Bajaj exports more motorcycles than everybody else combined; after the IT companies, Bajaj is the country’s largest forex earner; and, even if you include IT, Bajaj is still the most exported Indian brand. And what you are looking at here is their most popular export bike ever, the Boxer.
Well, not this exact specimen. The Boxer that is exported is even more basic and no frills than the one you see here, the eco-miser that Bajaj hoped would challenge Hero Honda’s slew of 100cc motorcycles for market supremacy in this country. Never happened, as we all know, but Bajaj was smart enough to recognise the huge potential of the rugged, no-nonsense Boxer in even more underdeveloped markets in Africa. And now they do roaring business! There’s even a 150cc Boxer being exported, the larger engine presumably being used to cart an entire African village.
I haven’t ridden an export-spec Boxer but I remember the Indian Boxer — it was only the second motorcycle I road-tested (after the Kinetic Challenger, a reverse-engineered and immensely horrible Splendor copy — those were unenviable years for us road testers) and before the Isle of Man medal-winning road tester strapped on all the testing paraphernalia, I had to run it in the whole 1500km. I was too new to grumble about it. As you can imagine, it took me forever to log on those miles. The bike was slow, the brakes horrid, the seat way too soft and the tyres started to slide half an hour before you even got to a corner.
After the first 100km, and to save myself the agony of another 1400km, I headed to the worst roads I could find — if I broke the bike I could take a bus back to the office and set a new fastest time on Colin McRae Rally. But the bloody bike refused to break. I wrung the throttle to the stop, on the rev limit for as long as the roads would allow, but that Kawasaki 100cc motor ran like a Japanese engine ought to. Like clockwork.
I took a generously built friend for a ride hoping that would do the trick to the chassis and suspension, yet nothing. Not even a puncture. And it cost nothing to run in; we spent more on tea, water, food and pain-relieving balm than on fuel.
For obvious reasons, I hated the Boxer. Yet, for similarly obvious reasons, the Boxer is the best-selling bike in very many African countries. Fitness of purpose. That’s what my editor kept drilling into our heads and that’s what justifies Bajaj’s ‘World’s favourite Indian’ tag line.