I’m Rakesh doing my third year engineering in Chennai. “Old is Gold” – This proverb is the central concept in this ownership review about my 95′ Yezdi Roadking. I have divided this ownership review into two parts- the first part being the story of how i landed up at my Roadking and the second one being a small review of the sub-systems of the bike. Please note that the second part is a review of my 16 year old bike and hence it is not a comprehensive review of any Roadking. No two bikes of the same model will be the same after a decade of operation.
First, lets look at the history of Yezdi Roadking. Yezdi Roadking was manufactured by Ideal Jawa Ltd.,Mysore in the 80’s and the 90’s. It was based on CZ250, a motocross motorcycle sold by Jawa Motors, Czechoslovakia. Ideal Jawa Ltd. sold licensed Jawa and CZ type motorcycles from 1960 and later sold similar motorcycles under the brand name “Yezdi” when the validity of the license expired.
They had this famous tagline of “Forever Bike, Forever Value” for their Yezdi range of bikes. “Yezdi” was a term used by Czech assembly-line engineers which means “it runs”. The production of the Yezdi motorcycles was stopped in 1996 due to labor problems. The entry of highly fuel-efficient 100cc motorcycles into the market added salt to the wound and the company never resurfaced.
Now let me elaborate on how I landed up at Yezdi Roadking. I was about 9 years old when I had my first encounter with an automobile. It was my father’s 84′ Dolphin(aka Reliant Kitten, a 848cc mini car from the Sipani stable). About an year later, I, having grown in size to reach the ground, took my mother’s TVS 50 for a ride and crashed at the end of the road. It was the first time i drove a two-wheeler and it just felt impeccable. But thanks to the crash, my father made it strict that I will not be allowed to own/ride a bike until I turn 18 years old. But since he is also an auto-nut, he allowed me to ride his KB125 once in a while. And I had to be contempt with those 1km long weekend rides in the KB at speeds strictly less than 40kmph.
Time flew away and I grew 16 years old. And we moved to a new home in the heart of Chennai. In this new neighbourhood of mine, there was a Yezdi-enthu person who had 2 Yezdi Classics and a Roadking. That was the first time I came to know about the “Forever Bike”. The bikes were glorious and I was simply awestruck. I decided then that my first bike will be a Yezdi. My father’s claim of driving a Yezdi at 80kph in Mount Road when he was in his tenth grade cemented the decision. But I had to give importance to my studies for one more year as I was in my 12th grade and the board examinations were fast approaching. After that long one year, I cracked an entrance examination and got into a reputed engineering college in Chennai.
Now the hunt for the “Forever Bike” began. But sadly i was just 17 and my father did not want me to get a Yezdi atleast till I get a LLR(Learner’s license). After waiting for one more year, Indian Independence Day 2009 was celebrated all across India and I turned 18 too. After August 09, I got into some projects(which included building a life-size batmobile in 4 days which was successful) and could n’t afford any time for the hunt. And the winter holidays started in December. With one full month of holidays in hand and a 3 year old dream(by then), I started the hunt afresh. My father imposed certain conditions for buying a Yezdi:
1) Price < 15k for a RoadKing; < 10K for Classic and Deluxe. Jawa, Monarch, 350 are out of the equation, courtesy their rarity.
2) Should be a TN registered bike.
3) Papers must be clear.
4) Outlook not a big concern but the engine condition should be top class.
After registering all these constraints in my mind, I started surfing through the advertisements in the internet. I could immediately decipher that condition(1) is almost impossible. So I(with my father) consulted a popular mechanic. In this mechanic’s garage, we met a RK owner. This wealthy old guy was very proud of his RK and started warning me about owning a Yezdi. Though I was discouraged, I did not want to give up so easily. After the consultation, my father raised the price barrier to 20k for a RK and 15k for a Classic. The situation did not get any better as most of the “TN” Yezdi owners were quoting very high(ranging from 25k to 60k).
The frustration started creeping into my mind and then my first ride in a RK happened. We “test-drove” a 94’RK but this guy was quoting 28k. The bike had a good number of mechanical problems to be repaired. So we didn’t get the deal through. Then I came to know about Roaring Riders, a Chennai-based Jawa and Yezdi Motorcycles Club through the Hindu NXG. I contacted Sachi, one of the moderators of the club, who was kind enough to entertain my call and told me about a RK for sale near Ice House, Triplicane. But I ran into some medical illness and was hospitalised for 2 days. After recovering from my illness with very little enthusiasm left, I began the hunt again. A visit to Sekar’s (a Yezdi mechanic) workshop in Ice house followed. I met 3 more (Yezdi) owners there.
