Adventure motorcyclists take their bike selection very seriously. They understand that if they want to ride across a couple of continents, they are going to need a bike that is robust, fuel efficient, versatile, comfortable, powerful enough to haul their gear, cheap to fix, and with a wide availability of spare parts. We aren’t adventure motorcyclists, we didn’t take these points into consideration.
In retrospect, we probably made our decision to ride scooters a little nonchalantly. But it’s a little bit late for that now. At the time, we decided if you could do it in a 4WD, you could do it on a motorbike, and if you could do it on a motorbike, why wouldn’t you do it on a scooter? With our mode sorted, we needed a make and model.
Despite uncountable hours of internet trawling, we couldn’t find a suitable breed of scooter, quite possibly because one doesn’t exist. There were plenty of options available for the peak-hour Asian commuter or the latte-run hipster, but nothing tailored toward imminent trans-continental tourers like ourselves. Then one day trademe-ing we came across a Bajaj Chetak, some kind of Indian-made Vespa-copy that a guy named Gary was selling. The price was right, the reviews were good and every picture we could find of one had at least 4 people riding on it. It had checkerboard trim. We bought it.
It turns out the Bajaj Chetak is like India’s version of the Toyota Corolla, everyone has had one and everyone still has one because they won’t go away. The bike is named after a blue-tinged warhorse from Indian folklore, which also received positive reviews. “Chetak” is described as having a balanced muscular body with an extremely attractive appearance, ’flying’ legs, a rare, acute intelligence, restraint and courage coupled with unflinching faithfulness to his master. The blue warhorse sounded awesome. We bought another one.
The main reason we were keen on the Chetak was because they were built in India, for Indian roads. This means they were built tough, or tough enough at least to carry a spouse and 2 or 3 half-lings over roads that look like dried up riverbeds. The downside of this fact however is that Indian roads are so dangerous that you wouldn’t consider driving them at over 80kph, hence the Chetak’s top speed of 80kph which is only achievable downhill with a tailwind.
If you took 10 Chetak engines at 150cc each and merged them into one super-engine, you’d still have one with slightly less displacement than a 2 door Honda City. Unlike most scooters on the market, the Chetak has a 4-stroke engine which provides power at low revs and is less prone to meltdown than their 2-stroke counterparts. They are also fitted with an intricate emissions system which keeps hydrocarbon deposits down to 0.43 grams per mile, arguably giving them a smaller carbon footprint than a malnourished housecat. The manual gearbox operated by a traditional grip-shifter allows the rider to change between 4 different levels of slowness, and the tiny 1.25 gallon fuel tank beneath the seat casts a conspicuous shadow over the bike’s excellent fuel efficiency.
Check back here soon to see some of the modifications we’ve made to our bikes.