The fact that my dad used to own a Yamaha RX100 pushed me towards considering a 2-stroke motorcycle.
BHPian Abhyjith K.A recently shared this with other enthusiasts.
The Soulful Workhorse | My 2002 TVS Max 100 R
The world of cars and the world of motorcycles somehow have a sense of disconnect from each other. Growing up, cars formed my biggest passion with motorcycles being a casual afterthought. Yet somehow, one motorcycle came into my life and changed everything so completely and so unexpectedly. It truly taught me what the phrase, “Four Wheels Move The Body, Two Wheels Move The Soul” meant. Although my love and passion for cars has still remained unwavering, a new love for motorcycling was born and haunts me to this very day.
But for some context regarding my personal history with two wheels, I learnt cycling without stabilizers at the age of 8, on a lovely little blue BSA with the constant support of my loving family. I used to go “cycling” every evening. But that was well within the safety of our home. I ventured out into the world on my own on two wheels for the first time when I got my first proper bicycle at the age of 15. A classic BSA SLR in a memorable maroon shade from the early 90s, which once belonged to my dad who used it to ride to college.
I had completely refused my parents’ offer to get me a new bicycle in favour of getting dad’s old cycle fixed and ready for me as it had been sitting in storage for years on end. Such was my love for all things classic and nostalgic. After all, what’s better than inheriting and using something that once belonged to daddy?
That bicycle would become my partner-in-crime for the next 4 years. In the middle of those years, I had fiddled with it, taken it apart bolt by bolt and put it back together, convoyed with my friends, and enjoyed many priceless moments with it. Others also found it refreshing that here was someone cherishing something older in the sea of sleek, modernistic, carbon fibre blah blah on two wheels that start looking terrible the moment they show the slightest signs of wear and use while my cycle wore them like badges of honour and still looked the part doing so!
When it came to motorized two-wheelers, I learnt to ride on my uncle’s bike. A lovely black 2014 Honda CB Shine. It was and still is a great bike. In fact, since uncle wasn’t in immediate need of it as he lived away and his commute involved only a brief walking distance, I would go on to use it for the first one and a half years of college and have since, formed a lot of memories with it too.
While the CB Shine is practically everything one can technically want in a bike, it really isn’t the most soulful. In fact, I really did not understand the true meaning of “soulful” until I got my Max 100. At this point, I was still primarily a car person and didn’t think much of bikes. The CB Shine existed solely to satisfy my practical commuting requirements. While I used to take it out otherwise as well, there was never any real deep craving to do so. What’s the danger associated with this? One ends up feeling bikes, in general, are like this and ends up missing out on a lot.
Enter the desire for something else. I’ve always found two strokes quite fascinating for a long while, yet had never ridden one. There was also the fact that my dad once used to be the proud owner of a beautiful Maroon/Wine Red Yamaha RX 100 that he purchased brand new in the 90s and sold later on due to the possibilities that existed in those times of two strokes getting completely banned.
As a result, I felt I had missed out on experiencing the two-stroke magic, that I hear about and read about all the time, solidifying my desire to own one. But here I was, a 19 year old college student with a bare-bones budget which only made the RX 100 with its current prices look like a fairly distant dream. No worries, I thought to myself. I just want a two-stroke. I’ll look at my other options then. The only criteria was that I wanted an actual motorcycle, ruling out scooters and mopeds, though I still have a soft spot for vintage Vespas, Lambrettas, and their derivatives. In fact, that is an understatement. I love them. But for the time being, I wanted a motorcycle that I could truly call my own and ride daily, as well as do trips on.
With Yamaha ruled out completely, I automatically turned my attention to Suzukis. More precisely, the AX 100, the Max 100, and the Samurai. The others such as the Supra, Shogun and Shaolin would automatically go outside my budget and thus, get ruled out. Just for the time being
The Max 100 was one I particularly favored for I had some memories associated with one owned by my math tuition teacher’s husband, back during my school days. He would fire it up when he would go out and the sound would resonate within the walls of the home. Funnily enough, my bike turned out to be the exact same spec and colour as his, with the differences only being the modifications I have done, that I’ll get to, later.
Not only that, but I had always looked at the Max 100 as an untapped treasure. One seemingly used by middle-aged family men throughout the country as it is quite economical (From personal experience) and cheap to run. Not only that, but the legendary durability (Also something we’ll discuss). Plus, the retro looks and charms are too much to resist at the prices they usually go for.
I didn’t completely rule out the possibilities of getting a four-stroke though. Bikes like the Hero Honda CD 100 SS and the Kawasaki Bajaj 4S Champion did catch my attention thanks to their retro design and famously efficient engines. But the heart truly did long for the two-stroke beat, of course.
