Much of India still moves on two wheels, making bikes and scooters way more popular than cars. Over the years, there have been some really special bikes that literally changed Indian roads. This is their story.
Royal Enfield Bullet (1955-present)
The Royal Enfield Bullet 350 is a legend, one that’s 60 years old and still going strong in India. First imported for the Indian army, the Bullet 350 soon became a staple for moneyed Indians as Royal Enfield began producing the bike here. Even after Royal Enfield’s UK parent went bust, the Indian operation continued soldiering on, mainly due to the demand for the Bullet 350. The motorcycle enjoys cult status in the country, and has come to become an instantly recognizable symbol on Indian roads.
Bajaj Chetak (1972-2010)
The Bajaj Chetak was the Volkswagen Beetle of India, a scooter that moved families, and that supposedly led to Ratan Tata dreaming up the Nano. At one point in time, waiting periods for the Chetak extended to more than a year, when the “quota controls” were in place. Armed with a 150cc, two stroke engine that had plenty of torque, the Chetak was a two wheeler MUV for lakhs of Indian families. The scooter motored on even when two strokes died out, by getting a four stroke heart transplant, but by then, the market had moved towards ungeared scooters.
Yezdi Roadking (1978-1996)
The Yezdi Roadking was a sporty alternate to the Royal Enfield Bullet, with good road grip and performance. The Roadking featured a simple 2 stroke engine displacing 250 cc. A 16 Bhp peak power number and 24 Nm of peak torque, in a 140 Kg package meant that the Roadking ran rings around the Royal Enfields. The bike basically introduced India to the world of two stroke performance, as the RD was half a decade away. It also continued long after the RD was discontinued.
Yamaha RD350 (1983-1989)
Escorts tied up with Yamaha to give India the RD350, the grandfather of high performance bikes in the country. While the Yezdi Roadking was a more basic two stroke, the RD350 came with advanced engine ports, and more importantly was the first twin cylinder bike built in India. The RD350 came with a 346 cc two stroke motor, tuned to put out either 28 Bhp (low torque trim) or 32 Bhp (high torque trim). The bike featured 6 gears, and was the fastest motorcycle in the country.
Ind Suzuki AX100 (1984-2008)
In the early 80s, a bunch of Indian companies tied up with Japanese motorcycle makers to bring in a bunch of Indo-Jap motorcycles. The Ind Suzuki AX100 was the first of such bikes. Built out of a TVS Motors-Suzuki joint venture, the bike featured a 100 cc motor that out about 8.25 Bhp. It was very reliable when compared to the likes of the Royal Enfields and Yezdis, and immediately commanded a big market. The Ind Suzuki’s basic design lived on, until 2008, through the Max 100R, which was India’s last two stroke commuter motorcycle.