When I first heard this story, I thought it would be like a typical coming-of-age plot. The kind of plot where the main characters discover themselves after enduring a series of inner conflicts and turmoils, resulting in personal growth and development. But here is a story of friendship, persistence and a love for bikes - cafe racers in particular.
Grade 12 student Raj began his interest in remodeling bikes during COVID. As a project, he decided to take an old bike and modify it for his older brother as a gift. The world of cafe racers caught Raj’s interest. Cafe Racers is a style of sports motorcycle that caught the imagination of British motorcycle enthusiasts in the early 1960s. Motorbike owners were taking their standard bikes and modifying them to optimize their speeds to race over short distances.
Interested in the possibilities and the concept, Raj and his friend Lokesh got a 1981 IND Suzuki and modeled it into a cafe racer-style bike. Raj was hooked!
After returning to school after the COVID lockdowns, Raj assembled a team of ‘the best of the best’. Five members from the Class of 2023 - Paz, Arshaan, Aamiya, Maitreyi and Raj took on the project of modifying a bike into a cafe racer. They called their series of projects ‘Cafe Customs’.
A donated 2001 IND Suzuki was their first project. It was an ideal bike to start with: 100CC, easy electronics to play around with and not too heavy to handle. They began by modifying the chassis, stripping the bike of all its electronics. Their aim was to create a purely indoor bike that students could use.
Each team member played their part. One for fabrication, one for managing budgeting, one for outer design and styling and one... well... one for ‘just because!’
As a team, they faced many challenges, including sourcing materials up on a mountain. Yet, they each learnt to be resourceful, making lots of new friends on the way. Some modifications included replacing the battery with a 9-volt battery for the head and tail lights. For the final paint job the racer was transported to Coimbatore. To date, their costs have gone up to 21,000 Rs. Most funds were from the Social Experience and Education Department. The whole project took around 4 months so far. Yet, there are still some more modifications to be finished including locating clip-on handlebars.
Their next project will be modifying a Bajaj Pulsar into a Racer.
While this story isn’t comparable to ‘Catcher in the Rye’ - it reminds us that there can still be hobby-like projects that instill in us a sense of curiosity, imagination and plain old- fashioned fun! And we wish Cafe Customs all the success in doing just that!