It has been a beautiful seven decades since India got independence from British rule on August 15, 1947 and 73 years later, our country has come a long way. Currently, India is the biggest two-wheeler market in the world and that journey too has seen some iconic two-wheelers. Motorcycles like Royal Enfield Bullet, Yezdi Roadking and the iconic Yamaha duo of the RX100 and the RD350 had a cult following of their own, to this day. So, on the occasion of India's 74th Independence Day, we tell you about some of the most popular motorcycles that India has had post 1947.
Yamaha RX 100
Performance on a budget! The Yamaha RX-100 was wildly popular among the youth of India in the '80s and the '90s. Its specifications of 98 cc, 2-stroke engine, 11 bhp at 7,500 rpm and 10.39 Nm at 6,500 rpm may not sound like much, but it was a machine that literally took you on a wild ride, with a top speed of 100 kmph. The power delivery was raw and carnal and that is what appealed to the motorcycle enthusiasts of the time. Yamaha started selling the bike in 1985, with the first 5,000 units imported from Japan as knocked down kits and serial numbers. The production of the motorcycle ceased in 1996. Crazy performance, lightweight and solidly built, it is no surprise why the motorcycle was a huge hit back in its day!
It was the 1970s, '73 to be exact when Yezdi motorcycles began selling in India and one of the most popular models from the Yezdi stable was the Roadking, which was manufactured between 1978 to 1996 at the Ideal Jawa factory in Mysuru. The motorcycle had a 250 cc single-cylinder engine which was 2-stroke and made almost 16 bhp of max power and 24 Nm of peak torque. For its time, the performance was quite impressive. Few of the reasons why the Yezdi Roadking became popular were because it handled very well and had good performance. Why, you would ask? That is because the Roadking was based on the Jawa CZ 250, a championship-winning motocross bike in the 1970s.
Yamaha RD 350
The other iconic motorcycle from the Yamaha in the '80s was the revered RD 350. Its sales run in India went from 1983 to 1989 and boy! It was a mental motorcycle. The biggest point of attraction was that it was the first ever twin-cylinder performance bike to be brought to India. At the heart was a 347 cc parallel-twin engine that made 30.5 bhp in its 'high torque' model. But Escorts India (then manufacturer of Yamaha bikes in India) later introduced a de-tuned variant that churned out 27.5 bhp. With top speed in excess of 140 kmph and taut handling, the Yamaha RD 350 was a massive hit in its time. In fact, some well-maintained models still command prices of anywhere between ₹ one lakh to ₹ two lakh, maybe even more.
Hero Honda CD100
The first ever four-stroke bike to be launched in India was the Hero Honda CD100. When Hero entered into collaboration with Honda Motor Co. in 1983, the Hero Honda CD100 was the first model from the resulting partnership. Launched in 1984, this was the motorcycle which moved India in the '80s and '90s. The key selling points were solid dependability and the fact that it was a very frugal bike. Who can forget the tag line of this motorcycle, which was 'Fill it, shut it, forget it', as iconic as the motorcycle itself. Clean, simple design, decent performance, this was a bike which paved the way for Hero to become one of the biggest two-wheeler companies in the world. In India, of course, Hero is the biggest.
Royal Enfield Bullet
One of the first ever motorcycles to be sold in India after 1947, was the Royal Enfield Bullet. Essentially deployed for patrolling the borders, the Bullet became a favourite of the Indian Army as it was rugged and solidly built. It was in 1955 that Royal Enfield of UK and Madras Motors of India collaborated to setup a factory in Madras (now Chennai) where the Bullet 350 kits were assembled and they came from the RE 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.
After using the same technology for almost 40 years, the Bullet 350 and its other derivative models got a new UCE (unit construction engine) which was supposed to be better and offer more efficiency than the old cast-iron engines. The gear lever shifted from the right to the left as well. The Royal Enfield Bullet 350 is still selling in India and continues to do well for the company, which is now fully owned by the Eicher Group.