So far ahead of its time even the term moto-scooter hadn’t been coined
Catch me if you can,’ that’s what the sticker on the Blaze says, and if you thought that was ridiculous I must remind you its stablemate way back then had ‘AAHO!’ emblazoned on its backside. And this was factory-fitted, not a reflection of the owner’s maturity levels. What times we lived in!
Questionable taste in branding aside you have to admire Kinetic’s gumption; they really did think out of the box. After ending their tie-up with Honda, they fiddled around with the Ki-Ho to increase fuel efficiency, thus ruining it. The scooter-company needed new scooters to stay relevant and turned to Taiwanese-brand SYM. The Flyte was a Scooty rival two years before TVS launched the Scooty, the then-ravishing Bipasha Basu hardwiring the scooterette into our collective consciousness.
Kinetic had bigger ambitions and had branched into step-throughs (a segment that never took off in India) and motorcycles with the Challenger (a reverse-engineered CD 100). When they realised neither was going anywhere a few side trips were made to South Korea, eventually signing up with Hyosung to make the big(ish) capacity GF 170, a credible rival to the original CBZ and Pulsar. And in the midst of all this they found time – how big was their team? – to rummage around among the debris of scooter manufacturers going bust in Italy, snapping up the tooling, design and rights to seven Italjet scooters. That was a genius move and among the scooters was the Dragster, a bike that looked, went, sounded and smelt like nothing on Indian roads. Of course they couldn’t make a 2-stroke scooter in the 2000s and so they rolled up their sleeves and modified the head of the GF 170’s motor (it was a 4-valve head in a 2-valve era), mated it to their existing CVT, and stuck the whole contraption into Italjet’s Jupiter.
The result was the Blaze launched in 2006, a scooter so far ahead of its time nobody knew what to make of it. Back then scooters had trailing link front suspension, not proper shocks. Forget scooters, back then very few motorcycles got disc brakes. This particular example was ridden from Pune to Khardung La, and back, by a member of Kinetic’s original R&D team and I’m told they had no problems apart from having to dismantle half the rear end to fix a puncture. Oh, back then scooters didn’t get radial tyres. Even today, this Blaze starts up on the first crank, the sofa-like seats are incredibly comfortable, the CVT is smooth, acceleration is acceptably quick, it handles fairly well for a 12-year-old scooter and unlike the body panels, the sticker just refuses to fade.