Big motorbikes rev up again under Iranian reforms

Sun Aug 30, 2015 8:01am EDT
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By Nadia Saleem and Bozorgmehr Sharafedin

DUBAI (Reuters) - The joy of riding big Japanese and American motorbikes was just one of the pleasures taken away from Iranians after the country's Islamic revolution.

But three decades on, to the delight of enthusiasts, there are signs of restrictions being eased. This month a dozen bikers on pre-revolutionary and newer models were allowed a strictly regulated ride in Tehran.

It was still a far cry from the open highways of "Easy Rider".

Special permission is needed to ride just one weekend per month and the cruise is limited to specific streets during daylight hours. Women are still prohibited from riding bikes.

It fits in, however, with other developments as Iran opens up to the West again under reform-minded President Hassan Rohani.

The ban outlawing motorcycles with engines above the size of 250 cubic cm was introduced in the early years of the revolution to halt drive-by killings of Iranian officials by the opposition.

It was also part of an effort to eradicate vestiges of an un-Islamic Western lifestyle that had prevailed under the monarchy overthrown in 1979. Women were barred from riding motorcycles as it was seen as incompatible with Shi'ite Islamic values.

Motorbikes with big engine power were used exclusively by the Basij, the government's plain-clothes security force, which often paraded on them around Tehran in a show of power.   Continued...

An Iranian visitor takes photograph of Harley Davidson motorcycles during the Tehran Classic Car Show 09 at Niavaran palace in northern Tehran July 21, 2009. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/Files