An Old Story? – A BSA Gold Star and A Honda CB 750
Finding the strangeness of truth over fiction between a Gold Star and a CB750
There’s a Parsi gentleman in Bangalore who has only two bikes in his garage, ‘a BSA Gold Star and a Honda CB 750.’ Now who wouldn’t want to see that sentence in real life? When my friend, Karan Lokhande, brought my attention to the existence of said gentleman, the information may have formed a Tolkien-esque image in my mind; two irreconcilable motorcycles parked together in a cave-like garage, the air caught between the thundering sound of an honourable British single, the hum of a younger Japanese inline-four, and typically colourful Parsi speech.
However, Rishad Minocher turned out to be far more interesting than that. After a round of sleepy early morning greetings at his house in the heart of Bangalore, my eyes widened at the sight of the two motorcycles. It’s not often that you find the murderer and the victim living in the same house in a motorcycling reenactment of the story of Cain and Abel from The Sandman books. After all, the Honda embodied the Japanese two-wheeled invasion that annihilated the British motorcycle industry. However, these two motorcycles looked right at home together in that cosy garage, several decades after that one-sided war. And the BSA looked far from dead, too.
The Honda was started first, and its smooth vibes created gentle ripples in my coffee mug. As it idled, Minocher heaved down on the BSA’s kick a few times before muttering, ‘It’s the plug…’ A spanner turned, a cloth wiped the electrodes, and down went the kick again. The Gold Star exploded to life, and this time my mug was full of waves. I tried to find the proper place between the two machines, the exact spot which would let me listen to both with each ear, and I found it. It was more towards the Honda’s side, of course, and it was like listening to two different histories at once. And I thought I felt a pang of something that I never have — garage envy.
The Honda was a 1976 model, a CB750F1, and the BSA was from 1957. Minocher and I chatted to the background of the two idling motorcycles, and I could immediately tell that his perception of time was a bit different than mine, to put it mildly. ‘Recently, around 25 years ago,’ he began on one occasion, blowing up all senses of scale in the vicinity. I suppose it happens when you’ve lived richly for 67 years, most of them on two wheels: ‘The Gold Star was always the dream, and I got mine in 1977. I’ve lost count of the kilometres I’ve done on it, but its longest ride was from Ahmedabad to Bangalore. And I’ve had the Honda since 2002, and since then it’s done around 10,000 miles with me. The longest I rode it was to Goa and back. I don’t really feel the need for a third bike… though I suppose a comfortable adventure bike would make sense.’
any classic-bike purists around, they’d have fainted forever. Then he went, ‘The BSA is actually easier to maintain. The Honda has many more moving parts, and it’s a pain to keep them in good shape.’ If you listen carefully, you might hear the grinding sound of Soichiro Honda spinning in his grave. He then brought out a well-used manual for the BSA, and I pretended to know what I was looking at as I flipped through its pages. And then the chat turned into an extended discussion about MotoGP and racing
Motorcycling circles, being as connected as they are, generate many stories. And not all of them are of a charitable nature. However, inocher laughed away stories of regional rivalries as only someone who actually rides his bikes would. ‘Forget being from Pune, Bombay, Coimbatore or wherever. Just go ride whatever you want, wherever you want. And don’t bother anybody else!’ Then he pointed out the holes drilled in the front-brake arm and quipped, ‘See? Weight reduction!’ From personal experience, I could relate to his sense of humour; it’s indispensable when you’re living with two old motorcycles.
As if on cue, the Honda refused to start when it was time for Minocher to ride it for photos. A bit more fiddling around with what he later told me was not the choke, some more pushes of the starter button, and I pushed it off the main stand. It was stupidly heavy, too; all the engineering that went into those four cylinders certainly has a hefty mass. And it was as if I could hear every last blueprint clicking in precision inside that Japanese four-pot gem. And, as usual, Honda’s header-pipe artistry was just as arresting as any of its modern bikes. Somehow, it looked even better exiting from the fins of an air-cooled engine. Minocher started rolling on his gravel driveway and the Honda’s rear wheel suffered bouts of wheelspin. The clutch was too Somehow, that last bit didn’t seem very convincing.
Minocher had an easy laugh and keen eyes topped off with a head full of silver hair. And he kept swapping between Gujarati, Kannada and English, leading me to wonder if he’d suddenly start talking in Japanese as well. And then I blurted out, ‘What is a Parsi doing in Bangalore?!
I mean, it’s a pretty unusual place of residence, away from the regular hotspots, no?’ His reply between bouts of laughter was, ‘Well, besides being Parsis, we’re fifth-generation Kannadigas as well! My grandfather came to Bangalore from Raichur, and the history before that is lost, so we’ll never know why we came to be here!’ Then he suddenly asked if we recognised the front mudguard on the Gold Star.
After we’d aimed confused faces at it for some time, he announced, ‘It’s from an RX!’ If there were snappy, apparently, though he soon disappeared around the first corner, taking that sweet hum with him. When he returned, I kicked the Gold Star to life, and that woke up every dog in the neighbourhood. ‘A Gold Star exhaust must always twitter!’ he shouted over the BSA’s roar, and revved it a few times to prove his point. Off he went, and I could hear the bike well after he was out of sight, its sound bouncing off every building in the pincode.
Even if Bangalore was an unusual place for a Parsi to hail from, Minocher was a prime example of his most of his community’s love for machines. No fake lines drawn between machines based on provenance, authenticity or type. Only a real one drawn around all of them.
A perfect garage is what you make of it. Minocher’s decades long relationship with these two motorcycles is very real proof of that. Only one thing determines a fulfilling relationship — time.
To be sure, other motorcycles did find their way into Minocher’s garage over the years, yes, but they also found their way out of it while these two stayed. I tried to imagine the times he’s spent between the two bikes in that garage at different stages of his life, after being out and about in the world on them. And I realised that one pleasant morning wasn’t nearly enough to hear all those stories.
I’d have to come back many more times. And how’s this for a sign? Walking back to our car, we stopped for an anecdote every 10 feet, and shook hands to say goodbye around 15 times. And so, ladies and gentlemen, the story about the Parsi gentleman who lives with the Gold Star and the CB750 is indeed true. And I hope it goes on forever.