A great source of inspiration and a valuable resource would come in the form of my friend and classmate back at school, Bala, who had gotten himself right after graduating, a beautiful green Samurai that he currently uses as a blank canvas to do a number of crazy mods on. When I told him about my intentions of getting a new bike, that too, preferably a two-stroke, he was more than happy to chime in and help.
When my search started, these were the bikes I specifically zeroed upon and contacted their respective owners :
- A 2000 TVS Max 100 R in Black.
- A 1989 Kawasaki Bajaj KB 100 in Maroon.
- A 1987 Ind-Suzuki AX 100 in Red.
- A 2002 TVS Max 100 R in Forest Green.
- A 2001 Suzuki Max 100 in Red.
- A 1993 Kawasaki Bajaj 4S Champion in Maroon.
Only the 4S had its documents all in current while the rest required updating. However, I kept the 4S as the last option as I mainly wanted a two-stroke.
The KB 100; Now that was something I really would have liked to have. But the seller ended up replying to me, the exact day after I had bought my bike. Maybe it was meant to be that way. I had no regrets though. I was already in love with my bike. More on that later!
The first bike I would go on to see would be the black Max 100 R. It was a single owner from new bike and looked wonderful in the pics. So Bala and I hopped onto his Bajaj Chetak and went to see it. We were, however, terribly disappointed that it wasn’t as advertised. It was a non-runner with locked-up brakes and when he tried the kick, the compression wasn’t anything signifying an engine that still worked. So we left it as it is.
The second bike I would go on to see would be the one. I still remember that day like it was yesterday. The morning of Saturday, the 19th of Feb, 2022. This was the Forest Green Max 100 R. What’s more, this bike is a 2002 model year. The same year of my birth. Happy times!
I still remember waiting for the owner to turn up and then, hearing her for the first time as they came into view. I already knew she wasn’t in great shape, but was still, a runner with clean documents. The test ride I took after a brief chat with the owner and inspecting her, changed everything for me.
Coincidentally, that was also the first time I ever rode a two-stroke ever. I initially marveled at how light and compact it felt. Then she fired up with a roar. But I stalled her a few times. After riding the CB Shine for so long, I was unaware that she required some application of throttle to move from a standstill.
But when we finally got moving, nothing would prepare me for what happened next. Her throttle was so messed up that for most of the rotation of the grip, nothing would happen, and then at the end, everything would happen! When “everything” happened, that moment was truly special. Her roar turned into a symphonic wail. One which I still adore listening to this very day. But it’s the first time that is always the special one.
I pull the clutch in and shift to second. She responds so brilliantly that it felt like we were truly connected, Then, I try to shift to third, but accidentally hit the rear of the shifter (As that’s how I was used to upshifting on the CB Shine). She screamed loudly and jerked me forwards, yet still forgave me and didn’t throw me over. I corrected it quickly and shifted to third. Then immediately to fourth, where I experienced a different side of her. A calm, composed, yet still wonderfully musical side.
But I was running out of runway and had to brake. I slam the right pedal (Again, like I used to, on the CB Shine). The rear wheel locks up and skids with a loud screech. But I immediately let go of the pedal and twitch it and regain control. Then pressed the pedal softly and pulled in the clutch while downshifting as I came to a halt. I turn back slowly and stall her twice again. Then I finally reach the owner again.
I guess at this point, it’s blatantly obvious that it was too late. I had already fallen for her (Not literally ). I told the owner I loved her and really wanted her. He was an extremely friendly guy, just recently turned a father, who wanted to sell his bike as he wasn’t using it much at all and could do with some extra money for the household.
After discussing the flaws (Yes, I still did let my mind work. A bit ), he agreed to reduce the price a bit for me. I told him I’ll ring him up that night and tell him of my final decision.
That evening, I went to see another bike. This was the red 2001 Suzuki Max 100. The evening was lovely, the neighbourhood very homely. The bike was mechanically in better shape than the green one. P.S, I locked the rear brake yet again during the test ride and skid it, but again, controlled it to the shocked gasp of the owner. This bike ran better, and had a light and properly functioning throttle, but was a bit of a downer in terms of cosmetic appearance. Also, a light issue with the documents was there, leading me to eventually rule it out.
That evening, I made up my mind. The bike I saw in the morning would be mine. I rang up the owner at 8 P.M that night, just as I had said, and informed him I was coming to collect it tomorrow. He was extremely happy that the deal was coming through, while also a bit sad at the same time that he would have to say goodbye to his pride and joy. Both of which were quite obviously noticeable in him when I met him the next day.
