Published in Bike India Magazine : 2005. The follwing is the article script.
How to Street Race – Survival and Winning
Text and Photography: Sundeep Gajjar (Sunny) with input from xBhp.com
We have been there, done that. Paid the price for it and most probably are still shelling out instalments of pain and discomfort that are by-products of a road accident. The physical pain is bound to be served with ample doses of the ineffective tonic called regret. It seems we have grown immune to this medication way back in our teens. It simply doesn’t work well enough to stop us from riding recklessly on roads and feeding our ego while we are at it.
The positive point of discussing this topic is to tell the boys (who will race knowing everything-heck, people smoke and drink even though they know its bad for them!) how to do it safely.
So what are the major concerns of a street racer? – Survival and Winning. The order of importance of these two factors is regularly swapped at the start of and within a road cameo.
Before elaborating these two sacraments, we would first like to delve into the depths of the mind of an average street racer.
I would never advise it until it is absolutely necessary, to humble some smart ass- one who might be showing off his bike, twisting and making sudden moves, risking everybody else’s life and who thinks that he is the God of racing. These kind of guys need to be taught how to respect rules and life. But one more question arises, are we given a contract to do that? If it is not our job, why add one more reckless soul on the road, which is you. This excuse of street racing seems logical unless we realise it’s perfect to fool oneself by thinking like this.
Why do we rip? What is it about a bike that makes us feel like we rule the roads? It can be traced to one’s psyche.
One must leave no stone unturned to add to the queue of achievements, big or small. Every street race won is an achievement, every good start off a green light adds to one’s personality.
Every wrong move you make means that you might not be able to walk the rest of your achievement-oriented life.
Teenagers rip on the road trying to get attention from the birds on the sidewalks or maybe just to vent their frustration. On the other hand, it maybe just out of habit. A machine, which is so flickable with just enough power to get over the slope, can’t do much harm, can it? I say any machine on two wheels is dangerous enough to impair you. Increasing the speed only adds to the risk involved.
Not that it’s not dangerous to do anything like that in a car. But cars are expensive, big and not as flickable as bikes. Moreover, we bikers would like to stick to talking about the two-wheeled machines. I would like to add the quote: “What is it about driving cars that makes you all such assholes!” Ford, Torque, 2004
Leaning into a corner, that’s a rush!
Doing a wheelie, it is smashing!
Because, deep down inside , under a facade of civilised behaviour, we all want to be wild and free, unfettered and not compelled by the artificiality and superficiality that society is full of. Which is why a car, is like watching a TV, you’re surrounded, caged, safe but restricted.
On a bike, you’re part of the scenery, an actor in the live play, not a dull TV audience like in a car.
Why else does a biker have such a bad or wild reputation?
It can also be attributed to the “Roller Coaster Effect” where you can feel arm-ripping acceleration, the adrenaline rush, the eye-popping speed. Your veins are ready to explode;joy turns to anxiety, which turns to fear.
The same effect can be experienced in lower magnitudes on normal bikes while swerving and accelerating. On a super bikes, having bhp of the order 150~, the force is tremendous, almost equalling an orgasm.
Street racing tips:
1. You need to know your bike inside out, the gear ratios and power band. When to shift from a gear and to which one is an art itself. Knowing the response characteristics of your vehicle. You should be able to know how your vehicle will respond under a given set of conditions. For example, on a wet road you might decide against taking a risk cornering because you know about the worn out rear tyre.
When braking, use both brakes simultaneously as it results in good braking… brakes are the hardest working components of the bike! Keep them in top-notch condition all the time.
2. Knowing your opponent is as important as knowing yourself and your bike. You can lock on to the category of the opponent you are facing within a few metres into the race. There is this guy who keeps his foot on the brakes and uses them a lot, this shows lack of confidence. But the same guy is ready to take silly risks to keep ahead of you. Perhaps he has too much confidence in his braking abilities. He should be avoided, or at the least, keep a good distance from him.
Then there is the macho man who swerves left and right trying to sweep all the empty areas of a 100 per sq metre populated area. It’s again better to keep away from him.
The third category can be identified as the levelheaded straight lined guy. He will go all out once he seen an empty stretch of road. At least he will not swerve left and right. Remember to shake hands with him after your cameo is over, introduce yourself to him and congratulate him on his street-racing attitude.
