There’s not much of a gap between the end of the Champions League and the start of the West Indies’ tour of India. So it wasn’t surprising that MS Dhoni, Champions League T20 winning Chennai Super Kings captain, wanted to make the most of his three day break. It was even less surprising that Dhoni chose to spend the first day of his time off at the Bike Festival of India. With over 50 motorcycles sitting in just his Delhi garage, it’s perhaps fair to say Dhoni likes two-wheelers. “Busy day 2morrow, off to Delhi for BFI. eagerly waiting to c the old classic motorcycles ..” Dhoni had tweeted even before the start of Saturday’s CLT20 final.
At the Buddh International circuit itself, where the BFI was underway, Dhoni spent much of his time at the Heritage Motoring Club of India stall that housed several vintage models. But unlike most visitors to the stall, Dhoni wasn’t just looking on enviously.
While Dhoni is seen as more of a sport biker and indeed his sprawling collection is of more recent vintage, apparently he was looking for something more classic. The stall housed a historic 550cc 1910 Swift — a landmark in the evolution of the motorcycle — a massive 1942 Army Harley Davidson and even a 1937 Royal Enfield. Much of Dhoni’s time was spent hulking the red beast in a corner. “One more classic ..” he tweeted along with a picture of the motorcycle.
Rather appropriately, the motorcycle the Indian skipper was interested in — and talks are already underway to complete a purchase — was a 1948 Indian Chief. With its blood red paint job, outrageously skirted fenders, a 1200 cc V twin that churned out 50 straining horses and the trademark Chief’s head on the front fender it’s not hard to see why the Indian caught Dhoni’s eye despite the eye-watering asking price of Rs 35 lakh.
But for all its eye catching looks, Indian cricket fans need to have their fingers crossed. “That bike can be a killer,” says Parvinder Singh a member of the HMCI and a restorer of classic motorcycles. “It isn’t a motorcycle that particularly easy to ride. Because it’s so beautiful, its very rare that people willingly sell them. Most of the ones you see on sale belong to people who got killed riding it,” Parvinder only half-joking.
There’s plenty of reason’s why the Chief is so unforgiving. Tipping the scales at 550 pounds, bringing the monster to a standstill requires a lot of foresight. It’s gears go by the uncomfortably name “suicide shifter”. Most motorcycles have the clutch on left handle while the gear is shifted with the left foot. The Chief however has a car-style gearbox mounted along the right of the fuel tank while the left handle features the throttle of the motorcycle. One legend has it that US Police — a key client of the Chief — wanted their right hand free to shoot at fleeing criminals while cruising on the highway.
An unfortunate consequence was that gearshifts made while on the drive, had to be done with just hand in control of the quarter ton machine. “It takes a lot of getting used to,” said Puneet Sharma who owns and had restored the motorcycle. “It’s definitely not for the novice rider,” he says.
Sharma though isn’t worried about the Indian captain injuring himself on the motorcycle. “Its a perfect motorcycle for him. From what I spoke to him today( Sunday), it’s clear he isn’t a novice driver. It was definitely a surprise to see how much knowledge he has about motorcycles. When you speak to him it’s clear he knows the machine through and through,” says Sharma.