(Republished original post dated June 29, 2016)
I don’t like the Yamaha RX100. Never have. Yes, it was an impressive motorcycle and a huge success for the brand but it just doesn’t click for me. Maybe because I have a tendency to contradict with the masses or maybe because the masses were so overwhelmed by the RX100 that they ignored the other impressive products that arrived in the same era. Suzuki Shogun for instance. If fast, loud and Japanese was the recipe for a good motorcycle, the Shogun was a clear winner. Or Yamaha’s very own RX-Z. It was one hell of a motorcycle, albeit pricier but not by the fraction by which its numbers lagged behind the smaller sibling. I don’t dislike the RX100 for the product it was, but because a significant number of halfwits have oversold that motorcycle to my generation and the ones that follow.
However, this post isn’t about the RX100 or RX-Z or the Shogun. It isn’t about the mighty RD350 either. It is about something that screams badass, right from the word go. Something that came in long before the Japanese heroes joined the war. The motorcycle in question is a Yezdi 250. It isn’t the most powerful, aggressive or famous two stroke, not even close. But the Czech warrior has got something special. So special that if you say its name in front of a dozen 30+ year olds, more than half of them will be more than eager to share a story from their childhood. The senior citizens get a stupid grin on their face at the sight of this motorcycle. The younger ones look in amazement and try to figure things out on one of the simplest motorcycles ever made. That is how amazing this machine is.
The episode of this particular Yezdi started back at college. Just like any college goer, we (my college roommate and I) were sick of using the public transport and needed a motorcycle. I had a Yamaha Gladiator but my parents preferred to have it parked at home instead of being useful to me. One fine evening, while we were bored of looking at Olx listings without any money in our pockets, my roomie mentioned a Yezdi 250 Type B owned by his cousin. His cousin was a grown up family man by that time and the motorcycle was with someone in Aligarh. Photos were shared over WhatsApp, faces started glowing, calls were made and a few hours later, we were debating on what colour we would paint it. Long story short, we didn’t get the motorcycle.
However, fast forward two years, new place, out of college and with a Royal Enfield Thunderbird. My roomie was talking to the same ‘Yezdi wala cousin’ and learnt that the motorcycle is still in Aligarh and is not being used anymore. We couldn’t miss it this time. Calls were made again, there were some hiccups, but finally, he towed the bike and left it at my home in Aligarh at the first chance he got. A weekend later, we were there, towing it around looking for mechanics who have seen the two stroke days.
After spending a long evening and the next afternoon running between mechanics’ shops, there was smoke on the roads, kids were crying, oil was dripping and we had the widest grins humanly possible. Tanked up the motorcycle and we were ready for the highway ride that lay ahead of us the next morning. Btw the fuel station guy forgot to reset while looking at the motorcycle and gave us a lot of free fuel.
(Yes I am supposed to be wearing a helmet but I just stepped out for few hundred metres to get ice cream :P)
So the motorcycle was running perfectly the night before. It had a new air filter, clean carb, new throttle cable, (almost) working brakes, new spark plug cable, working headlight and yes, a working speedo too. The next morning was slightly different though. It refused to start and we were sweating like anything at five on a December morning, trying to start the motorcycle. After a lot of cuss words, our in-house technical expert aka dad had to intervene and tinker with some wires. After spitting out few hundred ml of fuel, it was running again. And then began the journey of many stories.
The distance was a measly 120 km, the roads as smooth as the tyres of a roadways bus and we were starting early. Any other weekend it would have been my breakfast ride. This time, however, things were different. This time, I was riding a motorcycle that was 40 years old and for most parts, unfathomable to me. So two 6 feet something guys took the tiny saddle of the Yezdi and started crawling. It took me a couple of kilometres to accept the fact that it was actually moving ahead in the direction I wanted it to and the front end won’t just fall off if I do more than 30 kph. Speeding up a bit, I discovered there was some wobble in the front wheel. A handful of throttle and the wobble disappeared into the other vibrations. I knew it was still there. I could feel it in my arms but there was nothing that could be done about it. We went on and on hovering happily at 50-60 kph, scared at the sight of anything that would require us to use the half dead brakes.
The spine chilling air of the early morning started to make way for cold yet pleasing air as the sun started to appear. The loud barks from lower speeds settled into a continuous, less aggressive growl that provided the perfect background music for the scenery. The roads wide and empty, the sun peeking through the mist and two hideously tall guys riding through this landscape on a small motorcycle.
I have gone further, over much longer distances. I have gone faster, more than thrice as fast. I have been on better roads, with hairpins around the mountains. And yet, I have never been as happy riding a motorcycle as I was that morning. The grin just won’t go away and even when it started to fade, it was replaced by a mad laughter when old wrinkled faces smiled at the sight of the motorcycle and pointed for others to notice.
Every stop on the way would give us a new story. Some would share how they used to race on the motorcycle, some shared long lost stories of their romance. That highway ride on the Yezdi 250 lasted only five hours but the stories just keep coming. From traffic jams to parking lots, people would be lured by the sight of this four-decade old machine and would come to tell us more about it, to share the love they had for the machine.
Months have passed since that first ride but this motorcycle continues to carry the charm. I go back to my young modern Yamaha everyday. It is so good that I can bet my life on it. Yet the old imperfect Yezdi has got more to offer. It makes people smile and cherish their memories. It is a formula that you can’t explain. Something that would never make sense on paper but still continues to be desirable for young and old enthusiasts alike.