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Top 10 Twowheelers that built India

By: Toothless Posted Feb 03, 2014 General 871 Views
(Updated Feb 04, 2014 12:02 AM)

10 Rajdoot Yamaha RD 350: Well, there is only one way to describe this motorcycle – the first Indian Superbike. I had a blog post written a long time ago on this motorcycle where I had said that it was a rocket among hot air balloons and I still stand by my statement. What Rajdoot did back in the 80s was just too far ahead of time, it was something that our people were not prepared for. It was impossible to catch this motorcycle and it was equally impossible to run away from it unless of course you too were riding one. I have placed it at number 10 because, to be honest it did have its share of problems- expensive maintenance and poor fuel efficiency – it was the exact opposite of what we wanted in India and unfortunately the Yamaha 350 died a premature death.

9 Yezdi 250 / Jawa 250: I know this motorcycle very well, my father owned one and he still regrets why he sold it. The Yezdi made a wonderful sound, it had decent power, not so bad fuel economy and it was pretty easy to fix. Yezdi back in its heyday was more popular than the Bullet, it was the one motorcycle that didn’t have a stereotype. A bullet was associated with a burly Sardarji, the Rajdoot 175 would make you a milkman almost immediately and the Bajaj Chetak was a poor man’s lorry. The Yezdi had the power and panache but it had a terrible build quality. Apart from the engine and the transmission, it really was rubbish. I have a feeling that it was designed by rocket scientists who were fired from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in former USSR. The simple reason being is that it too let its parts fall off as its speed increased just like a space rocket. The law of conservation of momentum it turns out. doesn't quite fit in with motorcycles.

8 Hero Honda CBZ: I was in college when the CBZ was launched, till its launch the only performance motorcycles were 2 strokes like the Yamaha RX100/135 TVS Shogun and the Bajaj Kawasaki RTZ. The CBZ was actually a more than a motorcycle, it was a statement. The youth were sick and tired of riding puny motorcycles that were designed with fuel economy in mind. I was one of them who waited eagerly for it, it had the good looks coupled with Hero Honda reliability. It did make decent power and it opened up a Pandora’s box for performance bikes in the 150+ segment. Bajaj followed with their Pulsar, TVS brought up Fiero and the rest is history.

7 LML Vespa: There is no denying the fact that the Bajaj Chetak was the king of the city streets from the 70s all the way till up to its demise, it faced no competition from anyone or anything, but time and again it got a few pin pricks from the LML Vespa. The LML was a better looking scooter and some would argue that it had a better build quality. I cannot say much about the build quality however I do know that it was quicker than the Chetak and it remained so till Baja brought the Bravo which was scary fast. If you are able to sting the heavy weight every now and then, then you do deserve some recognition and that is why it has made my list.

6 Rajdoot 175: The one good thing about the communist is that they made things that were simple cheap and worked in the real world. The Rajdoot 175 had its roots in Poland. After it started manufacture in India, the bike became very popular with the milkmen of India. Its image was given a boost by some cheesy advertising which had Bollywood celebrities like Dharmendra . I personally did not quite like the motorcycle and the only reason for my dislike is the lack of taste, it was too rudimentary, a bit too practical. It lacked the excitement, the drama and the despair associated with a motorcycle like the Yezdi. However, it sold very well and while the Yezdi and the Yamaha 350 died due to obesity and high cholesterol, the Rajdoot soldiered on till 2005 to die in peace as an old man who had nothing more to achieve.

5 Yamaha Rx100: The first Indian superbike the Yamaha 350 was a magnificent machine, it would have survived in today’s world(if you do not consider the emission norms) but back in the day it was a trouble ridden motorcycle and part of the reason for its death was its own evil sister the Yamaha RX100. I have had the pleasure of riding a lot of 2 strokes like the TVS Shogun, RTZ etc. and the RX100 is on top of my list. It was nimble, quick, did average on fuel and maintenance and made a fantastic sound. I still like the old RX100 over the later variants like the RX135 or RXZ. People who needed some performance at the compromise of some fuel economy bought the RX100 instead of the more expensive RD350. Overall it was a better bike, better than the competition like the Bajaj Kawasaki RTZ and so it was used a lot in rallies.

