For many people, Motorcycles are that one connect to the past. It is that reminder of someone who you shared memories with on the Motorcycle. One can even say that they are a means to talk to the dead, with the twist a the throttle sending a tidal wave of memories and nostalgia your way.
Meet a man who is slowly realising a lifelong dream of fulfilling his Fathers Legacy and starting a Motorcycle Restoration Shop. Episode 13 features Maddy and his lifelong love for vintage Motorcycles especially Rajdoots and get to know why they mean so much to him. So much so that he has 5 of the same Rajdoot Motorcycles.
So Maddy...tell us about yourself
My name is Dinesh Swaminathan. I am known better among my friends by my alias which is Maddy. I am originally from Bangalore, but was raised in Andhra Pradesh and have been a resident of Chennai for the past 10 years now. I am a Master of Social Work graduate from MCC Chennai and have been a full time social worker since. I currently work in a firm called Rentkoil Initial as their Corporate Social Responsibility Head for India and Indonesia. I go around orphanages, slums, community schools and other underprivileged areas giving awareness on community hygeine.
Why old Motorcycles?
I am crazy about vintage motorcycles. I have been a lot around them every since my childhood and I have just been generally interested in them for as long as I can remember. My father had a garage. He had 3 Rajdoots, 2 Jawas and a Suvega himself. My father loved the garage more than his family. He used to work on old Motorcycles and cars. My Father passed away while I was still very young and my close relatives took away all the vehicles he owned without paying my Mother a dime. Since then I have taken it upon myself as my life's mission to own the same Classic Motorcycles that my dad owned.
Where did this love story with Rajdoot start from?
I remember was in 10th Std when I saw a bike with a disc brake for the first time. On asking a Mechanic about it, he explained to me that it was a device to stop the bike more precisely and with less chance of skidding. Towards the end, he remarked that there is a bike that can stop just as well even without having the discs on them. That was the first time I heard about Rajdoot Motorcycle. The Motorcycle in question here was the Rajdoot 175. He said that it has two big dampeners on the forks and good brakes that help it stop as good as a Motorcycle with disc brake.
I saw the bike for the first time with my very own eyes was when I was in the 12th standard. That refreshed my memory and made me realise that this Motorcycle was once owned by my father. That fascination of owning the Motorcycle started from there and has grown ever since.
Why Two Stroke Motorcycles?
I don't like 4 strokes mainly because of the sound the produce. There is no feel and feels like eating a Biriyani without the Chicken. I had many people in my college who owned the RX 100. On asking why they sounded so different, I was told that it was because one was a Two Stroke Motorcycle and the other was not. I then looked up on their workings and was fascinated by their simple design and impressive output. I have wanted to own a Two Stroke Motorcycle ever since.
How did you end up owning 5 Rajdoots?
I never thought I would own 5 of them when I bought the first one. When I went around enthusiastically looking for Rajdoots, people realised I was desperate for one and were quickly to quote high prices for their bikes. Realising this, I adopted the strategy of approaching these garages that sold off old motorcycles in pursuit of a Jawa and not a Rajdoot. They would tell me a Jawa was not available but that they had a Rajdoot for sale and offered them to me at a good price.
It was a Red Motorcycle that I modified to look like an old pre-war Motorcycle. I remember feeling frustrated and angry each time the mechanic who I had commissioned the bike build to asked me for money and when the bills kept piling up. But all this was forgotten the moment I clapped eyes on the finished Motorcycle for the first time. All my sorrows were wiped out just like that as the Motorcycle just looked stunning. What I do now is I keep some money aside every month from my savings to buy old Rajdoots.
In these three years, I bought the 5 Motorcycles. First Rajdoot in 2016. An 1983 Point Set Model from Andhra Pradesh and hence the fancy ABC Registration. Then there is the Black on in mint condition. It is a 1992 Chennai Registered model.
In 2018, I acquired the red Rajdoot from a friend and a member of the Rajdoot riders group. I have this habit of keeping an eye out for mechanic sheds, specifically for potential old motorcycles for sale. One day while shopping for some gifts for a friend, my eyes caught site of a Rajdoot in a Mechanic Shed. I went to enquire and to my astonishment, it was a Super D-175 model. After much persuasion, he sold the bike to me. It is a blue motorcycle with the rd parts on it.
Suvega was my fourth Motorcycle. Now I am restoring a car after which I will get to work on the Rajdoot again.
I basically bought all 5 Motorcycles in a span of 3 years and am now slowly restoring each one. I want to make each one of them different to one another but stay true to the factory original as much as possible. I am now in the hunt for the old model Rajdoot 175, particularly those from 62' to 69'.
What are your most fond memories of your Rajdoots?
