Photos and Text By Asanka Brendon Ratnayake
Nine-time world champion trail biker professional, Belgian Kenny Belaey kick-started his Sri Lankan tour on the 26th of February.
While a relative unknown on our shores, Kenny is a highly respected & accomplished trail rider having amassed a staggering nine world championships. The charismatic 28 year old completed his tour yesterday in conjunction with his sponsors Red Bull.
To the unfamiliar trail biking may just seem like an excuse to perform a few ‘party tricks’ on a pushbike. In reality however it’s a highly disciplined sport requiring the highest level of concentration, agility, power whilst having the finesse & accuracy of a ballerina. Biketrail is a form of mountain biking derived from motorcycle trails. The rider negotiates man-made and natural obstacles without their feet touching the ground. The bike itself isn’t your conventional BMX, it’s specifically designed for its use. In most cases the bike doesn’t have a seat. Kenny showed The Sunday Leader his bike which has an aluminum frame with triple butted tubing and a shock absorbing concave design with a top tube ‘hump’ to increase front end strength and stiffness. The Carbon fiber handlebars & hydraulic disc brakes effectively make this the Formula One car of trail bikes.
Nicknamed ‘The Magician’, Kenny has performed before hundreds of thousands and intends to give Sri Lanka its first introduction to the sport. Entertaining crowds at some intriguing venues from Colombo nightclubs to Galle Fort to Pinnawella elephant orphanage to Fort Railway station, Kenny hopes to not just entertain but also give locals an understanding of the professionalism involved. To compete effectively Kenny must have a maximum 7-10% body fat.
The extreme nature of the sport leaves riders prone to serious injury. The fact Kenny has not yet suffered from serious injury while acquiring 9 world championship titles is nothing short of extraordinary, testament to his professionalism and flawless technique. The Belgian spoke casually to The Sunday Leader about the rigours of the sport. The cool persona of the world champion however didn’t hide the fact he was the utmost professional who practically lives on his bike as he has little time to relax due to his rigourous training regime seeing him perfecting manoeuvres and orchestrating performances with impeccable timing & poise. He mentions that the lifespan of a professional trail biker extends no further than their mid 30s. For this reason he has aligned himself with high-end sponsorship and is the first rider who managed to launch a TV show about trail biking on a worldwide platform, named “Kenny Belaey’s Bigtime Trail Adventure”.
With youngsters in the country always looking for alternative sports to participate in, trail biking could be perfectly conducive to locals given the high levels of agility needed. This matched with our ingenuity could hopefully one day see Sri Lanka’s own Kenny Belaey.