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Chopper chap

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MEAN MACHINE Amrit Raj with his piece of art
MEAN MACHINE Amrit Raj with his piece of art

Amrit Raj turned his passion for bikes into a custom-building venture. He plans to build a car next

“I have always been passionate about bikes. I still vividly remember my fascination for the Rajdoot my dad owned during my childhood,” says Amrit Raj, a custom-bike builder and Mangalore’s very own Billy Lane.

Every guy in the world is hit by bike-mania at some point in life. But, here is a guy with a quirky quest.

He has gone a notch further and improvised his craze for bikes, making a profession out of it.

Biker build-up

While still in college, he was influenced by world-renowned custom-bike builder Billy Lane from Florida, USA, the creator of Choppers Inc, which was a turning point in his life. Soon thereafter, he made up his mind to take up custom-bike building as a profession and set out to Mumbai to pursue a six-month technical course on automobiles.

He also updated his knowledge, reading books on bike designing from abroad. About a year-and-a-half ago, he designed his first bike, a custom-made Eliminator, and from then on there has been no looking back.

Amrit specialises in handcrafting low, lean, and lengthy choppers and so far he has been working only with Bullets. The design inspirations come from old school, pre-school, Bobber, East Coast, and West Coast chopper traditions.

After discussions with his customer, the designs that are not practical are eliminated and efforts are made to remain true to the customer’s vision of the bike.

Within an hour of the meeting, Amrit is ready with a rough sketch and once it is finalised, makes a final sketch. “As I discuss with the customer, I draw a rough sketch in the air with my hand based on ideas popping up in my mind,” says Amrit.

After this comes the most crucial part — the building. First, unnecessary parts from the bike are removed. Mostly, only engines are retained, with the other parts handcrafted, to give the bike the desired look. To give the bike a unique look, graphic designs are handcrafted on to it, or airbrush painting undertaken. Sometimes the engines too are tuned up, accordingly.

Dream wheels

He is assisted by a painter and fabricator. Imported paints and tyres are used and sometimes imported parts are also necessary. He readies a bike in two-and-a-half months, and does not repeat the design. He works on one bike at a time at his workshop, Vega Choppers at Bejai Cross Road. “The bike is not an everyday bike and is more of a weekend bike, made especially for good roads. For maintenance, customers need to come back to me,” he says.

After his first project, he designed Rumbler and Revolver. He has designed R-790, a chopper inspired by the West Coast tradition.

The chopper is eight feet six inches in length and weighs about 150 kgs. It’s speciality is that it has hidden suspension. It is for a local customer and is priced at Rs 2.5 lakh. All of these bikes are single-seaters, except his favourite so far — the Rumbler — which is a twin-seater that can be turned into a single-seater.

Further, his latest creation is Streetfighter based on the East Coast tradition, fitted with 200-series tyres.

The length of the bike is eight feet. He dreams big and plans to design his own car, a vintage car with latest technology and power, modelled on Hot Rods.

Amrit says that there has been an overwhelming demand for his work from locals and from outside the country too, such as the Gulf countries.

Most of his customers are youngsters who are passionate about their Bullets. The customers range from the age group of 20 to 26 and 35 to 45.

SUSHMA BARVATHAYA

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