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Motorcycle subculture of Sri Lanka

Motorcycle subculture of Sri Lanka

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By Pathum Punchihewa

“Never afraid to speed up, never afraid to slow down…” this is a favourite quote of one of my good friends, a faddist of motorbikes. He is the first fine example I’d like to showcase to elaborate the Sri Lankan Motorcycle subculture. At the moment he is riding an Indian bike unlike many other motorbike goers. But he is the second most passionate guy I ever saw towards his bike and the most sensitive about styles in motorcycle fashion.

He always wears a custom made skinny jacket and leather gloves and a special edition helmet that all match his bike and its colour! Now with his red Bajaj Pulsar horse and the real new age biker outfit he is most definitely a chick magnet!

My second friend is the first most passionate guy I ever saw about two wheel motor rides and he always prefers some heavy duty, off road type materials such as trailer bikes! And unlike my first friend, his passion of motorbikes never tie up with one particular thing but he loves to vary his passions. And as a real Bike Rider, his bike fantasies are always spiced up with travelling and adventure, simply he is a man open to the road with his motorbike! Same as me!

As I have seen, there are two types of bike riders in Sri Lanka. Both types are specialists of Motor bikes and they are masters at the art of riding! The first type is more into motorbike races and speed! And the other type is more into classical Motorbike subculture, they prefer riding with a lot of style and at the same time they are followers of a backpacking Motorcycle travelling culture that is still slightly alien to Sri Lanka and has the potential to become any man’s travelling fantasy!

Anyhow the Motorcycle subculture has roots even beyond 40’s. The motorcycle biker subculture has existed since the early 1940's and 50's. It began when "World War II veterans returned home from war against Germany and Japan, and many of them took up motorcycle riding, in part, because it provided a further adventure for young men who had risked everything in war."

Fresh from oversea travel and full of independence and an open purse, these were the young men who did not want to settle into the traditional life of buying a house, getting married, and having kids. The biker subculture came into existence in order to provide a way for its members to resist the social hierarchy that was inherent in American class structure. Instead of conforming to the norms of the society that they were returning to, these men created a subculture wherein they could craft their own norms relating to hygiene, tattoos, and frequent criminal behavior.

In European countries, Motorcyclists who belongs to the very subculture are like modern day cowboys. They maintain their own Motorbike communities, clothing fashion especially based on leather.

In Sri Lanka, Motor bikers can divide into another two categories based on their interest towards a bike. Many of them just buy their dream bike from a renowned brand. And the other category intends to buy a bike and modify it until it reaches the ultimate desires of the biker!

My second friend is a fine example for a Bike Maniac and a guy who continously modifies a bike until it transforms into his two wheel dream. For a long time he had a desire for the eminent bike brand “Harley Davidson”. But For a Sri Lankan bike lover, buying an Original Harley Davidson is quite ‘something’ hence he brought a “Magna” and he modified the bike and transformed into a magnificent ‘Harley Davidson’ like motorbike. Even with flame exhausts!

Then his allure pointed towards a Honda XLR Baja 250cc bike. This is also quite a piece of work in bike subculture. As the bike has no battery power but Magneto current powered kick model, it provides a different feeling than a ‘press a switch and start the ignition’ type Bike. And the heavy fully masculine body and large tires are designed for off road adventure and that makes the ‘Baja’ a traveller’s perfect bike.

There is an old saying. “Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.” I agree.

Thanks to: Kushan S Wanniarachchi


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