Two Stroke Tuesdays E19 : 1968 Rajdoot 175 - Made for Memories
Rajdoot was a mark that traced it roots to manufacturing foreign made motorcycles under license. They started with the best Poland had to offer in the form of the SHL M11 175cc motorcycle that had the WFM Two Stroke thumper. They sold the same bike in India in Excel T and Deluxe models. The company slowly took up the name Rajdoot and by the last 60's, Escorts were selling the black coloured Soviet motorcycles in droves. The bike was available only in black up until Rajdoot came out with the four speed iteration of the 175, called Super D-175.
Photo Credits - Wikimedia Commons
These nimble and robust motorcycles were iconic in their day and were the ever reliable workhorse for the blue collared worker and farmers alike. It ran the length and width of the country for a long time and outlasted the Yezdi in terms of relevance in the market. A chunk of this goes to the reliable nature of the motorcycle. So much so that Bollywood actor Dharmendra hailed it as “jaandar sawaari, shandaar sawaari”, which loosely translates to simple and robust ride. It is simple to work on and had tremendous desire when it comes to hauling which made it the weapon of choice for the milkmen. Farmers used to carry inordinate amounts of cans on the bike and it would still chug along with a plomb. Hence it came to be known as the loadman motorcycle and was stereotyped as the doodhwala’s motorcycle which translates into ‘the milkman’s motorcycle’.
My name is Arul Dominic and I ride a 1968 WFM-Rajdoot 175. I am very passionate when it comes to Rajdoots, Jawas and basically most classic two wheelers. One could say my affinity towards Motorcycles and Cars stems from My Father. He was into Motorcycle racing in Sholavaram, Chennai in the late 70’s and early 80’s , during his bachelor days. He raced in the 175 cc motorcycle category on the Rajdoot while his brother rode the Rajdoot RD 350 in the 350cc category.
Photo Credits - Wikimedia Commons
The Sholavaram track was the mecca of Motorsports in South India back in the 60’s through to the 80’s. The Track was a section of an airstrip that was in active duty during World War II. The Sholavaram track was graced by greats from Motorsport Clubs all over India and from abroad. Entrants flocked all the way from Ceylon and beyond to participate in the hotly contested race events. At its peak, the Sholavaram races pulled crowds almost 70000 strong despite the rudimentary bamboo spectator stands and poor to non-exisent facilities. Imagine a starting line of tricked out Jawas and later Yezdis, BSA’s, Triumphs and bikes from marks whose names were unknown to the general populous in the late 50’s and 60’s through to the 80’s. This was hallowed grounds that saw titanic duels between racers on two wheels. People were witness to motorcycles going at speeds that were simply unheard of at the time.
Photo Credits - Wayback Machine
Even after his wedding, he would continue racing for a couple of years but was forced to quit because of a spinal cor spaundulitis. Doctors had advised him to not go near a motorcycle, let alone go racing on them. The nerve endings around his spinal cord were getting damaged and he had no other option but to quit. My uncle met with an accident and passed away. Another reason why he gave up racing. The bike was raced from 1978 to 1982, during which the Rajdoot had won the highest points in the 175 cc category in 1981.
We had two Rajdoot’s back then, one of which was sold a friend of my fathers who wanted to own it. We kept the other purely out of nostalgia. My dad had used it since college so we kept it around the house for the memories.
When I was about 11-12, my dad bought my then 18 yr old brother a motorcycle. So naturally, I got jealous and started asking one for myself. He obviously said no because I was too young and had no license. I Used to go with my father to drop off my mom at work. It was a 30 km commuted I used to get up very early to go for the ride along with my father. My dad used to work in IIT Madras and I remember riding around with dad in the morning in the campus. It was cold in the morning and green and it caught the imagination of my younger self. After getting my Mother to her office, he would drop me at school after and that was my daily routine.
When I grew up, I told my father I needed the old bike and not a new one. I wanted the very same motorcycle I rode every morning to school on. I guess this adamant stance of mine startled him because it got him thinking about the motorcycle and his racing days again. He started to restore it and soon he was back to riding it again. Since it was running again, I tried sneaking the Rajdoot out many times. The stumbling block was the task of starting it. If one didn’t know how to pump the start properly, it would kick you back with some ferocity. It basically took no prisoners and I understood this to my cost several times. My dad soon found out and he taught me how to properly get it started.
