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Wednesday, June 5, 2013


The good old days. When all that mattered was the road ahead, my beautiful and faithful Bullet 350 below me and just enough money for fuel to get home.

How things have changed, how the wanderlust has been chained and jailed. A time when 'riding kit'
consisted of an MPA helmet, a weathered windcheater, a loose cotton T-shirt, a pair of faded jeans, hand-me-down buckskin gloves from my father and beat up leather army boots. But we fucking rode, and  how. Saddle time was far greater than the cock talk.
We didn't watch instructional videos on how to straighten corners. But we always reached where we needed to go in one piece.We criss-crossed the country and dreamed of going beyond international borders. 
Our bikes seldom failed us, although some of them were older than our very selves. When they did break down, we knew how to get them back on the road. We didn't have mobile phones and so always rode within visible range. Six lane highways existed only in foreign movies. We rode on state highways that were thick lines only in the maps. We ended every day of riding with a smile and some whiskey and rum, sometimes swallowed together. Nobody grumbled, everybody only smiled. Nobody had presentations to work on or emails to reply to. We were free. 

We drank from canals and streams and ate from holes in the wall. We slept alongside the road, under trees, in trees, in random village homes. We never spoke about where we've been but where we wanted to go. Everybody was made welcome, blokes with inflated egos were kicked in the balls.

We never had 'meets' nor did we spend hours on internet forums - we spent that time where it mattered, on the saddle. We didn't flaunt our bikes wherever or whenever pussy strode past us. Our bikes were filthy with the grime only hundreds of miles of riding can accumulate. We were proud of our appearance. We didn't care what the world thought of us. We respected the law, shook hands with cops and waved at fellow motorcyclists.

Yes, those were golden years indeed.

Friday, May 31, 2013


We men are losing our, erm, manhood. In the not so distant past, if you were a director and wanted to portray masculinity in your film, you automatically asked your prop guy to go find a motorcycle and the costume designer was instructed to conjure up a leather bomber jacket and a pair of good-fitting jeans for the lead bloke.

Today, it seems, you just get the hero a tablet. Not the blue diamond shaped pill that is acclaimed for getting men around the world up and about, but the one that kills your virility if you use it on your lap. I mean, when I meet guys my age, the first thing they want to know is why I don't get myself a smart phone; forget about asking who and what I ride, or which sport I follow.

Sure, I do not expect everyone to dig motorcycles the way I do, but what about the other manly pursuits like cars, guns, aircraft, horses? Even music has lost its hair and ball sac. You want proof? Line up Justin Diaper with Bruce Sprinsteen...

Where have the men gone? And why have the women let them go? They are definitely not out there carving corners on motorcycles and skinning knuckles wrenching on them. And I don't think they're in there with their women either. I read somewhere that the sales of women's 'play things' are increasing. Although I cannot attest the authenticity of that claim, motorcycle manufacturers will confirm that lesser people are buying motorcycles the world over. Except for India but then again, most people here ride bikes because they are cheaper to run and maintain than cars and way more comfortable than the overcrowded public transportation system - they certainly do not ride for the sheer joy that only motorcycles can provide. So what does that tell you? Well, we're getting soft. And flaccid. And soon we'll need to squat to take a whizz if we don't correct what is happening.

My advice to the three people reading this rant is this. Buy yourself a motorcycle, the older and more derelict it is, the better. Buy a set of tools and begin to bring that bike back to its prime. It will give you scars on your skin and strength in your muscle. All that sweating will clean out your pores, perhaps clearing the way for some facial hair to sprout.

Sell off that smart phone, and use the money to get yourself a pair (yes, two) of good helmets and riding kit. When your bike is done, ride off to your girlfriend's place and tell her that she's coming with you for a ride. Don't tell her where, because you shouldn't know either. When you two are actually there, wherever it may be, forget your office. Forget your home. For those few hours. You will thank me. And your girl will love the fact that she got her man back!

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I never thought this would ever happen in my lifetime. Sure, Royal Enfield enthusiasts started the movement and the manufacturer furthered the cause. But till date, the only big motorcycle meet in the country was limited to Royal Enfield bikes alone.

Things are changing, however. Finally, here's a bike fest happening and it's open to everyone who rides anything with two wheels with a motor slung in between for good effect! Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the India Bike Week that's going to over run Goa between the 2nd and 3rd of February 2013.

