Saturday, December 29, 2007

Chetak to return?

Read April Whitney's blog post "Bajaj longs for scooter success" dated December 25, 2007.

The Hindustan Times published the following article on December 25, 2007:

After ten years, Bajaj to ride scooters

Ten years after phasing out its iconic Bajaj Super and the Bajaj Cub, Bajaj Auto is now planning to revive its scooter business.

The world’s fourth largest maker of motorcycles and scooters, which built its fortune in the eighties and nineties selling lakhs of the geared scooters, is planning a series of steps, including setting up dedicated showrooms for scooter-buyers on the lines of its ‘Probiking’ showrooms.

Probiking is a series of branded, exclusive showrooms for Bajaj Motorcycles that offer an exclusive sales and service experience to prospective buyers. These would display and sell new models in the scooter segment, currently in the pipeline.

Bajaj Auto is keeping its cards close to its chest though. “We have nothing to share at this time,” Bajaj Auto managing director Rajiv Bajaj told Hindustan Times in reply to an email sent on Monday.

The company, which has since the late nineties shifted focus to the highly lucrative motorcycle business, has been found the going tough in the high volume 100 cc segment, where the Gurgaon-based Hero Honda has the upper hand. Unable to keep the volumes and profits from the 100 cc segment, where profit per bike can be as low as Rs 2,000, Bajaj launched the 125 cc XCD in an effort to woo the country's milkmen and contractors.

When it stopped making scooters, Bajaj had close to 80 per cent share of the scooters and scooterette business in the country. Most of this market has been taken over by Honda Motor and Scooters India (HMSI) with its range of geared and un-geared scooters.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Embles (aka badges)

Unlike the Vespa P-Series and Stella scoots, the Bajaj does not come with chrome emblems. It comes with plastic ones. A corner I wish Bajaj had not cut. The beauty of the vintage bikes (note that P-Series and Stella are not vintage and are not considered as handsome as vintage), like cars and homes, is in the details. The Bajaj Chetak 4-stroke is a utilitarian bike.

I wanted my bike to have a bit more of a vintage look and therefore I ordered three emblems from Phil of Pride of Cleveland Scooters. There are two styles, brushed and polished. I ordered the brushed as Phil said they looked best. On the back of these ultra thin emblems is a 3M adhesive that will stick your bike for life.

Using butcher paper I traced my cowl and marked where I wanted my large emblems to go on my cowls. I cut out a small rectangle to fit the emblem in. I then washed my scooter and dried it. I first installed the SMALL emblem on the legshield of my scooter. Afterwards, I removed my cowls and using painters tape I locked my butcher paper template in place and placed one of my LARGE emblems in place. I repeated this process for the other cowl.

I have had these emblems on my scooter for many years now and they have survived the bad weather here, washes, and rain. They are an inexpensive detail that makes your scoot look quite nice.

Chrome legshield addition

The Bajaj Chetak & Legend do not come with chrome around the legshield, but you can add after market chrome.

Here's what you'll need:
1) Cuppino chrome trim
2) Heat gun ($10 at Harbor Freight Tools)
3) Dremel tool
4) Thick workman gloves and rag towels
5) Screw driver
6) Painter's tape

Do NOT use pliers! Let me repeat that, under no circumstance are you to use pliers. Pliers will create small "dents" in your legshield trim. The guy who helped me install mine used pliers and I saw the dents in the making and told him to stop. Too late!

Prepare the chrome to fit over the black trim around your Bajaj's legshield. Especially around the curves, you may find that the split in the chrome legshield may not be wide enough to fit over your legshield. What you need to do is to use your Dremel tool to sand/grind this split so that it is wide enough. Here's how . . . with a Dry Erase marker mark the areas on your legshield that are too narrow. Now, with your Dremel tool ONLY grind the INNER SIDE of the split (this side is the side that goes inside the scoot and will NOT been seen by anyone). Do NOT grind the outer side (this side is visible from the front of your scooter) as you need as much of a lip as possible so it lies flush with the front of your leghield.

