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Monday, December 20, 2010

The one that started it all...

Handwritten behind this photograph, "With my savings, I have purchased my dream motorcycle - 1964"

This is the bike that started it all - my dad's Jawa 250 model 353 (he  named her Betsy) that he bought brand new back in 1964 from the Nagpur military canteen. Why a Jawa, I once asked him. All he said was that he never fancied scooters, the Rajdoot was too cheap and the Bullet was too bloody expensive. He bought the Jawa for the princely sum of Rs 3000. Back then, a tank full of petrol would cost you a hefty Rs 5. He spent 15 bucks getting the bike to Bombay.

Dad, mom and Betsy, back in the day.

 He met a certain woman, fell in love and terrorised her neighbourhood with the din that only a Jawa can pull off. He later married her and I call her mom.

My brother was born after a few years and I followed six years later. I learned to ride on the Jawa in the 5th grade, strictly in the compound under my dad's watchful eye. My legs didn't reach the ground and so dad would stand in one corner, ready to catch the bike as I approached. If it was a special day, he'd turn the bike around and let me loose again. That almost always happened, though.
Betsy, as she stands today and still very much the stunner that she started out being.

The Jawa, ah, the Jawa still lives with us. I may have ridden a handful of motorcycles in my existence till date and owned a couple of them too. But there is never going to be a motorcycle that makes me smile more than dad's Jawa named Betsy. I secretly wonder if dad loves Betsy more than me. I wouldn't blame him if he did.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bad blood..

Yellow Fever made her debut ride about town today and we were promptly carted off to the police station by, er the police. Figures having a handwritten numberplate won't cut it these days and the cops generally don't take chances with blokes on RXs or just RXs themselves. Apparently, at least that's what the gallant men in uniform had to say, there are a lot of sods who ride these things about these days, snatching chains from pregnant women and such. Okay, I made up the pregnant part but anyway..

I feel like a total bad-ass now and I'm sure the little Yam's notoriety is only going to go up. She's running great, just lost the stand spring when I hit a series of bumps the great care-takers of my city seem to have fucking forgotten about. She's running a tad lean but that's just a matter of fine tuning. I'd like to lower the headlight brackets to give her a meaner look but all of that in due time.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Flat line.

There's a fine line that defines a truely gorgeous motorcycle from a hideous one. And this one, unfortunately, over stepped that line by a billion miles. What you see before you is Royal Enfield's iteration (based on the EFI Electra sold abroad) of the now-in-fashion flat tracker movement - a phenomenon that's just taken forward from where cafe racers left off.

I don't know who they hired for the job, but I'm willing to bet my nads that the guy thinks a flat tracker is a non-endowed stalker. I commend the good folk at the Madras factory for trying something new with such an iconic machine, but in my opinion, this just does not cut it with me.

Think flat tracker and what comes to mind is the venerable Harley-Davidson XR 750. Definitely not this thing. Don't get me wrong, I really am a huge Royal Enfield fan and I love my Bullet to death. However, this lump of metal, nahhhh.

I like the tail end of the motorcycle but when that seat section reaches the tank, the disaster begins. Truth be told, I opine that the tail is a tad too high but I'm guessing that is because the good folk in the Madras factory didn't want to tweak the frame rail ends - economics, I reckon. 

The tank is too round for the angular rear and the front end is as disproportionate as a politician's income. The head light is too large, the mudguard too conservative and don't get me started on the cheesy 'Fury' emblazoned on the flanks. Heck even Stevie Wonder would agree that the font is too bloody garish and oversized and just doesn't blend in with the rest of the bike. It really does look like an after thought.

Oh, and as if it makes up for the rest, the bike will be priced at 5,795 pounds in the UK, sport a digital instrument cluster and twin silencers. That just makes this contraption twice as bad.

Photo source - - one of the best websites dealing with news about anything two wheeled! Thanks fellas and keep it real!

When more power isn't really a good thing.

There's been a delay in my rants for a while but that's simply the outcome of my life engulfing me. Sometimes, it just takes over and I tend to ride through it, hands clenched firmly on the shakey bars. But now, a few miles stolen in the night on my AJS, I'm back to normalcy.

I've been wondering, so how fucking good are these superbikes that everybody seems to be drooling over. Yeah, they go like the blazes and stop before you even thought of slowing down. They handle like an extension of your body and their lines, at least some of them, can get my blood flowing well down south.

