The second edition of the India Bike Week begins on January 17 and Hyderabad will have it’s own contingent at the do, not just participating, but also representing the Hyderabadi spirit. And the quirkiest of the lot is Shyam Kumar’s Deccan Odyssey.
With images of Hi-tech city, Mecca Masjid, Qutb Shahi tombs and more painted onto the bike’s petrol tank while a serving of biriyani and chai take up the rear fender, the Deccan Odyssey is a marriage of the spirits of Harley Davidson and Hyderabad.
A Fatboy Slim, the vehicle is Shyam Kumar’s prized possession which costed him `18 lakhs, besides another `10 lakhs to customise it.
“Customisation is like composing a song, a unique stamp of the rider on the bike,” explains Kumar who has nurtured a passion for bikes since childhood. “My father had an automobile store so I was surrounded by two-wheelers. It seems only natural that I veered towards that,” adds the 42-year-old businessman who began collecting bikes when he was 18.
While his construction company takes up his professional time, personally, Kumar spends as much as he can carefully constructing a motorbike that best suits him and says he can’t imagine himself doing anything else.
Though the owner of 16 vintage bikes besides the Harley Davidson, Shyam’s jewel in the crown is his Odyssey which was adjudged the best customised bike in Southern India by the Harley Davidson company and the Harley Owners Group (HOG), a company initiated club for their clients.
So how has he managed to maintain and add to his vintage bike collection all these years?
“I keep in touch with mechanics and auto parts store across the country and ask them to call me whenever there is vintage bike on sale or some part I need for my bikes is available. Whenever I travel, and I’ve travelled quite a bit, both within the country and abroad, I keep an eye out for merchants and bike lovers who can help me with my collection.”
While the Deccan Odyssey remains the master canvas on which Shyam has made zealous custom designs, his other bikes have also been tweaked to better suit him.
“A Harley doesn’t become a Harley Davidson until it is modified, however small the modification might be. As for the Fatboy Slim, the award denotes everything there is to love about the city. It portrays elements of Hyderabad that makes it so beautiful,” says Shyam, explaining that it took him two to three months to plan the concept and 20 days to paint the entire bike. However, he also shares credit with the entire Banjara HOG who also gave in inputs.
“So you have Haleem, Irani Chai, Charminar, the Buddha statue, Hyderabadi biryani and pearls as a part of the design. And every image painted on the bike has a personal memory attached to it. Finally, when the bike won the best customised award from Harley Davidson, the feeling was that the entire Banjara HOG had won it,” he says.
Calling the Harley group his “extended family”, the HOG takes many rides together. Within his family, his wife is also biker while his two sons sometimes accompany him as pillion riders. So where do these Harley enthusiasts ride to?
“We keep changing the locations for the rides. It could be Hillpark, Srisailam, the Medchal highway, Shameerpet, Warangal, Pocharam lake, etc. We keep alternating the routes to avoid monotony,” shares Shyam, who also adds that safety is something that they take very seriously. “If the rider doesn’t wear a helmet and the proper gear, we discourage him or her to ride with us. For long rides in groups, the best rider called the ‘lead’ is at the front and the toughest rider called ‘sweep’ is at the back to make sure everyone sticks to the formation (bikers travels in formations depending on the numbers to ensure a safe trip and that everybody keeps together; usually each rider is assigned a number).”
For their ride to Goa, as many as 75 riders signed up for the trip that began on Tuesday. The IBW will go on till January 18.