Again the warnings about maintenance and spare parts came. I gave my contact number to one of them and left the place after having a small chat with them. But none of them got back to me with any information. When I was about to forget my dream, a surprise came in the form of a RK parked in a showroom in Anna Nagar with a quote of 15k(negotiable too!). I was very excited and when I approached the showroom incharge, I got to know that the papers are not clear. After seeing one more RK in a poor shape and a very high price, the dream was over(Read on for the renaissance).
And I started searching for Shoguns and RXs. Again a twist… Accidentally, I found 2 Yezdis and a Jawa all parked together at a doctor’s clinic in Vadapalani. The doctor was very keen on not selling them but gave me some emcouraging words and advised me to go on for a RK(with CDI). The CDI(Capacitor Discharge Ignition) models had lesser maintenance problems than the earlier CB(Contact Breaker) point models.
The same day, a very well maintained and fully original Yezdi(not even repainted) was at sight in my neighbourhood. And a RK too followed suit at a nearby traffic juntion. These five bikes gave some fresh lease of life to my dream. I realised that it is my destiny to get a RK as my first bike. And it’s all happy moments from now on. In God’s grace, the information about my father’s colleague’s relative having a RK(with CDI) in Mettupalayam, Coimbatore came.
And that “relative” is working in Dubai and his RK was not used much. We spoke to him and convinced him to sell the bike to us. The bike satisfied all the above conditions beautifully. However the price was increased later thanks to our “popular mechanic” when he was contacted by the owner. But then it was still < 20k and papers were perfect with insurance valid till Aug 10. And the deal happened and my dream bike arrived in Chennai 2 days later.
The very first day, my father drove the bike from the parcel service’s depot to my college campus and left it in the parking lot for me to see as i was having classes in the morning. That day evening, I was over the moon and wanted to go on for a ride in my dream. But sadly it did not start thanks to the carburettor problem during transportation. After about 100 kicks and running around with the bike for over 2 kms, nothing much happened. So we called the same “popular mechanic” who was busy. He told us not to lose faith and it is something every new Yezdi owner has to go through.
The next day, a hundred more kicks and a km long run followed but to no avail. We lost hope and waited for the “popular mechanic” to send a saviour. Then the next day morning at around 7 AM, a mechanic came from our “popular mechanic’s garage”. He just opened and cleaned the carb and it was all fine. The bike was kicked to life and it roared like a Lion. I rode it at high speeds with the pleasant cool air blowing fast past my face. The dream finally saw the light of the day and I became a proud owner of a Yezdi Roadking!
With the hope that you weren’t exhausted with such a long read, I go onto the ownership review of the bike.
Roadking was a bike made with the idea of combining performance with reliability. It had some peculiar features like a semi-automatic clutch, twin exhausts, etc. Now let me brief you on the sub-systems of the bike. Please note that these are entirely my personal views about my 16 year old bike and not meant to hurt anyone. I was just 4 years old when the production of these motorcycles was stopped and hence I never had a chance to drive a Roadking in showroom condition.
The bike has a single rectangular downtube frame. The chassis is quite rigid and even after 16 years, I could not find any rust in the frame. It does n’t flex easily when cornering hard thereby instilling a lot of confidence in the minds of the rider.
The bike is powered by a two-stroke single cylinder 250cc engine. It develops a healthy 16Bhp of power and about 24Nm of torque. The engine is air-cooled and breathes through a Jikov carburettor. It is a low-revving engine(max rpm is around 5K) and is directly bolted onto the chassis without any rubber bushes. Even after 16 years, the engine is quite solid and it has never been opened. The bike pulls like a truck from the low rpms thanks to the high torque. It gets too jarring at higher rpms and its better to operate it at less than 3K rpm.
My bike came in with a lot of suspension problems. The cone-ball set at the front fork was damaged and hence there was a lot of play. Added to that, the oil seal was leaking rendering the suspension useless. The rear shocks are good but nowhere close to the gas-charged shocks of today. On the whole, the suspension is well below par for a bike this massive.
