Much like cars, the Indian two-wheeler market has evolved a lot. The market is now full of super-frugal vehicles on one end of the spectrum and superbikes on the other. But we go back in time to pick the ones that made a difference to the segment, and see if can be brought back to their glory via restoration.
Starting with the most popular one of the lot:
Restore it for: Pootling around town but in style
Beyond the Vespa, the Lambretta, and even the homegrown Priya, what really set the market on fire was the Humara Bajaj. Families, yes, the whole of families, travelled on the Chetak. And way before motorcycles infiltrated into the garages, it was the good old scooter handling the transportation duties. Based on a Vespa, the Chetak was originally powered by a two-stroke engine that made about 7 hp and 11 Nm of torque. That’s still as much useable as it was back in the day — just an indication to restore a two-stroke Chetak.
Restore it for: Early morning rides
One of the first faired bikes to have graced the Indian market, the RXZ was an easy choice for those who wanted their steed to look as fast as it went. Think early morning rides, the hugely addictive two-stroke noise, and the ability to scream at the top of its lungs, the RXZ is one sure shot way of making one’s life more livelier. And not to mention, the way it just keeps accelerating — the 132 cc engine made 14 hp. A disc brake up front was optional, and if you’re looking at restoring an RXZ, adding a disc is the best thing to do.
Restore it for: Long distance cruising
You don’t necessarily have to go the Bullet way if you’re looking for a long distance cruiser. The Yezdi was brilliant at it, made an evocative noise, and still has the looks to shame a few retro-styled modern bikes. Made in India under licence from the Czech-based Jawa Motorcycles, the Yezdis flaunted a ‘Forever Bike Forever Value’ tagline. Fittingly the vehicle commands great value in the used bike market, with properly restored examples (of the 250 cc version) crossing the Rs 1 lakh mark.
Hero Honda CBZ
Restore it for: Shaming the current 150 cc commuters
One of the first entrants in the sporty 150 cc segment, the Hero Honda CBZ was the kind of a bike dreams are made of. Introduced in late 90s, the CBZ had muscular styling, Honda reliability, and a well-sorted chassis. It might not have the two-stroke noise/acceleration of the bikes mentioned here, but the engine had enough poke to keep you smiling while attacking the twisties, fending off others at traffic light GPs, or even getting out of the parking lot…
Royal Enfield Bullet
Restore it for: Old Bullet charm
Before the introduction of the better packaged UCE (Unit Construction Engine), Royal Enfield Bullets had a cast iron engine. With torque being developed at lower rpms, there was no need to unnecessarily rev these. Another good point was the thump — the characteristic Bullet sound — that the current ones miss out on. If there was ever a contest in effortless cruising, the Bullet (Cast Iron, Heavy Crank) would have had the last word. Buy one, restore it, and ride the Bullet like how it’s supposed to be ridden — slow speed, thumping around, without any unnecessary antics that boys these days pull.
Restore it for: Sportsbike speed, old world charm
It’s hard to not love the RD. Even with the slightly detuned specs that made it to the Indian version, it was nothing short of ballistic. With about 32 hp being sent to the rear wheel, it was one of the most exciting things to have been available in India. There are a plenty of aftermarket parts available to ensure yours is bespoke, and while it wasn’t any strong in terms of fuel economy, if there’s a measure of the amount of fun that can be had by twisting the throttle, the RD is bound to be the king.
Bajaj Pulsar 180
Restore it for: Muscular looks, raw power
Of course saying ‘raw power’ after mentioning about the RD350 is going to be a joke, irrespective of the bike we talk about. However the first generation Pulsar (pre-DTSi) was in a league of its own. The bike’s muscular styling might have been toned down in the current versions but the first of the lot 180s were as characteristic as it can get. The short wheelbase made it tricky to ride, so it’s certainly not for everyone. But so is biking…