Vijay Krishnan, Aug 7, 2019
The Yezdi was India's take on the Czech masterpiece that was Jawa motorcycle. Initially sold in India under license under the Jawa moniker by Ideal Jawa Ltd. The Mysore mother plant churned out numerous variations based on the Jawa 353/04 or 'A' Type. Production of Jawa's in India began from 1960 up till 1973, when they were rebranded as Yezdi.
Photo Credits - Wikipedia
The below excerpt has been taken from Yezdis of India and beautifully encompasses the history of the brand:-
The JAWAs were the sweethearts of the motocross and rallying circuit in Europe, and subsequently all over the world. The Czech bikes have an illustrious place in the sport’s history and were invincible. The Yezdi was a beautiful Indianisation of the JAWA built to greater standards of ruggedness and last forever.
Forever Bike, Forever Value was not just a catchy strapline - it was the inception of a narrative that captured the minds and hearts of millions of motorcycling enthusiasts in India. In 1969, it proclaimed the launch of the Yezdi motorcycle in India. Its unique design, inherent ruggedness and raw power made the Yezdi a symbol of reliability and resilience in the Indian market.
Yezdi enhanced the rich racing history, passion, and invincibility to speed racing the motocross and rally circuits in India. Owners and mechanics came together and made modifications to introduce the Yezdi motorcycle into the racing arena. The unrelenting tracks of Sholavaram, Pune, and Kolkata saw many hard fought races, whereas the high altitudes in the Himalayas and winding roads of the South saw the Yezdis win many rallies.
The Yezdi lineup is one that is still ambiguous for the average motorcyclist. There were the Yezdi Classic, The CL II and the Deluxe, which were pretty much a variation of the same motorcycle with slight changes in styling and ergonomics.
Photo Credits - Yezdis of India
Then there was the Yezdi 175 which was Yezdi's answer to the Rajdoot 175 and other smaller Indo-Japanese bikes at the time.
Photo Credits - Yezdis of India
Then there were the more powerful Roadking model. They were meant to be for the long commutes and had a slightly higher top speed than the Classic models.
The Oil King was launched in the late 70's and was basically a Roadking with a separate pump for the 2T mix with petrol. The production on these bikes ceased soon after due to the pumps failing consistently. The prominent protrusion on the left side gearbox housing stayed though, with all later Roadking models sporting the bulge even without any pumps.
Photo Credits - Wikipedia
The short comings of the brand soon honed into views with failures like the Yezdi Colt and the Yezdi 350 Twin, which were much inferior to the competition in performance and reliability. They carried technology that had been outdated by the Japanese bikes at the time.
Photo Credits - Wikipedia
Photo Credits - Wikipedia
The Monarch was a later model that came towards the tail end of the company's life, with 18 inch rims all around and the frame and tank borrowed from the Yezdi 350 Twin. Even though it was an impressive model, it was a case of too little too late and the Monarch ended up being the swan song of the company.
Photo Credits - Yezdis of India
Photo Credits - Wikimedia Commons
The Yezdis, like most two stroke motorcycles eventually fell victim to emission norms and the Indian demand for more practicality. The vice grip of the Japanese bikes over the Indian Market by the time meant that Yezdis no longer stayed relevant and the company went bust. The final Yezdi rolled of the line in 1996.
Thus ended a chapter in Indian motorcycling like no other. Never was a brand that was so adored and celebrated by the entire spectrum of the population. This devotion to the bikes from the Indian motorcyclist and the fact that Yezdi Jawa riding groups have grown and have kept the flames lit means the Yezdi still roars to this day and will for years to come.
We meet someone who is helping keeping the flames blazing with his love for Yezdis. So much love intact he goes by the Yezdiguy. We find out why these bikes are still talked about in such high regard. We meet up with Sahil Ambre and talk about his love for all things Yezdi and bike.
Tell us about yourself
So I work for a media company called The Viral Fever, known more on the Internet by TVF. As for what I do, I create content for brands, mainly digital content. I work for Travel shows and Web shows. So travel has always been a constant thing in my line of work. I love motorcycles and I have an undying love for old Yezdis. So much so I go by the handle theyezdiguy on instagram.
Why Two Stroke Motorcycles?
Firstly its the sound, secondly the torque that you get on a 2 stroke motorcycle is impossible to replicate. The smoke, vibrations and the whole feeling is something that one simply doesn't get in a four stroke motorcycle.
Where does your love for two stroke motorcycles stem from?
I was born and brought up in Bombay and my love for Two Stroke started from this uncle of mine who had an IND-SUZUKI A100. I used to love taking rides on it and absolutely loved the whole theatre around the bike. The sound, the smoke and the vibrations were all so visceral and felt raw. I never got this feeling on a splendor or a CD100 which belonged to one of my other uncles. I did not know the difference between them but knew exactly which bike I would take for a spin if it was possible.
