Thursday, December 16, 2010

Anthology of two wheels

I belong to an age where possessing a cycle was a sign of prosperity. Back then to be called really rich  - one had to posses a car; one of the two models, the aunty (Ambassador) or the kid (Premier padmini). Two wheelers were a rarity on the roads and then again most of them were either a 50cc affair or a bajaj scooter. Appa then bought a 50cc affair called the TVS50 XL model.                          
TVS is to South india what Bajaj was for the north of the Godavari river. Looking at the image today I wonder how the four of us fit on to it and zoomed around. Time flowed and appa bought me a bicycle - not your fancy multi-geared multi colored contraption. A simple device which took me from point A to point B. Through junior college and sometime after I was pedaling away or most times to save energy held onto locking chains hanging from the rear of any truck or turn goofy and hold a friend's hand who was riding pillion on a scooter. Race against smoke spewing buses (if you don't want the smoke in your face, you have to rush past) 
Children today would look at this and exclaim - "But this has nothing in it to provide an experience". I don't want to sound a reverse snob, but in our times we defined experience by our effort and not dictated by a contraption. Hummpppphhhh!!!. Signs of modernity I suppose. The mills of the gods grind at a very slow pace and appa procured through jugaad a Bajaj Scooter. Rahul Bajaj supposedly grinned at slow pace of production and arrogantly exclaimed that the people of India will wait for their scooter. I have been assured many times that this is an urban legend. You dear reader can decide what to believe. I care two toots of my bikes horn for the sordid details.
And don't even start asking about colors. Looked like Mr. Bajaj took his color lessons from Mr. Henry Ford. Back then nobody really cared about colors what with the dirty green buses operated by the state government or the black or white amby or padmini which  an occasional imaginative and resourceful person would get them painted in garish colors. Mind you we were still a two wheeler income family. A car was still out of our measly range. (Dear reader, don't start and tell me that most families are still so. Stop grudging my hard work and efforts to get out of that range).  But scooter compared better to a TVS 50 on the social scale. And a Bajaj chetak signaled that you have arrived. People would envy you as you zoomed;well actually trudged along the roads. Appa was never confident of driving fast and the roads ensured that you do not even think about speed. I coined my first gem at this time - the shortest distance between two pot holes is called a road. Around this time we did not even stop to think that there might be other two wheelers on the road, but mind you they were there. Not making a mark but still successfully transporting people - The Bajaj-M80 is the first zip drive(not your pants zip or storage devices) I can think of. Then there were others like  Enfield Mofa (I bet dear reader you are trying to figure the wheels) Hero majestic, Kinetic Luna, Silver plus and a lot more.

Some pictures
Bajaj M80
Hero Majestic
Kinetic Luna
Enfield Mofa- Touted 90KMpL
Enfield Silver plus.
A teenager's desire

As you see not much of a choice among bikes even in dreams. The mills of the gods kept turning and in one stroke I saw something which altered my choices and hence even dreams. - MOTORCYCLES - another few years from now we will stop seeing the likes of such. Rajdoot, mini rajdoot, Jawa, yezdi (names which make me drool in anticipation) Just riding pillion on one of these was a cathartic effect. Once we went to Chennai to my uncle's place and I saw the real first love of my life - A jawa motorcycle - ooooooh! the  chrome, the thump of its engine and everything enthralled me. 
Its gear lever doubling up as the kick-start for the bike, the big mud-flaps et al made it an object of desire. My uncle took me on a ride on the bike and I was head over heels on the sounds she made. Rev high, go on a high gear and let go of the accelarator and the sound would be like buuuddd!!!zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!!Buhd and then again the same sequence till you hit the accelarator again. 

The Rajdoot
The mini-rajdoot made popular by
 the movie - Bobby

Now these beauties on the road were there long before I was as tall as them and so driving one was out of question. I moved into my teens and there were a couple of more brands on the roads and suddenly the roads were teeming with two wheelers. The age of transport-migration had begun. Leading the brand pack were there - Yamaha RX100, TVS Suzuki and Hero Honda CD100. We had television at home by now and a color tv at that-the brand is long lost and was called Binatone. On this invention we would see different ads and we were moved by the jingles and automatically we would choose our bikes by their jingle. I chose Yamaha! Well she had a nice tune to go with- "Listen to the heart beat of the YAMAHA". She was a beauty.

Time passed. I went into serious studies, preparing and flunking examinations while my sister found a job and with her new found income she bought a beauty (well she was red in color). The TVS Champ. One of my friends called it "basanti'. As luck would have it, sister quit her job soon after and went for further studies. I was still figuring out "what am I doing here in this world". And Basanti de-facto became mine.