As and when I was at an age appropriate enough to ask for a bike, I immediately started demanding for the Rajdoot again. I said all my dad needed to do was restore it and give it to me despite them offering to get me a brand new motorcycle. I even said fixing it up and giving it to me would be fine as well. Although my Father painted the bike, he still kept the Gujals symbol on the side panel of the bike. He told me that he had kept it because it brought back great memories from his days racing with the Gujals and the days if Sholavaram.
He told me the Rajdoot was was part of the Gujals club. There was a Gujals club logo painted on the tank as well. My fathers friend Ajit Singh had Rajdoot dealership in Mount Road Chennai. Although he had shut up shop after he wrapped up his Yamaha dealership. He was kind enough to give me contacts of the mechanics who used to work there and were now running specialist shops in Chennai. I guess he was reminded of the good old days by the bike, he took expense for the restoration done and when I asked why he would do it he retorted saying he would have given me a brand new one if he still had the dealership. He said that it was his gift. He said he loves this bike, just like how my dad does and told me it was now my turn to go through the motions.
Ajit Singh came from a family of Businessmen and Motorsport enthusiasts.The Singhs were into motorcycle racing back in the early 70’s when the Sholavaram track was in its pinnacle. Inder Singh who was the father owned the Rajdoot dealership in Chennai's famous Mount Road and Ajit ran the service centre. He along with some businessmen from Mount Road were running the Gujals club. Being a friend, my Father was invited to be part of the club by Mr. Ajit. Ajit Singh tuned up and he rode his motorcycle. He also tuned the club vehicles. This was a departure from the tradition of separate tuner and racer for each bike. The gujaals logo is still seen brandished on the side of the bike in place of the Rajdoot monogram.
I have grown along with the bike. It is a 51 year old motorcycle now and have been witness to many highs and lows. It has been bruised, battered and then brought back to life. My whole life has been in and around Chennai. I have covered most places in Tamil Nadu on the Rajdoot. As someone who doesn’t go behind speed, I am least bothered by the relatively slow pace of the Rajdoot when compared to other bikes. It more than makes up for its lack of pace with bulletproof engineering and its legendary reliability. It is probably the only Motorcycle ( I own a vintage Jawa, an old cast iron bullet and a Royal Enfield Continental GT 535) that I know which would give me no anxiety when it came to the topic of reliability. It has never given up on me once in all these years of owning it and the most trouble I've had with it has been punctures. It is my favourite motorcycle of all time and I would never get the same exhilarating feeling I get when I ride it on any other motorcycle.
Even though it is hard work to keep them running these days, it makes no difference to how much I love the bike. Mine is a 68 model with the WFM engine and is thus an early model. Spares of the WFM are not available these days while Rajdoot parts are. So for the spares that were not available, I swapped it with the more readily available Rajdoot parts form 70’s and 80’s. I am someone who is very much against modifications on the bike. For me it should be as true to original as possible apart from when there is no other options. I wanted to makes sure these bikes stayed on the road and that people appreciated them the way they were deserved to be. Thus I set about trying to form a Rajdoot Club in Chennai.
I started the Rajdoot Riders club in Chennai with the help of one of my friends. I take inspiration from the Roaring Riders Club. They are also our pillar of support. Mr. Srinivasan, who runs the club was my guide and he took me through the whole process of organising and starting a riders club. He explained to me the roadblocks I would face and the effort I had to put in. I soon followed up by starting a facebook page and soon began scouring for other passionate Rajdoot owners. I managed to gather up 5-6 people and we met one day to officially kick off the Rajdoot Riders club of Chennai.
Mr. Srinivasan offered me all his support and treated the Rajdoot riders as part of their fraternity. The club very kindly gave our club a spot in this years Chennai Jawa day celebration event without even giving it a second thought. We were not charged any money for their facilities and they integrated us into the event just like that. The event this year for example, was wonderful and I can even say the Rajdoots pulled more crowds than the Jawa. This could be mainly attributed to the three Bobby GTS monkey bikes that were on show. Many people identified it immediately as the bike on which Rishi Kapoor wooed Dimple Kapadia in the movie Bobby. People swarmed around them and took turns taking pictures upon the Bobby. It was so satisfying seeing people recognise these Motorcycle from back in the days and reminisce about memories they have around these motorcycles.
I dream of seeing the Rajdoots thrive again and hope that the company too, like Jawa Motorcycles would rise from its ashes and come back with more of the old charm. If and when that would happen, however, remains too be seen. But like many others who share my passion, I am hoping as well as trying to keep the flame lit at the same time as well.
Check out Arul on Instagram @aruldominic.1989
Check out the Rajdoot Riders page on Instagram @rajdoot.chennai