Sabir Hussain/New Delhi
Syed Jadeer Husnain who hit the headlines last month after former Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni acquired a motorcycle from him that he had restored, is mechanical engineer by training. He also dabbled in civil engineering to start a construction business before he discovered his passion for motorcycles and decided to immerse himself into restoring some of India’s most-loved motorcycles that are no longer in production.
These 2-stroke motorcycles are neither vintage nor classic but more contemporary and some of them had been made till as late as 2010 before manufacturers stopped production over emission norms.
But for motorcycle enthusiasts, these bikes have huge nostalgic values and many of them have no qualms about spending a fortune to acquire a specimen that has been restored to its former glory.
And this is where Jadeer Husnain of Mysuru comes in to fulfill the wishes of a growing clientele who want a piece of history on two wheels.
Jadeer Husnain poses with a RD 350.
Jadeer’s life took a turn to unchartered territory about eight years ago when he borrowed a friend’s motorcycle for a ride. It was a Rajdoot RD 350 that Yamaha once made in collaboration with Escorts. The two-stroke, parallel-twin engine motorcycle was in production from 1983 to 1990 and gained a cult following despite costing a bomb (at that time), poor mileage, high maintenance, and poor braking.
“I was blown away by the ride quality of the RD 350 and understood why somebody who owned this particular motorcycle would always want to possess it and never part with it. I found that it was just the right kind of bike for me,” Jadeer (32) told Awaz-The Voice.
It was then that he decided to get into full-time restoration.
“I get the motorcycles first and then identify the problems that need to be fixed to restore them to their original status. And then I get work done from veteran mechanics who have been in the trade for 20 years or more. There are specialists who work on the engines and the mechanicals and they know the motorcycles inside out. And then there are master painters who do their job like fine art. My task is simple,” says Jadeer.
The mechanics are at different places in Mysuru.
His task may be simple but the process of restoration is certainly not easy. The biggest headache is sourcing the parts of an iconic motorcycle like the RD 350.
“When I started restoring bikes I discovered that RD 350 parts were still available in the United States. My friend Aziz who is based in the US helped me procure the parts. I later discovered that spare parts are also available in India with some component makers still manufacturing them,” he says.
The US was one of the countries where the Yamaha 350 had been launched in the early 1970s and it continues to have a following which explains why it is comparatively easier to find spare parts in that country.
Restoration is a labour of love and the work simply cannot be hurried along. There is no fixed time for a restoration project.
“It may take a few months at the earliest depending on the condition of a motorcycle. If it needs major work, the time may exceed a year or more. I only restore them to their original status and do not carry out any modification.”
The RD 350 motorcycle that former Indian cricket captain MS Dhoni acquired from Jadeer Husnain.
Jadeer came under the limelight after an RD 350 that he had restored found its way into the garage of former Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in Ranchi last month.
He came in contact with Dhoni through a friend. “I had restored an RD 350 HT (high torque) motorcycle which was the 19th bike that was produced in India. My friend told me to contact Dhoni to see if he would like to have it since it was a collector’s item. But it did not work out and I later sold it to a student from Kerala,” he says.
Jadeer restored the next Rajdoot RD 350 in line with US specifications of the 1973 model by overhauling the engine and mechanicals with comprehensive detailing such as colour, seat, chrome, and disc brakes and sent the photos of the bike to Dhoni’s friend.
“It was a competition green colour bike that Dhoni chose over another of gold colour. This particular motorcycle had been built to the US specification, which is very different from the Rajdoot specification. The restoration project took nearly a year, half of which went into actually building the bike to top condition,” says Jadeer.
Because it was restored to US specifications, it also had disc brakes which the Indian spec bikes did not have.
The RD 350 is not the only motorcycle that he restores.
“I also procure the Yamaha RX 100 and the Suzuki Shogun, restore them and keep them with myself for some time before selling them off. I insist that the documentation of any motorcycle that I buy for restoration should be complete. A bike can be rebuilt from any state it is found but I won’t take it without complete paperwork,” he says.
Jadeer Husnain with some the motorcycles after restoration.
The RX 100 and the Shogun – both 100 cc bikes - were known for their powerful engines and speed and still have a large fan following. There is no dearth of people who want to lay their hands on these motorcycles. But there is no mistake of Jadeer’s soft corner for the RD 350.
For a man so madly in love with motorcycles he hardly gets to go on long rides.
“I usually go for short rides. I went to Benagluru from Mysuru to check out the motorcycle for Dhoni. The 280-km to Bengaluru and back turned out to be arduous because it was raining for most of the time,” says the father of three.
He says he has restored Rajdoot RD 350 motorcycles for some of his friends. He also has other clients and fortunately, most of them understand that restoration is not an overnight job and could cost a lot.
“It is a costly proposition to acquire an RD 350 or restore one. Depending on the condition, it could cost upwards of Rs one lakh. But an enthusiast knows that it is better to spend some more money and get the bike going at one go instead of going hunting to find a cheaper mechanic which may prove costlier in the long run. Those who want their bikes restored must have patience. The owners of the bikes that I have restored take them out once or twice a week,” Jadeer says.
The RD 350 was ahead of its time and one grouse against it was that it did not have disc brakes for an engine that was simply too powerful. Jadeer is now trying to install disc brakes in RD 350 bikes.
“The Yamaha RD 350 is an intimidating motorcycle. One should not panic while riding it because if you do, disc brakes won’t help either.”
Once the engine and other parts have been restored to their original condition, Jadeer usually assembles the motorcycle at his residence. When that is not possible, they are assembled at different garages.
He does not seem to have any regrets about shifting from the construction business to restoring motorcycles.
“I don’t have the time now to devote to the construction business. I have teams that now take care of it,” he says.