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Two Wheels to Move the Soul

Writing about my motorbike rides and other motorcycle related stuff

Month

September 2013

Custom Bikes and The Rajputana Customs Workshop

What is a custom motorbike ?!

The Rajputana Customs Workshop – Stuff that bikers dream about!

According to Wiki, a custom motorcycle is a motorcycle with stylistic and/or structural changes to the ‘standard’ mass produced machine. Custom motorcycles might be unique, or built in limited quantities.


Therefore, iIt is a bike which is no longer exactly how it came off the manufacturing line. To that extent even my bike with its changed silencer and few add-ons is customized. But is that enough to make it a custom bike? I would say no!

Let’s dig back a little to understand where this all started out.

So, bikers have been altering the look of their rides forever but the first bikes that were called ‘custom’ actually put in an appearance around the late ‘50s in the USA. Choppers and Bobbers were among the original ‘Custom’ bikes. The movement of custom which started back then is still on and continues to this day with somewhat of a resurgence in recent times. Shows like building your own chopper etc. are testament to this as is the resurfacing of a phenomenon called pin-striping. This is the specific free-hand painting done on custom bikes (and cars). There are some very popular names in pin-striping from the 50s who have now spawned companies with pre-made custom prints (don’t miss the irony inbuilt here).

There are also some big names globally for custom bikes, Ron Finch is probably one you might have come across most often. His site shows some really radical designs. I would suggest looking it up.


Before we dive into custom motorbikes completely let’s take a pit-stop to look at the movement called Kustom Kulture. This is the movement encompassing custom bikes, hot rods, drag racing, tattoos, hard rock and heavy metal music and all things associated with them. It started around the same time as custom bikes and cars. The movie Grease is set very much in to the Kustom Kulture era, part of a sub-culture called Greasers. The tattoo and sticker designs you see of enmeshed parallel lines similar to what Vin Diesel sports also owe their origins to this era. The American concept of the Kustom Kulture was very much car oriented, known for hot rods etc. The British concept was more exclusively around motorcycles with the Café Racer culture picking up around the same time. Always thought the Brits were more my kinda people.

There now that I have that off my chest, let’s get on with the business of custom bikes.
























So, there are custom bikes and then there are Custom bikes.

Smart manufacturers who keep close to the pulse of their riders (sorry, RE do not yet feature in this bunch) have done their best to launch bikes which attempt to meet the Custom Biker’s tastes. Harley Davidson launched the ‘custom’ bike Super Glide. Designed by Willie G Davidson, taking from the custom movement of that time it combined the fork of a sportster with the frame and engine of a big twin. This is still seen in the custom Dyna range, check out the latest custom promise for the Dyna Street Bobs 

Others like Honda and Yamaha have also jumped on this opportunity with their own ‘custom’ variations. There are also other big volume custom manufacturers mostly in the States American IronHorse, Bourget, Big Dog and BMC. They make bikes which are off the shelf, as it were, but can be customized by choosing parts and paints from the factory.
But seriously you and I both know these are still mass manufactured bikes not the really real Custom bikes.
So we come to the next category of custom bike makers. These chaps take a given bike and bolt on stuff to the bike. Again these custom bike makers are of two types. The first one makes custom kits, i.e. they make a set of items that can be bolted on to your bike and change the complete look of the bike. Some of these are purely cosmetic and some of these changes can be functional too, such as changing the handlebars, lowering the seats etc..

The second type is the people who will build all the parts (except the engine) from the ground up and make a bike that is unique to you. They will first discuss the type of bike you want and based on your specifications and desires they will build something from the ground up.

In India this phenomenon is certainly on the rise. There are a few companies offering custom bikes to enthusiasts. Two such companies that I have come across are Dreamriders and Rajputana Customs.

Vijay at work

On a recent visit to Jaipur I had the pleasure of visiting the Rajputana Customs workshop and meeting the charismatic founder, Vijay Singh. They have an extremely cool workshop, I saw quite a few bikes under construction there. According to Vijay the custom bike scene in India is picking up quite a bit. He is kept busy round the clock by customer demand and typically has enough business for the next year or more. He does not take on more than that, if he did then there would be even more bikes in the pipeline.




Unfortunately there were no finished bikes on the scene, understandably so. All the finished bikes get shipped immediately off to customers. There was Vijay’s first custom made bike – a hard tailed bobber made from a RE. It was gorgeous, you can see it here in photographs. The blurb will explain what a bobber is and how it is different from a chopper.

The most popular bike that was being built, I saw at least 3 of them under construction in the workshop was the one with a monster rear tyre and almost chopper like front suspensions. To me it looked like Batman’s bike. I would love to see one of these on the road. The engine in these was the Harley 883 engine. 



Absolutely radical bike.

The Radical Monster Bikes in production
A previously made bike, snapped from a poster in the workshop

We chatted a bit about bikes and Vijay expressed how he would rather build more classical looking vintage bikes than the huge ones that he is currently building. The vintage being more to his personal taste.

How they go about doing it – They take the engine of the bike that the customer supplies; then they build everything else custom, from the ground up, made to specs discussed with the customer and build most parts in their own workshop.

For a bike enthusiast it is a place that you absolutely must visit.Sitting around were such beautiful BSAs and Triumphs it was a pleasure just being there sharing the space with them.

Some of the Beauties seen at the workshop




I will try and call on the Dreamriders next and will document that too.


Until then, keep riding.

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Do Bulls really need Modification ?

Most people who buy a bullet end up changing something or the other in the bike. In its original form the Bullet is quite good and comes in working order but then why would almost everyone want to change it. The changes are in two categories, need and want. Lets look at these a little closely.