As for my very first motorcycle, it was a Hero Honda Karizma. I rode it for about 3-4 months before I had to sell it off as I was having a slip disc problem. I was bedridden for two and a half years. I took about 3 years to recover and was given the green light to do light work on motorcycles like a short commute The first thing I wanted to do after getting the go ahead from the doctor was to get a bike for myself. Even though my parents were understandably against it, I decided to go ahead with getting one. I did a few freelance jobs and raised enough money for a motorcycle and ended up buying an RX 100 for 12k.
It was the CKD model that I rode for just a handful of days. I took it to Alibaugh which basically was my first ride on the motorcycle. I loved the bike but I wanted something a bit toned down and something that was a comfortable cruiser. Soon after, I caught one of my school friends named Sheru riding a Yezdi. It was the first time I saw the bike and absolutely fell in love with it. It had twin exhausts and I fell in love with the whole rumble and commotion when one rode it. It looked absolutely beautiful and it just captured my imagination just like that and it made me decide that I wanted to get one for myself. Those were the days when there were no OLX or any online ads. So I had to purely rely on the old Yahoo chat groups and that is where I got a contact for a Mechanic who had a bike for sale. The struggle to own one was so hard. It took me 3-4 months to find one. I can now say I know the right contacts as in riders and mechanics but back then, I had no such people I could lean on to get whereabouts on a motorcycle I wanted . So I had no idea where I could get one from.
I finally got a lead on a bike and immediately took off on the RX to check out the bike. On getting there, I saw the bike which was in a silver shade and immediately fell in love with it. I agreed to the deal and asked for 7 days to complete the payment on being asked for a token amount. I didn’t have any token money at the time and had to ask him to trust me to get the deal over the finish line. I told him I would sell off the RX 100 and raise money to buy it as soon as possible. When you ride around in the city, the sound just does the pied piper thing with every ears tuning into your bike. I get a lot of attention purely because of the sound. Since Yezdis have a rich history in India in terms of racing or being a big part of the pop culture of the times.
I guess he would have been pretty surprised as I sold the RX 100 the very next day for 15k and I purchased the very same Yezdi soon after with the help of friends who chipped in to get it up to 16k. I had a baptism of fire on the Yezdi as the 40km ride back home had heavy rain and I had no experience beforehand of riding it. So that was basically how my Yezdi journey began.
A CKD RX100 is much sought after these days. Any regrets on sacrificing yours for Wishkey?
I would have to say not one bit. I like the RX 100 but it is not a motorcycle that fits my style. The RX 100 is a good machine for commuting, chilling and riding around in the city and generally having fun. Max 150 km. Yezdi is a bike made for touring, in the RX, the vibes kick in earlier than you expect it to. not saying its a bad bike but it just was not meant for touring. Not a bike that I will use to tour. I have done Goa non-sop without any backache and no troubles. It is such as easy ride.
How did the name of your motorcycle come about?
So I purchased this bike and rode with my friends who were seeing it for the first time. I just had gotten it fixed up and painted. It used to be matt green back then. It was an overnight stay. We were just having some whiskey and lounging around when suggestions started popping up from everywhere on what to name my motorcycle. People were slinging around names like Basanti and all those Bollywood type names.
Suddenly I happened to ask for some wishkey and one of my friends pointed out the mistake I had made and said that it should be the name of the bike seeing I had wished for it for the longest time. Hence the name stuck and she has been Wishkey ever since. I also find a connection with the Yezdi key and the name as the key sort of looks like a wand that fulfills my every wish as soon as I turn it.
What are the changes have you made to Wishkey since you have got her?
I use Wishkey as my daily driver, so I had to do a couple of things on it to make it everyday usable. I added a custom seat to help ease my back problems and made sure it had good foam on it to make it as comfy as possible. The biggest issue that I had to resolve on Wishkey after I got her was the horn which was made for a point set model. It was probably made in 72’ or 74’. It was a pain to get it fixed as it was rusted out and it took some effort to get it sorted. It is not good as a modern horn but I decided to keep it for the vintage. The rear brake switch never worked on my Yezdi. It was a common problems for most Yezdis and most people just got around this problem by retro fitting a brake switch from Japanese bikes of that time like a CD100. My mechanic however, was able to sort this issue out and everything works perfectly fine on my motorcycle now.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my mechanic, Shagir bhai. He is a specialist in Yezdi and Jawa motorcycles and works exclusively with them barring the odd job on an Enfield for a friend. He has poured his heart and soul into my bike and he is a big part of why she is running like is now.
What are your fondest memories on the Yezdi?
So the three years I spent away from the saddle made me realize just how much I missed riding and being on the road. It made me realise just how much of an escape a motorcycle was and how much I loved it.
