As far as endings go, this one is nigh on perfect. A full year of sitting at a computer, downloading photos, reading custom builders’ accounts of how they went about creating magnificent machines, putting the stories together on pages, and then coming to the point we made at the beginning — why not build a custom Royal Enfield ourselves? The ‘why not’ part, of course, was also a risky one that could see the project go off a figurative cliff. Perhaps even a literal one. Nonetheless, RE’s Custom World chaps were all too encouraging, and so we got ourselves a brand-new Interceptor 650. The idea? Well, read on.
We didn’t know anyone more capable than Yogi Chhabria of Mumbai-based YC Design, an outfit that builds everything from vintage and classic machines to superbikes to off-road specials — and that last bit was what caught our fancy, since Yogi himself happens to have a few screws loose when it comes to off-road bikes. And he harassed his friend Shail Sheth of Bombay Custom Works (whose work you will have seen earlier in this book) into fabricating metal to install on the bike. That’s an entertaining story that you can find on YouTube. It’ll be worth the effort, promise.
The idea was to build a monster of a motorcycle, one that paid tribute to the echoes of desert sleds of yore that tore across Californian deserts from the 1950s to the 1970s. And, as RE Custom World made amply clear, it had to be a bolt-on build. As in, any Interceptor owner who wanted to make a motorcycle like this could do so without any hacking of parts, and always with the option of returning their bike to stock if they so desired. Sounded simple enough — but it wasn’t. And we won’t go into detail, so just don’t ask.
A taller stance was inevitable, of course. And an insanely obsessive attention to detail that was the direct cause of many late-night discussions. First went on a pair of Himalayan inner fork tubes, suspension extenders at the rear, a longer swingarm, and aluminium wheels wrapped with knobby tyres that were wholly intended to scare away tarmac riders. Already, we had the basic stance ready.
But then, what could we do with the exhaust pipes? Ah, that’s the special bit. Yogi fabricated a pair of high-level pipes loud enough to deafen everyone within a 1-km radius, and we were compelled to urge him to tone it down. A pair of internal baffles later, Shail made a beautiful set of side panel stand-ins, and an even more elaborate heat-shield setup. To top it off, custom-made mudguards arced over the wheels, always remaining faithful to the old school. A custom seat went on, and then important details like the levers and front master cylinder, indicators, and tail-light — all from the RE parts bin over the ages.
A little extra coolness was brought in via the custom handlebar and the headlight guard that… simply protects an X-shaped area of the light. But it looks cool, so there. And finally, after several attempts at finalising a colour for the tank, we decided that nothing looked better than RE chrome, so a Mark 2 tank went straight on. And saved at least one of us from strangling the other two.
You know why the SledHammer is even more special? Because we could actually ride it! And boy, did Yogi ride it. We put it through a rough day at Pro Dirt Adventure, tried to bash it to bits, but the bike never gave up. Goes to show, like the rest of the builds in this book, that when someone knows what they’re doing, a happy ending is all but guaranteed. Yogi hurled the SledHammer through dirt, over rocks, through streams, and across trails — and the bike lived up to its name, flattening everything that came its way. And no, this is not a shameless plug, we were the first ones to be surprised — this was the bike’s first shakedown run, after all!
The SledHammer is loud and brash enough to put off timid riders — and that was the point all along. It was also a shining opportunity to show that the friendly Interceptor can also become something to hide from the women and children in your village. It is, as was imagined, a monster of a motorcycle — and it’s not for everyone. In that sense, it’s an embodiment of what Motoring World is all about. You’ll have fun with it, but be careful what you wish for because it just might come true. And that’s not a bad thing, really — just make sure you have an open mind and are ready for it.
In the end, the SledHammer is a tribute, a prayer, a challenge, and an example — all of it dedicated to the two-wheeled and single-minded imaginations that created the motorcycles featured in this book. A motorcycle is just like a dream — a starting point to make your life special. A custom Royal Enfield? Even more so.