Archive for the ‘Diary of a Yezdi’ Category

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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In 12 or so days since the ‘crack’ scare I’ve spent a lot of time with her. Been taking her out pretty much every day. The crack itself seems to be holding up.

Dad was in town and I got to show him the bike.

Apart from the odd trip down the road to the shop (about once in 5 years) on the Kinetic Honda, he hasn’t really gotten on to a bike in well nigh 18 years. He’s also become infinitely cautious about anything, be it driving through the traffic-infested jewelry districts of Chennai or simply walking on the street.

So I got one helluva kick when he simply swung a leg over the bike, put it in gear and shot off down the road before I could say a thing. I was left grinning like an ape as I haven’t seen Dad that uninhibited in years. I think the bike just took him back a couple of decades to a time when he was a far less tense person. It was great.

I then went to Razzaq’s a couple of times to try and get the ‘sissy bar’ – the little one behind the seat which keeps the pillion from being ignominiously deposited arse-first on the street, fitted. A had left his somewhere around the nether regions of the shop. Of course, it couldn’t be located.

So, I planned on taking the bike across to S Unc’s place to basically learn about it and clean it up a bit.

Which I did last Friday.

Luckily, I got the day off seeing as I spent the last one at work (when it was a public holiday).

I landed up there at around noon-ish with my mechanic pants on and a six-pack (since it seemed the right thing to do). Spent the next 3 hours opening it up, elbow deep in grease, sipping beer with a beatific grin on my face. We found that the reason the damn thing was vibrating so much was that one of the primary bolts holding the engine in place,… well,.. wasn’t.

Greased the chain a tad and then headed to Addu’s to get the fork done.

I ended up spending the rest of the day from 3:30 till 9:30 at night at Addu’s.

While sitting around, I was peering at a couple of wrecks lying at the side.

I did a double-take when I realised that one of the wrecks was a Yezdi 350 frame while the other one was the complete bike, with engine and all. Now this was a bombshell of a bike which was very briefly sold in the 80’s before it was pulled from the market due to the fact that the bike itself had some trouble with its points system. It had a twin-engine putting out a brutal amount of power. Enough power to actually leave the legendary Yamaha RD350 in the dust. Today, getting parts for them is virtually impossible and bikes in running condition fetch upward of 1.25 lakhs.

Watched him sit and take apart the forks and the gearbox. Ran off to Balaji Auto Parts behind Commercial Street for a bunch of parts. Changed the primary chain (which Addu insists on calling the ‘timing chain’) and the clutch plates and had to have it closed up under a combination of tubelight, candlelight and bike headlights. Headed back the next morning to have that bolt installed.

Addu at Work

The bike is now riding like a dream. The clutch is wildly smooth and the engine just roars. Great beat.

Having said that, the damn thing is now leaking oil like an intemperate drunk and my headlight suddenly shut off last night. Realised it was a loose connection which probably happened when he worked on the fork.

Went to Addu’s today and he tightened the case and said it wouldn’t happen after this but found a bit of oil on the seam of the crankcase when I got back. Need to get this checked.

Quite apart from which he did a great job on that gearbox.

She now rides like a bomb!!

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Worried about her all night with nightmares of the engine falling right off when I’m doing about a 100 on the highway.

The first thing I did on Monday was call S Unc.

During lunch I did a quick trip to Doc with C tagging along on his Roadking.

Doc took one look and pronounced it……………………… wait for it…………………………. a Crack!!! Yeah, gosh-darnit-who’d-a-thunk-it?! Though, to be honest, I was actually hoping it was a deep scratch if you can believe it..

Akbar, our man-for-all-bikes-that-are-Yezdi-or-Jawa told me I should have words with the chappie who sold it to me and/or ask him to pay for the repairs.

Course ol’ Doc said I should leave it with him, that he’d get it welded, service it and work out the kinks in the fork for a thousand bucks and then ‘No Tenshun!’

Meanwhile, went over to Nilesh’s little shop which is virtually next door.

