Seems like the idea of frugal commuting has finally dawned onto the smug Europeans.
It’s been a year since the 2008 Intermot Motor Show in Cologne, Germany was held. And it’s been two years to an incident I’m going to narrate to you. How these two are related, is something that I’ll save for the end of this column.
It was a typically pleasant October evening in Goa. I was out there, enjoying my time as a vagabond biker; checking out the varied beaches and hangouts. Since I was to be joined by a bunch of friends riding down from Bangalore, I decided to spend my time at this wonderful shack in Palolim. Since a non-alcoholic is considered a freak in a place like Goa, I decided to order myself a glass of port wine. Within a few sips of the sweet maroon drink, a firangi couple, who until now had been perched on a table opposite mine, came to me and asked me if they could join me.
I had no reason to say no, but at the same time I had no clue why out of the blue they wanted to join me. As the conversation got going, I realized that these love birds were bikers themselves and had initiated the conversation after they saw the safety gear lying around me. They were Brits, and I could sense that characteristics hont of pride, mild arrogance and humour in the way they expressed themselves. Though not offensive, the arrogance part was a bit ironic, considering they initiated the conversation themselves. As we downed more drinks and squid rings, the conversation became more of a comparison between the bikes they ride and the bikes available in India.
This may not be the first time you have heard it, but once again the word ‘lawn-mower’ raised its head. This is the word that is used to describe the puny single cylinder mills that power the bikes in our country. Allan, as his name was, concluded the conversation saying, “I know there is not much you bikers can do in this country with these lawn-mower engined bikes. I have been riding a rented one for the last couple of days, and my god it’s terrible! Whenever you come to London, drop me a call and I’ll let you have a taste of the REAL bikes…” Though I had ridden a vast array of multi-cylinders already, back then the R1, Fireblade or the Busa weren’t officially sold in the country; so there wasn’t much I could say in defense. I ended the conversation saying “I’ll look forward to it. But don’t under estimate our puny lawn-mowers, there is a lot they can do…”
Fast forward to October 2008. Honda, the biggest two-wheeler manufacturer in the world, launched two interesting vehicles at the Intermot show – the V4 Concept and the CBF125 which was nothing but a fuel-injected version of the Stunner sold in India. Exactly one year after that, i.e October 2009, Honda has now unveiled the VFR1200 – one of the mightiest bikes the company ever created. So what’s the connection? Well, after reading the comments from various media and bikers around the world, you will be amazed to know that these ‘developed’ countries are not fascinated by these humongous machines anymore! What they want is something like a Ninja 250 for their trackdays and the Stunner for their everyday commutes!
And it is justified too, with the recession hitting these countries in the face and fuel costs escalating alongside, people have been forced to rethink about the need of gas guzzling monsters for commuting and expensive, impractical litre-class bikes for learning their way around the track. Just because they had the dough, they have been bragging about the biggies they own. But now with the recession having taught them a lesson, OUR puny lawn-mower engined bikes are finally making sense to these developed blokes! And with all major bikemakers making a beeline to India with their big machines, seems like we Indians have turned the tables on our European friends.