Kicking up a childhood passion

Kicking up a childhood passion

Kicking up a childhood passion
Rajesh Nair remembers that as a child, he never broke his toy cars or bikes. Instead, he would dismantle them only to reassemble them again.

The habit of creating something new from spare parts lying around the house has stayed with him. A designer of home audio theatre systems, Rajesh now collects and restores vintage and classic bikes.

His passion for bikes started during his college days. “Like every college-goer, I too wanted a bike but I somehow never liked any of the modern machines. Instead, everything classic caught my eye and this is how I made my first big purchase — a 1951 model Matchless G3L 350 cc,” he narrates.

Rajesh vividly recalls having bought a 1962 model, twin cylinder Norton Atlas 750 cc in parts. “I was so eager to see it run that I assembled it and rode it for 18,000 km in total, over the last three years. This distance included one of my bike expeditions to Ladakh,” he says. He also owns a 1965 model Norton 750cc Scrambler, which is yet to be assembled. He hopes to take it up for restoration sometime next year.

People tend to develop an attachment to anything that is close to them and Rajesh has a similar connection with all his bikes.

This is why he hasn’t sent them to a garage yet but repairs them himself. “There’s a certain joy I find in restoring them and seeing them in perfect running condition,” he says, adding that he is willing to dedicate as much time as the restoration requires. “The whole process takes me close to a year or more but it’s worth the effort,” he says.

He says that he prefers to work on the bikes as it not only makes him understand the process but also helps him judge the strengths and weaknesses of the bike.

 How did he learn the nitty-gritty of restoration? “A friend of mine used to run a garage and I ended up spending a lot of time at the place, just observing and understanding the basics of mechanics. I soon began doing it myself,” he adds.

He has recently taken up the restoration of a 1944 model of Matchless G3L 350cc, which he intends to hand over to a friend. “This bike was used during the pre-Independence period in the Indian Army and is considered to be extremely reliable and robust. It is believed to be unbreakable and a machine that one could count on, at all times,” he says.

Rajesh is surprised that not many Bengalureans who own vintage and classic bikes come forward and share their experiences of owning and working with anything vintage and classic. “I don’t believe in polishing my vintage bikes and keeping them at home. I believe in riding them as often as possible and enjoying the experience. I don’t want them to be exhibits,” he says.

There are a few more bikes that Rajesh would like to buy and add to his collection. “It is an expensive investment and requires a lot of maintenence, but my interest in bikes is something that I don’t want to let go off,” he adds. Rajesh’s wife Dr Arati Rao, a maxillofacial surgeon is supportive of her husband’s passion.

“She doesn’t come on many of my long bike rides, because her work keeps her on her toes. But whenever she does, she wholeheartedly enjoys the rides,” he says.

(Rajesh can be contacted on rajutti@gmail.com)
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