Archive for August, 2010

Left her standing on the weekend of the 13th since it was b’day weekend away. Had an incredible one 🙂

Got back to her Friday the 20th. S Uncle had been emery-ing the tank away. Spent 30 hours on one side by then (?!).

He had cleaned the carb and kept it aside.

So, we spent the first two hours pulling off the tank and all the side panelling and then figuring out the wiring and electricals.

Well he figured it out anyway.

I just stood there, cut pieces of paper, marked wires with strange numbers and listened to stuff that was mumbo jumbo to me.

Some of it did start to make sense after a while though.

After hmmmm-ing and ho-ing over the wires for a while he pulled two off the ignition switch and tied them together. Then we put in a spark plug, held it to the engine fins and kicked. A weak little spark came to life. So weak actually that I didn’t see it. I simply took his word for it.

So, with bated breath (mostly mine), we put the carb back in. It took a while that, since it refused to stay put.

Then poured petrol into the carb.

I took a deep breath (since it’d been bated for so long) …

Put my foot on the lever.

Pump, pump, KICK!


Deep breath..




Putt.. Putt. Puttt….

Deeper breath..





She came to life with a deafening roar and then happily idled away. Just as if she’d never been put to sleep.

Rip van Winkle came to life after nearly twenty years.

Called Dad to listen to her over the phone..


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31st July

Unloaded her, admired her, cursed the lorry driving for harming her and then tentatively approached her privates.

Took a deep breath, crossed fingers and toes and pushed down on her lever.

I expected it to be locked solid – frozen with twenty years worth of muck and corrosion. Twenty years of Madras weather and neglect..

Miracle of miracles.

The lever not only moved but moved smoothly. I could even hear the chugging of the piston moving freely.

Got down on my hands and knees (about another four inches) and thanked my stars.

Then took a spanner to her and pulled off the luggage rack and crash bar before bedding her for the night.

August 7th

Woke up late-ish on Saturday morning. and had planned on working on my Roadking with my uncle. So headed over to his place and spent the day changing the piston on it (opened it up for the first time since getting it as I had found the bike seizing at speeds of 85 – 90 km/h). The piston turned out to be some local thing and the expansion at high speeds was causing the seizing. Pulled it out and it was badly scarred so replaced it with a now one which I bought from Vijaydeep on JC Road. It isn’t an original Mahle but is supposed to be decent quality. That done, I’m now running it in for another 500 kms.

The scarred old piston

The new one with original Goetze rings

But, spent most of the first couple of hours admiring the beauty of the Standard.

First things first, I was STUMPED to see the tyres weren’t flat. My uncle had simply tried his luck and filled air in the tryes. By the end of the day, the front tyre was still holding with no loss of pressure. The rear tyre was slowly deflating over a period of hours but I was amazed. After twenty YEARS these things should’ve had big gaping holes in them. They shouldn’t have even been able to inflate with air let alone hold it in. With a change in tubes, the tyres might even be good for a little bit (or a little more than that ).

As you can see from the pictures, my uncle has already stripped the bike. He took a buffing machine and simply pulled it along one of the pipes and voila! Wonder of wonders, a layer of dirt and rust came off exposing the orginial chrome underneath! I was gobsmacked!

You can see the difference between the two sides of the bike (only the right side had had the initial layer ‘peeled’ off).

Moving forward, we’re going to emery it down until not a single speck of rust remains. Doing that with the tank right now.

The trouble with most platers is that they simply plate over rust which means that the oxidisation process continues under the chrome resulting in the chrome flaking off really fast. Back in the day, the cleaned, rust-free surface was first plated with copper and then with chrome. This would ensure that rust could never set in and the chrome would last for yonks. My Uncle’s Matchless was plated like that in Chennai in 1973 and the chrome today, nearly 40 years later, is still perfectly intact. Sadly, this is a dead art.

Apart from this, I just love the way she looks right now, in her present avatar.

Stripped down she looks like some kind of hellish Goddess from a freaky dystopian novel.

I could imagine one of the cannibal family from Judge Dredd on her. Or even one of the biker gang from The Book of Eli.

In fact, if I weren’t so obsessed with bringing her back to originality,  her lines make her a prime candidate for a stripped-down, bare-bones mod.

Made some headway since, but, for now, just take a gander.

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The year was 1980.

M had married T the year before and they had moved to Coonoor. M worked in Coonoor and T in Ooty. The commute on the bus was becoming pretty downright miserable given the weather, et al.

One evening T landed up at home and there right in front of him was this beautiful piece of machinery, glittering in all its glory.

It was a Yezdi and was a gift from his wife.

That bike saw many a happy time touring the southern states – Ooty, Coonoor, Pondicherry, Chennai, Bangalore and so much more.

It also saw some dark hours.

Once, M was waiting with some friends at their favourite Chinese joint while T was on his way to join them. The manager Po Kun was a friend and had joined them at the table. A call came through for Po Kun and he left the table. When he came back he was holding a stiff brandy. He asked M to knock it back before he would tell her what happened. So she did and listened.

T had been on his way up the hill. Opening up the throttle on an empty stretch he accelerated uphill. From nowhere a truck appeared on the wrong side of the road. T didn’t have the time to even take his hand off the throttle, let alone brake or swerve. He was hit straight-on by the truck. Thrown off the bike, he flew through the air and landed somewhere down the hillside.

Miraculously, not a single bone in his body was broken. He suffered from great pain caused my muscle stress and whiplash over the coming months, but, he thanked his lucky stars that day.

