Pics - Dayanand Kukkaje
Remember the 'American Badass' avatar of the Undertaker in the late 90s? Apart from the short hair and the typical bandanna that the dead man would sport, there was one striking aspect of that persona which gave him a different identity altogether in the WWE arena. Yes, you guessed it right - his Harley Davidson cruiser that he would ride all the way down to the ring.
The big biking machines off late have been having a tremendous influence on Gen X. We saw the impact in India as well, with various motor companies launching their own versions of a cruiser – Kawasaki Bajaj's Eliminator, Avenger, Kinetic's Aquila, Yamaha's Enticer are a few names.
Meet Amrith Raj, a Mangalorean who 'creates' big bikes with his own designs. If you have an old Bullet or an old Royal Enfield, and if you're dreaming of riding a bike a la Harley, then he is the person to go to. The guy will alter your old stuff into a trendy biking machine.
Amrith has been running his own garage 'Vega Choppers' for a year and a half now. He specializes in creating 'choppers'. Well, chopper is a technical term used to refer to a man-made big bike that is not quite a cruiser. Confused? Let's put it in his own words – "A chopper is a 'low, lean, and lengthy' bike. In a chopper we try to limit the bike to as less number of accessories as possible and as lean as possible. You can say that a cruiser is heavier than a chopper".
Some of the accessories that are significant about choppers that Amrith designs, such as the big 15-inch tyres, are imported. Trendy gas tanks and petrol tanks, fenders, 'chassis' or frames, little headlights, long handle bars, custom built tubes are some of the features of the choppers that he designs. In order to increase sound, he does 'tuning' and sometimes even makes use of the muffler.
Amrith first designs the bike on paper before translating it into the actual road-hitting machine. He reveals that the design of the bike basically depends on the taste of the customer. He will make your bike a one-seater or a detachable two-seater if you want. Besides, he designs the bike on the basis of the personality of the customers. "Its all about looks, isn't it? I look at the customer and suggest to him what sort of design will look good on him. Some people are strong and well built and some are lean. Accordingly, I design the bikes of their choice, which will suit them the best".
His job basically is to alter a formerly used bike. Performance wise, he says that the bikes designed by him give a mileage of around 35-40 kms per liter. Regarding the maintenance of the vehicle, he says that such bikes are not meant for racing on tracks. Defining the bike as 'neat and clean', he suggests that the bikes should be rode on good smooth roads and one must avoid riding on potholed roads for it may cause problems to both the vehicle as well as the rider because the seating is low. "The present condition of Mangalorean roads is not all that good and it is not advisable to ride these bikes on them at present. But in a couple of years' time, I believe Mangalorean roads will be the sexiest roads around and these bikes are sure to rock then!" reveals Amrith. Regular servicing is also provided at his garage.
A die-hard fan of the metal band Metallica, Amrith reveals that his inspiration for creating choppers came when he found out about Billy Lane, a popular chopper maker in the US, through the internet. "I used to watch the Motocross and Moto GP a lot. But it is when I read about Billy Lane, that I really thought of working on the lines of making chopper bikes. He is my guru, my inspiration" discloses Amrith.
Coming to the price factor, Amrith says the bikes that he designs cost from Rs 1.5 lacs to a maximum of Rs. 2.5 lacs. "When you look at the choppers designed at the US that cost around 15 lacs, coupled by the fact that such bikes are not easily available here, I think this is a reasonable cost" he says.
The guy provides you with varieties of designs for the chopper as well. "Choppers come in various designs. Some of the designs that I make are 'Pre-School', 'Old School', 'Old-New School, 'Bobbers', 'East Coast', 'West Coast', and the like.
With guys like Amrith bringing a new transition in biking arena of Mangalore, the city is bound to see more number of people making a style statement on wheels. 'Hit the road, folks!'