1Malaysia Chopper unveiled at big bikers gathering

CROWD PULLER: Shutterbugs having a fi eld day snapping shots of 1Malaysia Chopper.

THE superbike industry in the country has revved up a gear with the unveiling of the 1Malaysia Chopper by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Abdul Razak in Kuala Lumpur recently.

Roaring big bike engines could be heard throughout the carnival-like afternoon event at the Putra World Trade Centre where thousands of high-octane motorcycle o w n e r s gathered for a special rendezvous with the Prime Minister.

Later in the evening, under the shadows of the city’s skyscrappers, and witnessed by a big crowd of big bike buffs, Najib received the 1Malaysia Chopper from Paul Teutul Sr, who custom-builds motor bikes in the US.

The 1Malaysia Chopper is adorned with beautiful images, including those of the National Flag, the Petronas Twin Towers and the National Flower (hibiscus). This ‘designer’ bike was ordered by Tourism Malaysia at the cost of RM450,000 (US$150,000).

Teutul Sr is the founder of Orange County Choppers (OCC), being featured in the popular Discovery Channel documentary American Chopper in which he, his family members and friends show how motorbikes are customised.

The 1Malaysia Chopper is a type of motorcycle either modified (chopped – hence its name) from an original motorcycle design or built from scratch to have a handcrafted appearance.

The main features of a chopper that make it stand out are its longer frame design accompanied by a stretch front end, or increased rake angle.

Well-known examples of chopper designs are the customised Harley Davidsons — the Captain America and Billy Bike seen in the 1969 film Easy Rider.

During the unveiling ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, the public had the chance to see privately-owned high-powered motorcycles, American Chopper custom-made design bikes and the mother of all big bikes – Harley Davidson.

thesundaypost also had the opportunity to talk to a Swiss corporate figure Manfred J Faehndrich, a big bike buff and the proud owner of a Goldwing motorcycle.

The big biker fraternity in Malaysia often refers to him as the ‘Godfather of Malaysian Goldwing.’ The Goldwing is a touring motorcycle designed and manufactured by Honda.

Introduced in October 1974, it went on to become a popular model in North America, Western Europe and Australia.

PREMIER INTEREST: Najib taking a close look at the 1Malaysia Chopper. With him are Paul Teutul Sr (third left) and other VIPs.

Adrenalin rush second to none when biker throttles up to a comfortable speed

Faehndrich who has lived here for 17 years, said when people sat on these big bikes, they detached themselves from other things in life, and the feeling of freedom permeated their biking world as soon as the two wheelers roared off.

He reckoned the adrenalin rush was second to none when the biker throttled up to a comfortable speed, sat back on the cushioned saddle and enjoyed the ride with the wind gusting by his goggled face and a beautiful scenery rolling up at every bend.

“This is where the roads in Malaysia are so much better than in Switzerland. The motorways here are fantastic and on top of that, the Goldwing is designed for long distance rides,” the burly Swiss enthused.

For Faehndrich, riding on Malaysian roads is fun and in the last four years, he had logged 45,000km on his bike — a Honda Goldwing 1800A he brought over from Switzerland.

The affable Swiss who has been riding big bikes on and off for 30 years, also revealed before owing the Honda Goldwing, he was riding Harley Davidson and BMW goldwings.

He described his present Honda Goldwing 1800A as a very heavy bike with six cylinders, a water coolant and weighing about 420kg without driver, luggage or petrol. The price for the 2012 model is about RM175,000.

“Of course, riding is more comfortable now, especially on long tours as bikes these days are equipped with GPS navigation system, CD player and radio.

“Most bikes have MP3/4 players and a CBR radio to talk to our riding companions or for convoy riding. These bring in all the comforts — for the pillion riders as well.”

More big bike tours

Faehndrich would like to see more big bike tours in Malaysia such as those he did in Thailand and Indonesia, saying Malaysia has a lot to offer.

He hoped the 5-Mountain Motorcycle Tour, a luxury package, initiated by Tourism Malaysia to attract tourists, covering five beautiful lofty spots — Genting Highlands, Fraser’s Hill, Cameron Highlands, Gunung Jerai, and Titiwangsa Range — could give riders, especially those from overseas, a different experience.

Faehndrich also shared his riding experiences in Sarawak and Sabah, especially along the coastal roads where he said he could get to know and mix with the locals amidst a kaleidoscope of traditions and cultures that is very unique.

He had ridden his Goldwing several times in Borneo — either from Kuching via Brunei to Kota Kinabalu or vice versa. In 2010, he traversed Sabah on a nine-day round trip and on May 31, he will be leaving for a 10-day tour of Switzerland and Austria on his Goldwing.

He noted there was a huge following for big biking in Malaysia and last year, he had the opportunity to join Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on a motorbike trip to South Africa.

Faehndrich said most big bikers had an affinity with the Goldwings as these machines were very comfortable for both rider and pillion.

“They’re very different from fast sport bikes or choppers like Harley Davidsons. There are many pros and cons and it’s up to the individual, really. But one of the greatest things for any biker is the feeling of freedom riding a beautiful machine out there on the road. Of course, everybody has his or her own preference. It all depends on what they like to do and the bikes they own.”

He said Malaysians had fallen in love with big bikes because of action movies like Easy Riders as well as high profile international motor sports such as the MotoGP (motorcycles) and the Formula One World Championship held annually at Sepang.

“Unfortunately, not everybody can own a big bike in Malaysia as it is very expensive.”

Faehndrich noted that big bike riders were often compared to gangs and bad types and while admitting there were such cultures in the west, he hoped Malaysian riders were different – like being law-abiding and “treating their wheels as something they appreciate in life.”

His advice to big bikers: Be careful on the road and take care of yourself and your machine. Follow the law and be alert to road signs. Don’t drink and ride or do anything that will compromise your safety. Remember, it’s safety first.