Fat rear tyres work for custom motorcycles. More so, if you’ve got a 300mm fatty at the back – ladies and gentlemen, this is the Vardenchi Dragster. A motorcycle that has seemingly been built around that obese Avon chunk of rubber at the rear. It takes a lot of power to just get a tyre that wide to spin, and nothing less than a 500cc motor borrowed from a Royal Enfield Classic would do.
Thumb the throttle and the unit constructed 27.2 bhp motor comes to life. It’s not a thump that this engine emits, but a loud confluence of a blat and a rumble, all thanks to that uber-short thermal-wrapped exhaust pipe. Swing your leg over the motorcycle and settle in; you don’t actually sit on the Dragster, you seem to sit within it. Stretch your legs forward to access the foot controls, pull in the clutch and shove your left foot forward on the gear changer to engage first. Look behind your shoulder to watch out for traffic and, ensuring there’s none, gently let go of the clutch, all the while giving generous amounts of throttle. The Avons begin to move, but with a pace that belies this motorcycle’s name.
As the bike and me begin to pick up pace, that 21-inch front tyre, also Avon rubber, perched at what seems to be miles away from me, seems to have a mind of its own. I try to show it who’s the boss by tugging on the pulled-back bars, but the fore wheel is adamant. Aggression turns to panic when there’s a kink in the road that is fast approaching.
And then, as if magically, the wheel begins to tuck into the direction that I’ve been trying to aim it at. That’s when I realise that I need to allow it to do its own thing; fighting its obstinate nature is futile. Rather than using brute force, which will get you absolutely no results, you need to coax this motorcycle to change direction. The increased rake is the culprit, and my puny arms weren’t exactly helping.
As the name suggests, the Dragster is intended for straight line stability. It thrives in going in all directions as long as it’s straight ahead. Thankfully, the traffic on the road was sparse and it would have been a nightmare taking U-turns with the Dragster on congested roads. It’s like trying to make the highway stretching from Delhi to Noida turn around. Yeah right, good luck with that! Mumbai’s potholes don’t seem to unfaze the Dragster much. And although the rear might appear to be rigid when you first eyeball it, this motorcycle has a cleverly designed, fully functional suspension for the swingarm that is nestled below the seat.
There is, however, much more to a motorcycle such as this than just the tyres or the motor. Yes, there’s the matter of aesthetics, and when it comes to a custom motorcycle, more so. The rear of the Dragster sits low, while the front end stands tall and proud. The white pearl paint contrasts starkly with the black racing stripes, lending the motorcycle a glint of sporty aspirations despite its otherwise bulky stature.
It’s a tad difficult to identify which genre of motorcycle the Dragster belongs to. An increased rake could make it a member of the chopper family, but those lines, especially the mid and rear section, do have some bobber elements in them. Yep, this one’s a ‘chobber’, then! So much for stereotypes. In the west, many customs are what bike builders term as ‘catalogue’ motorcycles. Abroad, you can buy everything from rolling frames and crate engines to stainless steel nuts and bolts and go on from there. Here in India, however, things are totally different. Forget about custom bits, sometimes it’s hard to get spares for even your stock motorcycle.
So what you can’t find in shops, you need to make to get the job done. Take the nifty bar-end blinkers of the Dragster, for example. Or the jack shaft that offsets the drive from the gearbox to the rear wheel. Talking about the drive line, torque is transferred to the
jack shaft through a chain from the gearbox and then ultimately is sent to the rear wheel via a belt. Great in concept, but coupled with that gargantuan rear tyre and increased weight, it robs the motor a bit of its otherwise grunty nature.
The handlebars were manufactured by Vardenchi and so were the risers, triple tree and of course, the body work, which was tinkered and formed by hand the old school way – BANG BANG BANG. And there are some examples of ingenious engineering that go into the Dragster. Take the rear disc brake, for example, which is actuated by (wait for it) a master cylinder off the handlebar of an Enfield, duly tweaked so that it can be worked with a pedal. You guessed right if you imagined all of this is tedious and dedicated work. It takes about 45 days to complete one motorcycle such as this from scratch. Go figure!
No wonder then, that the Dragster would set you back by about Rs 5.5 lakh, including the cost of the donor bike, plus or minus, depending on how far out you want your own bike to be. If radical customisation is what you’re after, you could do a lot worse than give Vardenchi a call!