But how happy is a 150-plus bhp machine that is being subjected to a cruel lifetime of urban city commuting - a dark place where top speeds can achieve a blistering 50 kph and in all probability, leaving the top three cogs in the gearbox spanking new due to disuse - be and I shudder to think of the thrill that is to be had while crawling around with 200-odd kg between your legs.

In my humble opinion, I'd rather ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow. Doing a tonne on a B31 gets my jollies much more than doing the same pace on a motorcycle powered by a nuclear reactor. And my fascination for cleaning up the mess that ensues - oil grime and tightening the odd fastener - just makes the whole deal a lot more intimate.

Funny because it appears that people like me do not constitute the majority of the avid motorcycling fraternity, but that doesn't count for squat, right?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sake racer...

Ever since my good friend and colleague Kartik Ware decided to get himself an RX 135, I was hooked. He got himself a runner (the logical thing to do) and I went ahead and landed up with the grand sum of an engine and registration papers of an RX (albeit the 100, not the 135). Why? Because I'm a mighty cheap fucker, that's why. The frame was later obtained and in a few months, I had myself a rolling piece of rusty crap. Now Kartik's the smarter of the two, and hence he wisely decided to get his built by a professional. I, the smart ass that I am (or so I think), decided to get about doing it all myself.
Kartik was building a Cafe Racer and so I decided to build a ratted out cafe/bobber. Why again? Well, because I'm mighty fucking cheap, that's why - a rat won't need fancy paint and that ought to save me a packet.
Using hi-tech computer rendering software, in other words Microsoft Paint, I put down my ideas  - great because it allows you to refer to your thoughts about something even at a later date. I knew it had to have the Japanese Rising Sun on the flanks and to save some more money, I thought I'd scrape the tank and the rear bumstop to the bare metal, polish them, paint on the graphics and then lacquer the whole darn things. It came out looking top notch, I reckon. Now, I'm as good with a paint brush as I am with my light sabre and so I let the experts do all of that - my darling girlfriend Lourdes and my great buddy Vikas. Vikas is the same guy whose C10 crankcases got pinched from my cunt shed. Not once but twice. And he's the one guy I can count on to share most of my crazy motorised adventures with.
Anyway, I've never worked on Japanese motorcycles before and I have come to realise that unlike their British kin, they can actually be dismantled without the requirement of a hammer, chisel or a welding torch. I've gotten rid of everything that belies the principle of form over function and that has made this motorcycle quite feather-like indeed. No battery, no mudguards and certainly not those plastic side panels. An instrument cluster is for wimps, I thought to myself. Ha, who needs that, then? Truth be told, I didn't want to spend on a brand new one but now I'm digressing....
This motorcycle is the most bastardised bike I own, and I say that with pride. Apart from the engine, frame, triple clamps and the rear shocks, pretty much every thing else is anything but stock Yamaha RX 100 shit. The front end consists of Bajaj Pulsar forks and disc setup, Bajaj Avenger wheels and Yamaha R15 rubber. The aft is the sum of a Yamaha Gladiator box-sectioned swingarm, RX drum spoked to an Avenger rim and R15 tyre. The stock muffler kinda gave it a nerd-with-a-hooker-mom sort of look and so I went with an after market expansion chamber. It says Proton but the thing looks like it was made in somebody's WC - the welds are tacky, the steel sheet is wafer-thin and the thing's flimsy like paper. It does sound neat though, especially without the rear 'can' but I don't want to be jailed before the end of next week.
I haven't worked out the lighting entirely as yet but from the looks of things, I'm going with an old Triumph headlight that I had in my meagre collection of odd-ball spares. It's a genuine Lucas item, and probably comes from a 3HW. Yep, that's pretty old. The tail light I'm thinking of plonking on is also a period WW2 unit but I've just got one spare and that's making me quite hesitant. This is after all a fun and small budget build and I can't really handle an NOS WD part going AWOL from a bike like this.
I've put up a few photos of the bike being built and how it stands as of tonight. The photos of the completed Yellow Fever will follow as and when the work's all done. Let's hope it's not too far from now...
On wheels. Just.
No prizes for guessing - a Bullet Standard bar, fitted the other way around
Mock-up number 12645738129

Remember that Triumph headlight I was telling you about?

Seat hump fabricated out of an old Honda scooter's front mudguard

My attempt at night photography.