So on Sunday morning, the 20th of Feb, 2022, I made her mine. I met up with the owner, he took me for a cup of tea at a nearby place on the bike; The return journey was the last time he would ride his bike before handing her over to me. We came back, and have a nice long chat, after which, I pay him the amount fully in cash, he hands me the keys and we shake hands. He stood and watched while I rode her up to the highway, after which, I took a right turn into the OMR Highway and disappeared with the beautiful exhaust note getting fainter and fainter.
But it wasn’t the classic tale of me riding off into the sunset in pure bliss. One thing I immediately noticed is that she was screaming in top gear, but was nowhere near her top speed. No worries, I thought. She had been sitting idle for quite a long time and requires work on the engine anyways. Then when I pulled the throttle open fully, she cut out and I slowly pulled over to the side. I thought I had overstressed an engine already in bad shape. She fired right back up on the second kick, so I decided to take it easy on the throttle from then on.
The previous owner had told me to stop and refuel as she was practically running on fumes at that point. He had even told me the exact location of the pump on the highway, but in my sheer excitement, I passed by the fuel station. Only God knows what I was thinking at that time.
The result? Me dragging my new bike with an empty tank about 800 metres back to that same station. I put in enough fuel to make it back home. I didn’t pre-mix oil as the oil tank was full and the previous owner told me he only uses the pump.
Then, she fired up immediately and I happily embarked upon the 15-kilometre journey to meet Bala whom I had also called, and surprised with the good news that I’d gone ahead and bought it simply because I fell for it. But that’s when love would get tested and all the happiness came down crashing to pieces. She would go fine for maybe a kilometre or two, after which the engine would cut out, forcing me to pull over to the side and keep kicking to start her back up. I think this happened a grand total of more than eight times throughout the perilous journey. Moreover, she wouldn’t idle in traffic and keep cutting out, making me have to constantly keep playing with the already messed up and unbearably tight throttle.
Finally, I made it to the front of the Accord Metropolitan where Bala would soon arrive at to meet me, on his Chetak, only to find me thoroughly exhausted, sitting on my bike on the main stand. After hearing what had happened, he immediately gets to work and removes the spark plug only to show me what can only be described as one caked with black soot which he then cleaned off. He told me it’s a very old make and considering its condition, it was a miracle I even made it this far on it.
Oh, but that wouldn’t be the last miracle. He then asks me how much oil is there pre-mixed in the tank. I reply that there is none, as it’s using the oil pump. He then points out to my inexperienced (Read “Nonexperienced”) eyes that the pump was not even connected!
So that everyone, is the story of me riding my new bike for 15 kilometres without oil and God knows how much the previous owner had done so, although he did tell me that he very rarely uses the bike with it sitting in storage for months on end. And even when he does use it, it’s mostly for short rides around the neighbourhood. I completely believe him as that’s the only way the engine could have possibly survived this long.
That was my first and last straw with the oil pump. To this day, my bike runs on pre-mix. It’s just way better at least for the peace of mind. The pump and the tank are still there on the bike, but I’ll be removing both after a future overhaul of the engine. There’s no substitute for simplicity.
After checking the papers, Bala parks his Chetak nearby and we get on my bike with him riding it to test it and me as a pillion and we go to the nearest fuel station. There, he pre-mixes the right amount of oil in the tank and we get going again, this time, to an auto parts shop where we get a new spark plug. He shows me how to adjust and swap it over. The bike then fires with a single kick and we look at each other with a smile on our faces. We go to a nearby isolated road where we pulled over and Bala quickly tunes the carburettor. There was now, a massive change in the way the bike felt. We had a lot of fun on that road, pulling the throttle wide open and listening to the wail.
After thanking him for his timely rescue and promising to meet, later on, we bid our goodbyes and I started the brief ride back home. She still couldn’t go all too fast, would cut out under sudden throttle application, and felt insecure in traffic, but was still, miles better than how she was before. Now that she actually had oil in the system, she felt way smoother and refined. Bala told me to ride it as it is till I get used to it, but I didn’t feel secure with it. So since it was a Sunday that day, I decided to get it to the mechanic immediately on Monday.
After reaching home, the first thing I did was to get rid of the utterly horrible and worn out Passion Pro tank cover and give the bike a good dusting and wipe. She looked so much better now, but there were a lot of things to be done.
Here is the list of things the bike required working on:
- She had no mirrors.
- No battery.
- No indicators.
- Completely shot handlebar switchgear.
- The headlight was wired to be on all the time, right on the coil.
