Jawa motorcycles have always been special to everyone in my family. It was the bike of choice for daily commuting for my grandfather, which meant a lot of his stories either began or ended around his Jawa. However, my favourite isn’t a story from him, it’s from my grandmother. It was about how she would hear his bike coming from far away and begin heating his food. My grandfather then went on to give his bike away to one of his cousins, who used it for many years. After which, the motorcycle passed a couple of hands while also deteriorating.
Fortunately, I had the opportunity to buy back this bike around five years ago. It was in pieces, literally in cardboard boxes. But the papers had my grandfather’s name and I was over the moon. Fast-forward a couple of years and my 1972 Jawa 353 was now relatively restored and running. One day, I was spotted riding it by a fellow Jawa owner and added to a Jawa Yezdi owners’ group on WhatsApp. Ever since I became a part of this group I have just been a spectator and never managed to attend any of the meets. A big reason for this is my restoration job not being up to the mark; my bike looks pretty, but rides nothing like it should – but more on that, later.
So, a few days ago I finally got the opportunity to attend one of these rider meets – not just any, but one of the biggest yearly gatherings – the Forever Riders Meet 2018. This was the third year of the event and there were around 200 motorcycles present. To my surprise, each and every one of these bikes was different. I went in thinking I would be seeing a lot of restored-to-factory condition Jawas and Yezdis, and a line of 20-30 identical bikes; this was not the case. I would go so far as to say that I couldn’t even spot five motorcycles that looked similar. As I walked further into the parking space where the bikes were lined-up, I began seeing a lot of custom work gone into the bikes. There were Jawas and Yezdis with custom paint jobs, custom bodywork, auxiliary lights and more. I also managed to spot a Jawa equipped with alloy wheels and a disc brake straight off the Bajaj Pulsar.
As I reached about half-way of the parking space, I was slightly bewildered, I always imagined this community to preserve the bikes in their original form. But that wasn’t always the case; and then I saw what I thought was sacrilege – a twin-cylinder Jawa converted into a café racer. Each to their own, but seeing this bike left me feeling confused, and even a little sad. Thankfully, a nice participant then asked me to follow him to the competition ground and said that I was missing out on the action.
So, I headed towards this ground that was in a field behind the event location, and within minutes, all of my doubts were laid to rest. The group members were all about having fun and enjoying their motorcycles – there were no two ways about it. Even the competitions that were held were centred more around the riders than the bikes. People were here to have a good time and this sure as hell was no stiff upper-lip Concours d'Elegance!
Spirits were high and big smiles were all around. The commotion, conversation and laughter were louder than the two-stroke motorcycles – and that says a lot. One of the competitions was held specially to see which lady rider could kick-start their bike first – simple and fun.
Next up was a competition in which a rider would tweak their bike to work in reverse, and see who could do the furthest distance. Yes, they rode their bikes in reverse – and one participant even managed to take an entire round of the ground. Following that was a competition for the most period-correctly dressed participants. This was a sight straight out of the 1970s, with the craziest of floral shirts and the widest of bell-bottom pants. The crowd was full of cheers and so was I. The couple of hours I spent at this event made me realise that the Forever Riders Meet 2018 was all about having a good time and this translated to their bikes, as well. I instantly forgave the participant who chopped up the twin to make a café racer – well, almost!
On my way out from the event, I was introduced to a veteran Jawa and Yezdi mechanic – Aspi Khansaheb, who runs a shop called P.R. Motors in Dahisar. We spoke about Jawas and Yezdis for nearly an hour and he showed me a custom cast aluminium airbox he had made and would be selling for Yezdis. Aspi also said that he would come down and fix my Jawa and wanted me to be present at the next event. It was this kind of camaraderie that struck me most about the Forever Rider’s Meet; and I certainly don’t intend to let Aspi down!