Big mo­tor­bikes rev up un­der Ira­nian re­forms

The Witness - Wheels - - BIKING -

DUBAI — The joy of rid­ing big Ja­panese and Amer­i­can mo­tor­bikes was just one of the plea­sures taken away from Ira­ni­ans af­ter the coun­try’s Is­lamic revo­lu­tion.

But three decades on, to the de­light of en­thu­si­asts, there are signs of re­stric­tions be­ing eased. This month a dozen bik­ers on pre-rev­o­lu­tion­ary and newer mod­els were al­lowed a strictly reg­u­lated ride in Tehran.

It was still a far cry from the open highways of “Easy Rider”.

Spe­cial per­mis­sion is needed to ride just one week­end per month and the cruise is lim­ited to spe­cific streets dur­ing day­light hours. Women are still pro­hib­ited from ridng bikes.

It fits in, how­ever, with other de­vel­op­ments as Iran opens up to the West again un­der re­for­m­minded Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani. The ban out­law­ing mo­tor­cy­cles with en­gines above the size of 250 cu­bic cm was in­tro­duced in the early years of the revo­lu­tion to halt drive-by killings of Ira­nian of­fi­cials by the op­po­si­tion.

It was also part of an ef­fort to erad­i­cate ves­tiges of an unIs­lamic Western lifestyle that had pre­vailed un­der the monar­chy over­thrown in 1979. Women were barred from rid­ing mo­tor­cy­cles as it was seen as in­com­pat­i­ble with Shi’ite Is­lamic val­ues. Mo­tor­bikes with big en­gine power were used ex­clu­sively by the Basij, the gov­ern­ment’s plain­clothes se­cu­rity force, which of­ten pa­raded on them around Tehran in a show of power. Un­der the re­prieve, author­i­ties se­lect mem­bers of the Tehran Mo­tor­cy­cling and Car Rac­ing As­so­ci­a­tion to li­cence for street rid­ing af­ter run­ning them through se­cu­rity checks, the as­so­ci­a­tion’s man­ager Mehrdad Hem­ma­tian said.

Po­lice and In­te­rior Min­istry agents mon­i­tor the riders while they are on the road.

“We are hope­ful that the re­stric­tions on full-sized mo­tor­cy­cles will be re­vised and lifted,” Hem­ma­tian said. “The re­stric­tions are out­dated.”

The gov­ern­ment-linked as­so­ci­a­tion is also lob­by­ing to bring down im­port tar­iffs on sports bikes to six per­cent from 100%.

Peo­ple in­volved with the gov­ern­ment are mostly be­hind the de­mand for mo­tor­cy­cles as it is eas­ier for them to ob­tain spe­cial per­mis­sion and they are bet­ter able to af­ford the ex­pen­sive Amer­i­can-made Har­ley David­son mo­tor­cy­cles. Bik­ers who are not from the elite can buy cheaper Ja­panese sports bikes for use on race tracks.

Dubai’s desert high­way While the mo­tor­ing as­so­ci­a­tion is try­ing to have the ban fully lifted, Ira­nian bik­ers have found other ways to sat­isfy their pas­sion.

Sym­bol­is­ing the love for U.S.-made Har­ley David­son mo­tor­cy­cles, lo­cal bike man­u­fac­turer Ton­dar Sha­hab makes repli­cas with street-le­gal en­gine of 250 cc as op­posed to the usual range of 883 and 1800 cc.

Shabab, an Ira­nian en­thu­si­ast who lives in Dubai, of­ten rides with his friend Shah­bol on their Har­ley Ul­tras from the city to the desert re­sort of Bab Al Shams, a pop­u­lar shee­sha and drinks stop for riders. “When you have a pas­sion you will find a way to ride,” Shabab said.

The mak­ers of the Xter­rain500 are cur­rently gaug­ing in­ter­est via an In­diegogo cam­paign. The com­pany plans to sell the bike for $1 600 — about R21 200 be­fore im­port taxes. It is pow­ered by a 48-volt 9Ah Sam­sung bat­tery, which turns a 500-watt/48-volt elec­tric rear hub mo­tor, pro­vid­ing ped­alling as­sis­tance up to a top speed of 32 km/h. The bat­tery has a claimed range of ap­prox­i­mately 40 k m on the level. If the Xter­rain ever sells in South Africa, it will com­pete with Pede­gos elec­tric bikes on their fat snow tyres, which sell from R28 260 on snow tyres for a 36 Volt, 500 Watt driv­e­train, up to R36 880 for a 48 Volt, 600 Watt sys­tem. PHOTO: IN­DIEGOGO


Women are still pro­hib­ited from rid­ing mo­tor­bikes in Iran, but not from rid­ing on them, while bikes with en­gines over 250 cc may now be rid­den one week­end a month.

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