Vijay Krishnan July 14, 2019
Episode 14 of Two Stroke Tuesdays brings us to a motorcycle that was so intriguing and weird, all while still retaining its charm. We see how the Rajdoot GTS was a chariot too radical in its design to understand and why it was adored by hippies and suits alike.
We are back in Kerala where we meet Ligin who talks about his love for the Bobby. We see how this pocket-rocket two stroke fun machine is making a comeback after years in exile and relative obscurity.
The Rajdoot GTS was an anomaly when it came out to Indian markets in the early 70’s. It still lingers in the minds of a few hardcore enthusiasts who have seen the bike on Indian roads. The fun looking ‘monkey bike’ portrayed as a scooter was Rajdoot’s hopeful attempt at cracking India’s Two Wheeler market.
The India of late 60’s and early 70’s was still very much a fledgling economy and Rajdoot realized like most that the best way to appeal to the bulk of the two wheeler audience was to build a scooter. Before the advent of the Indo-Japanese dominators in the early 80’s, Motorcycles were still either mostly out of reach or too expensive to run for the common man and Scooters were the hot ticket to the middle class Motorcyclist.
Rajdoot’s first proper attempt at a scooter, the Rajdoot Rajhans however had failed to cast a shadow and flopped in the market. Rajdoot suddenly found themselves with a ton of parts intended for the Rajhans which sat alongside a stack of Motorcycle tanks that was meant for another Rajdoot flop, the Ranger.
The Engineers from Rajdoot dug into their stacked inventory and conjured up the Grand Tourismo Sports 175 or GTS 175. Ambitious in its nomenclature, the pocket-bike looked incredible. It came with the same 173 cc Two Stroke air cooled engine that served in the Rajdoot 175. The power was transmitted to the rear wheel through a 3-speed transmission. This made the cheeky-looking bike that would give mini-motos a run for their money owing to its short size, a peppy little number. The disproportionately large engine, generating 9.1hp, gave the two- and-half-feet-tall bike a very lively performance.
The Rajdoot GTS gained cult status after it featured in the movie Bobby and starred alongside Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia. Raj Kapoor’s movie made the little bike a star and earned it the nickname ‘Bobby’. The movie made the bike an icon of youth and romance. This charm turned out to be a double-edged sword. The Rajdoot GTS got typecast as the bike for the romantic young — and, in the 1970s, most twenty-something year-olds did not have the power to decide what they rode. And their guardians found the Rajdoot GTS falling short of what they expected, possessing just 50 percent of the fuel-efficiency of a typical monkey bike. As a result, not many Bobby bikes were sold. Also, like most things from the 70’s, the GTS too went out of fashion and its demise was sealed when the last one rolled out from Rajdoot’s factory in 1984. Only a very select few bought the bike. Yet, this once-cult bike lives on in many hearts.
One among them being Ligin Alex of Kollam DIstrict in Kerala. He is a Mechanical Engineer with an eternal love for Two Stroke Motorcycles. His love for Two Stroke Motorcycles being something passed down to him by his father Alexander K.G. We sat down with Ligin and talked about why this weird and mostly unknown bike means so much to him and his family.
So...What is the story with your Bobby?
This Bobby GTS was bought 26 years ago by my father and has been with the family ever since. He bought the bobby in spare parts with just the body panels and chasis in savable condition. He then plonked in the running gear from an RD 175 donor bike that he had acquired. It has been his daily driver since. We later switched the electrical system from point set to a modern system from the Excel-T and changed the paint several times in the course of 26 years. But the love for it has remained exactly the same if not more.
Why is the Bobby so special to you?
It is the first mototrcycle whose throttle I twisted. My dad would seat me on top of the fuel tank and let me hold on to the throttle when we went for a ride. He would also let me give it a twist every now and then. Also, just as I was learning to write, my dad would make me run outside to where the bike was parked and ask me to memorise its name, come back and write it down. Thus the GTS 175 has been etched in my memory since I was a kid.
I learned riding on this bike and see it as a brother as it has been with me since I was born. I have spent a lot of time on the Bobby and have so many memories on it. I have gone far and wide on the Bobby with my father. It took my family everywhere when I was a kid. Even my Mom has a special connection to it. The grease from the chain seems to always mess up her sarees but she still prefers to go on the Bobby. Such is the presence of the bike in my family.
Why Two Stroke Motorcycles?
My father is the reason for my love for Two Stroke motorcycles. He is a true Two Stroker at heart. He owned a Yezdi and Jawa at one point but had to sell them off to meet ends meet. Even when were at dire straits financially, he still held on to the Bobby and didn't even think of selling it. Just the fact he still uses the Bobby on a daily basis is a true inspiration for the Two Stroker in me.
He bought me a KB 100 that was my daily driver up until I left for college. Ever since those days, Two Stroke bikes were the only Motorcycles that would float my boat. Four Strokes never could quench my thirst when it came to the pure sensation of riding the Motorcycle.
How is it like to own the Bobby?
Since it is a mini bike, people are fascinated by it generally. I have a lot of people who come up to me and say it is a cute motorcycle and whatnot. On the flip side, there are people who see this bike as a joke and make fun of you. But for the people who know about the Bobby, they just absolutely adore it. It is such a joy to see people in awe of the bike, others coming upto you and complimenting you on your Motorcycle.
I have been totally into the two stroke lifestyle for the past 3 years now. I am one of the admins of a local moto club called Garage 24. It is a club based in my locality of Kottarakara and has all kinds of vehicles including Two Strokes such as Yamaha RX's, RXZ's, Lambrettas and of course the Rajdoot Bobby. I hang out with guys who own the latest Duke and RC bikes but I still prefer to roll out on the Bobby. Even when we park the bikes next to each other, people still come forward to ask and enquire about the Bobby in particular.
I think there would probably be only a handful of Bobby bikes in Kerala. Its so rare in these parts that I am mostly known among the local circles as the guy who owns the Bobby or GTS bike. People are surprised to see that it's still in perfect running condition. The sound, blue smoke and the stares of onlookers are all such a joy for me. It really makes owning the bike feel like you own something special.
I have never declined anyone who has asked me for the keys of the Bobby. I never even tell them to go easy on the gear or any such particulars. I am happy to share this bike with the others as they also get to experience how it is like to ride one. There have been times where people walking past our house come in to ask about the bike. My mother would tell them it runs just fine or I would start it for them if I'm around to which they are usually amazed. There have also been an incident where a car stopped us to offer to buying the bike. My dad declined their advances and even offered them the bike for a spin. Such was the kind of person he was, very selfless and open to sharing the bike with the world.
The Bobby is a very reliable Motorcycle that carried on the Rajdoot way of making robust and reliable Motorcycles. It has not once died on us or stranded us midway. However, nowadays the availability of spares has turned out to be a real problem. Things such as the chain and sprocket set, and other such spare parts have become really hard to source
So...what other Motorcycle do you own besides the Bobby?
I own an old Chetak Scooter besides the Bobby. It use it daily and really love riding around on it.
What would be your dream Motorcycle?
It would have to be the RD 350. It is that one Motorcycle I would love to own if my resources permitted.
Photo Credits - yogichhabria_ycdesign
At the moment though, I don't even contemplate of picking up an old Two Stroke Motorcycle like an old Yamaha RX. I know that owning another Motorcycle would mean that I would use the Bobby less. If you ask me if I would want to pick up a new Motorcycle, I would say no and would tell you I am perfectly happy with the Bobby. That is how much content I am with the bike.
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