Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Striking Trike

My friend (and ex-colleague at CAR India) Jayesh, having a go on Timothy's trike!

Ex-motocross racer, ex-stuntman, motorcycle workshop owner and talented moto-craftsman he may be, but the most notable thing about Timothy Lewis is his ever-ready laugh and his infectious enthusiasm for motorcycles. And since he’s never satisfied with stock, he’s always looking at building something new, doing something nobody’s tried before. Money is not a driving factor for him – if he thinks he’ll enjoy building something, he’ll go ahead and build it anyway. Which is why this three-wheeled contraption exists. I asked him why he built this machine. He laughed and shot back, ‘why not?!’ Can I ride it? 'Yeah, sure!'

So we find ourselves on the Bandra-Worli sealink at six in the morning. As photographer Pratul sets up his photo equipment, there is already a crowd gathering around Tim’s trike. People want to touch it. Sit on it. Someone asks me when the machine is being launched in India. Another one wants to know how much it’ll cost. Timothy is standing on one side, smiling quietly. In the meanwhile, Jayesh (who’s now studying at IIM and is an MBA in the making…) has donned his jacket and helmet and is ready to ride the trike for pictures. And he actually manages to pull away without stalling the engine. Bravo! After a few runs up and down the sealink, security guards arrive on the scene to chase us away. We take the action to Bandstand, in Bandra. The crowds continue to gape and point. For those 30 minutes, Jayesh is Shah Rukh Khan.

But to come back to the machine itself, it’s no ordinary bodge-chop job. It’s been done with care and is finished quite well. The engine has been taken from a Maruti 800 and is fitted with a high-lift camshaft, resulting in a slight increase in power. Start the thing and it throbs quietly, while Timothy tells us it’s very reliable. I’m sure it is. The front forks are really long and the bottom legs are taken from a Honda CBR1000F. The front wheel is a 15-incher, clad in meaty Dunlop 170/80R15 rubber. Steering this thing takes some doing, believe me.

The gearbox is from a Maruti Omni, and transfers power – through an Omni differential – to the rear wheels. Which, by the way, have been taken off a Mazda Miata. You operate the clutch with your left hand and shift gears with your right, using a Premier Padmini’s column-shifter. Of course, shifting gears requires the rider to let go of the handlebar, which is a bit disconcerting. As this… vehicle gathers speed, it becomes increasingly disconcerting to let go of the handlebar and shift up another cog. Thank god for the M800 engine, because with anything more powerful, things would have been terrifying. Especially given that the only brakes here are from a Bajaj autorickshaw. ‘These would have been sufficient for a Bullet 500 engine, which I was planning to use earlier,’ explains Timothy. Oh, well.

We’re hungry by now, so we troop into an Irani joint for a spot of breakfast. Over Keema Pao, masala omelettes, bun maska and tea, we ask Tim what’s next on his list. What’ll he come up with next? ‘That,’ he says with a twinkle in his eyes, ‘is a secret! But I can assure you that nobody in India has tried anything like it before.’ And he laughs.

Timothy, the builder of this three-wheeled special, can be reached on +91-9820241057

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