Breaking Stereotypes: Astana Motorcyclists

By Yerbolat Uatkhanov

sloboda5In Stereotypes are very strong things. Expecting to meet a real biker, this writer wondered what he would look like. The preconceived notion was he would be driving his huge black motorcycle with a lot of details glinting in the sun, wearing a natural skin jacket and jeans and have long hair and a beard.

Not so! Off with the stereotypes! He won’t come like this in the midst of the work day, because he is an ordinary man who rides his bike in his free time.

This writer was not right. He came as a real biker with all the attributes imagined.

“I can’t say that I don’t feel a fear. Even in a car I drive cautiously. You have to be careful.

Motorcycling is dangerous, but everything is dangerous. Living is also dangerous!” said Dmitry Leshko, nicknamed “Yeti,” a real biker and president of sloboda2Sloboda Bike Club in an interview with EdgeKz.

Despite the possible risks, Leshko noted bikers have ways to shield themselves.

“Everybody can buy gear, even a jacket with airbags,so you can protect yourself,” he said.

Unlike those who start riding at a young age, Leshko waited until he was a man to take up the sport. His “real biker’s life” began following a rock festival.

“After the festival, my friends gave me a present –a Ural, a very old Soviet heavy bike. It took me approximately one year to tune it and I became a real biker,”he said.

Now 31, Leshko works as expert in auto electronics. He is married and has two children.

“My wife isn’t indignant because of my bike and this style of living. She accepted this, because it is a very important part of my life. You know, I can’t imagine my life without motorcycling,” he said.

Leshko noted that bikers in Astana, Kazakhstan and the former Soviet Union interact with each other. If somebody comes to Astana from another city, all the capital’s bikers always help him. It is obligatory. It is a rule.

sloboda4He rides a Kawasaki Vulcan, a classic chopper, and has a very nice car, a Mercedes S class, which he likes to drive it, too. Leshko noted a car and a bike are absolutely different things, however, not unlike the members of the club.

“I can’t describe an average biker in Astana. We are very different. We have different haircuts, bikes and listen to very different music. Usually there are no old people. I know only a few guys who are 50 and older. We have girls and they are real bikers, too.”

“Our club was established by my friends and me on a cold winter evening. It does not have any connections with foreign bike clubs, doesn’t make a claim for any territories and is ready for any cooperation with other bike clubs. We accept everybody without distinction of nationality, confession, gender and social status. We don’t care what brand of motorcycle you use and how much it cost,” said Leshko.

He recommends solving two major problems before one buys a bike.

“The first one is to get a driver’s license. You can be trained in a driving school, but it is better to get additional lessons by hiring a good instructor. Also, sloboda1you should practice at a safe place; safe not only for you, but for other people, too,” he said.

Leshko works for a car service and has an opportunity to keep his iron horse there, but he warns about the second problem.

“It is necessary to decide where you are going to keep your bike. This is a tricky question, because keeping a bike at any parking area or even closed parking doesn’t protect your bike from being stolen. A bike is a quite small thing and it can be loaded onto any small truck in one minute. It is also recommended to keep a bike in warm place in winter. That is why the best choice is a heated garage, which is expensive to buy and to rent, too,” he noted.

Leshko recommends purchasing a bike with a 400-cubic centimetre engine as the first one, because more powerful motorcycles are heavier and too unwieldly for a novice. Light bikes of that size are far easier to control.

Leshko discussed his cycling travel plans.

sloboda12“I plan to visit Caucasus and the Black Sea riding a bike. My chopper isn’t very suitable for such trips. It would be better to ride a cruiser or a heavy Enduro for this trip. They are really comfortable. Maybe I will change my motorcycle,” he said.

A used Japanese bike can usually be purchased for $3,000. The models typically have low mileage and won’t need repair in the near future. Riders can buy a new Chinese bike, but Leshko doesn’t recommend it, because even a used Japanese bike will be more reliable.

“We don’t ride bikes without any reason in our club. Usually when we have a meeting, we ride to a bar to drink beer. Sometimes we go somewhere with our families and friends. Fishing trips are very popular in our club, too. Everybody can join us. As I said before, we are open to the public,” said the Astana biker, gunning the mighty and shiny engine and inviting everybody to join his friendly and cheerful community.

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