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A couple of women bikers are lending the edge to new Indian custom bike designs

Custom bike designers get their fair share of bizarre requests. As the artist Aarohi Singh recounts, “One client asked for a composite painting of (the Bollywood actors) Madhuri Dixit’s bosom and Aishwarya Rai’s choli from the Nimbooda Nimbooda song. You get the picture. Of course, I refused!”
Aarohi was one among a handful of artists showcasing their work at the Rider Mania event, in Goa, earlier this November. The din of close to 6,000 bikes thrumming and roaring all over the venue wasn’t about to dampen the spirits of the custom designers, or normalise the insanity levels of the requests.
For Ricardo Pereira, of Bulleteer Customs, the freaky calls included one for “truck tyres in the rear, and sofa-type seats with glass
holders and a music system”. There was another to top that order. “The prize for most annoying requests would have to be the ones that ask for Harley Davidson or other big bike branding or monograms on our custom Royal Enfields,” says Ricardo.

Tanks as canvases
A well-crafted custom bike is “a sculpture”, enthuses Ricardo. “Motorcycles are a form of expression, and people are not riding only to commute anymore.” In the face
of `6 lakh-plus tags of Harley Davidson, Ducati and Yamaha, custom options let one make a statement without breaking the bank,” he offers.
For artists like Kanika Jolly, petrol tanks make for fine painting surfaces. “The tank gets me to open my creative wings,” she says. “The whole look can be easily modified by experimenting with the tank.”

Naveen Nandal, of TNT Motorcycles, gets a little more technical with his designs. “A custom bike is a functioning piece of art, and the tank is the centrepiece,” says Naveen. “It is the most visible part of a motorcycle, and defines the flow of lines,” he explains. “Infinite possibilities to design a singular piece, being restricted by hindrances of fuel capacity, rider position, bike stance and theme, makes for a great challenge.”

Naveen’s garage offers in-house production with sheet metal components that are hand-beaten and hand-moulded, and fabricated by cutting, shaping, bending and welding the pieces together to assemble the fuel tanks, fenders, side panels and battery covers.

“Being handmade, these pieces require special attention to the surface finishing details,” he explains. For paint jobs, they use dyes like DuPont Kevlar Aramid Fibre, and DuPont Nomex flame-resistant fibre for engine and exhaust components.
Kanika, on the other hand, uses spray and aerosol paints for her custom tanks, and then seals the artwork with lacquer, for longevity. The same steps are followed for helmets, though, she also employs vinyl stickers, oils and acrylic paints at times. “Some pigments react wonderfully to metal, allowing one to experiment with
textures,” offers Aarohi. “Also, the metal has no ‘give’ as compared to a cloth canvas, and allows for crisper work with graphic designs using traditional paint mediums.” Aarohi’s one-off design inspired by the theyyam dance form was a surefire hit at Rider Mania, as she picked up a bunch of fresh orders.

Ride, soulfully ride
The growing market for custom designs results in all manner of bikers landing up at Naveen’s doorstep. “Every day, we encounter bikers from slow to fast riders, mellow to rowdy ‘dhoom’ riders, commuters to cross-country riders, fuel mileage seekers (‘kitna deti hai’) to self-declared Valentino Rossis, V-twin to inline four riders, stock to custom motorcycle riders.”
Over the last few years, the traffic heading to the Himalayas has risen exponentially, notes Naveen. “What I truly respect is that despite being treated as second-hand citizens on the road, with a great lack of good riding surfaces, the soul of the Indian biker is not shattered,” he avers. “The struggle is real, and it does not matter what I ride, be it a 100cc or 1000cc, 2-stroke or 4-stroke, I’m here to ride — that’s the message, and it’s awesome.”

Details: artbyaarohi.com. Email Kanika at kanikajolly2799@gmail.com; TNT Motorcycles at info@tntmotorcycles.in; and Ricardo at bulleteercustom@gmail.com. Also visit royalenfield.com/ridermania/

—Jaideep Sen

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