Ace cafe

Here’s how you transform 200 odd kilos of a classic era heavy metal into an evocative café racer
Words: Saeed Akhtar

Regular readers of BIKE India will be familiar with the name of Chanderjeet Rai whose story we featured on these pages two years ago. He loves all things automotive, especially those that need two wheels for locomotion and an engine in between. This time round, Chanderjeet has directed his biking endeavours towards another realm – bike customization.

It all began way back in August last year when a local dealer offered him a 1972 Royal Enfield B-model 350cc motorcycle. Sensing that he was onto a good thing, Chanderjeet duly decided to go further and customize the bike in order to give it that distinctive feel. Since he already had an AVL 500 sitting in his garage, Chanderjeet was not too keen on retaining the bike’s original looks and decided to do away with it. Thus, the café racer project was born (he briefly mulled over a trials version too, but decided it had more cons than pros in India anyway).

First, every part that could be stripped off the bike was taken off. Then it was the fuel tank, the seat and the rear cowl which got the boot. In their place came an especially handcrafted custom tank in addition to a small, rearward mounted humped seat and an aerodynamic rear cowl. Complementing them were the modified handlebars for that signature café racer crouched riding posture. The non-folding kick starter was ditched and the footpegs were replaced by custom made rearsets which completed the riding position. Chanderjeet hasn’t fiddled much with the engine, considering its venerable age, and hence the only concession to performance is the free-flow exhaust. Over a period of six months, the old warhorse slowly evolved and after a final dash of chrome to the tank, it was ready to roll. As a fitting tribute to his better half, Chanderjeet chose to christen the now gleaming café racer as Richenfield – a portmanteau word that blends his wife’s name Richa and Enfield.



Young guns are building custom choppers. Are we getting ready for future biker build-offs?
Words: Adhish Alawani  
Photography: Sawan Sekhar Hembram

Custom choppers are gaining popularity in the country. With a growing consumer base, we have newer and younger talent showing their skills at building custom choppers in the market. The latest chopper customizer we come across is from Gujarat. Calling themselves the Trojen Horse Customs (THC), Pandit brothers Dhruv and Nipun are involved in building custom choppers.

Dhruv has always been a motorcycle fanatic. His passion for modifying bikes and an education in Commercial Art tempted him into the business of building custom choppers. Having met the brothers at the Auto Expo and witnessed their obsession for modifying motorcycles, we decided to get hold of one of their machines in Mumbai and see for ourselves what the Pandit brothers were up to.

Achilles, the first of the THC bikes to have hit the road, carries the basic ideals followed by the builders of the chopper – innovation and uniqueness. Built on the Thunderbird frame, the bike’s side profile shows a mixed blend of flowing curves and flat panels. The tank’s top outline flows smoothly and gels into the seat nicely. The curve continues to dip beyond the centre of the seat and then rises up further beyond the seat in the form of steel tubes. Though it’s a smoothly curving shape that we see from the side profile, it actually turns out to have a sharp edge if seen from any other angle. The flat, slanting side walls of the tank give it the feel of a stingray. The twin tank comes as a part of THC’s innovative thinking. Separated by the backbone tube, the two tanks supply fuel through two different fuel pipes that converge into one and are then connected to the carb. A bigger 19-inch front wheel and a smaller 17-inch rear wheel shod with fat 190mm rubber give the bike a typical American chopper look. However, with the rake angle unchanged and the handlebar pulled back, the bike’s geometry doesn’t turn out to be very appealing. The front forks are straight from the Thunderbird while the rear one is the monoshock from the Honda Unicorn. Custom detailing is seen everywhere on the motorcycle, right from the flamed mirror rods to the forked footpegs to the LED tail lamp strips. Highway bars have also been incorporated for long cruising journeys. The Bajaj Avenger’s front disc has been used on the Achilles as a rear brake.

The THC Achilles comes with a twin tank that supplies fuel through two individual fuel pipes The engine and transmission come from an old Bullet

The THC Achilles is the Pandit brothers’ first attempt in the market. There has been an investment of thought, art and skill in the product. However, there is a lot of scope for improvement at the same time. The fit and finish needs to be worked upon. Better engines and transmissions would help them make better bikes. Some elements like the two headlights sandwiching the registration plate, the handlebar design and the front alloy wheel don’t suit my taste. Nonetheless, the end consumer has an option of customizing the bike according to his own choice. THC is working on a couple of more bikes which could probably include new stuff like a single sided swingarm, airbrush art paint jobs, an alternative to the chain drive, etc. We are waiting!

