India gained her independence in 1947 and in the seven odd decades since then, we have seen some iconic two-wheelers in what is today the world's largest two-wheeler market. From the mighty Royal Enfield Bullet, one of the earliest motorcycles to be sold in independent India to the two-stroke madness that was the Yamaha RD350, India has always been a country which loved its motorcycles. On the occasion of the 72nd Independence Day, we take you on a trip down memory lane and list out some of the most loved and most popular two-wheelers which were sold in India post 1947.
Royal Enfield Bullet
The Royal Enfield Bullet was one of the first ever motorcycles to be sold in post-independent India. These bikes were first used for border patrolling and then quickly became a favourite with the Indian Army, because of their ruggedness and durability. At that time, the Indian government also wanted these motorcycles to be manufactured in India in a bid to promote industrialisation. In 1955, Royal Enfield of UK and Madras Motors of India partnered together to set up a factory in Madras (now Chennai) and used to assemble Bullet 350 kits which were brought in from Royal Enfield's factory in Redditch, England. By 1962, the Bullet 350 was manufactured in India from scratch and the company started manufacturing almost 20,000 units per year.
The Royal Enfield Bullet 350 continued to use the same technology and engine for almost 40 years. By the turn of the century, Royal Enfield (now a completely Indian company owned by Eicher Motors), introduced several technological changes to the bikes, the most notable of them being the introduction of the unit construction engine (UCE), which was considerable more fuel efficient than the old cast iron engines, a shift of the gear lever from the right hand side to the more conventional left hand side, and the introduction of electric start. The Royal Enfield Bullet 350 became so popular that even after 70 years, the motorcycle continues to sell in maximum numbers for the company.
Yezdis are basically the Indian version of the Czech-origin Jawa motorcycles and were some of the most popular bikes in post independent India since they started selling in 1973. Although Yezdi had several models on sale, one of the most popular models was the Yezdi Roadking, which was manufactured from 1978 to 1996 in Mysore at the Ideal Jawa factory. It had a 250 cc single-cylinder 2-stroke engine which pumped out close to 16 bhp and 24 Nm of peak torque making for impressive performance. The reason behind its solid performance and agile handling is because the Roadking was based on the Jawa CZ 250, which was a championship winning motocross bike of the 1970s.
Hero Honda CD100
Fill it, shut it, forget it! One of the most iconic tag lines for an equally iconic motorcycle, this is the Hero Honda CD100. Hero signed a joint collaboration agreement with Honda Motor Co. of Japan in 1983 and the first ever product to come out of that collaboration was the Hero Honda CD100, launched in 1984. Known for its dependability and frugal running costs, the Hero Honda CD100 was the bike on which India rode in the '80s and early '90s. It was the first ever 4-stroke 100 cc motorcycle to be launched in India, and gained a level of popularity which propelled Hero to become one of the largest two-wheeler companies in the world.
Yamaha RX 100
It was a bike which literally set your heart racing! A mad 98 cc two-stroke engine which punched way above its weight pumping out 11 bhp at 7,500 rpm and 10.39 Nm at 6,500 rpm with a 4-speed gearbox in tow. What endeared it to motorcycle enthusiasts at the time was raw, unbridled way in which the motorcycle delivered power. Yamaha claimed a top speed of 100 kmph (on a 100 cc bike). The manufacturing of the bike began in 1985 with the first 5,000 units being brought in from Japan as knocked down kits and were numbered serially as well. The Yamaha RX-100 continued in production till 1996. Apart from offering unbelievable performance and nimble handling, the bike was also built solidly! It is easy to see why the Yamaha RX100 was such a hit in the '80s and the '90s.
Yamaha RD 350
Along with the RX100, there was yet another Yamaha that was making waves in India in the '80s, the mental RD 350! Sold in India between 1983 and 1989, the Yamaha RD350 was the first ever twin-cylinder performance motorcycle to be sold in India. Its biggest draw was the power which came from a 347 cc parallel-twin two-stroke engine. The Yamaha RD 350 was initially offered with a 30.5 bhp power output in India, popularly called the High Torque model. But high fuel consumption figures forced Escorts India (then the manufacturer of Yamaha bikes in India) to introduce a detuned version which made 27.5 bhp of peak power. The RD350 had a top speed in excess of 140 kmph. Hard-core performance with taut handling and a compact size was the RD 350's USP.