After I bought the bike, I somehow managed to get it home even though it stalled in between the ride for 2-3 times. I had to get used to the left side kick start which meant I had to get of the bike initially each time I wanted to start it up. All the controls were different as the shift pattern was upside down compared to the modern bike and there was a false neutral between 2ndgear and 3rdgear as well as 3rdand 4thgear. This is on top of the fact that the shifter turned into the kick start.
Another wonderful memory would be my first IBW ride and I was riding the Yezdi. A lot of Harleys and other big bikes passed me on my way there and I got a thumbs up from every one of the riders. On reaching there, I was greeted by these same people who I then befriended and whom I still keep in touch with.
How did you fall in love with the Yezdi brand?
After I bought the bike, I came to learn about the bike and got to know it was a 250cc motorcycle contrary to the 100cc bike I thought it was. I started doing some research on the Yezdi too and I got to learn of its lineage and it’s amazing history. Slowly I started getting more attached to the bike and learned to understand it more. It was a very organic relationship one had with these motorcycle. The motorcycle worked just fine when I absolutely needed it to and just fell apart as soon as I stopped caring for it. It was a very human relationship I had with the Yezdi.
Moreover, I loved how rugged and reliable their engines were. And the main reason for the robust construction of these engines was because its underpinnings were from the time of the world war when fuel was in short supply. So they designed it to accommodate the use of kerosine as an alternative as Kerosine was widely used as a household fuel those days in Europe. They were used for racing, carrying all kinds of stuff on them and pretty much anything a motorcycle could be used for. Still they just kept chugging along and didn't give up as long as you did basic maintenance. They are made on such bulletproof engineering.
I acquired one more Yezdi after Wishkey, which was a Roadking that I got from Ajmer in Rajasthan. I found the bike on facebook and it was owned by one of my friends to whom I asked if he would sell it to me. He ended up agreeing to the sell the bike and even shipped it to Mumbai for me. It used to ride fine but there was a problem with the third gear. So whenever I used to crack open the throttle, the gear would slip and there was a false neutral issue all the time. This was about when I decided to take the Yezdi to Ladakh, which would be my first ride on the Roadking. I was nervous just thinking about the state of the bike with the task that laid ahead to reach Ladakh. I eventually managed to get it fixed two days before I shipped the bike to Chandigarh and my Ladakh adventure was kicked off.
Why the Roadking?
I decided to get the Roadking mainly because it is more powerful and because it was a CDI model, it would be much easier to get it going compared to the point set Classic 250. It is about 3 bhp more powerful compared to Wishkey, which was a CL II and had longer legs and a more relaxed riding position. It's basically more power and speed. Wishkey is basically a Yezdi CL II and is a 1986 model where as the Roadking is a 1994 model. Both are different breeds owing to their set up, with the Roadking having an electrical system and a more relaxing ride.
What other Motorcycles do you own apart from your two Yezdis?
Apart from Wishkey and my Roadking, I have a Benelli 302 R, a Royal Enfield Continental GT 535 and an RX 100. The RX 100 is not a bike that I would use to do long rides. Its more about short rides and chilling and commutes of max 100-150km at a go. I have done Mumbai to Goa non-stop on the Yezdi comfortably without any back aches. So I do the long rides on the Yezdis and do the ocassional short jaunts on the RX.
What can you say has been the finest hour of motorcycling in your life so far?
I had been to Prague and had gone to the Jawa museum. I had travelled for about 5 hours to get there. I did multiple train switches and hopped on several buses to reach the place. I got there only to know it was closed for the day. But knowing that I had come all the way from India and just because of the love I had for the brand, the guy in charge let me in. The guy who owned the museum there couldn’t speak any English but his girlfriend could and she did all the translating for me initially. He gave me a glass of beer and told me to just go and see the whole collection. I was basically left by my own in the mecca of Jawa motorcycles. I saw all the bikes I have just seen in pics. The museum smelled of 2t oil and history. It still gives me goosebumps talking about it. I saw all the old Jawas, the dispatch bikes and even those with machine guns employed in the world war. I saw the Jawa car and all the competition bikes. It was such a trip to see these classics all under one roof. I was wandering around in the museum I was set to board a bus back to Prague at 5 but got caught up with drooling over the bikes so much so that it was about 7 when I wound up my tour. I was to take a flight the next day from prague back home. The owner took me in his car for 70-80kms and dropped me off somewhere I could get a bus. It was an amazing experience as we didn’t speak each others language and communicated merely through signs and hints and the love for motorcycles. That would have be the ultimate high of motorcycling life so far.
Any dream bikes?
I don't have a dream bike on my mind. Obviously I drool over many motorcycles on the internet like the BMW GS or the Triumph Tiger, basically an adv motorcycle. It is something that keeps changing for me. I would say, if its a two stroke I would want to get, it would probably have to be a Jawa. But I am pretty much very content with what I've got.
Check out Sahil on Instagram @theyezdiguy_
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