Nipun, who took time out on a Saturday morning for the shoot, handles the marketing for THC in Mumbai currently. He plans to expand sales by tapping the markets in Goa, Pune and Delhi in the future



Riding during the night is a big challenge within city limits and an even bigger one on highways. BIKE India tells you how to remain safe if you ride after sunset


Before setting out for a night ride, clean both sides of your helmet visor with a mild soap solution. Make sure it dries up before you go ahead with the ride. A scratched or hazy visor must be replaced as it has a high level of refraction. Such visors result in double vision –  two headlights of a car would look like four. A rider can literally be blinded with the refractions coming from tens of vehicles coming in the opposite lane. It is best to clean your helmet visor thoroughly, twice a week.


One must take care to increase his/her visibility on the road. Usage of bright coloured riding jackets make sure you stand out in the dark. If your riding apparel is dark coloured, stick reflector tapes on it to enhance your visibility and road presence. Sticking reflectors to the back of your helmet as well as to the bike’s tail is advisable. Even if the tail light ceases to work for any reason, the tape will help to an extent.


You must keep your bike’s headlight clean. Irrespective of the power output of the headlights, you can get the best out of it only when it is properly cleaned. Before going out on a night ride, wash off any dirt with water and wipe it dry. Repeat the same for tail/brake lights as well as the side indicators. Carry spare bulbs if you are planning to go on a long ride.


Headlights of vehicles approaching you from the back can easily be a distraction through the rear view mirrors. Setting the  mirrors a little lower helps reduce the glare to an extent. This setting, however, should let you see vehicles approaching you as well as part of the road behind you.


On any given night, it is more important that others see your manoeuvres properly than you seeing theirs. Hence, you must use indicators before you change lanes or take turns. Sudden manoeuvres are a strict no-no at night. A simple lane change at high speeds without a warning can put you in a vulnerable situation.


If riding within the city perimeter, you should refrain from using high beam as it can blind others thus risking theirs as well as your safety. A low beam should have a cut-off limit of not more than 20 metres. This will make sure that you can see a good stretch of road without throwing light on other road users’ face.


If you want to go on long rides at night, consider upgrading the bike’s headlamp. A halogen bulb would help in throwing more light. If that does not suffice your requirement, take the help of an expert to rewire the electrical system to support a higher wattage headlamp. Remember not to exceed legal limits.


It’s very tempting to look at the headlights of oncoming vehicles and it happens inadvertently. Practice not to look at the light. Rather look at the point you are heading to. You need to judge where you are going and if it is safe enough to carry on.  Learn to look much ahead on the patches on which lights of other road users fall.


If you intend to take a U-turn, you must turn on your indicators long before you approach the turn. You may also signal with your hand to further clarify your intention, but with caution. This will alert drivers behind you. Instead of taking a U-turn all of sudden, pause at the turn and look out for oncoming vehicles from the opposite side. Flash your pass light if needed. When the traffic becomes responsive and slower, take the complete turn within the shortest possible radius.


On a narrow road, be careful of the surroundings and road undulations. Take care not to get off the tarmac accidentally as this can set you off balance quite easily. Similarly, before negotiating a corner, judge road and traffic density to make sure you have enough space to lean safely.


Never try to push yourself at night, if you feel tired. There is a high chance that you would fall asleep on the go before you even realise it. It’s better to park at a safe place and take a nap. You can have a cup of tea or coffee before you take off again.


If you wear spectacles, consider using contact lenses for night riding. The starry effect (flare) of other vehicle headlights will be less likely with contact lenses than through a pair of glasses. Another point to remember is that wild and stray animals become more active at night. Hence, you should ride at a speed you are comfortable with, which in most cases should be lower than your regular daytime speed.

Believe it or not, but night riding is something that almost all of us go through on a very regular basis. Working individuals often get late at office and have to head home in the dark. Ditto for youngsters who like to spend their evenings out with friends. And of course, we can’t neglect the tourers who often end up riding to their destination in the darkness, relying solely on the headlamp. Two-wheeler riders are more vulnerable than other vehicles and hence the foremost step is to be noticed on the road. Wearing reflective gear, making sure that all lamps work perfectly, giving hand signals while taking turns, etc. are some of the measures one should follow. It is also easy to get blinded by the headlamps of oncoming vehicles and hence one should make sure that the visor of the helmet is as scratch free as possible. Invest in a good set of contact lenses and refrain from using spectacles at night. For those who tour a lot and have to ride at night, care must be taken to make sure you don’t feel drowsy. Follow these simple guidelines and we are sure your night riding will never be the same again.

