Search This Blog

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.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


After loading up, post last week's shopping binge, with enough lights to brighten up Vegas, it was time to actually fix one on to a motorcycle. The RX project desperately needed a tail light and the contemplation that was oscillating between an old Lucas replica lamp to a mere strip of LEDs simply had gone on long enough.

I needed something that didn't mar the shape of the seat hump but at the same time, was large enough to actually be an effective tail light. Getting one that was what I had in mind was getting hard, till my recent shopping raid paid rich dividends.

So this is what Yellow Fever's rear end now looks like after a lot of drilling, filling and heaps of cussing. I apologise for seeming like tooting my own horn, but what the heck, I think it's come out looking like a million bucks!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


It's been awhile since I scribbled anything down here. But the thing is that this was intended to be a blog, not a cesspool of meaningless twat. And when I think I don't have anything worth mentioning, I'm sorry to disappoint, but I'll say nothing. Even if it means months of you staring at the same damn screen.

Anyway, I've been meaning to go out shopping for bike stuff - the kind of goodies that everyone seems to have seen somewhere but can't place where. My RX 100 project sorely needed a tail light, and my wallet was sore shelling out fines extracted by the well meaning men in uniform. And I thought to myself that illuminated parts are something that I could do with having around the shed, up for grabs at a moments notice.

Besides keeping your rear end from resembling pita bread, these things are great tools to keep you from noticing the flaws in a motorcycle. Don't know how to clean up that gangrenous tail of your new and spiffy customised motorcycle? I'll tell you what; just slap on the largest red light you can find back there and then never forget to proclaim how responsible a motorist you are whenever the occasion permits.

As with all things of this nature, the day you choose to actually get off your ass to get something done, the stars and fate sit together the night before, plotting on how to ruin whatever semblance of a plan you might have had. This time they concluded that rain coupled with unimaginable traffic would do wonders to fuck up my scheming.

I wouldn't have any of that, though. I mean, if it was for anything other than motorcycles, I probably wouldn't have even got out of bed and put on my slippers, but here I was going shop to shop to find the perfect specimen of something that I didn't even have the faintest of a clue about. I would go to the bloke behind the counter, ask him for lights with very accurate and helpful descriptions like 'long', 'circular' and 'motorcycle'.

This is what I ended up with, and in retrospect, I don't think any of the stuff I got home was ever intended to grace a motorcycle. I know for a fact that the olive green bits go into Indian Army jeeps while the spherical one in the centre appears to be a replica of what used to be fitted onto the old Nissan Patrols.

Friday, April 1, 2011


As I've always maintained, I have met some of the best people in my life through motorcycles. I don't exactly know what it is about them, or may be it's my inability to put it into words, but there's something about motorcycles and the envelope around them. Rider and machine, a bond that can lie dormant, but never dead.

We were two blokes in different cities, divided by large expanses of the Indian subcontinent. I didn't have a clue of who he was; neither did he about me. Yet, now, I can count him as a very good friend of mine. And a way better artisan. And his art medium is motorcycles; no surprise really!

Here's a glimpse into Vijay's world and his Rajputana Customs movement. I call it a movement because it is bound to change the way we perceive the term 'customised' when it comes to motorcycles in this country.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


This was taken from my buddy Vikas's phone. So please excuse the quality
The other day, I was sitting around in my shed, cleaning my trusty Bullet with some kerosene and a toothbrush. She's not been getting any action of late (get your heads out of the gutters, those of you who chuckled!) and was sitting in the corner, with oil smears on her engine. I thought getting rid of those old oil smudges would be a great way to pass a balmy Sunday afternoon.

Half way through the exercise, my gaze feel upon Eleanor, my Matchless G3L. And then, it popped into my mind - my fucking new year's resolution! It's been three whole months since the year started and I've done the whole total of dick to start work on the machine.

One thing lead to another, and 3 hours later, Eleanor was spread over a white sheet, all bare and naked, exposed to every last nut and bolt. The next very day, the tin parts were sent packing to the tinkerer and on opening the engine, I was in for a surprise. The block is still running a standard sized Hepolite piston, and just a new set of rings should do the job. The bottom end, however, was knackered like a cheap hooker's twat. I suspect the bike has been under water before it came home with me and that water has pitted the big end cone and bearings beyond repair.

The machinist, as all machinists are, is extremely busy and said he'll do it whenever he has a moment to spare. The tinkerer has begun working his trade onto the parts and for now, all I can do is sit pretty. Hence this blog! Ha!

Oh, and I'm going to put up photos and a detailed rebuild report as soon as the parts trickle back in. So if you want to see an old Matchless take form, this is the place you ought to be at.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011



They say that if you do something at the start of a new year, the rest of it shall pass by with you doing that one thing repeatedly. Too bad I wasn't rolling in the hay, so to speak, but this blog is about a different sort of riding.

