THE RIGHT GEAR

The bikes are old, the riders often older – but Sri Lanka’s racing cyclists are a very special and determined breed. By STEVE THOMAS斯里蘭卡的單車都很古舊,騎在上面的人更老邁,但這裡的單車手卻特立獨行、意志堅定。撰文: Steve Thomas

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STEVE THOMAS goes for a ride with Sri Lanka’s hardy road cyclists

單騎鐵馬

Steve Thomas與堅毅的斯里蘭卡公路單車手一起騎車

Iwas huddled in the back of an early morning tuk-tuk from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport to the seaside town of Negombo when I saw them: a couple of local cyclists. We kept driving. Soon there were hundreds of them riding in strung- out small groups, blazing through the busy morning chaos of Colombo’s suburbs towards the railway station.

This was no ordinary morning workout. These cyclists were nearly all hammering along on ancient steel roadsters, known locally as standard bikes. They’re weighty, rusty single speeders with wheelbases longer than the tuk-tuk.

That evening a tuk-tuk driver showed up at my guesthouse in Negombo to take me to the house of Babi, a local standard bike racing legend. Turning into a small side street, we came across a general store where Babi and his cycling family lived. A keen cyclist myself, I was here to join them on the roads.

Babi and his brothers, all pushing 50, are lifelong devotees to cycling. It was obvious from the classic 1950s Rudge and Raleigh roadsters outside their house. ‘ These are about 50 years old. They belonged to my father,’ Lakshman De Silva, Babi’s older brother, told me.

All over Sri Lanka you’ll find thousands of bikes, usually carrying a family or laden with goods just bought or ready to sell. But these heavyweight single speeders are designed for sport, not commerce. A good, old, race-ready bike can be found for around 5,000 rupees (HK$255).

‘ We all grew up cycling as our father was a racer,’ says De Silva. ‘Babi was a big rider here – in 1984 he was Sri Lankan Champion on a regular road bike.’

Thousands of races happen throughout the year, all organised by word of mouth. The most intense are around the Sinhalese New Year (April, along with the Buddhist New Year).

Given the intense heat of the Sri 某天清晨,我從科倫坡班達拉奈克國際機場前往海邊小鎮Negombo。我鑽進篤篤車的狹小後座,看然後 到幾個當地的單車手。

篤篤車繼續行駛。不久,在科倫坡近郊上午交通繁忙時段的混一片 亂之中,數以百計騎著單車的人成群結隊穿梭而過,往火車站的方向前進。

他們並非早起鍛鍊身體的晨運客。這班單車手幾乎清一色踩著當地最常見的標準古老鋼鐵公路單車,沉重的車身銹跡

斑斑,沒有變速功能,而且軸距比篤篤車還要長。

那天傍晚,一位篤篤車司機來到我在Negombo下榻的旅舍,載我到訪當地標準單車比賽的傳奇人物Babi。車子駛入一條橫巷,經過一間Babi及其單車手家族曾居住的雜貨店。本我 身熱愛單車運動,這次是專程前來參加他們的單車之行。

Babi和他的眾兄弟都已年近半百,一直愛熱 單車運動,擺放在屋外的1950年代經典Rudge牌和Raleigh牌單車正是最好的證明。的Babi 哥哥Lakshman De Silva告訴

我︰「這兩架單車已經歷半個世紀,是我父親下留 的。」

斯里蘭卡全國有數以萬計的單車,它們通常載著一家大小或大量貨物。但這些沉甸甸的單速單車其實是專為運動而非貨運而設計。狀一架 態良好、可作比賽用的途單車售價約5,000盧比( 255港元)。

De Silva表示︰「家父是單車選手,我們自小已騎單車, Babi更斯是 里蘭卡赫赫有名的單車手,他是1984年斯里蘭卡標準公路單車賽的。冠軍 」

斯里蘭卡全年舉辦上千場單車賽,

IT’S A MIX OF URBAN ROADS WITH COMMUTER TRAFFIC, PEPPERED WITH SEMI- RURAL SNAPSHOTS AND NARROW, TWISTY BACKROADS 他們穿過城中交通繁忙的馬路,也駛過市郊的風景,還有樹木和房子林立的迂迴窄巷

Lankan flatlands it’s hard to imagine riding any serious distance on these hefty things. ‘Last week the race was about 80 kilometres; next week it’s 130 kilometres, and there will be more than 100 riders there,’ says De Silva.

