KARACHI - Bike racing claims several lives annually in the metropolis while authorities seem reluctant to take action against the deadly game. These daredevil racers perform dangerous stunts while racing on their favorite patch from Karachi Toll Plaza to Madina Petrol Pump.

A racer Altaf (who has won Rs10, 000) in a race on Mi-Kolachi Road, told  The Nation that he won the ‘Free Style Race’ for which all the racers had signed a bond paper  inscribed the each participant is responsible for any sort of consequences even injures and death.

He explained that ‘Free Style Race allowed participants to hit others which usually result in deadly accidents’.  

Altaf said the government should encourage riders rather ignoring them. He said that the incident at Do-Darya in which three riders lost their lives, was ‘their own fault’.

He  pointed out that youngsters taking drugs and alcohol before race were putting their lives at risk. He said that it was the game of temperament but addicts usually lose their temperament which results accidents.

Motorcycle racing started out at Sea View but later the authorities imposed a ban. Riders have now relocated to the Super Highway, Mi-Kolachi Road, Shahr-e-Faisal, Shahr-e-Pakistan and North Karachi areas where they can be found on weekends. They first gather around at an outdoor hotel and place their bets after which the races begin.

Every week, more than 500 racers compete against each other at the above mentioned tracks.

In addition to bets that range from Rs 5,000 to Rs 50,000, punters also put up their motorbikes; winner takes the loser's bike home.

The races do not involve heavy or racing bikes neither are the events planned by specific groups. Rather the common 125cc and 70cc altered bikes are used, sometimes scooters even, and the all types of youngsters of the city have a go at the race.

"It is like an accepted rule that all those who have racing bikes will come to this point each Saturday night and pit themselves against each other," said Vicky, who is a regular visitor.

"We have riders coming from Lyari, Clifton, North Karachi, Steel Town and Orangi Town, Shah Faisal Colony who come in groups”, he said.

Various well known mechanics of the city were operating number of racing groups in the city with various names like “Lucky-1”, “Crazy Riders”, “Only Free Style” and others.  

The races begin at 12:00am. from Toll Plaza, Karachi Gate and end at Madina petrol pump Superhighway.

A mechanic Imran alias Kala said that bikers also alter engines and pistons of their motorcycles to give them more power. "Usually bikers alter their bikes by replacing the pistons.

They take the piston of their 125cc motorbike and replace it with the piston of cars such as Suzuki Mehran or Alto. And this trend is growing because now some users are also replacing their motorcycle pistons with the piston of a Toyota Corolla," he said.

He further added that some bikers alter 125cc bikes to 250cc while 70cc bikes to 124cc and the rider can run it up to 160 to 165 kilometres an hour, which is otherwise impossible for a simple bike.

Another famous mechanic Kashif told The Nation that the expense of replacing piston of a 125cc motorcycle was at least Rs 12,000 to Rs 15,000, while altering bikes was even more expensive. He said Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 was the cost of an overall alteration in engine from 125cc to 250cc.

"I know some people who have spent more than Rs50,000 repairing and altering a bike. But the expenses also depend on the bike's make. An older bike will obviously cost more, but they are better than the new ones, because they are made sturdier," he said.

He said that the city had four more expert mechanics who deal in these bikes: Shabbir Ustad, Ali aka PIB Wala, Faraz Bacha aka Baldia wala, Bohra Ustad are also well known in motorbike circles. Ali PIB wala is a champion because his altered bike has won the race that was held at Karachi base race.

Dado, who is another famous rider from F.B. Area, told The Nation "I can never think of leaving this game. I have been on complete bed rest for the last six months because of an accident, in which I broke close to 7 bones," he said. Dado has won several races.

"I have pocketed cash prizes of Rs 50,000 thrice. The game is dangerous but the level of danger can be reduced if the government gives us a separate track. Right now there are two tracks in Karachi but they are on the highway, because we were banned from riding our bikes at Sea View," he said.

Dado said the bikers also raced on roads adjacent to the airport, which are normally empty. Dado said he could run his bike at 150 kph to 160 kph but after an accident he had lost some of his confidence. He lost his bike to competitor Moon and almost lost his life in the process. "But I want to tell my fans that don't worry I will return. After all I have to win back my bike from Moon."

Betting is an active part of motorbike racing. Racers say that it cannot be stopped; it is too dangerous for anybody likes. "People bet, but things become dangerous when the stakes are high. The higher the bet, the more pressure on the rider. And usually punters include people who gamble only and don't participate in the races themselves," Abbas added.

 "Some of the riders place their bets a week in advance. Other bets are placed at the time of the actual race. Normally people have no knowledge and place their bets for fun. They don't know which bike is more powerful," he said.

 A rider Kamal said that the races that are planned in advance bring along a lot of hype and money. "Fixed contests are more important and hundreds of other riders wait to watch the battle. Only the most competent of motorcyclists take part in this game because he who loses the fight also ends up losing his bike," he said.

According to details gathered by The Nation, around 18 bike racers died while racing during last 15 days including Faizan and Mehboob, who died at Super Highway, Kazim died in North Karachi, Ali and Sameer died at Shahr-e-Faisal, 15 year-old Danial at Nagan Chowrangi.   A couple of month ago former Chief Secretary Sindh Raja Muhammad Abbas took a serious notice of the reckless racing, he directed the police to take stern action against the malpractice to save innocent lives.

The notice was taken on complain sent to the chief secretary on racing of silencer-less two wheelers in streets and other reckless stunts by them.

When contacted, Commissioner Karachi Shoaib Ahmed Sddiqui told The Nation, he said that he did not have any information of racing on the streets of the city. Siddiqui claimed that he will take serious notice of the deadly practice and also direct DIG traffic to take a stern action to stop the racing on immediate basis.