Motorbike stunt riding popular amongst Vietnamese youths
The sport, often referred to as stunting, is characterized by tricks involving acrobatic maneuvering of the motorcycle, most commonly sport bikes, and sometimes the riders themselves.
Vietnamese youths, particularly those in large cities including Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, became aware of stunting around five years ago by watching video clips on YouTube.
The sport has quickly increased in appeal thanks to the excitement it offers.
Nguyen Duc Phong, a member of Hanoi Stunt Riders Club, said that among the different street sports he has practiced, none has given him as much of a thrill as stunting.
“Stunting is so addictive; once you’ve taken it up, you cannot stop pushing yourself to get better,” Phong said.
The sport requires a high-capacity hand-clutch motorbike, good health and loads of enthusiasm.
These fancy bikes fetch exorbitant prices however, which may deter young, hard-up beginners.
Phong revealed that he only managed to buy a high-capacity KTM Duke bike, worth around VND 150 million (US$6,638), after he sold his Vespa scooter and used his savings and took loans from his family.
Stunters’ favorite brands include the KTM Duke, Yamaha FZS, Honda MSX, Harley Davidson, Honda VT, and Kawasaki.
The bikes, which are at least 200cc, are all typically priced at VND100 million ($4,425) or more.
However, the bikes are not ready for ‘stunting’ until several of their parts are specifically modified.
Modifications can include the installation of an anti-fall system to cushion the vehicles from damage, a larger rear pinion to intensify the engine, and a hand brake on the rear wheel.
Basic modifications cost at least VND20 million ($885) apiece.
Stunt riders also need various items of protective clothing and gear, which range from standard helmets and gloves to armor.
The equipment, which is mostly imported, can cost at least VND10 million ($442).
Burnouts, one of the most typical stunting maneuvers which use the power of the engine and braking force to cause the rear wheel to spin, also take a heavy toll on tires, which may require replacing after only one month of use.
Tires generally cost VND3-4 million ($133- 177) apiece at the lowest.
Tran Cao Son, a member of the Hanoi Stunt Riders, said that devotees spend at least another VND100,000 ($4) on petrol and oil during each practice session.
Tuan Anh, champion of the Motul Stunt Fest 2016, which took place in Hanoi last month, revealed that he had practiced and performed hip hop with BigToe, a beloved dance group, for eight years.
He had failed to find an outlet for his passion until he took up stunting.
The young man’s enthusiasm for stunting was strongly opposed by his parents, particularly his father, who is a police officer.
A screenshot taken from YouTube shows a contender performing in the Motul Stunt Fest 2016 qualification round.
Like most other parents, Anh’s father frowned upon his hobby, which he considers too dangerous and thus not an activity to trifle with.
“I let him watch video clips featuring stunt riders every day. He gradually became less critical and more supportive,” Anh said.
Anh’s parents and siblings all went to the finale of the Motul Stunt Fest 2016 to show their support for him.
Phan Duy Lan, another stunt rider, said that his parents were in the dark about his involvement in stunting until they came across a video clip featuring their son performing stunting moves on television.
He admitted that minor injuries are commonplace, particularly for novices.
Anh added that Hanoi Stunt Riders members have always made it a point to comply with its stern discipline.
If someone is spotted performing stunting moves on the street, which is strictly banned, that person will be kicked out of the club.
Stunting riders always do their practice far from residential areas and in scarcely populated neighborhoods to avoid disrupting others.
“We always make sure our image is positive in order to show people that we are not reckless riders,” Son said.
He noted that as stunting involves displays of high-capacity motorbike maneuvers in slow motion, injuries are likely to be less serious than those incurred during motorbike racing.
Hanoi Stunt Riders came into being with two members in 2013, and now boasts a membership of more than 10.
Among them is Vietnam’s first female stunt rider, Nguyen Nam Phuong.
“I’m really cut out for stunt riding which requires the use of fancy bikes. I really love the feeling of owning a fancy bike,” she observed.
Son, a member of the Hanoi Stunt Riders, also runs his own bike repair shop which offers free modification services to other members.
An architect with a weakness for high-capacity bikes, Son sometimes works non-stop at his workshop for two or three weeks on end to revamp bikes.
Local stunt riders have expressed their hope that they will gain access to proper practice grounds, and have more opportunities to compete in international competitions.
According to Nguyen Ngoc Vu, secretary general of the Cycling, Sports and Motorbike Confederation, stunt riding has yet to be placed under the organization’s control.
“Now that stunting has gained popularity, it’s time for the sport to be under better management. We’re willing to connect practitioners with our members and help the sport thrive in the future,” he stressed.
Common stunting maneuvers include wheelies, stoppies, burnouts and a clutch of other technically demanding moves.
Local stunters have competed for prizes at a national contest organized by a lubricant firm since 2013.
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