Kicking off the first part of blog series, we delve into the wheels that helped bring out the motoring spark in all of us
Yamaha’s RX series of motorcycles always had a special place in my heart from the time I was a child, qualified by the fact that it was usually ridden by the devil-may-care protagonist of 90’s hindi movies, the ones every kid my age wanted to emulate. However, motorcycles were a taboo topic in my home, owing to my Dad’s classmate of his medical college days losing his life in a motorcycle accident, that too during a joy-ride the night before graduating. However, its human nature that the more you try to suppress someone, the more they’ll try to revolt. Even before puberty hit, I had started putting up posters of bikes on my bedroom walls, literally covering every square inch, and as time passed, would (surreptitiously) buy a few automobile magazines every month with the salary from my part-time job.
And it was the sixteenth of June 2009, when I, flush with funds saved after two years of scrimping, saving and even going to college on a bicycle, went to Shivkailas Motors, a second-hand motorcycle dealer in Nana Peth, Pune, with the sole purpose of buying myself a motorcycle. With my confidence sky-high, I lowered my voice a few octaves and set about bargaining for a ratty, 12-year-old black Yamaha RX-Z four-speeder with drum brakes fore and aft, a 100-90/18 Dunlop GeoCruiser tyre somehow jammed onto the wire-spoke wheels built for handling a 2.75 (or at most 3.00) –18-size tyre and rust everywhere, even on the inside of the fuel tank! My persistence paid off, as I got it for the princely sum of Rs 9,500, a bit more than a month’s salary at the time. There was, however, a small issue, namely I had no clue how to ride a motorcycle!
With the help of a friend (with whom relations have soured since, but that’s another story) I got it home, but not before buying a 250-gm box of peda to give to my neighbours. That very night, under the tutelage of the same friend, I had my first and second crash, first when I popped the clutch too hard, causing me to go flying with the bike and then tried to brake and steer simultaneously, kissing mother earth again in the process.
It took me about a week to get over the fear of buses and wet roads, after which I settled into the daily hustle with my dinky little Yamaha, covering the twenty or so km college run and ten or so km office commute without incident. Soon, I had become suited to the RXZ’s performance (or lack thereof). Hence, I wanted to push the envelope. This meant monthly trips to Lonavla (hampered by the sad, sad conditions the roads were in back then), supplementing my 60km daily commute to work.
But I still wanted to go faster, and hence sat with one of my school friends and his uncle (who remains, to this day, a biker through and through), to chalk out a plan to turn my commuter into a bike worthy of the “Race, Cross, Zoom” epithet. First came the installation of a monoshock, a novelty in the days when the only bikes on the market with monoshocks were the Yamaha R15 and FZ16 duo, the Honda Unicorn and CBR250R, oh, and the Kawasaki Ninja 250R.
Next, we zeroed in on alloy wheels, which had the added advantage of allowing for the much-needed disc brake up front. That done, an expansion chamber was installed...and the bike still looked worn and weary, courtesy the faded black paint. So, inspired by the classic Yamaha RD 250LC paint scheme, I painted my bike white, with red and black pinstripes. The end result had me looking (and feeling) like a million bucks, my ego buoyed by random citizens complimenting me, some even asking “imported hai kya?” (Is it imported)!
The Yamaha RXZ made me come into my own as a motorcyclist, and though I hardly ride it once a month nowadays, electing instead to hop onto my KTM 390 Duke (or even the car, if the weather demands it), people still give me a knowing nod today (a decade later) when I tell them that it was my first bike, and I am rightfully proud of it and myself, having vowed to never sell it. However, time has not been kind. The 12 or so horsepower it made then is barely more than that made by today’s scooters and the spindly tyres and wobbly (sharp then, plain skittish now) handling has meant that it’s due for a much-needed round of refurbishment (and who knows, I might just tack on some more bits and bobs). Whatever the case, watch this space!