In Mysuru, during the 60's, a legendary motorcycle was born, that went on to become an icon.
Anyone who is even remotely into motorcycles will be able to recognise a Yezdi, instantly.
Whether it is a Road King or a Classic, there’s no mistaking those twin pipes, that retro round headlamp, that ear-shattering 2-stroke exhaust note, and that stomach-churning acceleration, that the bikes are famous for.
The Yezdi motorcycles, manufactured under the Ideal Jawa brand, are still highly popular all over the country. There is even a club, called the Bengaluru Jawa Yezdi Club, founded in 2007, that celebrates the second Sunday of July as Yezdi Day. However, Yezdi motorcycles just didn’t burst onto the scene. The brand has humble beginnings, right here in Mysuru, Karnataka.
The company that sold licensed Jawa and Yezdi motorcycles was the result of individuals with a common interest coming together to create something special.
Ideal Jawa India Ltd was the name of the manufacturer, that gave India its earliest taste of speed. The motorcycle company was based in Mysore and started in 1960, and later sold bikes under the Yezdi moniker, from 1968.
The Jawa motorcycle, which derived its name from the first two letters of the words Janacek, founder of the ‘Wanderer’ bike, was the darling of the motocross and rallying circuit in Europe.
During the mid 50’s, the Indian Government stopped the import of cars and bikes. However, assembling foreign machines by domestic companies was allowed. That prompted Rustom Irani, the country agent of Jawa in Mumbai, to set up his production unit, with his brother, collaborating with the Czech company Jawa.
The Czech bikes had, meanwhile, also found their way into the heart of none other than the Mysore King Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, as the bikes had a fearsome reputation on international racing circuits.
As soon as he heard that the bikes were being imported from the Czech Republic, he insisted that they start an engineering industry in Mysore.
So, in 1961, the Maharaja himself inaugurated the Ideal Jawa India Ltd factory and insisted that the company establish itself in Yadavgiri. The Maharaja and the two siblings, Mr Rustom Irani and Mr Farrokh K Irani, set up the factory over 25 acres of land, in the Yadavgiri industrial area.
The factory had an initial investment of Rs 51 lakh in 1961, and the Maharaja himself was one of the stakeholders.
Production began in earnest after the company obtained a licence and a permit to manufacture around 42,000 bikes a year. Most of the material had to be imported, and the company had 2200 workers on its rolls. At that time, the production capacity of the factory was around 130 bikes a day!
“Forever Bike, Forever Value”:-
The collaboration between Jawa and Irani ended sometime around 1973 and 1974, and that gave birth to the Yezdi model line-up of motorcycles.
Thus began an era in Indian motorcycling dominated by the Yezdi bikes.
Various models were rolled out, starting from the Yezdi Jet 60 ‘B’ Series, to the Yezdi 350 Twin (Type 634), and everything in between. The motorcycles were an instant hit, among all age groups. The ruggedness, design and raw power, made the Yezdi a force to reckon with.
The bike also came under the radar of race enthusiasts.
Owners and mechanics collaborated and made modifications to introduce the powerful Yezdi to the racing arena. With time, the Yezdi gained immense popularity on the track, and legends like CK Chinnappa, Rustom Hormuzdji, BS Shinde, Thirumal Roy and others, put the bike through its paces to win rallies and races. From Sholavaram to Kolkata, all racing tracks witnessed tough races, where the Yezdi’s sporty nature and nimble handling made it shine.
The bike was even adored by enthusiasts who loved to travel. During the 70’s, Deepak Kamath and GH Basavaraj were the first Indians to circumnavigate the globe riding a Yezdi Roadking. These were the days before GPS and other electronic aids, so the journey must have been quite daunting!
Popular culture couldn’t be too far behind, and the Yezdi soon became a Bollywood darling. Jeetendra fought off villains in Humjoli (1970), and the one and only Amitabh Bachchan rode one in Parvarish (1977). The bike would continue to make on-screen appearances, thanks to its immense popularity during that period.
Obviously, nothing lasts forever, and in a few years, the bikes faced serious competition when the Government of India permitted Japanese motorcycle manufacturers like Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki to enter the market.
In just a short span of time, Ideal Jawa was in trouble, with its loyal customer base shifting to more sophisticated and fuel efficient Japanese machines.
After a steady decline through the 80’s, production of the bike stopped in 1990, leaving loyalists disheartened. After the last Yezdi rolled off the assembly line, the Ideal Jawa factory closed its doors and consequently, an iconic chapter in Indian motorcycling history.
So, what happened to the bikes?
Well, hardcore loyalists refused to let go, and a few of them got together to form the Bangalore Jawa Yezdi Motorcycle Club, a group of ever-swelling Yezdi worshippers, who get together without fail every second Sunday of July, to open the throttle and ride to celebrate the Yezdi’s legacy.
The four founders—Lokesh, Amrit, Brian and Sam—are all hardcore Yezdi enthusiasts, whose sole aim is to bring back the fame and glory that the iconic motorcycle enjoyed through its golden years.
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So, in today’s world of electronically-assisted bikes, a world dominated by manufacturers like KTM, Honda and Yamaha, what drives people to ride a Yezdi?
There can be no logical answer to that question. It is a choice of pure love. Whether it is the loud roar of the engine, the legendary twin silencers, or the cold solid metal body that warms the heart, everything about the Yezdi is pure nostalgia.
Featured Image Credit: Facebook.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)