Two Stroke Tuesdays Episode 9 : Roshan Kamat - Building the Ark
Vijay Krishnan June 11, 2019
We have all heard of Noah’s ark as the vessel through which god spared all examples of the world’s species from a cataclysmic world-engulfing flood. This week, Two Stroke Tuesday hangs out with someone who is in many ways emulating Noah with Two Stroke Motorcycles. We sit down with Roshan Kamat, a true blue Two Stroke aficionado and hard-core collector of some very rare and beautiful Two Stroke Motorcycles.
Roshan Kamat is far from your average entrepreneur, with a keen eye for the unheard and forgotten, apart from a fine taste for the very rare and beautiful. His is a soul that has fallen head over heels in love for the old time hits from the Two Stroke era.
Based out of Bangalore, he started collecting classic Two Strokers after developing an affinity for them in his college years. So, what started with a 1972 Jawa 25 has snowballed into a garage so big, it has to be split between two locations. Proud owner of 16 very cool Motorcycles, he has his divided his Motorcycles between his home and at his factory.
We try and understand his religious commitment to these motorcycles and how he is filling up his ark with some very fine examples of some rare and wonderful Two Stroke Motorcycles.
Here is our conversation with Roshan on his Motorcycle lifestyle and how it came to be :-
Tell us about who you are
I am an entrepreneur with various businesses out of which I am an official distributor of action cameras and dashboard cameras in India. I am a gear head in love with classic Motorcycles and proud custodian of some very cool vintage motorcycles. I stay in Bangalore and I am one of the Committee Members and a former President of the biggest Jawa Yezdi community in the country, the Bangalore Jawa Yezdi Motorcycle Club. I started collecting Motorcycles, Scooters and Mopeds from 2006.
How did your collection come to existence?
When I started restoring my first bike back in the days, I understood that there are much less expensive options out there when it came to classic Motorcycles that were reliable and very easy to run. Basically it went from there to tracking down cool Motorcycles and Scooters that I found cool. Also the fact that these vehicles were rare also made them an attractive prospect.
Tell us about your Motorcycles
I have a total of 16 Motorcycles, Scooters and Mopeds together, 15 of which are Two Stroke Motorcycles. The other being the only Four Stroke Motorcycle I currently own which is a 1959 BMW 250cc R26. By the time I had started collecting, I had developed a soft spot for European Motorcycles.
This is clearly visible in my garage, which is dominated by European Motorcycles. I own 5 Jawas (Czechoslovakia), 2 WFM-Polish-Rajdoots (Poland), 4 Lambrettas (Italy), a Motobecane- Suvega (French), a BMW R26 (Germany), 2 CZ - 125cc (Czechoslovakia), and a Vespa (Italy).
These Motorcycles, Scooters and Mopeds have been sourced and acquired through various friends and people that I came across while hunting for some parts for another motorcycle or while riding my motorcycles. I restore these motorcycles to mint condition and for me it is worth the effort when these vehicles are restored to ride worthy specification and not just as eye candy for on-lookers.
I ride all the bikes which helps to keep them all fit as a fiddle. I use a particular Motorcycle for two to three weeks and then switch to another one. I have done many long distance rides on these bikes too, clocking close to 1.5 lakh Kilometres in total.
Why do you like 2 stroke motorcycles and where did this love for them begin?
I used to visit a mechanic in Mumbai during my post graduation days and got hooked to Classic Motorcycles. I fell in love with them mostly by being around them a lot and just because of the fact that their proportions just look right. I loved the aesthetics of these old bikes and wanted to get one for myself. So when I finally graduated, I returned to Bangalore and began looking for old vintage motorcycles. I quickly learnt that these Motorcycles did not come cheap and that they could potentially be huge money pits depending on the Motorcycle.
I eventually found a Jawa - a 1972, 250cc model. It bought it from a milk man, in tune with the times and that is how the journey began. I developed a liking towards Two Strokes which turned to a love affair when I rode this same bike to Ladakh and then to Khardung-la Pass.
If you could only save one of your motorcycles...which one would it be and why?
It would definitely be my first bike the - The Jawa 250cc. It was the spark that lit the flame for a life collecting so many Motorcycles. It is also the reason that I have made so many good friends all around the country. Friends that have become business partners as well as family.
What changed your love for two strokes into an obsession and made it such a big part of your life?
The simplicity of a two stroke - especially a Jawa is what made me look for more such Motorcycles. The Jawa single handedly changed my love for motorcycles. I love the fact that I could put them away for months without using them and still would be able take them out and ride them when I wish. This is exactly why I love the Jawa. For me, it's not a brand but an emotion.
What is that one dream two stroke motorcycle that you hope to acquire at some point of your life and why?
A Jawa 500OHV is definitely an elusive unicorn Two Stroke Motorcycle I would love to get my hands on.
Photo Credits - Wikimedia Commons
What is that you look for when you want to pick up an old motorcycle for yourself. Is it the aesthetics or is it something else?
I am very particular about what I want. I always have my eye on a classic Motorcycle or Scooter that looks beautiful. I look at the condition of the body work when it comes to Motorcycles with factory colours. I try to maintain the original patina and literally keep them the way they are, which is raw. I feel that the even smallest speck rust that is found on the bike adds a little oomph to it. It is character and it is a flaw. Flaws that make a Motorcycle more human which makes them more dear to me.
So, among the 16 Motorcycles, there are some Motorcycles among them that live because they have gotten their factory original paint. But if I acquire a bike to which the previous owner has done something like changing the paint and modifying it in some way, I would opt to restore them.
Since I had 2-3 of these Jawas, I thought Id get one of these modified to my liking. So I converted it to an IFDT replica from a time when Jawas use to dominate the IFDT.
Check out Roshan on Instagram - @roshankamat