Almost the whole of literature is loaded with works of novelists, essayists, poets dealing with the existentialist crises of people not being able to find happiness, of the passion to dive headfirst into the deeper questions of life. While bestselling authors in their self-help books outline things which might be done to attain happiness, none of these people really ever talks about how one can locate one’s passion for things that might make him or her happy.

At least, I have rarely read any coming-of-age author talking to people like me: people, who have no clue about what they want to do, or where they want to go, people whom we can call “lost souls”. And what happens when these lost souls meet a few level-headed people who know where their passions lie?

Meet Bobby Singh, who has been restoring, designing and building bikes for the past 26 years. In the past 10 -12 years, Singh has made it his full time job. “I’ve always been obsessed with motorcycles and I think a motorcycle is a very intimate expression for a human being. Even when I generally speak to people, my mind subconsciously starts designing a bike as per the persona of  that person. Something that will qualify as an extension of that person’s personality,” says Bobby Singh of Old Delhi Motorcycles.

“Over the years I’ve made and shipped several bikes both in India and abroad. We mostly work around old British motorcycles and Enfields, while our new projects are around the new Royal Enfields as well. But most of the inspiration for my design is from the old Triumphs, BSAs, Nortons and other timeless beauties of the 50s and 60s in Britain,” adds Singh.     

While wondering why people would go for these upgrades or customisation, the words of Indore-based businessman Devendra Chughan who had customized Harley Davidson Heritage Softail Classic  and been awarded the Harley customization of the year at the India Biker Week 2016 cleared my thoughts. “Harley Davidson has a lineup of 10 models that are the same globally. So in order to show one’s passion or love for the bike, customisation is necessary. Now my bike stands out even when it is parked amid several others of the same model,” says Chughan.    

The reception of customised models has been a raging one.Like Jodhpur-based Manoj Sharma who got his Harley Davidson fat Boy a customized paintjob who says, “Stock is boring.”

Bobby Singh who is currently working on designing and making bikes with a sidecar says, “Currently I’m working on bikes that have these beautiful sidecars that are inspired by vintage British sports cars. These three-wheeled joy generators will make the people of Delhi sing ye dosti hum nahi todenge.”

These already beautiful machines when transformed into moving works of art, are quite the eye catchers. But just like all other artworks they too require a lot of hard work and attention to detail.

“Customisation is not an easy task for I had source parts from all over. Some came from our local dealership while the others from Pune, Hyderabad and the US. How can I forget the time and effort it takes to get it all together. It’s not just the bike builder that works tirelessly for the perfect motorcycle but also the owner,” says Chugh.

“The process of bike building is slow and tedious, with several hours going into the designing, fabricating and making of each and every part which is later assembled to create a complete motorcycle.”

But is customisation all about how good a bike looks? Is it all about how amazing the paintjob is or how fancy the saddle bags are? Well, not really, for this entire process of customisation is based on two aspects,  as Vijay Singh of Rajputana Customs who shot to fame after he customised a motorcycle for Bollywood actor John Abraham puts it. “First is the cosmetic customisation which means the exterior of the bike is personalised. Things like custom paintjobs, chrome accessories or anything that transforms the look of the bike. While the other is performance based, i.e. the engine, exhaust or transmission of the motorcycles is worked upon in order to tune the performance of a motorcycle. It’s not that performance modifications don’t alter the looks of a bike, they do, but it’s very subtle.”

In the words of Inderraj Gill, the proud owner of a Harley Davidson Iron 883, a Jaipur-based businessman, “I had gone for the performance modifications because for me a bike is all about riding and not what it looks like. I like my bike to ride and sound a certain way which is why while I was in Canada, I bought a few performance parts like a Vance and Hines exhaust which makes a specific sound which is known as the ‘Potato sound’, along with a fuel pack, a heavy breather air filter  and a midnight sun LED headlight.”

But customisation is not a cheap indulgence as first one needs to acquire a motorcycle which already costs a fortune unless you already are in possession of one. On top of that, one needs to also shell out quite a hefty sum for the customisation, for the bills of even a basic personalized modification can run into tens of thousands.    

“The process of bike building is slow and tedious with several hours going into the designing, fabrication and making of each and every part which is later on assembled to create a motorcycle. The process takes several months and countless hours of hard labour, thus the huge price tags,” says Vijay Singh while trying to explain the reason behind the massive costs.  

Talking about customisation Inderraj tells Guardian 20, “Buying a bike is like getting yourself a nice expensive piece of cloth. Now you can’t just drape it around your shoulders, can you? So, you go to a tailor who as per your requirements turns it into the perfect suit. Similarly these modifications or customisation makes that bike the perfect bike, your perfect bike. After all, a motorcycle is nothing but the extension of a man’s personality.”   

“Customised bikes define one’s love and passion for the machines. For a true lover, his bike is part of the family. So when a person gets it customised, he wants to get the things which truly reflects his or her own personality or the things he is influenced by. Bikes help people get answers in life because a biker not only explores the roads, towns and cities, he explores himself too,” says Mrigank Sharma, chapter manager of Dunes Harley Davidson, who has covered 56000 kms till date on his most favourite toy.


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