The most important thing is to have a good relationship with the bike... you have to understand what she wants. I think of a motorcycle as a woman, and I know that sounds silly, but it's true.
- Valentino Rossi
Ask a man who rides a Royal Enfield why he splurges on his bullet when he can get a car for the same price, and he will laugh at your naivety. There is something about bikes which is beyond logic. When you are riding a bike on a long drive, the wind on your face ruffling your hair makes you feel one with nature.
But the passion of the bike riders is only second to that of those who make them beautiful; the people who customize bikes. And no one does it in India as good as the Jaipur-based Rajputana Custom Motorcycles.
Childhood and the beginning of Rajputana
Vijay Singh Ajairajpura was born and brought up in a Rajput family in Jaipur. His father built him his first bike at a very young age of seven. Vijay rode his 50 CC engine BSA Falcon across the motocross track hog which has now been converted to Central Park in Jaipur.
He recalls that his father use to race for Jaipur Motorcycle club back in the 70s and his ‘dadosa’ (grandfather) organized the first all-India MotoX race in Jaipur back in 1977.In 2005, Vijay went to Canada to study Mass Communication. When he was back he had 6 months to kill before he could join his job as a journalist. He decided to build a bike and Óriginal Gangster was created right in his small garage. It was his cousin Avijit Singh who helped showcase the bike in Auto Expo-2010.
The response was amazing and from then on he started building bikes on an order basis. Vijay says he is proud of his Rajputana heritage and tradition. He adds that it would never work if he gave it an English fancy name. And thus Rajputana Customs was born.
First Client: John Abraham
“I got a call from the actor John Abraham, and he asked me to come down to Mumbai,” said Vijay when asked about his first client. John, who is passionate about bikes, knows his machine and explained what he exactly needed. The bike was built and named 'Light Foot' and the design was inspired by vintage American Board Track Racer. Soon the news spread and lots of orders came to him making Rajputana Customs famous among motorcycle enthusiasts. People started asking if he could make more and his answer was a resounding yes.
Vijay started promoting Rajputana Customs through Facebook. He has kept the page very engaging, while answering each and every question. Today the Facebook fan following has grown over 3 lakh followers. Vijay gives a unique name to each of the bikes being built in RCM like Laado, Aghori, Rajmata, Jordaar , Gulail, Bitoo and so on. So far Rajputana has built 31 bikes since the day they founded. The amazing things about these bikes are that they are very unique in design. No design is repeated in RCM.
Today, Rajputana Customs had grown large, but Vijay remembers how he started with two people. One was Abdul, an old mechanic who is a friend of his father, and Tappan who is the son of the gardner. Tappan Shil is still with Vijay and is his shop foreman and floor-manager. Devashish Sharma came to them as an intern 3 months back and is helping them with his mechanical engineering skills. “He is a quick learner and well suited for product design,” says Vijay.
They have machinists, painters, fabricators and craftsmen working together in their team. They have lathe operators and lot of ‘Jugaad Technology’ to look after any complex design requirement such as homemade English wheel and pneumatic planishing hammer.
Things were not easy for Vijay. He had a passion for bikes, but when coming down to building bikes, lot of things needed to be learnt. “We made mistakes and we loved to do so. We would end up making mistakes 10 times, but we succeeded the 11th time,” says Vijay. It was his sheer passion towards the work which let RCM survive and flourish for four years. Vijay still does not have any sophisticated equipments in his garage. In the era of 3D printers where most of the production process is automated, Vijay believes in traditional treatments of iron and steel.
When we compare the design of RCM with other bike building companies, we find Vijay focuses more on the engraving design details on various parts of the bike. When asked for his design inspiration, Vijay points to the Royal Rajputana Culture. Rajputs are very artistic, whether you see their buildings or fine detailing in their swords. Vijay exhibits Rajputana culture on his bikes and thus the name Rajputana Customs gives it a meaning.
Vijay Singh Ajairajpura laughs when you want to discuss the future with him. He loves what he did and he will do what he loves. “I could have been a journalist but I choose to follow my passion,” says Vijay. When asked about the expansion of RCM or increasing the number of bike production, he completely denies it. He will keep building bikes in Jaipur and does not want to increase the production.
Vijay has a new passion today. 2014 is the first year of racing at the National One Make championship riding a Honda CBR 250. Recently, he visited Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire, England. After the first 4 races, he has now signed up with a professional race team, ‘Apex Racing’ for the next 6 races.
Vijay has a golden heart, a heart which follows its passion and does nothing else but improvise. However, the path was tough and he and his team have conquered the problems with their hard work.