Mechanical engineering student Bharadhwaj understand the evolution of motorcycle technology, thanks to the job of restoring five British bikes

V.S. Bharadhwaj's toys have always been a bit out of the ordinary. Seven years ago — when he was in school — the youngster displayed an interest in studying the evolution of motorcycles, from primitive to modern.

As the son of V.S. Manian — a man with an impressive collection of classic and vintage bikes. — this was only expected of Bharadhwaj. The father encouraged the son further by gifting him machines.

Bharadhwaj, now in his final year of mechanical engineering at Rajalakshmi College in Thandalam, has been overseeing the restoration and maintenance of five British bikes that roughly cover 20 years of evolution in motorcycle technology.

The collection consists of a 1943 Triumph 3HW, a 1949 BSA C10, a 1950 Triumph 3T, a 1954 Royal Enfield Bullet and a 1960 Royal Enfield Ensign. These bikes track evolution of frames, suspension and engines.

The Triumph 3HW has a girder fork in the front and a rigid frame in the rear. Springs under the seat and in the fork alone provide suspension. The Triumph 3T has a telescoping-fork front suspension and rigid frame in the rear. The BSA C10 has the combination of a telescopic-fork in the front and plunger suspension in the rear. The Bullet and the Ensign combine telescopic-fork front suspension with swing-arm rear suspension.

While the Ensign has a gearbox that is integrated into the engine, the other four bikes have pre-unit construction gearboxes. The Ensign has a two-stoke machine, in contrast to the other four, which have four-stroke engines. The 3T has shown Bharadhwaj how a twin cylinder engine works. BSA C10 has helped the youngster get a grip on side-valve engines.

Restoring these bikes with the expertise of M. Sundar has given Bharadhwaj the joys of keeping history alive.

When faced with difficulties in repairing magneto-dynamos of the 3HW and the 3T — a problem that is far from over — an impatient Bharadhwaj contemplated converting the bikes to electronic ignition. Sundar persuaded him to give up the idea.

By watching the air-filter case, petrol-tank knee pads, the side and rear-cycle stands being sourced for the military 3HW, Bharadhwaj has learnt how to bring old bikes to life in their original form.

Since the Ensign, the Triumph 3T and the BSA C10 need more work before they could be considered restored, the lessons are far from over for Bharadhwaj.