Standing in one corner of Jer Baug, Byculla, the BSA B31 350cc motorbike with sidecar waits for the rains to end. It is only then, that its owner Neville Choksi will lift the covers from this vintage bike and show of its sparkling green and black glory on Mumbai’s roads. Choksi is a collector of vintage bikes, especially ones with sidecars. So passionate is he about sidecars, that not only has he collected all the dope about the sidecars, but he is currently restoring two more vintage sidecar bikes – a Rolls Royce and a Styke!
“If one studies the evolution of engineering in bikes, the sidecar is a brilliant creation. A regular motorbike with a sidecar will weigh 150kg, however it has the capacity to carry 210kg i.e. three people weighing 70kgs,” said Choksi, who participates in motorbike rallies in Pune and Mumbai.
Informing us about the sidecar’s capabilities, Choksi said that sidecars with motorbikes were used by the police, the fire brigade, as taxis and even today there are sidecar races. “These races are very exiting to watch. The sidecar is stripped and one person takes its place and hangs on for his life, as the sidecar speeds and even turns at 100km per hour. It is this person’s job to keep the balance,” said Choksi, who is an in-flight manager.
Despairingly Choksi said that the death of the sidecar was in the 1930s, when the Ford T model was mass-produced. “With the mass production, the price of the car was just as much as the sidecars. So people preferred to buy a car,” said Choksi.
Getting back to his model, Choksi said that the production of this BSA B31 stopped in the 1950s. One day in 1992, Choksi spotted this bike, belonging to a Parsee named Italia. “The registration number of this bike is GUL, which is my mother’s name, so I bought it,” said Choksi who uses this BSA as his daily mode of transport.
Choksi has seen the sidecar model used in ‘Lage Raho Munnabhai’, and is quite disappointed. “The sidecar model in this movie is made by Globe. I am not particularly fond of the Globe sidecar model as of all the British and US sidecars, Globe has chosen to copy the worst model,” said Choksi, pointing out that the Globe model has no comfort. “In my BSA sidecar, even a 6 feet tall man can sit comfortably!
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