Show your kid the love for motorcycles and he shall never have money for drugs,” read a man’s T-shirt as he drove past me on his 1972 Norton, around the Connaught Place area in New Delhi post-midnight.Motorcycles for long have been associated with machismo. Any ad video or a fashion line bears testimony to that, for you will never fail to notice a fair, brawny guy posing next to a motorcycle or riding it. And among these motorcycles, a majority of them would either be a vintage bike or one that “looks” vintage.
Although biking is what connects millions of people around the world — just like the shared love for books, coffee, music — bike lovers have individual preferences too. There are a number of “genres” that bike enthusiasts choose their favourite from — you have those whose thirst for stunts on bikes are quenched only by their love for sports bikes; ones who dote on Cruisers; and also those who love all things archaic and beautiful (the vintage bike riders).
“The preference is not actually based on opinion but on age I assume. For young people, speed and agility is what they seek for adrenaline. That is what drives them. These are guys who’ll want super bikes. That does not mean a grown-up will not enjoy a super bike, they equally do but not as much. Grown-ups like us prefer comfort, long-distance travel, so we end up picking up cruisers. Vintage is a completely different ball game. Anyone with means and affection for biking will like vintage bikes, but again these are trophies, not tools like the other two,” says Praneet Shivhare, a Jaipur-based businessman.
Vintage motorcycles in India has a huge following and. mind you, these bikes are not easily affordable. In the words of Kailash Singh, a vintage bike restorer at Karol Bagh, New Delhi, “I sold a fully restored Java last week for Rs 75,000. So you can understand how expensive it is. Plus the maintenance of these machines is not cheap either. We charge between eight to ten thousand for servicing and regular maintenance work on these vintage bikes.”
He adds: “The cost of maintenance is high as spare parts are limited and expensive. So the person working on the bike needs to be extra careful thus increasing the time taken to fix these beauties. Also the bike that comes in come once in a year or only when something seriously goes wrong so the costs are naturally very high. Unlike regular bikes, these bikes are used seldom, so the regular wear and tear is not the reason for them to come in.”
Do high costs deter true enthusiasts? And pat comes the reply from a friend, “Passion has no price.”
“The cost of maintenance is high as spare parts are limited and expensive. So the person working on the bike needs to be extra careful thus increasing the time taken to fix these beauties.”
Sachit Kumar Singh, an Agra-based businessman, can be considered a classic example, as he is the proud owner of 54 vintage motorcycles and scooters. Be it a B.S.A., Norton, Java, Royal Enfield, Harley or Indian, he has it all. “All this started in 1998 when the hunger to have a bigger motorcycle like a Harley me look around the country. Back then Harley’s and other international brands were not available in India. So I started buying and restoring old ones.”
On being asked about the feasibility of restoring vinatge bikes, Shivhare says, “Vintage bikes cannot be used as a regular mode of transportation for they are not as refined as the current motorcycle. Plus they are not as comfortable as the current ones too. So they are good for Sunday rides to a nearby picnic spot. But if true biking is what you seek then you will need to have a newer motorcycle in your garage.”
“I own a 2015 Harley Davidson for my regular rides and also have two vintage bikes, a B.S.A. and an A.J.S. The vintage bikes are beautiful to look at and nice to ride but using them for long-haul rides is not possible. So yes if you are considering investing in these vintage beauties, remember they are like show horses that can be mounted on for a while but when you need to gallop for miles and miles you need a steed that’s bred and trained to do just that, which in this case is a newer bike,” says Praveen Sharma, a Jodhpur based businessman.
Owning these timeless relics is not just expensive but also very time-consuming. “I have a full time mechanic who just looks after my bikes but I still end up spending about ten hours in the workshop every week. As it’s the wearer who knows where the shoe pinches,” says the enthusiast Sachit Kumar.
Considering the cost and time spent on these collections, one may think that collecting these timeless beauties is nothing but a rich man’s game. “Not really, I’m a salaried person and my pay cheque is also not massive. I can be considered as the perfect example of that happy middle-class owner of a 1975 Royal Enfield,” says Mrigank Sharma, a marketing executive, who lives in Delhi.
“The price of maintaining a vintage Royal Enfield is way lower than other older bikes, so all you need to do is understand how much you can afford to spend and find a suitable bike as in the world of collectors there is room for everyone,” adds Mrigank.
So no matter what kind of a biker you choose to be, there is always a bike out there for you. Wishes ain’t horses and of course money plays an important role but if you think your passion supersedes everything else, that should be your prime concern. That should, in this case, not stop you from investing and restoring your favourite vintage bike.