Using painter's tape protect the black trim and paint around your scooter's legshield. Wait until the hottest day of the year at the hour when the sun is at its hottest point and cover your scooter or put it in a metal shed along with the chrome legshield. The goal is to get your scoot and chrome legshield trim piping HOT so that the trim is pliable. After your scooter and trim has sat under the hot sun for a few hours ask a friend to come over and help you. Wearing thick gloves and using a rag towel to hold the left piece of chrome trim (note: the right side needs to go on second because it goes on top of the other piece where they meet) heat it with a heat gun until its near to hot to hold. This will take a while. Now align the trim with your legshield and ask yourself which direction (from top to bottom or vice versa) will require the least bending to the most. Work in that direction. You want to start with the least bending possible and you will find that the bigger curves will be less because you have straightened out the smaller ones first (for the most part). Have your friend hold the end of the legshield trim in place as you slowly shape the chrome to fit the curves on your bike. Take your time. As you move up have your friend follow closely behind with pressure.

Now repeat that step with the other piece of chrome. Remember to get it piping hot first. After you have it installed apply more heat to both sides. Working with your friend start from bottom to top on the first piece of chrome installed. Have your friend apply pressure and you are to secure a screw in place. Now your friend will apply pressure and the next screw hole making sure to keep the chrome pushed tight against the bike. Add the second screw. Repeat until done. Repeat on the final piece of legshield.

1) I do NOT like the pointed screws as they will damage your paint. The vintage bikes used a flat tipped screw to not damage the paint. You might consider investing in these.
2) This process is a big paint in the butt. Please take your time and don't rush it. It is not easy nor fast, but it looks great when done right.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Purchasing tires

I just visited Clauss Studios to investigate if he may already have molds for the rubber for the floor rails for my wife's 1967 Vespa SS180 restoration. While I visited Clauss Studios I found that he sells Shinko brand tires (formerly Yokohama) for cheap! We bought white wall'd Sava Kran Touring tires for $19.99 on clearance "as-is" from Motor Sport Scooter. A good deal on a mid-grade tire, but there are some small defects with the white walls. Sava Krans seem to loose thread fast and not last long; therefore it's a much better deal with Clauss.

I am riding Michelin sport tires on my Bajaj Chetak right now and I am very happy with them. I bought them through a local motorcycle shop that sells scooters and paid $28 per tire I think. A great price.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bajaj history (abridged)

In the early to mid 1960s Vespa outsourced to India to build Vespa Sprints. The Indian factory had to uphold Vespa's quality assurance and factory system. The relationship was short lived as legal issues came into play. The end product was that Bajaj purchased the factory from Vespa. After this happened the Bajaj badge began to appear. At first, with any brand transition, the bikes had a Vespa and a Bajaj badge on the legshield. You can find these bikes in the USA. Or you may be riding a Vespa Sprint that was made in India and not know it.

As you can see in the photograph above of this classic Bajaj, it's basically a Vespa Sprint with its trapezoid headset. It's a handsome bike.

The "Chetak" was named after a famous horse that belonged to a Indian Prince, I believe. The horse belonged to him and helped a lot in battle and such. Pictured above is a 1980s Chetak I believe. In my opinion, much more handsome than the newer 4-stroke Bajaj Chetaks. These bikes were 2-stroke and can be found in the states. They often sell for less than a Vespa of similar model.

In the 1980s Bajaj tried to sell in the USA. It didn't go well. It returned again in the early 2000s with Al Kolvites as the president of Bajaj USA. 4-stroke versions were imported. Bajaj USA died around 2006 and became Argo USA -- Chinese plastic scoots. A strong Bajaj culture existed via Bajaj Yahoo Group while the bikes were being sold. Note: some Bajaj are still available new as 2005 models. Check with dealers. The only thing about the newer Bajaj's that I could do without is the horncast and a little more chrome, say floor rail kit and a legshield trim would have been an added bonus.

Like its predecessor and its competition the Chetaks & Legends are work horses, like the Vespa P200s, and take a heck of beating and keep on running. The roads in India are harsh with pot holes and the Bajaj was built to withstand the harsh roads and to be easily worked on and repaired.

Like the Stella (LML), Vespa P-Series, the Chetak is the last of line of the work horse scooters. The Stella and Vespa horncasts are much more handsome than the Chetak and there is more chrome on the other bikes, but I have spoken with dealers and the overall report is that the 4-stroke Chetaks have way less problems than its 2-stroke rivals. I intend to give my one-year-old son my Chetak when he gets his license. My Chetak should run for a long long time. I ride hard and it remains to be very trustworthy and dependable.