The bike was a complete wreck. A write-off. The insurance company said it would cost as much to repair the bike as to actually buy a new one and so they recommended buying a new one. T flatly refused. No matter how much time, effort or cost, he would have none other than his bike. And so it was resurrected.

When their son was born, he rode around with them on the bike in a sling which M had designed and made. When he was old enough, they made a seat on the tank (the safest place on a bike for a child) and he spent many a happy hour sitting on the tank with his feet on the crash guard and his hands holding the inside of the bars. He knew when his Dad was coming home since the roar of the engine coming around the corner, would echo around the sleepy colony in Chennai.

Come 1992, T was posted to Bombay and, since public transport was the only sensible thing to use there at the time, the bike was taken and parked in his father’s garage in Chennai.

Over the years it stayed there. They returned from Bombay but the bike papers had been lost and, he being a stickler for rules and having no time at all to spare, it continued to stand in that garage.

The son wanted the bike from the time he was 12.

Come 16 he begged for it and they spent the next couple of years searching for the papers but no sign of them.

Come 18 they gave up and bought him a CBZ. It was the best bike on the street at the time and he loved it. But, his heart always lay with the bike that stood in his grandfather’s garage.

He left the city for another, then went abroad, sold his CBZ beforehand, spent a couple of years wandering around, came back and wandered around. All the while he searched for those papers but no luck. Briefly they turned up – found by an old friend in her house, apparently given to her many years ago to pay road tax and then forgotten.

And then they disappeared yet again.

Eventually, he moved to Bangalore. His heart always having been set on that bike, if he could not have that one, he would have another. He bought a Roadking.

When T was in town he saw it and a big smile lit up his face. He swung a leg over his son’s bike and shot off down the road before he could be warned that the brakes weren’t as great as they might seem. He returned a few minutes later with a glint in his eye.

Three weeks later he told his son he could do what he liked with the old bike.

The Yezdi still stood where it always had – for nineteen years.

Four Wednesdays ago it was loaded on to a truck, and after four tension-filled and abuse-riddled days, it finally landed in Bangalore. The transporters missed the first consignment on Wednesday so it only left on Thursday. Then the truck broke down along the way so it only reached on Friday evening. At which point the lorry driver ‘displaying initiative’ (for the first time in lorry-driver history) drove straight to the airport since he wanted to ship the major part of the consignment overseas. It was kept there overnight and finally reached his uncle’s place at 4 on Saturday.

The uncle in question is none other than the S Unc (described here https://beingthomas.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/the-men-who-make-it-possible/).

And I of course am that son.

On the 31st of July the bike finally landed in Bangalore. When we  checked the lorry, it had fallen over and the brake lever had been broken (@*&%*&$@!!!!!). But, other than that, she’s as beautiful as I remember her.

I’ve finally gotten my hands on it.

All she needs is a little TLC

Peer past the cobwebs and you might see what I do.

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Things have come along since the 31st.

But that is for the next post.

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Its been six months and I’ve been really SHYTE about writing for various reasons.

This blog was never meant to chronicle my mechanical obsessions but for one reason or another has landed up doing just that. So may as well stick with it I suppose 🙂

The first test of my bike came four months ago. My mum hurt her back in Chennai so I decided to ride down. Went over the Addu and got my fork worked on. Changed oil seals, oil, steering bearings, damper, etc.

Hopped on the bike on a Friday morning and headed out. It was 4:30 a.m.

Only luggage I was carrying was a Cramster tank bag lent to me by a friend. Pretty neat device that – it has 4 heavy-duty magnets which just hold on to your tank. Looks like a little animal hugging the tank and does the job pretty damn well.

Not having seen that time of day in many years, I didn’t account for early morning chill and nearly froze my nuts off within five kms of heading out.  So I stopped and pulled out my denim jacket. Another five kms down the road I stopped again and pulled on a shirt with shivering hands. Another five kms down the road I pull out yet another t-shirt and now I look like some sort of homeless clown on a bike.

Come sun-up a set of beautiful curves presented themselves and I flew into them. Twenty kms later my engine simply seized. At 90 km/h when your engine screams, shuts off and then starts to skid you simply wet your pants. In fright you clutch anything at hand. Which luckily enough happened to be the clutch. Freewheeling is what it needed apparently so it righted itself. Let go of the clutch and the engine roars back to life and you keep at it.

Six hours, a monster breakfast, several pitstops and two scary seizures  later I made it to Chennai.

Headed back a couple of days later. This time I kept the bike below its redline (around 85-90 km/h) and it behaved beautifully.

Apart from the seizing and the fork issues (it gave out again on the way back), its an absolute pleasure to tour on the Roadking. I stake no claims to being a biker with all the attendant sado-masochistic traits. I don’t enjoy being burnt, nursing a sore arse, recovering from a painful back, changing tyres, taking a spanner and screwdriver to a dodgy clutch, etc. I had one long beautiful ride. I felt like could cruise all day on it. There was absolutely no back pain or even the slightest bit of discomfort. At one point the bike blew out one of its mufflers and suddenly the roar was pretty deafening. And yet the beat is so lovely that I could’ve listened to it all day.

Since then I’ve been waiting for a chance to open up the engine and see what the problem is. I want to know why my bike can’t do the factory-rated top-speed of 120 km/h. It purrs along beautifully and pulls cleanly all through its lower ranges and then tops out at about 85. I’ve received any number of compliments about the beautiful beat of the engine but this is one annoying bit about it. My Uncle reckoned that the re-bore wasn’t done properly and so there would be rough spots on the cylinder.

As things turned out, that wasn’t the case.

But, thats for my next post.

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