You know they are coming, even with your windows wound up. A distant hum of a jet fighter, in a few instances the sonic boom rumbles nearer and nearer, and before you know it, a dozen full- face helmeted dudes in puny motorbikes sans the exhaust mufflers swarm around you like angry bees. You floor the pedal to shake them off but you find that this is actually throwing a challenge to them to a race. So you slow down again to let them pass. Then with blood curdling Red Indian's whoops they lift their front wheels and roar off. Congratulation, you have just been matrempited (root word: Mat Rempit, legendary Honda Cub rider, whose dare-devil stunts on Malaysian roads finally earned him a much-sought-after turf beside a Sultan's mausoleum). Yes, the scourge of the Mat Rempits on Malaysian roads had many of us in Parkinson's-like shaking spell on every unfortunate encounter.
This group of free-spirited roadsters are not to be confused with the Hell's Angels for the very simple reason that they are not astride Harleys, Honda Gold Wings, Kawasaki Ninjas or the likes, but are invariably the pint-size motorbikes pioneered by the popular Honda Cub of the 60s. Mat Rempits are spoilt for choice when it comes to their tools of trade, Honda,Yamaha, Suzuki, Modenas (a Malaysian marque, see? It catches on, isn't it?), all offer models suitable for matrempiting.
Do not be deceived by these humble looking machines, a "cub" is a born sprinter and woe betides the open-top coupe driver revving his machine comtemptiously beside a Yamaha speedster at a traffic stop, thinking he can out-race the two-wheeler. Even with a minuscule engine of 100 c.c., a cub can bolt from 0-80 kph within a fraction of what it takes a conventional engined car to do, leaving the coupe owner coughing in its fumes far behind. This, coupled with its extreme maneuvrability, means myriad ways to weave in and out of jammed traffic, both invaluable features of a bike in case they are under hot pursuit by the law. And under the skillful hands of a like-minded mechanic, the removal of the exhaust pipe's muffler can produce the kind of racket even Michael Shumacher would shed tears of joy on hearing while giving the thumbs-up.
Mat Rempits are your innocent-looking dude-in-the-street you see hanging out everyday and everywhere, in shopping malls, mamak stalls and dangdut joints. Many ply their trade as handbag snatchers in the day time and housebreaking at night. A few bolder ones inevitably graduated to become accomplished robbers. Smoking is compulsory among this tribe and tribal leaders usually sport pillion-riding girl friends who are equally gung-ho when it comes to matrempiting. Pillion riders are very useful to them when they are not doing their stuff, they just blend into the crowd of decent bikers. Didn't I tell you they are innocent dude-in-the-street? ( or on-the-road if you prefer) .
The antics of Mat Rempits are actually stuffs of circus, without the safety nets, of course. Lifting the front wheel and cruising along at breakneck speed is their signature act, and all self-respecting gang members are expected to perform this stunt expertly even when blindfolded. Rider standing on seat and look!-no-hands is a no-brainer for them. Pillion riders standing on seats is another favourite. Of course their repertoires include the usual rubber burning on highways and terrorizing motorists out of their wits. It's all in a day's work.
And what could be more spectacular than a horde of noisy bikers racing on a deserted highway (at midnight) on one wheel with the cops in hot pursuit and a cheering crowd? That these intrepid bikers thumb their noses at the law had been a regular fixture of such shows indicates their skill in handling these devil-spawn machines.
Mat Rempits are most happy when they have an audience, whether appreciative, disapproving or just plain curious, it doesn't matter. They move in stealthily after dark to busy night joints like open air watering holes and mamak stalls, and just when you are about to take a swig of your Tiger beer, a deafening roar starts suddenly and you know a matrempit race is on-going. Follow the surging crowd quickly or you'll only get the tail wind as the racket zooms by.
Traffic cops had long threw up their collective hands in the air in exasperation and can only hope to minimise the number of such races. Raids are conducted regularly, but after a quiet spell, the death wishers start their game again. Threat of death, maimed permanently, toothless, becoming vegetables, these are but hollow words as far as these brave souls are concerned. Well, the foolhardiness of youth, you can't override them, can you?