It is not every day that one gets to ride a bike that has done duty in the World War II and spite of all the rattles, you still hum when you ride it
One fine wintry Sunday morning a few years back, I was leisurely riding a friend’s Royal Enfield Bullet 350 through Delhi’s Chanakyapuri. The roads in that area are very well laid out, and the numerous roundabouts are a pleasure to negotiate. Actually it’s the roundabouts that are a major attraction and whenever young motorcyclists lean on the curves, I am sure a majority of them must be thinking about Valentino Rossi and Company. At least I do.
Well, I was gently leaning on one such curve when something on two wheels just whizzed past me. It was much noisier than the one that I was riding, but it glided ever so smoothly. It was an old pre-war bike that much I could identify but I wanted to have a closer look and opened up the throttle a little bit to catch up, but the ancient thing kept going faster. Well, I was riding a bike that was five years old and catching up would be no big deal…or so I thought. And boy I was wrong! I had to push the Bullet very hard before I came parallel and waved him to a stop.
It was pre-war motorcycle all right. A 1942 Triumph 3HW, 350cc single, to be precise. And the bloke riding it was Vikas Talwar who also owns a BSA 1952 A10 Golden Flash that’s in a pristine condition, a 1948 BSA BB31 and one Yamaha RD350. Riders of vintage and classic motorcycles seem to have an unspoken bond, a brotherhood and over the years Vikas, and I ended up in the same club and the motorcycle trips that we undertook along with the rest of the gang were fun-filled.
During the World War II, Triumph had discontinued manufacturing of all other models except the 3HW. German dive bombers flattened the Triumph factory during the blitz, and it later on shifted to Meriden, which is said to be the exact geographical centre of England. When the Japanese army, in its campaign against the allied army reached the north-eastern part of India through Burma, the allied army transported a huge amount of military hardware in that part of the country. Most of the war era British and American motorcycles that we see with the various collectors came from the army dump yards in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur.
Vikas had bought his Triumph 3HW quite a few years back from an old man in Faridabad in Haryana. The old man flatly refused to sell the bike, but our enthusiast was hell bent on getting hold of it. By the end of a couple of months, the owner was so disgusted that he decided that it was better to get rid of the bike than to face the persistent devil that went by the name of Vikas. And so Vikas got the bike. It might be a coincidence, but the old man passed away a month after selling the bike. He was obviously very attached to it.
To put it very mildly, the 3HW was in a deplorable condition. It has been lying in the open for donkeys’ years, and the elements have played havoc with it. The engine was jammed as the piston and the barrel had rusted tight. Some wise guy had taken away the spark plug and water had found a welcome way through to the barrel and ultimately the chamber.