On the day before I picked up my first Rajdoot, I remember that I had a hard time sleeping and kept hearing the Rajdoot's engine note over and over in my head for some reason. I had paid the guy who was selling the day before and barely slept up until I picked up the bike.
If you ask me what was the most happiest moment of your life so far, the first would have to be the birth of my son. The second would be when I saw the restored first Rajdoot for the first time. Sitting on it and finally riding it, I felt such profound joy which could be eclipsed only by that when my son was born.
The Twin Seats on the restored bike has an interesting story to them. The mechanic handed me the finished bike one day at 7 pm. I sat on the bike and had a feel for it and suddenly this thought popped in my mind of making it into a twin seat. The mechanic was very hesitant in the beginning saying that it won't look good. I showed him a picture of an old BSA Motorcycle with Twin Seats and convinced him that it would work. He said that he would order parts from Chennai and get the job done in about a week and a half. To which I said that I couldn't wait any more and needed the bike tonight to make it to Chennai riding it. The place where I got my Motorcycle worked on was a small town in Andhra Pradesh called Chittoor.
So here I am in the middle of the night, looking for a twin seats to put on my Motorcycle. Also, I had to return to Chennai the next day as I had promised my wife that I would reach there by 9am.I searched every auto shop and parts stores I could find and came away with nothing. I finally went to a shop selling Royal Enfield spares and got myself a pair of seats to put on the Rajdoot. It was of course not a straight forward fit and had to be welded in places to accommodate it on the frame. I took the seats to a welder's to get it welded and was told that he had two jobs waiting and would do mine only after. So I ended up waiting till 10 pm for him to get started on my seats despite him saying he wanted to close up at 10pm. I got the job done and got the bike by 4am. Then the saddlebags fell down after that. So I ended up fixing that and finally setting off for Chennai at 6am.
It is a 3 hour ride from Chittoor to Chennai. I set-off at 6 and reached Chennai at 8:30. Despite everyone advising against taking an Old Motorcycle out to Chennai for the fears it might break down, the bike didn't disappoint me even once and got me to my destination earlier than I had promised.
I got pulled aside by a cop near Egmore and asked me how much would it take to buy the Rajdoot. he said he knew it was a modified Rajdoot but was willing to pay good money for the Motorcycle. I was quick to dismiss his intentions albeit very politely.
What is it about the Rajdoot that intrigues you?
It is a very user friendly bike. It looks like a beast but rides and handles like a baby.
After a long time in 2015, this idea sparked in my mind that I have to open a motorcycle restoration shop. And the first Motorcycle that came to my mind when I decided to step forward with the plan is Rajdoot. Back in the days, people used Rajdoots all over India as a means to carry milk. Hence it got the stereotype of the 'Doodhwala's Motorcycle'. People used to carry 250-300 litres of milk on the bike which was equal to almost 4 people. So here we had a Motorcycle that could carry so much load with ease and with 3 gears and yet it ends up being known best just as a Milkman's Motorcycle.
There are basically two types of Rajdoot based purely on their electrical system - Electric and Point Set. In layman terms, they are the DC and AC models, with point set missing a battery and running its auxillaries on a dynamo. The working of the point set I feel is all about heat. On cold starting the bike, the bike will be very slow initially when you ride it and will drag you along until it picks up heat. That is when the bike starts picking up pace and when the engine is hot enough, it starts going faster than you anticipated and really runs fast.
If you could save only one of your Motorcycles?
I would save the Suvega. The Suvega is a very rare moped these days. I am a part of the Rajdoot Club and that would always keep me in the loop for one . You don't see any parts or specialists of these motorcycles around. Most importantly, my father owned a Suvega on which I had my earliest memories of bike rides with my Father. That is the same reason why I bought one and restored it, it was in remembrance of my Father. The Suvega being in my home is like my Father being there. If not for the Suvega, it would certainly be the Twin Seat Rajdoot because of the time, effort and money I invested on it.
What is that one one Motorcycle you would love to own?
It would have to be an old Jawa 250, just like the one my father owned. I approached one of my Uncles to ask him if I could have the Jawa which my father owned. It was rotting away in the rain and I asked him if I could take it for myself and get it restored. He said he couldn't do that which made me feel bad about the family and the whole state of affairs. So I have always wanted to own the Jawa since then which I guess led me to get the brand new Jawa Classic Maroon. And even though the new Jawa is a very impressive machine in itself, I still long for that raw feel and the noise I got from the Jawa. One can never know, I might just end up getting an old Jawa in the future to satisfy my craving for one. They are just too expensive at the moment for me.
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Is it too early to gloat and make fun of those who just took deliveries of their Royal Enfield 350's and Jawas? We will try to delve into the 300-500cc pot that has been given an almighty stir with the introduction of the all new Honda CB 350 dubbed the Highness, or H'ness for short.