CHENNAI: He spins, twirls, stops and even does a perfect somersault – all of this atop a 1000 CC bike that whirrs amid the cheers of enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies at Satyam Cinemas. Watching Arunas Gibieza, the European champion, perform some extreme stunts, gives one the much needed adrenaline rush and leaves us craving for more. In a tete-a-tete, Arunas, fondly called as Aras, gets chatty and opens up about his life in Lithuania, his love for the Indian crowd, safety and more…
The Lithuaninan freestyle stunt biker was recently in the city, to unveil the Suzuki Gixxer 2017 Series and recalls his first brush with a bike. “I used to ride a bicycle every day. It was my mode of transportation and one day, I felt like driving a real bike!” he recalled. So, on his 10th birthday, Aras was in for a surprise when his grandfather decided to gift him a Suzuki RG 50. “That was my first bike and before I knew I started learning stunts by myself. I used to watch some videos, but our access to it was very less back then. We didn’t have things like YouTube…” he smiled.
Practicing several variations of wheelies and stoppies, and dragging his feet on the ground to balance the bike, Aras emerged a natural stunt rider. “I was always intrigued by stunts and it was natural for me. My family wasn’t worried about what would become of me…they believed I knew what I was doing,” he said.
He bought his first super bike (Yamaha R6) when he was 16 and started performing in professional competitions. “I started performing across countries and I got noticed back home,” said Aras, who considers himself one of the pioneers of stunt riding in Lithuania. “When I started, it wasn’t known much. But, today there are little boys who want to become stunt riders. I help them out by conducting competitions for people between 16 and 18. But I am not into full-time mentoring; I just want to give them a helping hand,” he clarified.
By 2006, Aras became a race driver but he never missed a day to practice his daily routine. “By 2009, I realised that my calling was in speed and the extremeness and I went back to stunt riding and have been doing it ever since!” he grinned.
After several injuries, some even severe and excruciatingly painful, Aras opined that every fall taught him a few lessons. “Not once have I given up because of a fall. Instead I have learned from my mistakes and rectified them. That’s important in this field – to get up, learn, and move on to excel in the stunts that you do!” shared the rider famous for his ‘360 degree kangaroo stoppie’. “Falling is the only way to explore your limits and that’s what I love doing.”
But, the rider is a stickler for safety and says that having proper equipment and practicing in a closed area are important. “In open spaces, you may not only harm yourself, but others too. You will not have the right focus. Similarly, trying stunts without proper gear is lethal and ‘is not fun’!” he advised.
He pointed out to the lack of following rules by commuters in Chennai. “Compared to last year, I see many people wearing helmets, but still a many have it on their tank and don’t wear it. That’s not good, and they have to be concerned about safety,” he rued.
Touring the country for the fourth time, Aras said the Chennai crowd his favourite in the whole world! “In other places, it’s very different. But here, there is constant cheering and huge support. Fans go crazy for the stunts and I love it. There are people who travel from different cities to see me and I make it a point to talk to them!” he said, clearly moved by the respect and attention he had been receiving.
When asked about his other interests, he says he loves music and movies, and oh, the Indian culture of ‘intervals’ between movies intrigues the two-time European champion. “Fast and Furious is my favourite franchise and I saw the seventh part in India. It was a different experience…the movie shuts half way, and people go to drink and eat. For a minute, I thought I need to pay more to see the second half!” he chuckled.
Aras will be touring other cities including Bengaluru, Pune, Kolkata and Mumbai as part of the Suzuki Gixxer tour 2017.