Now this is one interesting place. Its a tiny little place and he either has or can source any part you could possibly need/desire. If he doesn’t have it, he’ll hunt it down for you. Which was the case with my bike’s seat lock. Apparently these are very hard to come by (since they don’t make them any more) and he only just sold one last week. I had visions of shelling out a bomb for a lock that really doesn’t keep anything in particular, safe.

So, you can imagine my shock when he said it would cost me ’70 Rupees’

Yup, I shit you not… SEVENTY!! For a part which is no longer manufactured!!

Course, I could do little more than laugh when he told me a PAIR of mufflers for the bike would cost me a 100 bucks.

Talk about low maintenance 🙂

Headed back to Doc and in 2 minutes flat a kid whose head probably didn’t reach my bikes’ handlebars fitted them to the pipes.

In the meantime I had a word with Socrates about that crack. He immediately said that it was already there when he got it (which on close inspection of the pics I had uploaded earlier shows that its probably true), that he had had it checked out by his mechanic Moosa and that it wasn’t a problem at all. He also mentioned they had put some sort of glue on it which was true enough as A and I were remarking on the slight sheen over the length of the crack. Socrates said that I could paint it over if I liked but that he hadn’t as it didn’t bother him. Of course it isn’t the cosmetics of the crack that had me worried of course and when he realised it he said it wasn’t a problem since he had ridden nearly 3700 kms with that crack present. Made me feel a tad better that he didn’t duck the issue.

So I headed off, clean forgetting to speak to a chappie who’s supposed to do my insurance for me.

In the evening headed over to S Unc’s place.

He took out a heavy Maglite which looks more like a weapon than a torch (no wonder cops prefer that to a nightstick!), peered at it and then delivered his opinion.

Apparently, one really has to be li’l nervous when there’s oil leaking from a crack. Until and unless that happens, things can be left alone. Consequently he pronounced that the bike was under observation for the next 15 days. If it doesn’t leak in that time I can just leave things be and ride on until the day it starts leaking or I decide to open up the engine. Either way, we’ll take a decision then. The options at the time would be welding it (yuck!) or fitting a new case to it. Now this second option was actually suggested by a guy who is perpetually at Razzaq’s.

This chap (I have no idea what his name is so we’ll call him Squeak for now – simply because I like the word) Squeak has a Yezdi Classic. Methinks its a bit of a hybrid as it has the Type B tank but the Classic side panels (the triangular ones as opposed to the ovals). He also has the weirdest looking solid-iron carrier fitted to his pillion seat. When I saw it I did a double-take as it looks rigged to carry a damn elephant! Turns out that our man Squeak is a milk-man and that he carries a ton of weight in the form of milk cans. Beneath the iron carrier he has two loops and we found out that these are for a pair of detachable shock-absorbers which he has to fit before he loads the bike with milk. Since two shocks aren’t enough for all that weight the man has to use four!!

Back to the story.

Squeak suggested changing the casing. When I observed that this meant that I would lose the engine number (which is embossed on the case) in which the bike is registered, he said that they would hammer it into the new case. Now this sounded highly suspicious (and illegal) to me.

However when S Unc himself said that was an option, I figure it has to be legal. After all, he’s the chap who had a showdown with the Customs guys who tried to hold up his Yamaha RZ350 since he refused to bribe them. He’s also been eating my head about how my bike is illegal until I get the insurance done.

So, that taken care of, I stuffed myself with some of M Aunty’s cooking and then headed off home.

This time with the bike sounding rather more like a growling Rottweiler than a howling Banshee and with a rider rather less than upset.

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The day after picking her up, I took her out and spent about forty-five minutes cleaning and wiping her down. Then rode out to meet A and a couple of friends in Indranagar. Stopped by the bunk to top up the tank since I knew it was well into reserve.

Tried to open up the tank and the damn thing wouldn’t unlock.

That morning I’d tried the ignition key on the tank lid and it locked very sweetly.