Touring Guide – Part III

This month’s touring guide is all about tackling different terrains and conditions smartly

Rough Terrain

While traveling for long distances one often encounters rough patches. Some like it and some don’t. However, you can make the most of it and have loads of fun by going off-road. Unlike smooth tarmac, you witness a lot of undulations while going off the road. Hence, keeping your body in the right position will help you control the bike in a better way. Always keep your eyes on the surface of the path as even a slight distraction might result in a slip. Never hold the handlebars too tight or very lose. You need to hold them just right and caress the throttle finely which will lend better steering control while going over bumps and dips. Stand on the footpegs and use your knees like a suspension while tackling gravel laden paths. Next on the agenda is braking. Never use the front brake while riding on loose surface as chances of losing control are really high. Instead, use the rear brake which will give you better control even on gravel. Off-road riding can be dangerous especially when you are not completely geared up. So always wear complete riding gear including knee pads and a back protector.

Using the rear brake on rough terain gives you superior braking control Adjusting the suspension settings for off road sections will offer a smoother ride Don’t hold the handle bars tightly. Apply just enough pressure for controlled acceleration

Hill Riding
Riding in mountainous regions with enticing corners is every biker’s desire. However, this longing should be fulfilled with caution and alertness. Hill riding usually involves negotiating blind corners and hairpins and hence it becomes essential for the biker to assess the road and watch out for oncoming traffic. While taking a corner you should always be in the correct lane and use the entire width of the lane to open up a corner which gives you a better view of the oncoming traffic (refer to illustration). You should also maintain a buffer area between you and the opposite lane to ensure extra safety in case someone from the oncoming traffic makes a mistake. Do not force yourself to ride fast after witnessing tantalizing corners. Watch out for patches covered with gravel, dirt or oil and try to avoid them as going over them while entering or exiting a corner might result in a fatal incident. Never shut the bike’s engine off while coming downhill. Instead use engine braking which will also give you superior control over the bike compared to rolling downhill with the engine off. Always remember to park the bike off the road, with the engine in first gear, incase you decide to enjoy the views around you.

Do not rest your bottom on the seat while going off road as it is bad for the back. Instead stand on the footegs for a smooth ride

Night Riding
You may need to ride during the night for a number of reasons. It can be fun as one can munch up the miles by riding swiftly through the almost empty highways. But at the same time, it can also prove to be dangerous. While riding in the dark, one needs a high level of concentration coupled with common sense. Always ride towards the left side in the correct lane, avoiding collision with any oncoming vehicle that may be in your lane. Watch out for illuminated road signs that indicate a turn, a fuel station, a railway crossing, etc. Focussing on the road can work wonders for you. Never look down or away when the headlight beam from oncoming vehicles hits your eyes. Instead, concentrate on the patch of road that is right ahead of you. This way you can exploit the oncoming vehicle’s lights and see the path better. Most highways in West and South India have a lot of high speed Volvo bus traffic which usually sticks to the right lane. It’s always wise to give them way. Incase you have stopped on the side of the road at night, always look out before taking off again. A few essential things like a well-reflected jacket, helmet, perfectly working headlamp/tail lamp and blinkers make you and your bike visible to other road users. A clear, scratch resistant, anti-glare, anti-fog visor is recommended for better visibility on the road. We strongly oppose the use of dark visors at night.


Royal Bobber

Oshan Kothadiya can’t take his eyes off the latest custom bike on the block built by Rajputana Customs
Photography Vijay Singh

Custom bikes are gaining popularity by the day in India. Even at the 2010 Auto Expo, what really caught my eye was the custom bobber built by Vijay Singh from Jaipur. After completing his studies in Canada, he returned to India recently to pursue his passion for custom motorcycles and built the Original Gangster using a 350cc Royal Enfield Thunderbird twin spark engine. The frame is built by him and his team at Rajputana Customs from the ground up. No compromises were made in the materials used too.

The bike oozes a classy vintage appeal. The retro looking white walled tyres are hard to find in India. The air filter cover looks like a revolver tumbler which sticks to the theme. The Rajputana Customs emblem and the neat detailing given to the footpegs add to the bike’s individuality. The frame has been built from carbon steel and the accelerator is internally built in the handlebar which gives it a
clean look. Adding to the bike’s vintage appeal is the hand shifter (Jockey shifter) which was used in Harleys in the 1940s and 50s. Since the bike is a hard tail, the rider’s seat is given a spring to cushion the ride. The Springer suspension which works on a linkage mechanism looks brilliant and has been totally hand built by Vijay. The bike rides on 21-inch front wheels and 17-inch rears. The wheel hubs for the front tyres too have been built by Vijay.

Equal attention is given to the battery box that is neatly tucked below the rider’s seat. The dual fuel tank is simple but well executed. Even the fuel tank lid does not look like it has been borrowed from some other bike and adds to its distinctive touch.Though the bike is unique it does not lose the Royal Enfield feel. A custom vintage bike like this would cost you around Rs 2.5 lakh which is not a very steep price. We would love to see more bikes from this youngster.