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Hamara Bajaj – fond memories almost coming to an end

21 Jul

It’s hardly six months since Bajaj Auto Ltd announced its withdrawal from the scooter market in India. This essentially meant that one of the common household names and valiant family carrier – the Bajaj Chetak – faced a total phase-out.

Hamara Bajaj

bajaj-chetakThe Bajaj scooter – ‘Hamara Bajaj’ as in Rahul Bajaj’s most successful campaign – has been there in the Indian market for almost 40 years with three models – the most successful Chetak, Super and 150. For the middle class Indian family consisting of a husband, wife and two to four kids, this vehicle was like their family member that carried the entire family and their accessories through the rough roads and under all kinds of weather conditions. Its toughness and low maintenance cost made it super successful in India though the surge of Japanese two-wheelers in the mid 80’s slowly forced it out of the game. It is really hard to forget some of those scenes that all of us have witnessed, admired and laughed at times.


The retro-commercial featuring Hamara Bajaj

Peculiar things about a Bajaj scooter

Though there are variations across different models, the typical Bajaj scooter weighs around 110Kg. However, it could pull double its weight without causing much trouble.

Since the engine is planted on the right side, it always had an imbalanced while riding whereby the scooter tends to move towards the right if you are not careful. This was one of the issues for beginners who tried their hands on a Bajaj.

To fix this problem, they in fact placed the tyres in an offset position. In other words the front and rear tyres are not in a straight line but has a slight offset. I was surprised to learn this from one of the old timers that I have known.

The split seats were never designed with the ergonomics in mind but the need to accommodate the ever-responsible family head and the fat-bottomed typical Indian house wife and their kids (in all available gaps)

How to start a Bajaj Chetak – the sequence of operations

This is the funniest part. From what I have seen and witnessed it involves the following operations in exact same sequence.

1. Insert the ignition key in the handle lock keyhole. Turn the key vigorously three to four times while simultaneously turning the handle to make sure that it is unlocked. I hear from people that at times, it can get locked during the ride as well?

2. Take the vehicle off the centre stand with a ‘thud’ (of the stand hitting the bottom of the scooter). To effectively do this, you have to have your left hand on the left handle of the vehicle and your right hand on a little handle behind the rider’s seat which is always kind of loose. You have to be leaning forward at an angle of 60% with respect to the ground level in order to effectively manage this.

3. Push the vehicle to a flat surface and while doing so for some weird reason you have to always pull the clutch lever. Or is it just a habit?

4. Now, you are on the left side of the vehicle but the kick starter is on the other side. So, you have to enter through the wide open space between the handle and the front seat and get to the other side. It is a process that’s religiously followed and it reminds me of entering the house from the front door and exiting via the kitchen or backdoor.

5. Now, tilt the vehicle to the other side by about 30 degrees and hold it in that position for 5-10 seconds in order to make sure that the little petrol remaining in the vehicle reaches all vital parts (or areas that matter) of the engine. Even when the vehicle has recently undergone a full service/maintenance, you have to do it because you are so used to doing it.

6. Straighten the vehicle, suddenly climb the kick starter lever and force all your weight on it and simultaneously turn the accelerator handle vigorously (four to five times a second). Subsequently – if it’s going to start that is – it gives out an engine roar along with a pale cry of the horn owing to loose electric connections. More often than not, throughout the ride, you get to hear that sound.

7. Now occupy yourself by entering from the right side and allow your co-passenger(s) to settle. You have to keep turning the throttle or the entire sequence need to be repeated.

8. Engage first gear and while leaving the clutch lever, it invariably jerks and jumps due to a slipping clutch or gearbox unit.

…and there you go…

While on the ride…

Immediately after the take off, the most important thing that you will notice is that the rider, after engaging into second gear, will suddenly raise his bum and readjusts himself. This is due to the fact that the front split seat is leaning way too forward. This adjustment happens once in a while throughout the journey, especially after taking off from traffic lights.

The pillion rider, if it is a lady, will be usually sitting in an awkward sideways position whereby she will be holding her right hand on to her husband (rider)’s right shoulder or the loose handle behind the front seat. Her left hand will be usually on the support handle/spare tyre (fondly called a stepney) holder behind the rear seat. She will then bend all the way front and look over her husband’s left shoulder so as to quickly jump down in case of an emergency.

Due to the imbalance of the vehicle weight, you have to dedicate an extra 10% of your body weight towards the left side. However, this can vary based on how much weight your pillion rider is bifurcating to each side.

The rider will never use the turn indicator lamps (blinkers) because this feature is something that was introduced in later models and he is not used to it. The horn, with whatever feeble sound it has, itself is rarely used.

bajaj-scooter-rider-on-t-road-junctionWhen typical Bajaj scooter rider, enters the main road from a side road, he usually takes wide 90 degrees turn – in fact 3/4th of a circle – before merging into the center of the road. This invariably causes some concerns among other drivers on the road, but they would expect this and manage the situation. See the illustration below to understand what I am talking about.