Trouble was that it wasn’t the original and it wouldn’t unlock it.

Of course, this stuff never even remotely occurred to me.

So here I was with a bike about to run out of fuel and a tank that wouldn’t unlock on a Sunday afternoon in Bangalore (where on Sunday people only move out to drink beer and even mechanics shut shop).

Rode down to Indranagar praying to high heaven that it wouldn’t just stop and, as luck would have it, just happened to pass a mechanic. Went in and he pulled out a bunch of keys and tried them. None worked.

I was given detailed directions to some key-maker in some village which is smack in the middle of Indranagar (who’d a thunk it…). Went off in search of this chappie. Didn’t find him but did come across two locals passing the time of day by the side of the street.

These guys gave me detailed directions to a key shop that supposedly lay on the main road. Of course I was more than a tad skeptical but one hardly had much of a choice.

I followed these directions to a line of shops all with their shutters down.

With a sinking feeling (and an ‘I knew it…’ expression) I was just about to turn around when I spotted a single shop which was open. And sure enough, it was the key shop.

In five minutes flat the guy made me a new key for it and a duplicate for my ignition. That too, with the Minda handle (for lack of a better word) which I seem to recall is the original Yezdi key make.

Headed off to Antz, grabbed lunch and then A and I headed to Razzaq’s.

Our friendly-neighbourhood-Yezdi-surgeon pronounced the engine in sound condition. Akbar, one of his lead-ladka’s looked it over and cleaned the plug, checked the chain and the idling speed.

At this point, Dr. Razzaq (or Doc as he shall henceforth be referred to) decided to dazzle us with his Yezdi prescience.

Without riding the bike or even touching it he said that it needed a fork job.

This had me completely foxed as he was spot on. The front fork was giving me some amount of jarring feedback when I went over bumps at a certain angle.

When asked how he knew, with a complete poker-face, Doc claimed that he saw it being put on the main stand and from the way the handlebars and fork came to rest, he just knew.

Needless to say, we were wildly impressed (though of course we tried to look cool and nodded like it was obvious).

He also checked and found there was only one muffler which is why it seemed to be smoking more from one side. Even this muffler was only a short one so he pulled it out and chucked it.

Which of course resulted in the bike announcing its presence in the next timezone (and what a beat it has!).

Then, A and I took our bikes out on to the Airport road for a bit of a cruise.

On an open stretch I took her up to nearly 90 km/h. The vibration was ridiculous. I think this was because of the fork which needs work (as Razzaq had mentioned). The beat was beautiful though she sounded rather stretched at that point. This had me rather surprised as Roadkings are known to touch 120 and 100+ with no hassles at all.

So, anyway, I eased up on the throttle and as she slowed to about 80, the engine suddenly died on me. Now at that speed, in gear without freewheeling, the wheels suddenly sort of locked up and she started to skid.

I thought I was a goner.

And then, just like that, she fired again and I roared off down the road.

Pulled over slightly shaken and very puzzled.

A and I switched bikes so he could see what she was like and so that I could see what his bike felt like when pushed to higher speeds.

His was a lot smoother. Of course, part of that was due to the fact that both my mufflers had been done away with giving the bike a monstrous roar as well as some amount of vibration. Additionally, my bike had been re-bored and done about 3700 kms since. Socrates did mention that he had ‘taken it up to 8o kms’ which probably means the bike hasn’t been run in at higher speeds which could explain the seizing.

Anyway, at one point A pulled over and we had a chat and he had spotted a crack on the engine block (below).

Now this is something that I, my uncle, A, Razzaq and all his mechanics had missed.

Given that it was getting late and nothing could be done we headed towards Charminar in Fraser Town to drown my sorrows in kababs. Turned out the chap has started a whole new line. He has monstrous tangdi kababs with the whole haunch of the chicken in different marinades. Great stuff.

Headed to A’s place, chilled, then spent about 15 minutes kicking her to life and then headed home to worry about the bike the next day.

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