3. Be disciplined: You are in an illegal street race already. Don’t make matters worse by breaking basic rules unnecessarily.
· Wear a helmet
· Maintain a few metres distance from anyone ahead of you
· Overtake from the right
· Use horn where necessary
· If it is dark – flash lights before overtaking
· If you are going really flat out its better to flash lights at regular intervals to larger vehicles like buses, not to scooters and other smallies, they might be taken by surprise and deviate from their trajectory creating a possible collision.
4. Protective gear: A simple fall at 40kmph can damage your bike and bruise you. If you land on a joint like your elbow, it might lead to dislocation, muscle rupture, broken tendons and bones. If you land on a sharp object, for example the handlebar of your bike, it might lead to irreparable internal injuries which are guaranteed to make you repent for the rest of you life, or even might lead to death. This can be prevented to a certain extent by wearing protective gear. Helmet, thick gloves, elbow, kneepads, chest pads etc. can go a long way in dampening a shock. Check out the shopping malls in your city, they might have showrooms specialising in sports equipment. A decent gear kit can set you back by eight grand, but that’s nothing as compared to the safety and added confidence while riding.
Remember: Thinking that you can get away with a few broken bones is an illusion. When you are involved in an accident, you are not the commander of your destiny. If you were, it would no longer be termed as an accident; it would have been a suicide! Even if you do have only a couple of broken bones, the regenerated stuff will never be as perfect as the originals.
5. If you think you can take a gap, don’t waste a minute. Even a slight indecision can take you to the hospital. If you are level with your opponent and suddenly find a gap just wide enough for one of you to squeeze through, don’t try to be the first to get through. Remember - only one of you can get through at a time. If by chance both of you get there at the same time, it would be disastrous.
Decision-making abilities vary from person to person and improve with experience. Also, no one can predict the outcome of a street race even if one of the rider’s is highly experienced.
It is vital to avoid taking risks that have low probability of coming through.
6. The real world is not a video game: The vehicles on the road are not programmed in a loop, you cannot predict their moves. Many people go zigzag between mobile vehicles as if they know their future trajectory. Watch the space around you because you cannot predict how the other motorists will react when they see two bikes racing like escaped lunatics. In traffic the top – speed of your vehicles obviously is of no importance. The dodging abilities and pick-up are all that matter.
The most important factor during a street race, perhaps, is to be able to predict the moves of each and every vehicle on the road and most importantly, your opponent (Is this possible?).
Never panic. The left hand should always be on the clutch lever in order to be ready for quick gearshifts. On toe shifters, always put your foot tip below the shifter…because if at all you panic, there is a chance that you’ll downshift at wrong RPM.
It’s a bit like playing chess.
7. And hey, you can have kicks in dragging without dragging- make it seem like you are going to race with a guy and then when the lights turn green, let him speed away stressing his bike’s engine. And you can enjoy a laugh right where you are! Remember the Thumbs-up ad? I often used to humble smart-ass drivers by overtaking them once and then blocking their way and then slowing down to let them zip at monstrous speeds to end up killing their suspension on the bad road ahead!!
8. Street racing on bikes against cars: Not a good idea! Drop it dude! Usually car drivers will let you speed ahead of them and win, if they don’t, you can be soon history. It’s simple, they are on four wheels and don’t have to worry about balance as you have to.
9. Never street race with a pillion. It’s very dangerous. Your pillion will probably be scared to death! Even if he is sporty and is supporting you, don’t take that risk!
10. Praying helps some people as well - so figure that out yourselves - if it works for you or not!
11. I am listing this as the last point so that it stays in the heads of all ardent bikers going through this article. DO NOT STREET RACE!
This article has been put to paper only to make you understand that there is no point in street racing. Hopefully, you are now aware of the dangers of this sport and what to expect in case you do get into one!
Try not to pick a street race to prove your prowess and if you do, pray to God that when you finish the race you and your bike are in one piece. The vast majority out on the roads are just trying to get to work in time or get home to their kids. You can end up hurting others and yourself in trying to feed your ego. The invincible feeling is nice while it lasts, but can sometimes end in a lifetime of regret.
We all own powerful machines, and know how difficult it is to tame that hunger for speed and revs. However, prudence demands that we restrict it to rides on well-known empty streets, especially far away from any surprise elements.