Judging from the launch party, I can safely say that they love their motorcycles. Any band of blokes who doll up the entrance with a pristine Norton Manx 350 and an unmolested vintage AJS gets my vote. The Harleys were there and so were the Beemers and as usual, the Bullet riding boys were there too in  good strength. What seemed cool to me was that a solitary RX 100 cafe made it too, and had its own spotlight!

What's better is that the boys behind that awesome Helmet Stories motorcycle blog, good friends Vir Nakai and Harsh Man Rai, are heavily involved.

I'm going to be there. Don't know what I'll be riding though, but for once, it doesn't really matter. As long as you arrive with bugs on your visor and your jacket caked with dust, you'll be welcome! Good times beckon!


Sometimes, you have to let go of the things that are the closest to you. Things that you have poured your heart and soul and life savings into. Life's like that. Yeah, a bitch.

My 1954 AJS 16M came to me all the way from central India. It had changed hands several times, each owner leaving his ugly mark on the poor girl. By the time it reached my place, the gear shafts were stripped of all splines, the magneto had lost all its spark, the motor had seen better days, some of the nuts and bolts had come off cupboards and bullock carts and the suspension was short.

The AJS, after many years of my fettling. She left in this condition.
 Wages back then, just as they are now, seemed too meagre to mount a complete restoration. I did what I could, getting one aspect of the motorcycle fixed as best as my capacity and wallet could permit.

The result was a fine motorcycle that was rough around the edges. A machine that had its own whims and fancies. A motorcycle that would sometimes start right up in the first kick and run the rest of the day like the finest Swiss clockwork. But on other days, the AJS was stubborn like syphilis, refusing to even fire once, let alone run. 

But the journey to get her here was long and well worth it. However, everything comes to an end and the good old AJS was packed off, destined this time to southern India.
I'm glad to see, however, that the current owner has started where I left off. In fact, he's gone 30 steps ahead already, with a complete ground up restoration. I couldn't have been happier for the old girl for she totally deserves what's coming to her!

This is how the (can't call her mine anymore) AJS now stands. And from what I can see, she couldn't have gone to a better home!

Friday, July 6, 2012


I love surprises. And especially when it comes to riding a motorcycle. But sadly, I don't get any on the machines I've been riding all thanks to my day job.

On today's machines, you thumb the starter, shift into first and away you go. You reach your destination, dismount, plonk the thing on its kick stand, and get about doing what you set out to. On most occasions, there isn't even a need to check the fuel level, since the thing returns such a ridiculous fuel consumption that you could ride around Asia in a tablespoon of petrol.

But that's just plain fucking boring, in my opinion. I want my motorcycles to emit strange noises as they plod along, making me wonder what's up. I whack open the throttle, only to find the sounds changing, allowing my mind to deduce that the piston is about to come off its gudgeon pin and come straight up into my balls. And then a jackass driving a tin shed on four wheels veers out of nowhere, busy on his mobile phone. I panic, not knowing whether those old drum brakes will actually do their job on time. There's no fuel indicator and gauging the amount of the stuff in the tank is pure guess work. Is there enough to make it, or will it run dry in the middle of blessed nowhere?

But I make it to where I want to go, turn off the motor by using the valve lifter, dismount and tug the machine on its cycle-type mainstand. I'm surprised I'm here, I'm surprised that we made it and I'm surprised that the machine still surprises after all these years. Makes me wonder, which modern motorcycle even comes close to that, eh?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Garage Built Motorcycles

There's nothing like making your hobby get you some money for gas. Let's face it, building motorcycles isn't going to get you a fancy private jet, a double-D racked Playmate nor your mug on Mount Rushmore. But what it can do is make you smile and as I'm going to find out hopefully, at least keep the motorcycle tank sloshing with fuel.

With that in mind, I bring to you 'Garage Built Motorcycles', a small venture to rebuild motorcycles in my cunt of a shed for other people. All for a small fee of course.

Whether it's a complete restoration, aesthetic overhaul (a neat term, if I may say so myself, that I coined up for a paint job and then some) or a cafe racer project, we've got the ways and the means to get the job done. I'm not going to be doing servicing and bike washes for now, but if you ask nicely..

