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The youth are defined by a surge in energy. A surge that drives them and defines the years of their youth. And the effervescence and volatility of one’s youth is complemented by a pet. A pet that has wheels instead of legs and guzzles a fluid instead of food. All over the world the youth have been drawn to and have owned these pets that have complimented the volatility and the energy characteristic of one in his youth years. In America, these pets had four wheels and guzzled gasoline. They played an intrinsic role in the shaping of the culture corroborated by movies like Bullit, The Gumball Rally and traces of it can also be found in the Will Ferrell quote “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.”
When we look at our beloved country the companion of our youth that epitomizes the enthusiasm of being young will most probably have two wheels. It will be a bike, and those among us that have elder brothers or even some very cool parents would remember the nostalgia on their faces when they remember the bikes of their yesteryears. May it be economic restraints or dearth in the purchasing power in India, the youth have bikes as opposed to the cars of the west to define the time of their lives when they were fearless beasts.
This article will remember and hope to honor a few of such bikes of the 80’s and 90’s when the definition of fun was to head outdoors and on the seamless tarmac as opposed to the stay indoors and type on a keyboard approach of nowadays. The bikes in this list by the act of owning them or seeing them in the neighborhood or even listening to their distinctive sound will make the reader ponder and entertain a faint memory of his yesteryears. And since this is an article on machines of the bygone era, let’s leave the environmentalist in us at bay when we look at our list, shall we.
Affectionately known as the RD350 was a bike produced by Yamaha from the years 1983 to 1989. And there is no other way to start this list than with the holy grail of Indian bikes, the first Indian sports bike. This bike was to compete for the hearts of the youth with the Royal Enfield Bullet 350cc and with the Yezdi Roadking. Still sought out by collectors today, it fell out of favor due to the fuel consumption and due to the lax in the aftersales service of those days. The place of this bike is cemented and infamous in Indian history for earning the name Rapid Death. This two-stroke parallel twin engine fuel guzzler stopped production at the turn of the decade and the last unit was sold in 1991.
Royal Enfield 350cc
Consider it the granddaddy of bikes due to the special place it commands in the Indian biker heart. It is a no frills robust Indian beast that has adorned the Indian roads for about five decades now and is still the king of Indian roads. Tracing its lineage to the 1949 Indian Army consignment for border patrol that laid the groundwork for the factory in Chennai (then Madras) which at that time assembled parts imported from the Redditch factory but then soon started producing bikes wholly Indian. This was the beginning of a legacy and that legacy has only increased in stature since. The thump of a bullet is unique to the brand and is worth experiencing once in this life.
This Indian bike should need no introduction, produced from 1978 to 1996 by Ideal Jawa which was a Mysore based motorcycle company. The claim to fame and perhaps an unknown achievement in which this bike outshone everyone else, all of its competitors and silenced them was the “Yezdi Castrol Continental Ride”. If you know about this then I admire you and welcome you to a privileged club of bike enthusiasts and if you don’t, then read on as I try to shine light on a 1994 bike expedition in which two bikers covered 42,038 km spread over six continents in 119 days. This has been recorded in Limca book of records and is a point of pride for any biker on the Indian subcontinent. And yes, this monumental expedition had a Yezdi Roadking at its core.
Pull any movie centered around youngsters of the late 80’s and especially of the early 90’s era and the protagonist or the antagonist and sometimes even both are riding a Yamaha RX100. The characteristic mosquito buzz which is jealously defended by its owners is unique to this brand and much sought out in the RX100 category than in any of the other RX series. Falling out of favor only when pollution control became stringent and the era of high mileage was ushered by the four strokes, this bike was the bread and butter of the Escorts limited with little or no changes to it in its entire production run spanning from 1985 to 1996. I stand as a witness to this bike’s legacy having proudly owned and tried to push it beyond its threshold through the years of my junior college and having managed to shed a total of only 5km from its mileage in my attempts. This bike for me is a personal time capsule to the years of my careless cheap thrills.
Now to the more responsible side of the generation in question and no one better to exemplify it than the workhorse from Bajaj and the quintessential family ride of our childhood. The image of a man on a chetak with his wife on the backseat and the kids in front of him taking up the spaces between the handle and the seat will still strike a chord with a plethora of readers and transport them back to their childhood even today. Add to that the contemporizing of the 80’s which ushered the scooter into the era and gave us the still fresh in our culture resonant jingle “Hamara Bajaj” and that makes this once an Indian family necessity intrinsic to this list of the bikes and icons of the gone era.
This was an article on the years that have gone and the memories that we have collected through those times. Let me know what you think of the bikes here and more importantly what from that era speaks to you and gives you a bout of that weakening nostalgia.
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