The blokes behind the vintage and classic club of India finally did what was the obvious choice (but remained elusive for ages, beats me) and held the annual Bombay rally last Sunday (which happened to be in January and hence the former paragraph). Now this was a relief to all concerned because having the shindig smack dead in the middle of the Bombay summer is absolutely traumatic for both man and machine. Not convinced? Well, then you probably haven't been in the city during the summer I reckon - your nads will dissolve in pools of filthy sweat and all you can do is look on with absolute horror.

This year's event was sort of dry, with hardly anything noteworthy making it. In terms of numbers, sure, they could have  tallied with last year, but one must be prudent to discount the bunch of Harley riders and others who chose to ride in on everything but classic machines.

What the hell were they doing here? I don't have a fucking clue but what I do know was that unlike the years gone by, there were more youngsters to be seen. Some were on their dad's bikes and some were on their own. Others rode in trains, buses and elephants to get there. Oh, by the way, the 'elephants' bit was for those sods who have their heads up their arses and still think we Indians walk if we're poor, ride bullock carts when we're climbing up the social hierarchy  and are perched on pachyderms when we've made it in life. 

Coming back to what I was talking about, ah, yes, youth at the classic and vintage automobile rallies. People my age and younger are increasingly being drawn into the dark realm of old machinery, and their charm seems to be hypnotising them (or at least I believe so). Which is great because I don't stick out like a fresh thumb any more at these do's. YAY!

And so fucking what if they're riding beat up Jawas or buggered up Yezdis instead of exotic Goldstars and Norton Internationals. So what if the number of RD 350s, most of them who looked good but sounded like soggy farts, over shadowed the other wise overpowering British erotica. It's the spirit that matters and it's all about how sick you get after the classic bug bites you. Just goes to prove that these machines will have loving and doting new owners long after the old ones pass on. Amen!

There was a flip side as well. Like this rich dick who sat on his 2010 Harley, which was on the side stand by the way, and kept revving the tits off the motorcycle. What's absolutely moronic is the fact that there were a bunch of his testicles, read cronies, who kept jumping about around him, cheering him on to blow those connecting rods (and everybody's ear drums) to thy kingdom come. And then there was this guy who plonked his kid onto an idling Vijai Super scooter (which was in drool worthy pristine condition incidentally, in case you were wondering) and the little guy kept wringing the throttle. Everybody seemed thrilled to see a kid act like a monkey in a circus and what's more is that his mom came over and gave him a hug. Now what if that child had managed to put the thing into gear while he was going ballistic on the throttle -  I cringe at the thought.

I don't know what the organisers had in mind, but if it were numbers, they got it spot on. But quality, nah. The saving grace was that it was great to see fresh faces instead of the same old bunch of old timers. That said, I think they should actually check the bikes for period correctness though - something that is essential to keeping the reputation of any vintage and classic automobile event. It doesn't need to be shiny, just authentic. Keep it real guys!

Thursday, January 6, 2011


The day I got Eleanor home on the back of a three-wheeled flat bed.

First and foremost, I wish all of you a very happy new year. Yeah, so just like with every year that has passed in this planet's existence, shit's going to happen in 2011 as well. Just don't tell me that I didn't give you a heads up. Don't believe me? Just read the news: birds are dropping dead from the skies, fish are kicking the bucket in hordes and the terrorists - well they're the only mother fuckers pro-creating in the teeming millions. Ah well, I'll just get back to more pleasant things - old motorcycles.

They say wine gets better with age. I don't doubt that. But there are other things that mature with time and motorcycle projects are one such thing.

Take my Matchless G3L project for one. The Matchless was the first bitsa I ever picked up. As usual, the sod who was selling it told me it was an easy restoration. 'Aarey, it was running just last year wonly. Clean the points, service the bike and you can ride it everyday to work', he cajoled me. I didn't buy his sales pitch one bit. But I took the plunge and got Eleanor home.

With a good night's sleep came realisation that perhaps I had bitten off more than I could chew. The engine belonged to the military version while the frame came from a civilian variant. The magneto had been ditched in favour of a Bullet alternator and with that, came the whole gamut of Enfield parts - the inner and outer clutch covers, point cam shaft etc.

Yep, I was screwed and if you’re fucked after paying up, it's termed as the same aforementioned 'f' word, just with the word 'royally' prefixed. This was back in 2007-8.

It's been a long time since and Eleanor has come a long way too. Sure, I've ridden her for the grand total of 5 minutes in all these years but she starts and vaguely resembles what her maker had intended. Many later projects have come and gone but yet, Eleanor hasn't been restored completely.

I'm certainly not the 'let's make a new year's resolution' type but this year, I'm making an exception. Eleanor will be completed this year. And yes, I'm stripping her down again and starting over from scratch. Yes, she deserves all the TLC I can fit into the 365 days that 2011 has in store for me. Wait a minute. Bugger, make that 358 days counting from today. Gah, time is really one slippery, little bastard, I tell you.

Eleanor, as she now stands. There's a long way to go and so little time..