Raajib Sayami modifies old motorcycles and comes across one that looks very familiar.
THE ROYAL ENFIELD
The motorcycle Raajib is working on at the moment is the Royal Enfield Electra 2004 model. It’s actually his brother’s motorcycle. The first time he rode an Enfield was about eighteen years ago and he has built a love-hate relationship with Enfield bikes since then. There would be times when he’d be really enthusiastic about it followed by a phase of frustrations with the bike. He likes racing his bikes which is why he doesn’t like them after a while, because you can’t really race on an Enfield. “Within Kathmandu, you don’t really notice the difference but the moment you get out of the valley, you realize that it isn’t really a racing bike. So, I just let it be for some time and then after it has collected dust for a while, I get that urge again,” Raajib explains.
He modified the Enfield so that even though its speed cannot be increased, changes to the posture make it look more like a classic race bike. More than modifying it, parts of the bike have been modified. He kept a double suspension in the front and Italian suspensions in the back. As for the tires, he has used classic ones, the handles are Italian and the siders are Japanese. Changes were also made to the side box as they are normally really big and uncomfortable, which prompted him to slice it down. “Other than that, I just added touches to it. For this bike, I’ve made a copper fender, my own exhaust and I’ve made the air box out of brass. I try to lighten the weight on motorcycles as much as possible but in this, I’ve kept the stock design of the original bike. I remodeled a battery box as well. I wanted to keep its natural charm, so I kept the side box and just minimized its size,” he elaborates.
Raajib’s brother wanted his Enfield fixed and just left it there for him to fix it whenever he was up for it and he was really insistent about it. After it had collected dust for two years, Raajib finally decided to rebuild it. The idea came to him after his trip to Manang during the Dashain holidays where he had gone riding on his Enfield. He had to fix the bike most of the way and didn’t take it all the way because he was pretty sure that the bike wouldn’t come back if he had gone on to Pisang. “You could say that this motorcycle is the reason why I learnt how to fix bikes in the first place. They’re so unreliable. But back then, you couldn’t find a mechanic who could fix an Enfield. I was initially planning on making my own but my brother was like, ‘What about mine?’ and so I decided to make his,” says Raajib, explaining the reason behind his project.
When asked about how long it takes him to build these bikes, he replies, “I love rebuilding old motorcycles; this isn’t the only project I’m doing. To build a motorcycle in this state, it usually takes me about three months. I mean, the motorcycle is in pretty bad shape so I can’t really tell yet, but that’s the rough estimate. I’m not that great of a mechanic either, so.”
HONDA CB 360
As the hippie-era boomed in America, the “café craze” and the popularity of European styled café racer bikes swept over the US. In the height of this era, Honda had introduced its CB line of café-styled motorcycles to take advantage of this sudden rise in demand. The models introduced in that era were the CB350 Twin, CB350, CB400 and you may have guessed it, the CB360. Introduced in 1974, the production of the elusive Honda CB360 was stopped in 1976, only two years after its debut, making it quite a rare find.
Raajib Sayami shows a motorcycle that was introduced as a police escort’s motorcycle and guesses it was from around the 1970s. It was later auctioned off and Sayami’s father’s friend bid for it and took possession of the bike. “When I was little, I used to see him ride around in it. After I got a little older, he let me ride it too. After some years, we drifted apart and I started rebuilding old motorcycles. Someone said they had a bike I could rebuild and this was it,” Raajib explains as we lounge in RS Moto, near the garage where another bike is being worked on in the background.
The bike has a classic café racer styling to it and compared to other motorcycles of that era, it handles fairly well since the CB360 engine was tuned for slightly broader torque range in comparison to other CB models. As Honda did have similar models in the market with 350-cc and 400-cc engines, the introduction of a 360-cc model was rather peculiar.
“I love rebuilding old motorcycles and this isn’t the only project I’m doing. There are others that I am working on currently as well as the many I’ve rebuilt before,” informs Sayami, gesturing towards the huge garage behind us that is lined with many models of vintage motorcycles. “It usually takes me about three months to build a motorcycle. I mean, this motorcycle is in pretty bad shape so I can’t really tell yet, but that’s the estimate.
When it comes to planning the budget for the project, he feels it really depends on what direction you want to take it. There are two kinds of people who rebuild motorcycles: there are those who love preserving the originality of the bike and restore it to its former glory and there are others who modify it according to their own needs and desires. Raajib falls in the latter category, so he may make modifications as he goes along the design process. He plans to make it an old-school style racer bike while keeping the café-racer style.”
“I love racing bikes with an old engine. Newer bikes are really smooth and really quiet, you don’t get that machinery feel from them. You don’t know what’s going on with the engine in newer bikes until something goes wrong. With old bikes, you can hear and feel what’s happening in the engine. Since they are more manual, you can tell if there’s a problem sooner than with newer models, but they are never reliable. That’s the fun of it; maintenance is key.” he explains, displaying his fondness for older, classic race bikes.
The specs of this short-lived classic from the 70s are an air-cooled OHC twin-cylinder 357-cc engine with two valves per cylinder powering the CB360, with the engine compression ratio at 9.3 to 1. Generating 34 horsepower at 9,000 rpm and a reported top speed of 102.5 mph, the CB360 had a six-speed transmission with a chain final drive. The motorcycle itself weighed in at 392.4 pounds (178 kg approx), with all fluids and its 2.91 gallon gas tank filled up.
“It’s a time tested model. I mean, it’s from the 70s and you can still ride it if you take proper care of it. You don’t even see bikes from the last decade anymore. They’ve been worked to death. So I look forward to rebuilding this bike,” he concludes looking fondly at the Honda CB360.