Another one...

Okay, so I wasn't getting any sleep and I had ample time to kill. So sue me...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

On show...

 Some time ago, I got to know of a French man on a mission. No, it wasn't anything to do with gourmet cooking, but motorcycles. Now, he told me that he was traveling through Bombay (I hate calling the city Mumbai, so lynch me you buggers!), clicking photographs of avid motorcyclists and their machines - in short, the essence of the biker in the city. He's captured everything from a Pulsar to a blinged out RX, a Vespa to a handful of Royal Enfields. He swung over to my place late one evening and somehow, seemed very kicked to see my little cunt of a shed. He said the cobwebs and the chaotic mess added texture to the photograph. I thought it was a lot of artsy fartsy mumbo-jumbo, you know, the kind that describes a worn out and torn pair of jeans as 'distressed'. But when Thierry mailed me the results, I kinda blinked twice. Sure, my cunt shed still looked like a car bomb exploded in it, but it seemed to be at peace, like a womb holding all those bikes while they gestate into their road worthy form. Thierry Vincent is holding an exhibition in Paris of all his work relating to the "Mumbaikers'. Check out the following link for more dope. Here goes: 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The RD 350 ain't everything

 With all the hype that the RD 350 draws, it's surprising that the Yezdi/Jawa 350 goes relatively unnoticed. Sure, the RD was and still is a brilliant machine, but heck, the Yezdi 350 Twin was fucking kick ass too! With 21 bhp@5500 rpm, it was no slouch even in its day. A single carb made life easier for the rider and in my opinion, the Y 350 was way smoother than the RD 350, but never quicker. At least mine is! Ravi Kiran, a big thank you for these brochures. And a bigger thank you to the guy who gave them to you. Ha!

The runner that never was

As I figure out how to change this goddamn page layout, I am reminded about how sticky things you thought you liked might get. A 'friend' one urged me to pick up an old Royal Enfield Bullet 350 that he had. He needed the money, he said. Sure, it was a fine old thing, dating back to 1954 or thereabout. As everybody who's selling a used motorcycle does, he told me that he had paid a packet to get the engine running. I didn't buy the latter but I picked up that bike anyway.

'Running' is a very subjective word used to describe an engine's condition, I realised. If it turns over on its own power for a second, that too after kicking it a billion times, it's a 'runner'. I still told myself, no, this bike's going to be a dream deal. Pulling out the gas tank just proved that I had been had. A crappy weld job held the steering head in place with plates tacked on to hide the hideous cover up - like white bandage over a festering sore.

I took comfort in the fact that people were selling crappier bikes for more. I could get my money back, heck, even make a profit. No such luck. The bike stuck with me like bloody herpes and many prospective buyers came and went, none wanting to get infected. Ultimately, she went to a bike dealer who sold her off for double of what he paid me. Just goes to show that when you're passionate about your goods, you rarely make a profit selling them. Oh, and that fiend I was telling you about, I got to know he bought a Merc just after he sold the Bullet to me. Ah well, lesson learned.

OLD, NOT SLOW: And so begins the journey

OLD, NOT SLOW: And so begins the journey: "Okay, so there are plenty of blogs out there that deal with vintage and classic motorcycles and their tantrums. There are plenty more that a..."

And so begins the journey

Okay, so there are plenty of blogs out there that deal with vintage and classic motorcycles and their tantrums. There are plenty more that are finely written, the grammar and sentence construction being impeccable. Boasting of exceptional photography and smart design, these things are more like coffee table books than blogs.

But this one is different. There will be plenty of ranting and raving and yes, I'll try to curtail my fucking language. As you can obviously see, somethings are just plain beyond my buggerall comprehension. This is about the motorcycles and how sweet (or bitchy, depending on their time of the month) they can be. I'm no authority on classic and vintage machinery, but I strive to be. So if there's something that isn't right, do let me know. Or forever keep your silence.

What you will see will be pretty much all that I do in my little cunt of a shed. It's got the basic hardware, but I'm always losing stuff in there. And those mother fuckers who stole my pal Vikas's BSA C10 crankcases, I bet you wankers can't read and hence, there's no reason of mentioning you sods here anyway. 

I'd love to make you a large part of this blog, so please do feel free to send in photographs of your old ladies - the more ridden, the better. These bikes are like your tool, the more you use them, the shinier they get!