4 Hero Honda Splendor: The splendor was nothing but the old CD100 with a facelift but it was brilliant. It was brilliant on fuel, it was brilliant on ride quality, it was brilliant on maintenance and it was brilliant in the city. Though it could be toasted by the 2 stroke heavy weights of its time, it was a different animal. For the first time, we had a motorcycle built towards fuel efficiency that was not distasteful; it was rather beautiful to look at and it sold by the millions. Since 1994, Hero have made small changes to the look of the bike and also a few changes in and around the engine like a better ignition system, power start, alloy wheels etc. to keep it going 20 years after its launch.

3 TVS 50 Excel: This is the iconic moped that can be called the Honda Cub of India. It was the first vehicle that my father owned, although he kept it only for a few years, I remember once my father and I were in a market. While returning home, the moped refused to start. My father used its pedals to pedal his way home. It was nothing more than a bicycle with a 50cc engine and it worked wonders. In Delhi the moped was not very common, however in South India, it made a killing. If the Bajaj Chetak was the equivalent of Samrat Akbar, then the TVS 50 would be someone like Raja Raja Chola. The TVS 50 Excel was an excellent all terrain no nonsense yet humble machine. It was easy on maintenance, it was easy on the pocket and it was an upgrade from brands like Atlas and Hercules. What more did one want in the 80s?

2 Royal Enfield Bullet: What started in Redditch England over a hundred years ago is kept alive in one of England’s former colonies because of two kinds of people: The Indian Army and the Great Indian motorcycle enthusiast. There is a compelling documentary on youtube called “Old Delhi Motorcycles” which is a must watch for every motorcycle enthusiast. I have ridden a Bullet and I have sat on the back seat and I must say, nothing goes like a Bullet. It is not the fastest bike around, it is not the best looking bike around, but there is something which cannot be measures in silly numbers like Horse Power or Torque that make the Bullet stand out. The sheer display of metal, the 350cc single which is the centerpiece, the levers, the cables and the most astonishing sound have made it and Indian legend. Because of the Bullet, the otherwise vanishing company called Royal Enfield holds the record for the oldest Motorcycle Manufacturer in the world still in production.

Most of the motorcycle enthusiasts who are reading this would not agree with me on the placement of the mighty Bullet at number 2 and I totally empathize with them however the bullet as a machine has evolved very little, most of the changes have only shown up in the past 5 years . The fact is, it was manufactured with minimal changes not to preserve the old English heritage but to save cost on R&D. If the bike is selling well why improve it? 19Hp from a 350cc engine and 27hp from a 500cc engine is a crying shame in today’s world and it is not even priced right. Royal Enfield is looking at selling motorcycles in England and America where the competition has big names like Triumph/Harley-Davidson/Moto-Guzzi and the Japanese brigade. 27hp will pull a medium sized man to a top speed of 75Miles per hour which is very dangerous in the Highways of the west where people go very fast. If a motorcycle cannot speed up in dangerous situations, it might end up killing the rider and for these reasons I place it second on my list.

1 Bajaj Chetak: I had also written a blog post on the Bajaj Chetak a couple of years ago on MS where I chronicled the life of this great Indian machine. The main reason the Bullet could not make it to the top of my list is because it was never available to the masses, it was exclusive and has remained exclusive partly due to its tough looks and majorly due to its price. The Chetak on the other hand could be purchased by a babu as an upgrade over his bicycle. It worked great for carrying everything from a 4 member family to gas cylinders. It could be repaired for under 20 rupees for most things, it had a spare wheel to keep you going, it was OK on fuel and very well built. When my father switched from the Yezdi to the Chetak, the difference was readily visible, the Chetak had a backup plan for everything. For the first time my family could go on rides without having to think that the clutch wire would snap or what if we had a flat tire? It made life stress free for my little family and countless other families across India. It will remain one of the greatest two wheelers that ever touched our roads. I know what you're thinking. well don't just think, log onto youtube, type "Yeh Zamin yeh aasman" and relive the nostalgia.

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