Ride and Handling
Since the engine is directly bolted onto the chassis without any dampening elements, the vibrations creep up with the rpm and it behaves like a “paint shaker” at speeds more than 80kmph in the fourth gear. About 10mins of continuous riding at speeds more than 70kmph leads to a lot of body fatigue and its best to keep the bike at 60-65kmph. It has incredible straight line stability and cornering is also good thanks to the low-set position of the seat. Though it has narrow 3.25inch tyres, the grip offered is excellent. Ofcourse, it cannot be compared with the Pulsars,the Apaches and the R15s but still it does handle well at high speeds. It was not very easy to cut-in through the heavy traffic initially but once I got familiar with the bike, I could drive it as good as a Pulsar in dense traffic if not like an Apache or a R15. Overall, it does have a good ride and handling but the vibrations are very tiring at times.
Electricals and Instrumentation
It was a bike of an era when everything from trafficators to rear-view mirrors are optional accessories. The bike has a two-pod instrument cluster with a speedometer and a slot for the ignition key. Except the headlight, tail light and the ignition system, there are not many electricals(infact nothing else) in this “mechanical” bike. My bike’s headlight has been functioning properly since the beginning but occassional hic-cups do occur in the rainy season.
The bike has drum brakes at the front and the rear. They are hardly effective when compared to the disc brakes of today. And its always advisable to do “engine braking” or “gear cut” to decelerate this 150kg heavy machine.
Looks & other Attractive Features
The bike is a trade-off between the classic Jawas and the modern-day sports bikes. The styling was great but neither too classical nor too contemporary. One of the best features in this bike is the semi-clutch mechanism. There is just a single lever for both the gear-shifter and the kick-starter. The lever is reversed to kick start the bike and it returns to its original position after starting. The lever has an intenal cam which engages/disengages the clutch when you shift the gear thereby precluding the need for a hand-clutch. The exhaust note is one of the spot-lights of this bike and it really makes even a lazy fellow go crazy. The note is more of a racy tone in Roadking when compared to the classic yezdis thanks to its higher revving engine.
This bike is not known for its mileage. It is a bike best suited for pleasure biking rather than point-to-point biking. My bike returns a fuel economy of 25kmpl in the city conditions and about 35kmpl in the highways. If you are “mileage kitna hai?” minded person, its better you look nowhere close to a Yezdi.
I never wanted to push the bike to its limits. Once I got tempted to test the bike’s higher end ability and took it to the OMR(Old Mahabalipuram Road). I could do about 110kmph before the bike started losing its breath. The speedo is fairly consistent and therefore, I guess it can reach upto 115kmph at this present state of condition. It was advertised to have a top speed of 120kmph. The fact that the top speed has dipped just under 5% even after 16 years goes to say loads about the quality of the bike.
This bike was known for its reliability during its hey times. But today, it has become more of a style-statement to ride this beauty. It is one such bike which is liked by everyone from small children (they find the twin exhausts very cool) to the elderly people (who get the reminisces of this bike roaring through the roads during those good old days). Though its not a great bike under the present road conditions, it is one such bike which is built to last forever unlike the plastic-y bikes of today(no offence intended!). It is a bike for those who like to dare and be different. If you are looking for a second-hand bike with a strong performance and a price tag not burning a hole in your pocket, you can try Roadking. But its for serious bikers who have a strong passion for biking.
I am reiterating that Roadking is my first bike. I didn’t have much exposure to biking(practically) before this bike though i knew the theoretical aspects of driving a bike(including knee scraping, stunts, etc.). So I, as a biker, have completely evolved around this bike. From being an amateur finding it to hard to wade through the city traffic, I have now grown to race motorcycles. When you drive such a big bike in a not-so-good condition for a fairly long amount of time, driving any other bike(even the Royal Enfields) becomes a child’s play.
I am very happy with my RK from the time i got it. It is my closest friend ever. It does give me some troubles now and then, but if you get it all cleared and learn to respect the bike, it becomes more than a bike…It becomes a way of life. Yezdi is truly a “Forever Bike, Forever Value”
P.S: Whenever we read any article written by a very passionate biker, we find him/her call his/her bike as “he” or “she”. But my RK, with its rugged looks, is a masculine female! And hence, I have called the bike as “it” in this whole article.