If I was to buy my first scooter all over again, I'd buy a Vespa PX150 from Vespa Mechanicsburg for $3600 (sale price -- only have 3 left). My wife's Chetak costs $1999 and you just can't beat that price. Now the Chetak is $3000 and the Stella is $3300. Genuine Scooters runs a very smart marketing campaign for its Stella, because the bike uses Vespa aftermarket products. So this makes upgrades and accessories CHEAPER and easier to find. I have no intention of selling my Chetak, because it is a tank of a scoot, but if you're purchasing you should consider all your options and what you plan to do with your scoot . . . ie buy a Stella or PX and put a DR177 kit on it for a cheap speed/power upgrade. Or buy a Vespa for resale value. If you're looking to be accepted into the classic/vintage culture either a Vespa P-series or Genuine Scooter (Stella) will get you in. But if you're looking for a dependable daily rider that requires next to no maintenance, a 4-stroke Bajaj Chetak or Legend will deliver that to you at an affordable price.

If you come across a Bajaj from 1980 or earlier for a good price (it will be cheaper than a similar Vespa) it is worth picking up. The vintage crowd will accept you as well. And the bike is prettier than the newer bikes.

Wear your badge

There have been a few vintage snobs that have refused to ride with me because I ride a "new" Bajaj Chetak. They dislike new bikes, plastic bikes, and twist-n-goes (TNGs). I have even been told to #*%$ off because I ride a Bajaj. Note: you will get more love than a Vespa ET though -- isn't that weird.

I am not a snob and will ride with anyone who scoots -- period! My wife is the same way and she is the one who owned her Chetak before me and introduced me to the world of scootering.

On the flip side, my wife owns a 1967 Vespa SS180 (probably the 3rd rarest Vespa and highly collectible) and I own a 1962 Lambretta TV175. Both bikes are being restored from the ground up and they are documented at:

If those specific individuals ever see me on either vintage bike and ask me to ride with them I will tell the to #*%$ off. Ah, the spirit of scooterist!

Both my wife and I have coats with patches sown on and the Bajaj patch above is my favorite patch by Bajaj. I'd like to add it to my jacket. I have the "Never Shiftless", which came on the jacket when my buddy gave it to me. It's a bit cheesy for me. But I will wear a Bajaj patch beside a Lambretta patch with no shame and no snobbery.

Wear your patches Bajaj riders!

Safety first -- headlight

12V 35/35W H4 -- Halogen bulb. Fits Vespa PX 2001 and newer, Bajaj Chetak 4T, most Kymcos, and more.

This summer while visiting home (S.F.)I rode my buddy's, Eric's fully restored and mildly mod'd, P200. Fast bike. He had a halogen bulb in the headlight. Evening approached and it quickly got dark. The halogen bulb was amazing! It made such a difference compared to the stock bulb. We switched bikes and I rode his Vespa Sprint. When riding towards one another I could see how easy it is for cars to see a scooter with a halogen bulb compared to a stock bulb. Eric said that this small upgrade was a "no brainer" for him and he feels safer riding at night with a halogen bulb.

The bulb will cost you less than $10 depending on where you buy it. I know that (KTM = motorcycle) sells it for $8.95. I expect that an auto parts store may sell these for even less. Your local scoot shop could be as high as $20.00.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Scooter Camping 2007

Dave and me on our annual scooter camping weekend along the Appalacian Trail. Not as many slides from this trip as in the previous "Scooter Camping 2006" slide show, but you can see we had a good time. This time we went geocaching and that was a fun treasure hunt for the scoots. No cars. We pack like backpackers with single burner stove, etc. At one point Dave ran out of gas and had to fill a camp stove fuel bottle with gasoline on our way home; though my camp stove will run off of unleaded gasoline as well so the bike and stove could share the same fuel.

Avoid stripping threads

You would be amazed at how easy it is to strip threads on your scoot using tools such as a ratchet set or monkey wrench. In fact, I have stripped the threads that my valve adjust cover screws into with a monkey wrench (see previous post titled "Oil Change") and I have stripped the studs on my rear wheel hub with a ratchet set. More on that later.

The best way to avoid this is to purchase a torque wrench for $12 (sale price from your local Harbor Freight Tools) and set the correct "foot pounds" prior to tightening everything up. This will avoid any errors at a cheap price. Do NOT use the torque wrench to remove nuts or screws as it could damage the internals of the wrench.