A Bajaj family = A happy family

Jokes apart, the middle class family, on a bajaj scooter, was always such a happy scene for a typical Indian and we adored that togetherness for a couple of generations. It often depicted the resilience of the upcoming Indian or a small business man who struggled to make both ends but emerged successful at the end. It was this kind of families – headed by those individual who drove their entire family to safety every single day – that paved foundation to the kind of growth that we are witnessing at the moment. In fact, in the 70s and 80s people used to yearn for owning a bajaj and waited for six months or one year after placing the order, in order to get their family dream scooter delivered.

I just thought of spending some time to write about the legendary vehicle because we all will be soon forgetting what we came through.

Long live hamara bajaj!

Fiat Grande Punto 1.4 Petrol road test

23 May

I got to test drive the new Fiat Grande Punto 1.4 on Friday. In fact, it was a very pleasant experience – especially after my disappointing outings with the Hyundai i20 and Skoda Fabia – both being 1.2 litre engines.

The Grande Punto 1.4 in India, is almost a complete car with exceptional high-speed stability and driveability. It also comes loaded with nice features. As usual, there has been several India specific adjustments done – like cheap plastics and fabric – but the main part i.e. the engine rocks! Moreover, according to me, it’s the best looking car in that segment and the pricing is reasonable too.

Fiat Grande Punto 1.4L
Image courtesy: Fiat India

You can read my complete review of the Fiat Grande Punto 1.4 at Mouthshut

Happy Driving!

Skoda Fabia Petrol 1.2L – Review and road test

20 Apr

Skoda produces some of the finest cars in the world today. Their entry to the Indian market has been with the highly successful Octavia model. The Octavia’s market has been recently hit severely by the likes of Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla and hence Skoda wanted to get into the segments below that of Octavia and above as well.


Image courtesy: Skoda India

The Skoda Fabia 1.2L has been a successful product throughout Europe. Obviously, that prompted them to bring that model to India as well. However, when things are produced or marketed for India, it has to be tailor made to fit the Indian taste and that’s exactly where they failed.

The Indian mentality is mainly around mileage and resale value and not exactly build quality or safety. The pricing has to be reasonable and the after sales service is of the highest priority as well. Unfortunately, in all these aspects the Skoda Fabia failed miserably.

Please read my complete review of the Skoda Fabia 1.2L at Mouthshut.com

Happy Motoring!

Hyundai i20 Asta Petrol Road test

13 Dec

I test drove the Hyundai i20 Asta Petrol for a friend last week. Basically, he is in search of his next car which is basically a hatch upgrade. At the moment he’s driving a Fiat Palio and obviously he wants something better than that.

i20 Asta Good and bad

hyundai-i20-asta-petrol-india
Image courtesy: Hyundai India

What’s good?

  • Loads of features (Electrically foldable ORVMs, Multi-display, Good looking alloys, ABS, Airbags etc)
  • Good passenger head/shoulder room
  • Good gears and drives like a bigger car
  • Decent brakes and ABS is effective
  • 295L of boot space – probably near best in the class
  • Tilt and telescopic steering
  • Cooled glove box

What’s bad?

  • Over pricing (30-40K overpriced)
  • Bad suspension (and hence the ground clearance feels even lower)
  • Coffee-coloured plastics (heard they are changing it soon)
  • Cheap looking multi display
  • Bad spring action on steering
  • Ineffective a/c

Detail review

You can read my detailed test drive results of Hyundai i20 Asta Petrol here

Happy Motoring!

Ford Fiesta (India) Duratec Petrol – Road test and review

15 Jul

I had test driven the Ford Fiesta 1.6 SXi petrol variant last month and written a detailed review of this awesome vehicle at Mouthshut. As usual, I am just posting the excerpts from that review here.

The Ikon legacy continues

Ford Ikon was a super-successful model in India. To be frank, I haven’t enjoyed driving any other vehicle in India as much as an Ikon (Read about my Ford Ikon experience. The trademark of an Ikon – despite its incompleteness in many build aspects – was its exceptional drivability. It’s a true drivers car and so is the Ford Fiesta!

ford-fiesta-india-1.6-duratec-sxi-petrol

The car I chose to test drive as the SXi variant though the sporty S variant was available for test drive as well. Basically, I wanted to feel the family sedan experience as against the sports variant as I presumed that the S variant with low-profile tires will offer bumpy ride.

The following are the highlights of my test drive (more in my detailed review as per the link below)

Major plus points

  • Great to drive car – excellent handling
  • Low turning radius
  • Good features at this price – electric ORVMs, 2-din music system, semi-leather seating, ABS, Airbags
  • Good gear ratios (along with low turning radius makes great city driving)
  • Reasonable mileage and good power for the price

Improvement areas

  • A bit outdated looks
  • Poor plastic quality at places
  • Uncomfortable, straight backseats
  • No alloy wheels
  • Poor tire dimensions

Overall, it’s an exceptional car for the price at which it comes (with all those current discounts) and my rating is 4/5.

For the complete review, please read Ford Fiesta review.

Happy motoring!