Nuy Chhayasetarith has been riding his “motorthom,” as large-sized motorcycles are known in Cambodia, for five years. He prefers them to other types of two-wheeled rides, as he feels more confident on a big bike, and it gets him to his destination quicker.
Mr Chhayasetarith is the leader of Cambodia Custom Bike, a club for passionate motorthom fans who get together not only to explore the countryside and interesting places in Cambodia, but also to donate their time to educational activities in the areas they visit.
“I think if my group just travels places without doing something there, it’s meaningless. But if we can do some sort of charity work during our travels, it’s a way of helping society during our journey,” Mr Chhayasetarith said.
Another man with a passion for motorthom is Nang Chumnith, who got his love of big bikes from his dad and his uncle, who used motorthoms to get around in their daily lives. Mr Chumnith, a member of the Biker’s Brothers Cambodia club, started saving up to buy his first motorthom after graduating from high school. He puts money aside so that he can upgrade his ride, something he’s done almost every year since 2014.
Another source of inspiration for Mr Chumnith when he was getting into motorcycle riding was the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, an international event run by motorcycle enthusiasts to raise money to promote awareness of prostate cancer and male suicide prevention.
Mr Chumnith describes his bike as being a “classic”, which he says matches his “classic” soul. He said that riding his motorthom leaves him feeling comfortable travelling anywhere.
“I love riding a motorthom because it gives me a powerful feeling. Moreover, it makes me look more manly than a normal motorbike. I like to explore the country by motorbike, so this type of bike is the best fit for me,” he said.
His lifestyle has completely changed since he started riding his motorthom, he said.
“It has changed me a lot. One example is my appearance. But I don’t look like a member of motorcycle gang. Personally I think I look like more of a gentleman,” Mr Chumnith said.
The biker said the amount of noise his bikes make depends on how fast he’s going. “Each bike has a different sound, but it depends partly on how fast you’re going. If you want to be able to drive fast with less noise, you can customise the engine if you’re willing to spend the money on it,” he said.
Mr Chumnith wants his bike to be an extension of his personality, not just look the same as all the others from the factory. He designs and customises his own bikes, reflecting his motto: “If you want it, create it.”
Motorthoms have their critics, but Mr Chumnith urges them not to blame all bikers for the sins
of a few.
“A few bad riders make people hate all motorthom drivers because of the horrible noise,” he said. “Not all motorthom riders are the same; some drive recklessly, but some are really careful not to make any noise at all, so it’s wrong to assume that we’re all bad,” Mr Chumnith said.
Rith Chansanvitou, a member of Cambodia Custom Bike, shares the view that there’s nothing as comfortable as riding a motorthom.
“My bike allows me to reach any corner of Cambodia. Also, when I ride a motorthom, I feel more in control on the road compared to riding a small or normal-sized bike,” Mr Chansanvitou said.