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Drag Racing For Men In Tights

The annual Deus Dress Up Drag rolls on and stakes its claim to the most quirky event of the year. Words: Thomas Leitch. Images: @kelibow & @ol_sin


IT began as a birthday celebration for a couple of mates but, from these humble beginnings, the Deus Dress Up Drag became a whole bunch more.


Drawing crowds and participants from the region the event swelled, open to all, expats, locals, motorcycle enthusiasts and those simply looking for a few thrills and giggles on a sun-kissed Sunday afternoon.


Deus ex Machina, and its flagship Temple of Enthusiasm in Canggu, is known globally for its custom bikes. Café Racers, hand-built roadsters and reformed dirt bikes fill the bengkel and shop floor, and visitors from around the world are tantalised by the glittering chrome and steel. But while custom bikes are in full force at the event, held annually in May and now in its sixth year, the Dress-Up Drag opens the doors to all-comers. The ride doesn’t matter – it’s the smiles that count.


Costumes imbibe the day with a further sense of fun, the bikes doing the dragging, not the outfits. While a few take it literally, embodying their inner alter-gender, all manner of get-ups are welcomed and encouraged. From Mario and Luigi to mock mini-cops, school boys and cowboys, anything goes.


The Deus Dress Up Drag is, first and foremost, a coming together of community, a collaboration of diverse individuals in a ‘ride what you got’ day out. The local kids participate, stripping the tarmac on the side roads and throwing wheelies while waiting for the event to gear up. When the chequered flag drops, they take their two-stroke mopeds tyre-to-tyre against the big boys, giving the home crowd the thrills they’re there for.


Taking place on a fresh-mown field just off the main road in Berawa, ancient trees arching their boughs and offering shady respite from the glaring sun, the setting is as much for picnic blankets and cold beers as it is for opening the throttle and racing down the hundred-metre track. There isn’t a relentless, raucous drone of engines, nor the noxious smell of burning rubber and two-stroke fuel; it’s a casual affair with the winner taking nothing, in fact, being devoid of winner at all.


The 2016 event, presented by the Deus Temple of Enthusiasm, was the best to date, bringing in a hundred locals and expats for the afternoon. Out of nowhere, a flag girl presented herself, waving the chequered flag with fervor and adding just a hint of formality to the fun. At only eight years old, no one had told the youngest rider that it wasn’t a serious race, and his concentrated frown bore down the track, facing off against his dad on a scaled down replica of his father’s big dirt bike. As if the hounds of hell themselves were chasing him, he rocketed fearlessly down the grass strip, focused on the flag alone with nothing but a win his only acceptable outcome.


But for everyone else, the first across the line was inconsequential. The competition could be left for the serious bikers – this was about the camaraderie, the thrill of charging down the open field without traffic to be concerned with, but also the times when the ignition had been clicked off and all could laugh at themselves and with each other.


For the Deus Dress-Up Drag, it’s not the one who wins, it’s the one having the most fun that counts and, by that mantra, everyone – even those that didn’t straddle a bike on the day – was a winner.