Speedy riders, the phrase reminds me of my day-to-day, two-hour, street adventure — commuting to and fro work on my paid-off two-wheelers. Though I consider myself not so much in favour of extreme adrenaline rush, going only up to a maximum of 40 to 60 km/h, the presence of fleeting motorcyclists swaying quickly between roaming vehicles gives me occasional amusement, especially if the carriage is 250-cc Ninja, Hayabusa or, better still, Ducati.
In between the random fascination though are some pain in the ass, blood-boiling, reckless riders who, despite incompletely geared up, seem to be confident showing off their unpretentious, nurtured skills of getting by the crowded traffics, in speed. Watch out! Seeing such riders often rewards me with an irritating shock — a feeling most likely shared by other witnessing by-passers.
Somehow, being a casual speed rider myself allows me to understand the excitement and satisfaction of successfully passing the vehicles upfront, or going through a narrow space between two opposite vehicles throttling in full speed. Riding on the streets is like going through obstacle courses, tackling one at a time. Each one has its own challenge yet gives its unique sense of achievement, if fortunately accomplished. However, I hate the after-effect, when my heart beats faster and as if all energy is sucked out of my limbs. As thrilling as speeding is, I personally wouldn’t take the challenge unless I’ve analysed the risk and figured it would be safe enough.
This holiday season however presents a tendency to speed ride. Especially in Jakarta, where more than about 75% of its inhabitants have left the city to return to their hometowns celebrating Eid, the streets become a lot emptier. During busy periods — on normal school and work days — the traffic at a small junction can go up to 50 meters long, yet around this festivity season it only goes up to about 5 to 10.
This rare condition offers liberation to drivers and riders, including me. Temptation to exercise my innate racing capacity surfaces quite frequently, lingering in my head whenever I’m on the road. And I am not the only one. Hundreds or thousands other fellow commuters seem to also have felt a similar urge. The roads have become our playground! Those who, on normal days might not be as daring, would now venture their undiscovered desire — going against the hard-blowing wind on their rides and catching the next vehicle they see in front.
Drivers can breathe in relief as it is not a norm to find the streets half empty, so much so that they feel happy pressing the gas pedal without a slight reluctance. (During congested time, cars are usually the ones which have to be extra patience and give ways to other smaller vehicles). Seldom indeed I would see a car speeding up conveniently, in a long stretch especially, on the streets of Jakarta. They wouldn’t usually last that long, speeding, before bumping into an obstacle such as a motorcyclist trying to overtake them, an incidental traffic jams due to public transport stopover, dispersing of students from schools, or some arbitrary accidents. Yet, today I could hardly race against a determined car because the driver had an opportunity to not give in to some random chick on a motorbike. What an ego!
Personally, my measure of triumph is if I could reach the office earlier than the day before. But, no worries, I don’t push myself to beat my previous records. My occasional speed ride is more of an impromptu endeavour rather than a routine.
This less-crowded season will end after a week, and we might only encounter such condition again around Christmas and the New Year’s period. So, to all Jakarta’s speedy riders out there, enjoy your time on the streets. But, don’t forget to be extra careful and put on your full gears. Danger lurks even in the shallowest water.