The "free" way to avoid stripping threads is to tighten with your hands all the way and then just snug things up a hair with wrench. Use the Bajaj hub/wheel wrench ONLY when removing and especially when installing the lug nuts. Don't kick the wrench like you do on a car. Do it all by hand. This will help you avoid stripping anything. If you want to be extra safe use nylock nuts -- but make sure to replace them every time you change the tire.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Headlight problems

Here's a question for a potential column...
My headlamp doesn't work unless I turn on the high-beam, so essentially my running light isn't running. Are our bulbs dual element bulbs which may mean that only the one element has burnt out. If that's the case, changing the bulb should solve the problem. Or could this be a bigger electrical issue? I guess the easiest thing to do would be to pop out the bulb and check, but I haven't gotten around to it yet, mainly because I'm not entirely sure how to do it. Have you ever had to replace a headlamp bulb?

-- David

David, I do not believe the bulb is dual element. I remember years ago reading a Bajaj Yahoo Group post from president Al Kolvites that the high beam works off reflection and does not require extra juice from the battery.

The first place I would look is your switch, since the high beam does work. I have emailed Al Kolvites for advice and am waiting to hear back from him.

I believe the light bulb is an easy change. Refer to the parts manual, which you can download for free from

-- Jeremy

Problem solved (follow-up):
"So, I got a halogen bulb (had to order from a nearby motorsports super-store, $9.95) and I'm happy to say that it solved my dead running light situation. No need to investigate the wiring. I just put it in today so I'll be able to see the difference tomorrow night on my ride home from work. " -- email from David.

The halogen bulb is a great thing to invest in . . . see my "Safety first -- headlight" blog post.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Vespa Vagabond

I attempt to be meticulous in my restoration blogs (see Vespa and Lambretta), but the quality of the writing goes by the wayside for the content.

I have always wanted to tour coast-to-coast on a scoot. This woman did it solo and documented the trip with quality writing (which I appreciate as a English teacher) and photographs (which I also appreciate as a amateur photographer of film cameras).

I have chatted about scooter camping before, but this woman took the ride to a whole new level by traveling alone on her Vespa from SF to NYC over two months on back roads through no named towns. An amazing trip indeed.

Check her blog out at:

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Battery Care

During the winter I ALWAYS store my battery in the basement, where it is dry and the temperature does not fluctuate (it stays about 70 degrees) hooked up to a float charger. This will add to my battery's life span.
Battery care is pretty simple for scooters, whether you're riding a P-Series Vespa, Stella, or Bajaj. Scoots don't have alternators, like cars, and their batteries don't fair well when the scooter is not ridden daily. Say you're a weekend rider only -- the best thing to do is disconnect your battery Monday through Friday. But if you're like me and ride as often as the weather will let you . . .
you should invest in a "float charger," which will NOT overcharge your battery like a trickle charger will. Float chargers will give juice as needed and shut off when not. They cost about $30 at your local scoot shop, but you can buy then on sale for $5.48 at Harbor Freight Tools (available online). They go on sale several times per year. Run the float charger when ever you are not riding.

I purchased my Parts Unlimited RCB9-B battery at a local motorcycle shop for $19.99. I would recommend looking for your local "battery warehouse"-like distributor for the best deal. Battery Warehouse, where I live, charges $36 for a Yuasa YB9B battery, which is a premium battery. Scoot shops charge $55-60 for this battery. The two brands and model numbers I gave you will work on the Bajaj Chetak, Stella, and Vespa P-Series bikes.

Expect three to five years for the average life of a battery. The Yuasa will give you five if you care for it.

When the charged liquid gets low in one or more of your battery cells, add distilled water. This will increase the life of your battery.

Outdoor storage

Some where deep back in the archives of the Bajaj Yahoo Group there is a post that recommends going to Home Depot or Lowes and spending $20.00 on a BBQ cover (made of P.O.? something or other) and saving yourself $100 on a special motorcycle cover. I used bungee cords around mine and my bike was outside all winter long fighting the elements because I did not have a garage. The cover did a great job. If you park in a parking lot I recommend buying reflective adhesive stickers and putting them on your cover for cars to see at night. Don't want you scoot knocked over.

