Perspective is very important, especially when it comes to Jawa, and even more so when you look at the new bikes and realise, good Lord, they’ve slipped the old bike through a giant Xerox machine and slapped on modern cycle parts. There is retro and then, there’s the new Jawa! Guys like me, with only a passing interest in classic bikes, will have to rely on the disc brake and radiator to tell old from new. And that’s why, for the first time in this section, I’m riding a classic bike. I need some perspective, need to understand the hype, need to come clean about the fact that I’ve never ridden a Jawa.
It starts with pulling out the gear lever and swinging it back. Actually, it starts with classic bike talk that draws a tangent over my head. One kick with the left leg and the 350 twin bursts into life, surprising since the rest of this bike leaves you in no doubt of its age. Not without embarrassment, I ask where’s first and then struggle to get first, forgetting that period bikes don’t simply click into gear. Eventually, I use the old Bullet trick of yanking up-and-high the gear lever with the heel of my foot and give it gas.
Oh, the impatient 2-stroke chainsaw buzz. Glorious! Oh, the white haze and petrol stink. Cancerous! Now you must be wondering I’ve got my cee-cees messed up. Nope, this is a 350. It was never made in India, but was imported and sold by Ideal Jawa before they started making the 250s in Mysore. Visually they don’t look very different except for the fact that the 350 actually needs those two exhausts because it’s a twin, unlike the 250 that had two exhausts exhausting just the one cylinder — a historical oddity that continues with the new Jawa. And as for which is more fun to ride, 350 or 250, I haven’t a clue; you don’t give a 59-year-old bike the beans, especially when its owners have their hawk eyes on you.
What I can tell you is this old Jawa is wonderfully easy to ride. Light, nimble and agile. The low seat height makes it unintimidating. Account for the useless brakes and the old Jawa is really a breeze. Rather peppy too. I could never understand how my dad’s generation raced the heavy old Bullet but the Jawa, it feels racy. Sporty. All traits I’d love to see on the new Jawa. Actually let me clarify, I’d like to see the DNA of the old bikes in the new Jawa — after all, nobody in their right mind would want a new bike to ride like the old, even if it looks like the old one.