Keen readers will remember that Honk featured Rajputana Customs two years ago. We knew very little about them back then. But going there, meeting Vijay Singh and getting a first-hand feel of their work was a bit of a revelation. We’d never thought that India would produce a bike builder of this calibre. But here we are in 2015, and all that changed about Vijay is that he’s lost a lot of weight; all of which seems to have made its way onto his upper lip to form a mammoth moustache.
It’s refreshing to see that he’s the same laid-back humble guy he was two years ago. And I’m glad because this 29-year-old has a social responsibility — to continue making India’s finest custom motorcycles. Apparently, we’re not the only people who think he’s at the top of India’s bike-building food chain. While we were busy taming dunes and racing Range Rover Sports against paragliders, Rajputana Customs popped up on the radars of no less than Harley Davidson and Triumph Motorcycles. This tiny motorcycle coach-building outfit from Jaipur was commissioned to build for two of the biggest bike brands in the world. Whichever way you look at it, that’s a bloody big deal.
Let’s start with the Harley. It started life a bog-standard Street 750, complete with MRF tyres. But Vijay and his team have taken it somewhere else. The finished article appears to be the love child of a café racer and an angry special-forces soldier. It has an intrinsic brutality to it that we haven’t seen since Jens Von Brauck made the InfraRed V Max for Yamaha (Just Google it, please). We just took to calling it a Brawler because it reminded us of someone who’s always looking for a fight. And it’s loud. Really, spleen shatteringly, thunderously loud. Even here, there’s a visual elegance that’s come to be the signature of Rajputana Customs.
Next up was the Triumph Scrambler, aka No.1. This started out as a Bonneville. Triumph was nice enough so give them all the parts they needed. But I doubt if they could’ve known it would be so different in character to their own Scrambler. The noise coming out of those exhausts is violent. The sound reminds me of the Jaguar F-Type R. Surprisingly, it had knobby tyres, which of course meant that our boy (with the biggest smile on his moustache) threw it around in the dirt for our cameras.
I rode the No. 1 for a little bit as well, and here’s my report. First, I made the mistake of wearing shorts. Bad idea. The exhausts are about 2.734 inches from your right butt-cheek, so it gets pretty hot. But it doesn’t matter. From the first time you give it full throttle, you’re hooked. If there’s one thing I love about Rajputana’s bikes is that they distil pure single-malt riding pleasure into their bikes. The noise and the sensations were quite the sensory overload. Going through the gears is like pulling the trigger on a machine gun. I must mention at this point that, mechanically, it felt like a production bike — it felt beautifully made.
The time has come now to put all this in perspective.There will always be posers who turn up at bike shows and win build-offs because they’ve got access to big tyres and the continent’s supply of chrome; and who cares if their bikes are damn-near unridable. And then there’s the Rajputana Customs, who just quietly go about their business of making fantastic motorcycles....