Oil Change

The oil pictured above was recommended to me by my dealer, Mike Lawless, of Philly Scoots. I recognize that it is synthetic, which goes against the manufacturer's recommendation. But, Mike knows his stuff and he has brother have both raced motorcycles and worked on them for a long time. Mike also runs Yahamalube in his Chetak. I have run it in my bike and my wife's for years without any problems.
Changing your oil is a quick and effortless job. Above you will find the instructions on how do so with the amendments handwritten on it.

Note: when you put your cylinder valve cover on (1) ALWAYS replace the o-ring. It costs about $.40 cents at Ace Hardware. Better yet, buy the big-o-bag of o-rings from Harbor Freight Tools for $5.00 or when it goes sale for $2.00 and you will have an assortment of 200 o-rings on hand. (2) Hand tighten the cylinder head valve cover back down until your fingers can not move it. Now with a wrench tighten the smallest amount until the it is snug. Be CAREFUL as I once stripped mine because I wanted to make sure it was tight. Stupid. I had to have a local Kawasaki shop Heli-Coil it for me. Unnecessary mistake. Fortunately, it cost me less than $40 to fix.

Performance pipes

I kick myself every day . . . my wife ordered chrome legshield for me for Christmas along with Bajaj Chetak badges from Phil of POC many years ago. He offered her $50 for POC pipe, because the first 50 buyers would get that price. I said, "hold off on it baby. I can get later when we have more cash." I thought it might go up to $75, not $300!

I have heard that the Hot Rod Al pipe is very nice too. I have ridden a Chetak with POC and the "noise" everyone complains of does not bother me. The acceleration was nice with increased power in the middle of the power range. Below is Al's pipe.

Here's a guy with a POC pipe on his Chetak:

Hot Rod Al pipes go for about $280 and can be bought directly from him or Scooter West. I'd like to buy one one day . . . better yet . . . I'd like Chetak to offer a 186cc or 200cc top-end for the Bajaj Chetak.

Like they say, "there is no replacement for displacement!"

4-Stroke vs. 2-Stroke

When it comes to rallies like the Cannon Ball (coast-to-coast) the Bajaj Chetak has one benefit . . . it is a lot less likely to seize because it has a 4-stroke engine.

Four strokes have dedicated oiling systems, putting oil under pressure where
it needs to go. Two strokes have to rely on the gas/oil mixture getting squeezed in where it's needed.

On the flip side . . . 150 cc 4-stroke kicks out the power of a 125 cc 2-stroke. A 2-stroke runs hotter, harder, and faster! That is why the motor-cross bikes are 2-stroke.

That is the only thing I'd change about my Bajaj Chetak if I could. I wish they installed a 200 cc 4-stroke engine (175 cc 2-stroke). That would have been great as I often feel underpowered on my Chetak, especially when riding double or going up hills.

Dead battery?

Own a 2002 Chetak? Battery keep dying super duper fast? My wife owns a 2002 Butter Yellow Bajaj Chetak and I went camping with a buddy and used her scoot as I loaned mine to my friend. From riding just one full day the battery was dead. This bothered me, because I was scooter camping for the weekend and had to run the bike without the batt/front light on dark forest rodes. Not the safest way to ride. I went out and bought another. And it happened again on our second scooter camping weekend. It killed my brand new battery too. They don't recover well from a full discharge like a car batt does. I eventually found the fix, replace the $110 rectifier. Luckily it was under warranty as a "recall."

When I removed the old rectifier I could see it was melted a little. No wonder it was dead. The rectifier sits behind the battery on the opposite side of the battery compartment -- closest to the frame.

Bajaj @ home -- India

Scooter Camping 2006

This is a ton of fun! Two rules: (1) no cars, absolutely no cars and (2) stay at least two nights. This idea came from a watch of Easy Rider and reading about ol'school dirt bike campers, who packed their bikes up with every drop of gas and camping item they could carry and rode deep into the canyons. Dirt biked all day and beer, fire, and camp at night. Nice way to spend a week!

This slide show has two camping trips on it and a friend drove up for an evening. The car was NOT a chase car. I have a scooter camping list you are welcome to request. It's thorough. It's a MS Word. Email me at jeremy at bassmonkey dot com.

*Note: It is much safer to pack your weight on a front rack. Riding the way we have is not as safe. In fact, just hitting a small bump in the rode will result in doing a wheelie, which as you can imagine is dangerous around corners. I aim to buy one in the future.

When scooter camping . . . you can see the view like this guy did on the Red Rocks run. Now doesn't this make you want to go out and ride/camp right now?!