- The speedo and odo on the left side of the instrument cluster worked, but the right side was completely inactive (My bike has the twin circular TVS gauges and not the rectangular Suzuki one). The right side houses the indicator, low oil, neutral and high beam lights. The previous owner told me that they all actually do work, but they’re just disconnected due to some wiring issue (Which I would go on to find out was true).
- Also the instrument cluster casing was partially broken on the bottom right side.
- The seat covers were old and ripped.
- The engine & drivetrain with lacklustre performance.
- Broken side panels that are still somehow, staying put.
- The wheels, the visible mechanical components, the chain guard, the saree guard all looked tired and required refurbishing.
- The tank was very clean within, but the side stickers are not in good condition and there are a few not-so-deep scratches.
All in all, it was an untidy mess. But she went and stopped in a perfectly straight line. The core of everything, being the basic foundation is important after all. The tyres were also in good condition although the rear was a Michelin Sirac while the front was a Ceat Secura . I guess that’ll also have to be rectified.
But even with all these flaws, it was no big matter. She could still be ridden. So after having my lunch and getting some rest after that entire ordeal, I get back to her in the evening and take her out for a ride around the neighbourhood and also a little further around the city. That was when I discovered the joys of what I call, soulful motoring. She couldn’t be driven too fast, but she was still going and genuinely seemed to be immortal. She’s a real survivor. And she never missed a beat while doing so, pun totally intended. She sang wonderfully as I saw the same familiar sights of the great old city, but now, in a new light and with a very different, yet fitting background music.
The next day, I visited my agent at his driving school and auto consultancy office to get the documents in order. He was my former driving instructor too (Although daddy will always be the one who taught me the most). We had a lovely chat and after submitting the papers and other necessities, I took my bike to the mechanic in the evening. They were very professional and created a list of all the things that required doing on my bike and sent me the invoice. I told them to cut back on some specific non-essentials as I was on a very tight budget and just wanted my bike running and able to pass its upcoming Fitness Test.
I received my bike about a week later. I was unbelievably excited that day after all the waiting. I picked her up at about 7:45 P.M after a very busy day at college. I was delighted at the work they had done. New mirrors, indicators, a thorough water wash, the instrument cluster fully worked (Including the neutral light), she got a new battery, rectified wiring, new handlebar switchgear, and most importantly, a serviced engine with a cleaned carburetor and silencer. She fired right up, as if happy to see me again. I had to run some errands that night immediately. She gladly accompanied me and on that beautiful night, I finally felt the intense satisfaction within that I had done the right thing getting her. Everything was finally falling into place.
The Fitness Test came a week or so after I got her fully readied up. I went to the RTO right after college after getting the Pollution Under Control Certificate from a nearby fuel station to meet up with my agent who immediately pointed out that the rusty number plates wouldn’t allow the bike to pass. So we took her to a person nearby working on the roadside who hand paints and refurbishes number plates. After getting the plates refurbished, I join the line of folks waiting for their inspection. Right in front of me was a gentleman with an old Bullet 350 in black. There was also a fully restored CD 100 SS with a very unique paint scheme that reminded me of my earlier considerations of getting one. There were also a number of new vehicles in line including a brand new Honda CB350 RS with no number plates.
After the inspection, I left for home in complete satisfaction now that the important job was over. I would receive my Smart Card another week later through my agent. I was beyond elated as now, I could finally ride my bike legally on the roads of Chennai and potentially and most definitely, beyond!
She did attract quite a bit of attention when I took her to college of course. The wonderful thing about the Max 100 is that it completely lacks the snob factor associated with the RXs and mostly attracts positive, curious attention. This is all the while looking and sounding in its own unique way that’s in no way shape or form, inferior. What it lacks in performance as compared to the RX, it more than makes up for in economy, affordability and the truly special wail! The TVS badging only makes it more of a curiosity as most people are more familiar with the fact that its a Suzuki at heart. I have other patriotic reasons to prefer the TVS branded ones as well.
We had a great time, fooling around, giving my friends rides, and in general, having a good time. To this day, I’ve been riding her daily to college as well as for shorter trips and longer highway blasts. There are other things I’ve done to my bike and will do to my bike that I’ll document in this thread.
For now, I hope you enjoyed reading my very first, albeit long post on Team-BHP. Having been a reader for a long time since I was a child, crazed about automobiles, I am honoured to finally become a member and make my very first post – That too, of my beloved Suzanna. Yes, that’s her name. It’s derived from the first three letters of “Suzuki”, and since she’s a TVS with the only Suzuki badging on her being a “Suzuki Max 100” etched on the rear mudguard, I thought the name suits her well.
And on a final note, this is what she looks like currently. I’ll detail the mods I have done and will do, soon. Cheers and happy riding!
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