Saurabh Jyoti, Chairman of Syakar Trading, the authorized distributors of Honda motorbikes and cars in Nepal, can’t remember a time when he was not in love with bikes. “Bikes are not just a hobby for me, they are a part of my life. My family has been involved with Honda for over forty-nine years. It’s my business, my interest, it’s a way of life for me.”To say that his bike collection is impressive would be an understatement. He has around twenty-five bikes in his collection that take up his entire garage, and includes models such as a handcrafted MV Augusta, a Rivale, a Ducati, a Suzuki Hayabusa, PC 50, CV 175, CT 90, B-King, and more.
Given his love for bikes, it is rather hard for him to choose just one favorite from his collection of over twenty-five. “I love all my bikes. Each one that I collect is something that I really value. This is not a collection that happened over a short period of time. I have had bikes since I was in twelfth grade, which was around 1992.”The bikes in his collection also serve a different purpose. “It all depends. In Kathmandu, I prefer to take one bike that is very easy to handle. For off-roading, you can’t take heavy bikes, as they are too powerful, so you need a light bike like XR 250. If I’m driving to Pokhara, I might take my new Africa Twin, which is a tourer. If you want to move really fast, you want a sports bike. For raw power, you want something like a Ducati. Each bike has a different characteristic, power output, and way of handling. So, depending on the type of bike, they are suited for different purposes,” he explains.
Saurabh is very possessive about his bikes. “I don’t let anyone else ride my bikes. I am very possessive,” he says. Saurabh got his first bike as a gift from his grandfather. “It was a MX 250, which started me off,” he says. “I also used to ride an RD 350, which I sold off in college. After that, I could not find that bike anywhere, but after seventeen years, I finally found another RD 350, and it is now in my collection.”There are several other bikes in his collection that hold a lot of value to him. “All these bikes are exclusive, not necessarily expensive, but they are unique. There’s the Dax70, an old 1969 Honda. It belonged to my father, and I am now restoring it. There is the CB 175, which is a British bike, twin cylinder. These bikes tell a story, and they are a part of the automobile history, both in Nepal and globally,” he adds.
Saurabh Jyoti also has very strong opinions about bike modifications and its legality in Nepal, and says, “As per Nepali law, bike modification is not legal, but in Nepal there is no such thing as modification, as such. There is some cosmetic makeover, like you put some stickers, graphics, or some aftermarket exhaust. But, the policy regarding modification is very vague, and it can be interpreted in many different ways.”
Customization and modification is an industry that provides a lot of jobs and generates a lot of revenue, globally, he says, further adding, “But, in Nepal, it is not recognized as an industry. It takes a lot of skilled manpower and technical knowhow to modify a bike. So, as long as the bikes are safe to ride, even if they are modified, and it does not affect the emissions, why shouldn’t bike modification be allowed in Nepal? There should be regulations that we need to abide by, but we must not say that modifications across the board are not allowed. It is an industry that has not been given due recognition in Nepal.”
“It is the same with vintages. Vintages, as I’ve said, are a part of automotive history. They have a lot of history behind them, and they are sometimes invaluable. So, if you restore them and keep them in proper running condition, the government should have some subsidy of vintage vehicles, because it is expensive to maintain them. So, if it abides by the rules, they should be some tax incentives, rebates. It should be given due recognition, as it is a part of our past and our history.”
Jyoti not only thinks of bikes as his passion, he also recognizes the importance of bikes in the Nepali economy. “Automobiles are what drive the economy. The more mobile a society is the more economical progress can be achieved at a faster rate. Mobility is the key. And, in a country like Nepal, where there is no proper mass transport system, motorcycles are the most affordable means of transportation. It is a means for people to commute to work, to drop off their children to school, for small shopowners to carry their goods. But, the government still treats it as a luxury item and taxes it at 100%. For the price of one bike here, you can buy two in India.”
Although Jyoti rides every day, riding his bikes in Kathmandu is obviously much different from riding off-road. “During the week, I’m riding to meetings or to the office. It is a commute, a necessity, a compulsion. But when I’m riding somewhere else, it is for fun. I enjoy riding my bikes in the weekends.”He loves to bike everywhere, and his favorite ride is from Kathmandu to Pokhara. “It is one of my favorite routes. It is very scenic and nice.”Jyoti also really loves riding off-road. “I like to ride to Dhulikhel and Panchkhal. I recently went to Manang, Mustang, and Muktinath. You can’t really take a heavy bike for off-roading, so I took my XR 250.” He is also planning another trip to the Everest base camp, Lhasa, and the surrounding region.