Which is tough to imagine on any single speeder, let alone a 17-kilogram 50-year- old bike with a regulation set standard gear ratio, with average speeds of 35 kilometres per hour. Let’s get some context here: today’s top- end road bikes weigh less than seven kilos.

With standard bikes rod brakes and heavy roadster tyres are necessary, and part-rusted steel handlebars with added aerobars and lighter components are also the norm. Many still use original steel cranks, but some have switched to aluminium, and most now come with clipless pedals, alloy seatposts and ageing saddles. A few riders have managed to procure alloy rims, hubs and even front wheel quick-release hubs.

The chances of any of these riders ever making it to Europe to race are slender. Making money from sponsorship is not much of an option. But these guys live to ride. They follow the Tour de France, scour glossy cycling magazines and skimp by with kit most of us would have thrown out a decade ago. On any given morning you’ll find these riders duelling it out with the rush hour traffic. Babi himself still rides between 60 and 80 kilometres a day on a standard bike – and still competes.

The next day I caught sight of three young riders who were just winding down from their daily training session. One was wearing the 2013 Sri Lankan National Champion jersey, and all three were lean-and-mean-looking.

Humbly, and with an air of confusion, we set off together: me hanging out of a tuk-tuk with a camera, and these

全部都是靠口碑辦起來。每年4月的僧伽羅新年(也是佛教新年)期間是賽事最為頻繁的。時段

斯里蘭卡地勢平坦、天氣酷熱,騎著沉甸甸的單車進行長途賽事是一件難以想像的。事 De Silva說︰「上星期的賽程約80公里,下星期則是130公里,屆時將有超過100位選手參賽。」

騎沒變著 有 速功能的單車作賽已夠匪夷所思,只遑論 有一組標準齒輪比均、平時速35公里、重17公斤的50歲老單車,反觀今時今日的檔高 公路單車,重量卻不到七公斤。

一般標準單車的桿剎車 和笨重的公路

輪胎是基本裝備,生銹的手把加上低風阻手把和較輕巧的零件,也是常見配備。斯里蘭卡仍有許多單車使用原裝的鋼製曲柄,但也有人轉用較輕的鋁合金,現時大部分出賽單車均配備卡式斤板、合金坐墊桿和原裝座墊,亦有不少單車手有能力添置合金輪圈、車軸甚快至 拆式前輪車軸。

這些車手幾乎沒有機會前往歐洲參賽,亦難以依靠任何商業贊助維生,卻依然對單車少動樂此不疲。他們緊貼環法單車賽戰的 況,四出搜羅最新的單車雜誌,更為添置我們十年前已棄的掉 裝備而節衣縮食。每天早上,這些單車好手都會在車水馬龍的路上奮勇前進、一較高下。每Babi 天仍

踏著標準單車飛馳60至80公里,而且仍然參加比賽。

翌日,我目睹三個年輕單車手在訓練後稍事休息。他們矯健而充滿鬥志,其中一人穿著2013年斯里蘭卡國家錦標賽的。戰衣

我們小心翼翼地在同一條路上行駛;忙間亂我, 把相機伸出篤篤車拍攝,三位單車手則在篤篤車後奮力衝刺。

沒有裝備的單車手只能在平騎,路 車因此他們都沿著岸邊大道進發,穿他們 過城中交通繁忙的馬路,駛市的也 過 郊 風景,還有樹木和房子林立的迂迴窄。巷

拐過大街後,他們下車走進一個小花園。一位滿臉鬍鬚、頭髮蓬鬆,身上只披

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