My baby as she came from the showroom

Needs:
The sparkplug
My own C500’s spark plug gave out within the first two months. This model comes with two spark plugs apparently that gives it some redundancy. Notwithstanding any of that my sparkplugs gave up their ghost early on. Now anyone who has ever used a bike knows that without that spark to ignite the fuel what you have is a hunk of metal. In my case a hunk of metal weighing 200 Kgs. Not an easy deal to push around either. The RE roadside support chap who came along told me that this is a problem with all RE spark plugs and suggested I change from the stock one to a better sparkplug. That was two and a half years ago and I have not had any problems since.
I heard the exact same story from other Bullet owners as well. So the sparkplugs are something that NEED a change. If you haven’t changed yours then I would expressly recommend you do so before embarking on a long ride of any kind. It is very much the heart of the engine.

Lights
By design the C500’s lights point a little high in to the air and not directly on the ground. The issue there is with the ring on the headlight. It needs to be a bit broader on the top to make the lights point a little lower. If you don’t do a lot of night riding this is no problem, however if you do then it is an inconvenience in the least and can also be dangerous. Our roads are not averse to having the odd rock lying around on their surface and if you don’t see it in time, you could be in trouble.
The remedy is to buy a ring (or custom make it) which fits the top of the headlight and is broader at one end. You can also get brighter bulbs if you want. These tend to strain the battery though so you need to be careful and talk to the right mechanic about it. I think the stock bulbs are fine in terms of brightness, it is just the angle which needs to change.
Let us now come to the wants
Silencer:
This is of course a complete misnomer since the silencer is used to enhance the noise of the bike in most cases. We all know and relate to the Bullet through the thump, the beat, dug dug dug which we have come to love. For some inexplicable reason the RE guys don’t seem to get our affection for that music at all. If the new Thunderbird is anything to go by, they positively disregard our feelings towards the thump.
I am sure government norms on noise pollution have a role to play. RE are probably trying to comply with said norms and therefore are compromising the thump. But really, they need to find a way to keep the beat alive.
The C500 has a decent thump but not one you can hear from 100 meters away. Now any self-respecting Bullet owner wants to have a beat that can be heard at least a kilometer away. So, being self-respecting and all that I went and got me an after-market silencer. Now this one is a beaut.

Whenever I roll in to the basement parking of any mall, there will always be cars whose security system starts sounding off because of the thump. Cheap thrill, I admit, but gives a kick nevertheless. It is almost as if the cars were protesting the freedom and power that the Bullet displays in front of them and they want to shed their skin and come alive.
There is more to silencers than noise of course. They are supposed to take the fumes and bad stuff away from the engine and not allow any reverse flow. The after-market silencers are nothing but simple boom boxes. They have no engineering other than sound and that is not a sound solution for your bike (sorry, could not resist that one). So, prudence would suggest, go to a good mechanic who actually understands these things. He can build a silencer that is the correct one for your bike.
The stock silencer does the job but poorly. At least that’s what I am told by a mechanic I trust. I will be going in for a change in a few months’ time, once budget permits.
Incidentally, the silencer makes a big difference to the feedback you get in via the accelerator and the feeling of power when you increase the throttle.

Seats, backrest and Handlebars:
Now the RE C500 seats are nicely made and look good too. Anyone who has put their bum to the saddle for more than a couple of hours will testify that they are a real pain in the butt. To top things off the pillion seat does not have back rest by default. So, these are areas you will want to redo for sure. The Thunderbirds have a better seat I guess, though personally I have never spent 2 hours + on one of those.
It is easy enough to get hold of a backrest for the pillion. Changing the seats however is another matter. You need to get seats which will force your back to be upright and your legs in a comfortable position. This means you need to visit one of the seat specialists and get these made for you.

The handlebars, these are a little more specific to your height and build. Ideally you want handlebars which will keep you seated in a comfortable position. So if the stock ones don’t work for you then go ahead and change them. While you are at it, you can always move to some of the fancier handlebars which make the bike look cool.

The Saree guard:
Surely a uniquely Indian concept. The rumor is that even the Harleys had to get saree guards before they could come in to India and the Hayabusas faced some issues too. So, what purpose does this serve other than preventing the odd saree from getting caught in the spokes of the rear wheel. None.
So, like me, if your pillion is unlikely to ever wear a saree you can just get rid of this attachment. You don’t need to replace it with anything other than a basic wheel guard rod.
Storage:
Many of us buy the Bullet dreaming of doing long rides on them. Consequently it would be really nice if RE could introduce some products for this want. But then, having successfully ignored customer demand in so many areas it is no surprise that they have ignored the demand here too. At least thus far.
The worst part is that nobody makes saddle bags (hard case) for the left side of the bike. Since that is the side demure women would sit side-saddle why would anyone need a box there right! Yeah right!  
Well, the solution I used was a very in-elegant one, just placing the right side box on the left. Unfortunately the reflector faces the wrong way. One has been told that you can order Givi boxes from Singapore. If anyone has successfully done that it would be great to hear about your experience.

So, in summary there are bits and bobs of the bike which need changing and some which we absolutely must have even if we don’t need. 🙂

The best thing would be if the manufacturer would make some of these and offer them as upgrades and add-ons. We would then be re-assured of quality (OK, I know those eyes are rolling ) and of the fact that the add-ons would fit the bikes properly. I think as a company there is enough money to be made selling these stuff to warrant a business case.



Hopefully someone at RE will read this entry on the blog and try to help out us Bullet crazed people with some better quality stock stuff and accessories. Here’s hoping for the best.

THUMP ON !                                                                                                                                               

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