to Pakistan Bikers Club (PBC). The nation got its first real glimpse of the group’s talent when in 2011 PBC organized Pakistan’s first Vintage Bike Show at Lahore where the legendary bikes like Triumph, Norton Commando, BSA and Matchless showed up with models ranging from as early as 1941. Since then, the group has made headway like a V-Twin powered Harley V-Rod and currently its members come from all the major cities of the country. PBC has been conducting motorcycle related activities on regularly basis. On the 14th of August 2009 the Pakistan Bikers Club organized an Independence Rally with the ideals of educating the youth that it should be celebrated in a civilized manner without causing nuisance to the public, no more noisy mufflers nor any one wheeling or the like stunts, just plain riding and a show of unity. Since then, PBC has arranged a series of Responsible Riding Rallies in association with the City Traffic Police, Lahore and some of these rallies also got the media coverage, including the LCCI Motorcycle Rally of March 2012 when hundreds of bikes showed up.
Does the body rule the mind or does the mind rule the body? This question pondered by Morrissey and Descartes is quite relevant here. The purpose behind PBC’s Safe Riding rallies is to create awareness among the motorcycle riders about safe riding, the use of helmet and other necessary protection gear. The number of vehicles is immensely increasing with every passing year on the roads that cannot be further expanded; consider the Murree Road in Rawalpindi and the Mall Road in Lahore. In these circumstances the driving conditions further aggravate with scores of bikes all around. The purpose behind PBC’s effort in conducting safe riding rallies is to educate the motorcyclists about safe riding by riding in the extreme left lane, avoid frequent lane change, careless overtaking, use of side mirrors and above all the use of helmet since head is the most vital part and most likely to receive injuries in case of an accident.

Pakistan Bikers Club is blessed with gems in the group with a lot of saddle time to their credit. The famous names in Pakistan’s motorcycling community of Dr. Omer Khan and Mr. Imtiaz Ahmad from Lahore and Mr. Syed Muhammad Haroon Rasheed from Karachi are a source of inspiration to the youngsters. Mr. Haroon plans to ride from Karachi to the Chinese border on his 1200cc bike along with his sons while Mr. Imtiaz is resolved to further extend his collection of classic bikes which currently are something between 40 and 50, all in running condition. Recently, in March, some members of PBC visited the famous Soun valley in district Khushab. Skirting the city of Khushab, they explored different areas of the valley blessed with natural lakes and springs. The trip was so exciting that PBC plans to do a three-day trip to the area again this year. Some PBC members will also be joining the 2012 Kalam Summer Festival, Off-road motorcycle competition (July12-July16), which is being managed by the Pakistan Army. The purpose behind the event is to attract the tourist’s attention to the area and ensure them that peace has prevailed. Be it the Vintage Bike Show, The Azadi Rally, the LCCI Bike Rally or the Responsible Riding Rallies, PBC has shown utmost devotion for the betterment of the motorcycle community. The community is groomed to excel and resolved to bring revolutionary changes in the motorcycling world of the country. The journey toward betterment might be slow, but considering PBC’s efforts one is convinced that the wind of change has already started blowing and we see a promising future ahead but without the public’s positive role our efforts cannot make a blind bit of difference. United we ride!

The article can also be read at The Rationale


Sajjad Haider said...

Congratulations, for getting it published. Its informative.
Sajjad Haider