Within two months of this coming into my hands, I got the hooter removed and the rear brake lethargic and many a pillion rider have lost their wits riding behind me as I zipped in and out of traffic. At this stage of my confused life, the mills of the gods seemingly stopped especially for our family as we plunged into a crisis. we sold our house and also the champ. For a few miserable years we pulled along and my means of transportation were relegated to the two beautiful legs god gave me and the dinosaurs which the state run transport gave us. Jostling and butting, getting on and of the bus while it was running, raising tempers all added to the misery. Then the gods had mercy on 
us and we were spared further depredations (moralists stay of). my sister came back from her studies, took up a new job and bought yet another gem - the Kinetic K4. This remained loyal to me until a year ago when appa in my absence sold it of(Poor thing was rusting at home).
My sister's luck with regards to automobiles ran out and she got married leaving the poor thing (which by the way I called Dhanno in honor of the horse from Sholay) an orphan. For 5 long years she served me faithfully. Came out stronger after surgery(met with a couple of accidents due do other jealous stupid gits). I moved to Pune from Hyderabad and took up a job and I was thinking why not buy one of my dreams. During my indecisiveness during this period, I saw a couple of monster gems on the road. They came from the stable of Royal Enfield Motors. The Bullet series. (kisses flying all over). In addition to the bike, the other road users were careful around them. The respect factor is massive. I wanted one and after a couple of inquiries I figured that I was not yet ready. Colloquially speaking "mere paas chaddi nahi thi".
Ruefully I checked other options and found a bike more towards my liking and chaddi size. The Baja Pulsar DTSI. Now this mini-monster whom I christened Viru(make the link - Basanti-Dhanno) was my best bike till now.
By now I came to understand a little about bikes. All they ask for is a little care and they serve for ever or as long as you find a better love. 5 long years Viru was with me and we faced weather and man together. Never once did Viru ever strand me (taang diya)

I got married, am raising a son and in the midst of this I fulfilled my dream of buying one of the emperor's version. The Royal Enfield Classic 500. A dream come true. I raised my chaddi high enough to accumulate the necessary funds and procure my dream.

This is mine and I am saying it so. My son, Prataparudhra is now three years and he staked a claim the very next day I brought the emperor home.Why did he do so? well it was his birthday. Driving on the emperor is a veritable pleasure. The respect from the other road users is immense. Fewer honkings and no one trying to edge you off the road. I also get to see the envy of other road users and feel happy about it.

I can go on and on about the emperor whom I have named - Pinaka after the great bow of my god, the supergod Shiva. This might turn out to be the last two wheeler I ever buy. I am also running out of names for them. I bought a car after procrastinating for years. But there would not be a story for the car because a car is well a car. The bullet is a "statement".


  1. Maa kasam... Kya hai yeh artical... Maja aagaya...
    Bult is too good yaar... dying to hear the sound of it... :)

    Number bhi mast mila hai yaar 2373 good good

  2. Fantastic .... Chodne ka man nahin kiya till I finished it...

  3. superb, that certainly got the memories back, TVS champ, bajaj and 50 ka photos dekhke , ek chota aanson nikal gaya:-)
    how can i ever forget the K4 100 ..
    Nice one, keep writing

  4. Nice one… Took my memories to the good old days of fewer options, and you have made a great note of the evolution of the motored vehicles in India

  5. Thanks to your blog, I know a lot more of the bikes from the days of yore.....By the way how is your Enfield Classic turning out? I am planning to buy one and rumors are spreading quickly about the quality or the lack of it of that new model.

  6. @Binny
    Thanks for your comments about the blog. This is my first enfield and as such I am not aware of the Classic 500's lack of quality.
    But Here are my personal observations
    1. Awesome pickup
    2. Awesome torque.
    3. Sadly the signature thump Enfield is missing, but you can get some (not a lot) satisfaction by changing the long tube silencer with the bent silencer.
    4. As always the respect from the other road users is a feel good, though you have to get used to the stares.
    5. I am used to low response brakes and so have tweaked my bike's rear brakes to be a bit loose so no instant braking.
    6. Some usability issues are there like there is no "reserve" indicator. True a bulb starts blinking but not good enough.
    7. The kick start is not as responsive as I might like it to be, but it is no show stopper.
    8. You will have to deal with a lot of envy from other bullet users. :)

  7. The vehicle that you mentioned as Hero Majestic is actually a Suvega (manufactured in Tirupathi, AP, head office was in Coimbatore) and the Silver Plus you posted is not an Indian version for sure, may be an original Zundapp model sold elsewhere. We owned at least half of the lot that you wrote about. Nice to see pictures of these beauties after a long time. Good writing too.

  8. Hi,

    Nice article. Transporting readers into the past.

    Just a thought. You missed out on one of the important bikes of 90s generation. The KB100. The Cheetah ad.

    I am a proud owner of one and hence the reply.

  9. @Surya
    The silver plus image is hacked by a Google search and I had to do that since my neighbor who owned one had sold it for scrap just when I asked him for a photograph.
    I believe the Hero majestic came in two flavors one shown above - owned by my dad's friend and the other which had the petrol tank as part of the chassis from the handle below. Sadly could not get its photograph.

    Sorry i missed the KB100. Big lapse on my part. It had a great thump too.

  10. ture that hero majestic came in two variant, my dad owned the other one. i think hh sleek also did some noise in the market atleast with teenagers. anyways excellent writeup i enjoyed.