India's motorcycle diaries
From blitzing Indian racetracks for decades to capturing the nomadic spirit of a biker and possessing the drive to invent, Hassan M Kamal plays navigator through fascinating stories about four motorcyclists bound together by their love for adventure and the two-wheeler
Bullet Bose aka Subhash Chandra Bose
VROOM FACTOR >> Indian racing legend
With an illustrious career that includes over 250 racing trophies, Bullet Bose not only dominated Indian motorcycle racing for over four decades, but also was the fastest Bullet rider (hence the name Bullet Bose) of his time. “I don’t know why but people always thought I had a natural talent for racing,” says Bose, who rode his first race on a Lambretta scooter in 1967, as an 18-year-old. Bose didn’t win the race, but he got the attention, and two years later, he was all geared to take on the big guys with his Royal Enfield Bullet. “At that time, racing bikes were all road bikes.
A biker had to adapt his riding style according to the motorcycle. But this factor helped us understand our bikes better. We would tune them ourselves and improve them, accordingly,” he recalls. Despite the challenges, Bose dominated all the major racetracks in India — from Sholavaram in Chennai, to Juhu Airport in Mumbai, Barrackpore in Kolkata, Safdarjung in Delhi and the Agram track in Bengaluru, even as he also reigned over the rolling trophies presented only after a rider wins for three consecutive years. Bose also became the face of popular bikes of his era including the Yamaha RX 100, Rajdoot RD 350 and Honda CZ 350, the first racing thoroughbred to arrive in India. But Bullet remained his favourite. “On the race track, power is not the most important criteria. What matters is handling and the Bullet was not only a sturdy bike but also handles better,” he says. Bose, now 63, has moved his attention to representing and helping young riders, but the passion lives as he continues to ride his Bullet on a racetrack, at least once a week. “Once you stop racing, the fear kicks in. And, racing is something I can’t let go of,” he admits. Bose was conferred with an Honour Roll Award at the India Bike Week, that ended in Goa on February 3.
VROOM FACTOR >> Filmmaker, documents biking trips
Gaurav Jani is known around the world for his documentaries that capture the nomadic spirit of a biker. His first introduction to this life of a biker happened while working with Ram Gopal Verma for his film Jungle where he spent six months in the forest searching for locations for the film. When the film was completed, he quit his job and started on a solo journey to the Changthang Plateau in Ladakh, bordering China. “I wanted to capture lives away from the cities. So, when I met these guys who were living a nomadic life at 15,000 feet above sea level, I was fascinated,” he recalls. Jani spent months living with nomadic clans in the region, capturing their daily life. The footage led to the film, Riding Solo on Top of The World, which has won 11 awards. His next film, One Crazy Ride, took him on the uncharted roads across the Arunachal Pradesh, a road many said didn’t exist. Currently, Jani is working on his next documentary film, Motorcycle Chang Pa that captures his one-year journey across the high altitude Changthang desert in the Himalayas. It is slated to be released soon.
VROOM FACTOR >> Plans to build the fastest Bullet to race at Bonneville Salt Track in Utah
Bhaskaran has only one aim in his life — to touch the 250-kph mark on Bonneville’s Salt Race Track in Utah, USA. The automobile engineer has been working on building the fastest Bullet for over four years now. “I have managed to touch 170-172 kph at the moment, and am hoping to touch at least 200 before using a Nitrous Oxide kit. The bike is not yet complete, and would require some more time, but I’m determined to cross the 250 kph mark,” he says. Kunal says that the Bonneville is one of the toughest tracks and requires one to maintain a top speed over a distance of five km. If the bike tuned well, the engine could blow-up. Despite the risk, Bhaskaran seems confident and looks at it as a personal goal. “It’s about building something unique and being able to say that you had the know-how to do it,” he believes.
Anand Bhalerao & Dean Fernandes
VROOM FACTOR >>Developed India’s first V-Twin engine
After six years and lakhs of rupees, this enterprising duo has finally completed their V-Twin engine. The duo started work in 2007, but the first two years were spent on just designing the engine, and the rest on building it. They picked up raw materials on their own and built the engine from scratch. Since Anand was an expert in Aluminium die cast, the white metal seemed like the most apt choice.
“Except for the old RE (Royal Enfield) block and the head, everything from the fish rod, clutch, cranks, oil pumps — we built them on our own,” he says. After several trial-and-error attempts, and modifications, on August 16, 2012, they kick-started their V-Twin engine, based on an old RE chasis with an impressive 45-degree bent between the two cylinders. The bike is designed in Café racer style, made popular in the UK in the 1980s. “We are currently in talks with RE guys to build bikes around that engine,” he says.