Seven-and-a-half hours. That’s how long it took us to do the measly 279 kilometre drive from Delhi to Dehradun. Honk has its standards of blitzing long distances in record time, and we are deeply sorry to disappoint. Blame endless traffic virtually the whole way.
All we wanted when we got there was a hot shower and a nice cold beer. Thankfully, Arjun Raina is just that kind of guy. His workshop is exactly in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Getting there means going right through Dehradun and all the way out the other side, through the rural outskirts, through a jungle, then a few kilometres of dirt road into the valley and suddenly, bang: Moto Exotica.
Inside, we don’t find a single chopper, which is rare for a custom bike builder. The place itself is part studio part laboratory. And all their motorcycles are and have been engineered using the best technology.
“Let me show you our latest toy,” says Arjun as he takes me to see his new 3D printer. “With just this, we can make prototypes of just about any component in plastic. It saves us a lot of time and money, not to mention trial and error,” he explains as the printer furiously darts about the place, turning what appears to be plastic thread into a gear shifter.
There’s one thing you must know about Arjun and, by extension, Moto Exotica; he is an absolute pedant about lightweight and he loves his Yamaha RD350s. “There’s something about that two-stroke twin. Once it gets under your skin, nothing else will do,” he says, pointing to the scrambler that won the build-off at India Bike week 2014. “Take it for a thrash, you’ll know what I mean.”
Now see, I know how popular RD350s are. I know that people who love them are not too keen on anything else. I know and respect the RD350 in the same way that I know and respect Pink Floyd. I just don’t dig it.
Or rather I didn’t. This bike, on loose gravel and broken, dusty tarmac is an absolute animal. The exhaust has been designed to have the effect as a turbocharger. A wall of noise, a streak of white two-stroke smoke, and enough power to rip your face off. When it’s not in its power band, it feels clunky and unbalanced, but when the revs are high and the throttle is fully open, it comes alive and pulls violently like only a two-stroke can.
But the bike we came to review, as promised when we did the IBW story, was the 92 kilo Neo Café Racer. Sadly, we couldn’t ride it because it was missing some crucial part that was yet to arrive. Still, semi-slick tyres, partly-carbon bodywork, RD350 engine tuned to produce power and the real world performance of a Yamaha R6. Is that bonkers or what? This is a very hard motorcycle to take your eyes off of. It has a minimalist elegance. You can visibly tell that it is completely devoid of any sort of frivolity. What isn’t needed, isn’t there.
This is the mantra of Moto Exotica. They use science and maths and engineering know-how to build lightweight performance machines. They have pretty much the same ideology as Lotus; fast, agile pared down, pleasurable but most importantly, light.