17 years after it was first launched, the Honda Activa still rules the roost. The Japanese manufacturer has sold over 1 crore of these ubiquitous scoots. You see them everywhere in the country, ridden by everyone! From college goers to middle-aged office going men and women, to parents dropping off their kids, to the young punks with more stickers on their bikes than athletes at the Olympics! 17 years is a very long time to be at the top and the Activa is surpassed only by the unbelievable Hero Splendor, but that is a story for another day!
In 2000, Honda launched the Activa, a scooter in a market where there were a bunch of naysayers. Bajaj the scooter leader was looking to get out of the ever shrinking segment. Sales of motorcycles were going up, while scooters were plummeting. Yet Honda focussed on the Activa and its geared sibling the Eterno. The Eterno with its 150cc engine, flat footboard and gears should have been the automatic choice for the junta having ridden the Bajaj scooters for decades. For a multitude of reasons, the sales of Eternos dropped while the fortunes of the Activa was on a continuous rise.
Honda had correctly gauged the Indian market and by bringing an automatic scooter with decent fuel efficiency, it was poised to capture the imagination of the commuter who desired convenience along with low costs. For the urban environment, few vehicles can match the convenience of a scooter. Honda added to that the legendary reliability of the brand, good fuel efficiency, and low maintenance costs. Little wonder then, that these bikes sold like hot cakes!
Even today, you can easily find 15+year old vehicles running around without protest. These kinds of vehicles attract many owners who have neither inkling nor interest in spending time and money on servicing the scoot. Yet this workhorse will putter along, doing everything that is thrown at it and then some more. Today, when a person wants to buy a scooter, the first vehicle which comes to mind is the Activa. Everybody and their grandfathers seem to have one in the family! Yahoo and Bing are internet search engines as well, yet everyone will tell you to ‘Google it!’ The Activa is very close to reaching that status. There is competition, but it’s so far behind, that it just doesn’t matter.
The success of the Activa did not see Honda sitting on their laurels, the bike has been regularly updated, especially with Suzuki and TVS keen to make inroads in this segment. Currently, Honda has three versions for sale in India. The Activa 4G, which promises to be faster than your 3G smartphone? The Activa-I, which might have a touch of narcissism to it! And the Activa 125, because a 15cc bump will make the world of difference. As Honda would hope, you can buy any scooter you want, as long as it is an Activa!
The Activa will never have a cult following, where leather-clad bikers boast about their exploits. What it will have our thousands of people riding their scoots every day, without ever giving a moment’s thought to the feat of this bike. But then a workhorse will always have a thankless job!
98Yezdi D 250 Classic
Anyone born in the pre-IT Revolution age would remember a motorcycle with a pleasant roar as the rider sped past. You would find one of these in your family, neighborhood or among your circle of friends. And if you are really lucky you would have been one of the proud owners of this iconic machine. The Yezdi brings back fond memories to riders young and old. Someone might have experienced their first motorcycle ride on the tank of their dad’s Yezdi, others might remember an uncle washing and maintaining his bike on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Still, others might have had this machine as their very first motorcycle. Each one will have their own story to tell.
As part of our search for #100Motorcycles in India, we bring to you one of the most iconic bikes to have ever graced the roads (and off-roads) of this country. The Yezdi D 250 Classic. This 258.5cc machine was perfectly placed between the Bullet 350 and the Rajdoot. The simplicity of the Yezdi allowed riders to take it on really long journeys. For Deepak Kamath, that journey on his Yezdi Roadking took him around the world in 47 days.
There are a bunch of things on this bike that makes it rather interesting and it stands apart from our run of the mill modern day motorcycles. The Yezdi had a dual cam brake at the front, which provided greater stopping power; the rear though had a single cam brake. The front and rear wheels are of the same size both use 1.86 x 16” rims. Which meant that the wheels could be interchanged! The space between the front wheel and engine also a mounting point for an extra wheel, giving the Yezdi the convenience that only scooter owners are used to! The bike also had a gearbox with an inbuilt lever which would declutch the engine while changing gears. So one could actually ride the bike to safety in case the clutch cable snapped! But the most interesting bit about the Yezdi was possibly the gear change lever! It doubled up as the kick start lever as well! Weight saving we say! The rider had to use his/ her left leg to kick start the bike and ensure that they did so carefully. The kick back was strong enough to leave the rider with considerable pain if not handled with care! The bike came with two different carburettors, the Jikov for better performance at the cost of fuel efficiency, and the Pacco for the more cost conscious lot.
The company shut shop in 1996. The arrival of the Japanese with their 4-stroke super fuel efficient motorcycles was the death knell for the strokers. Though they continued to appeal to the performance oriented rider, but the ever-increasing commuter market was always going to take centre stage.
We were lucky to get our hands on a Yezdi, but if you really want to experience this motorcycle. We recommend visiting one of the Jawa Yezdi club meets on International Jawa Day in Bangalore or Chennai. It will be an enthralling experience as you see 100s of these strokes making their way through the crowds of two-stroke smoke and the thundering sound of the engines revving. You will surely not forget that experience!
We would like to thank Jai Tokas for allowing us to ride his Yezdi and walk down memory lane with this magnificent machine.