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Not too long ago, I was introduced to this group of cool folk. And I must have stuck out like a sore thumb. There I was, dressed in my oil-stained Levis and a simple T shirt, faded with use and adorned with what else but some print that was motorcycling related. They were draped in the latest threads, complete with that season's hottest sunglasses (so what if it was well past eight pm at the time) and shoes of the sort that rap stars place on altars in their sprawling 'cribs'.

After assessing this specimen before them, one of them asked me what I did for a living. Just then, before I could even speak, my old beat up cell - that was obsolete the very same day that I had bought it nearly four years ago - rang and I pulled it out of my pocket to answer the call. All eight pairs of eyes rolled on to the sight of that dinosaur in my hands.

'I ride and write and build old motorcycles for a living', I tell them, their eyes following my phone as I slide it back into those faded denim pockets. 'Oh okay, but what do you do for a living', they ask me once again. 'I just told you, I ride and write and restore old motorcycles', I repeat. And by now, they throwing each other nervous glances and murmuring something amongst themselves. It's no surprise that I didn't make any new friends that evening. I wasn't hip enough, I suspect.

But, they don't get it. And I reckon they never will. With all that conditioning in school, at home, it has moulded them into believing that apart from growing up to be a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer or a banker, there isn't anything else in this world that is worth doing. To them, you're doing well if you drive a fancy car, not if you're under it.

A mechanic is automatically summed up to be someone who couldn't clear grade three in school. A writer is a looner who cannot hold onto a 'normal' job. A motorcycle restorer is a grease monkey who can't update his knowledge to machinery more current. A motorcyclist is a bloke who bullied the studious folk in school and although he's grown physically, mentally, he's still that ten year old bully in the school yard.

I must admit, I have never found the need to fit in. Now although that might seem like a boast, it is anything but. It's an honest admission. I have never felt the urge to get myself the hottest video game nor do I recollect ever troubling my folks for spiffy sports shoes or anything of the like. Kids growing up with me would have a new school bag every year, I did just as well with that khaki coloured canvas bag that did a wonderful job in lugging my books to class every day for years on end.

My dad always proudly tells me that his first job was in a glass factory not too far from his house. His job was to assist the glass blowers by carrying molten glass in large vats around. His salary was a paltry 2 'annas' a week. But his dad, and my grandfather, said that work was what shaped the man and my dad was only too happy to work his way through his school vacations. He went through college and then joined a multinational company as an apprentice on the shop floor. Sure, he was a qualified engineer at the time, but he wanted to learn his trade right from the bottom. His peers scoffed at him as he got his hands and clothes dirty while they sat in air-conditioned offices, but he smiled back at them. Slowly, he worked his way up and built a life for himself.

I have grown up seeing him fix nearly everything at home, right from a busted faucet to his Jawa 250, with its innards scattered on an old bedsheet spread out on the balcony. He could have simply called the plumber. Or have had the neighbourhood mechanic push the bike to the garage to get it fixed. But my dad, being the man that he is, chose to do it himself. I remember Sundays spent with dad as he taught me the nuances of motorcycle maintenance.

Many Sundays later, I come home with the offer letter for my first job. I was to be hired as a mechanic in an authorised car workshop. My mom smiled. My dad gave me a firm tap on my shoulder. I had done my folks proud.

Of course, I didn't have the money to splurge on clubs and fancy coffee shops. But I now had access to tools and contacts with some of the best machinists and spare parts shops in town. I rebuilt my first engine when I was 16 years old. It was from a derelict Sunny Zip that a neighbour dumped into my willing arms. My first classic came home dead, molested and I paid a song for it because nobody else wanted to even salvage it for parts. It was an old Matchless G3L, the one I fondly christened Eleanor. She was more Bullet than Matchless, but I somehow knew that there was a G3L within her somewhere. Besides, I finally owned my own Brit classic! I polished the first engine head in my life when I was 18 years old, under guidance from one of the best of his time. The head belonged to my dad's Fiat 1100, manufactured in India under licence and called the Padmini. Dad played test driver. I clearly remember the grin plastered across his face as he drove back into the compound.

The day I become a Dad, I will strive to be sort of father mine is to me. Motorcycles have kept me away from many vices through the years; picked me up when I was broken and have been the sole witnesses of some of the best adventures I have had in my life. I have met the best people simply because of my passion for a pair of wheels and working on bikes has taught me lessons no school or self-help guru ever could. I am proud to be who I am - oil soaked, grease under my nails, grazed knuckles and calluses on my palms. I am after all, but my father's son.