Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Motorcycle Porn: Shooting Jawa/Yezdi Motorcycles with the Nikon D200 and Nikkor 80-200 f2.8

 My kid brother's 1986 Yezdi 250 CL II Motorcycle

On the evening of 11th July my brother told me about a gathering of Jawa/Yezdi motorcycle owners at Deccan Club, Hyderabad. Being a motorcycle guy myself I was excited and in the early hours of 12th July we started for the venue on our 1986 Yezdi 250 CL II motorcycle. We were the first to arrive at the venue and utilized the opportunity to shoot pictures of our motorcycle in the beautiful morning sunlight. After a little while motorcyclists started to arrive one by one and before time the venue was filled up with motorcycles. It was surprising to see that most of the chaps that came were in their twenties and early thirties. After a little introduction with the organizers, and seeing my brother networking with other bikers, I decided to get to work. I shot whatever caught my fancy. I had brought my trusty Nikon D200 with the Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 attached. I also had the 18-70 but it was mostly in the bag except for a few wide shots. All images shot with Nikon D200 and Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 at f4, auto white balance, matrix metering, ISO 100.

 There is a huge cult around the Jawa/Yezdi motorcycles inIndia. It is the second biggest cult after the Royal Enfield cult. In the sixties the immigrant yezidi jew merchants of India started importing Jawa motorcycles from the erstwhile Czech republic. After a while due to some diplomatic red tape they couldn’t import these bikes into India. So they started to build their own, under the license of Czech Jawa. These new bikes made india were named ‘Yezdi’ as in ‘Yezidi jewish’. (On another note these are the same ethnic group of Yezidi jews that are being persecuted now in Syria by the terrorist group ISIS). In essence the Jawa and Yezdi are the same bike except a few cosmetic changes.

Soon after the launch they were lapped up the Indian public who were hungry adventure, macho bravado and masculine swag. Their popularity and legend only grew in the 70s and 80s with placement in many hit bollywood movies.  And in the same decades they had equal popularity with the Enfields. This continued till the late eighties, when suddenly the economy bikes from Suzuki, Hero Honda and Bajaj started flooding the market. Particularly the KB 100 from Bajaj and hero Honda CD100 were a big hit in the market. The real blow came when the Indian government outlawed two stroke engine motorcycles.

Though the Jawa/Yezdi motorcycles continued to survive in the B, C towns and rural India, they were mostly absent on urban roads by the early and mid nineties. Finally in 1996 the run of Yezdi motorcycles came to end after the company downed its shutters.       

Many years have passed in between and the Indian public has moved on to other popular bikes india like the Bajaj Pulsar, Hero Karizma, CBZ etc. Inspite of all these bikes ruling Indian roads today, it is still surprising to see people hankering for a motorcycle that they stopped making two decades ago. With this cultish popularity of the Yezdi, there sprang up a whole ancillary industry of parts companies, restoration workshops, sellers, mechanics and what not.

Seeing the turnout on the international Jawa/Yezdi day ride at the Deccan club at East Marredpally in Hyderabad, I am hopeful that the legend of this motorcycle will continue to live in the coming few decades and with it, will thrive, the sublime Indian masculine swag. Long live.

PS: some thoughts on the Nikon D200