Ever been to a startup’s working quarters? For the uninitiated, it’s usually a space brimming with enthusiasm, ideas (sometimes brilliantly crappy) and a sense of purpose, all aimed at creating something valuable. Stepping into a resort offering stunning landscapes, with Maharashtra’s Mula River in the background, I could feel a similar vibe in the air. I was here to ride a couple of choppers (the ones that ply on the roads, not in the air), built by homegrown manufacturer Avantura. Yes, you read that right. No-let’s-modify-a-RoyalEnfield kind of stuff, ladies and gents — this is proper made-in-India stuff, the kind you must have seen on that Discovery Channel show about choppers. The name isn’t pronounced like the American bachata band either; it’s derived from a Sanskrit word, highlighting the brand’s Indian roots.
Avantura is the result of seven years of serious ass-busting by CEO Gaurav Aggarwal & co. This gentleman ran a successful PVC pipes and farm equipment manufacturing business, which allowed him to fund the building of his own chopper because, well, there simply wasn’t one available in India. This quest led him to ex-mariner and chief revenue officer Vijay Singh, and famous chopper maker and chief design engineer Kevin Aslop. Sounds like a fascinating startup story, right? A few guys, in partnership to build something that they themselves experienced the need for.
All that cute startup romance evaporates the minute you lay your eyes on what they’ve been able to accomplish — the Rudra and the Pravega. ‘Absolute beasts’ were the first words to come out of the mouth of a fellow journalist. And why not? These are near-3 metre long metallic assemblies that tip the scales further than one third of a tonne. The former, translating to ‘the ultimate roar’ in Sanskrit, is the elder sibling, despite the same underpinnings. It has a 2,180mm wheelbase that sits on a 23-inch wheel up front and a massive 20-inch with a wide 280-section Avon tyre at the rear. The 2,908mm length would put many entrylevel cars to shame, courtesy the 38-degree rake.
The Pravega (‘sound of wind’) comes across as the more American of the pair. It’s easier to look at and to handle. A tighter rake means a shorter wheelbase, with 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheels and a narrower 250-section rear rubber. At 347kg, it weighs 3kg more than the Rudra and manages to accommodate a larger 21-litre teardrop-shaped fuel tank. Chrome lines the sides in abundance, so you can flaunt your ride under the lights for all its worth. The paintjob gets a two-layer base and six-layer clear coat, for that mirror-like finish. It gets a single-pod instrument cluster that houses an analogue tachometer and a digital speedometer, while the switchgear as well as some other bits and bobs are taken from Harley-Davidson’s parts bin.
With both these bikes, Avantura is offering customer-dependent visual and ergonomic features, for creating bespoke motorcycles. You can pick and choose between a variety of wheel, headlight, handlebar, tank (colour/paint theme only), fender styles, exhaust and foot peg assembly personalisation options. Features like the wheel design would come at an additional cost, unlike many other aesthetics. The final unit will be delivered to you within three months of placing the order, the company said.
Sticking to Indian roads and potential customer demands, the Vasai-based company has also adjusted the seat height — lowered to 600mm — and the ground clearance, which has been raised to a fantastic 150mm. Swing a leg over either of the bikes and you feel you’re being enveloped, like what a python does to its prey. Upon pushing the starter button with your right thumb, the reverberations seem to stir an earthquake, more on the inside actually.
At the heart of both bikes are gargantuan 2,000cc V-Twins (only smaller than the Triumph Rocket III in India) from American engine maker S&S Cycle, and power is transmitted via a six-speed gearbox. Plenty of torque is available right from 1,000rpm, all the way past 5,000rpm. But before that, you’ve got to endure the struggle of keeping the bike in one straight line upon releasing the clutch. A slipper clutch would have been nice, but again, it’s one of the first half-a-dozen mules that the company has manufactured. The exhaust is one of the loudest I’ve heard in my entire life. After all, what’s a chopper without a little bit of showboating? Contrary to most air-cooled engines on big bikes, the heat radiation on the Avanturas is felt only when you are at a halt, though some fellow riders managed to burn holes in their riding pants while turning the bikes around.
Almost 20 minutes into the ride and the ice (almost the size of the one that brought down the Titanic) breaks. The suspension, sourced from Progressive, ensures agility and even the ride quality is firm enough to inspire confidence. Unlike most of my time with the bikes, the weight was felt only when I slowed down before a pothole, and also when I actually encountered it. Stopping duties are handled by a six-piston Beringer (of France; also makes brakes for aircraft) calipers and a disc at either end. There’s no ABS on the Pravega, but it will be put in place when mandated in 2019. The rear brake is the saviour, as the front brake feels a little inadequate, largely due to the abnormally large wheel.
All in all, this is as close as you can get to fulfilling your American dream in India if you’ve always dreamt of owning a chopper. Hopefully, after overcoming the last of a lot of ARAI tests, the bikes should hit the markets later this month. They’ve been built using top quality parts that have been assembled surprisingly well; there are certain niggles that the company is honest in acknowledging, and it aims to rectify them in the coming months. Avantura Choppers has put price tags of Rs 21.4 lakh on the Rudra and Rs 23.9 lakh (both ex-showroom, Mumbai) on the Pravega. That’s not exactly practical or affordable, but can you actually put a price on individuality, something that choppers are all about?