At 76, Babanrao Dixit still has a twinkle in his eye when the conversation involves a Yezdi. He still has the enthusiasm of a teen biker on his first long ride. Only the starlight grey shock of hair gives him away.
We were not sure what to expect, and the both of them were equally curious. After some vigorous handshakes, we explained why we were there, and why the world needed to hear their story. They nodded almost in disbelief in the start, but slowly relaxed as the conversation began to flow. We admired their vast motorcycle collection and made our way into their home which was like a Yezdi and JAWA paradise.
Settling down into his sofa, Babanrao’s spirit travelled back to 1955. It was the year he joined legendary bike guru Ganpatrao Mane as an apprentice, at Mane Auto Works. He worked hard as an apprentice by day and completed his schooling at twilight, finishing off under lamplit streets and moonlit skies. In true guru-shishya tradition, Ganpatrao passed on everything he knew to young Babanrao, and the young apprentice never left a stone unturned.
A decade later Babanrao felt he was ready to explore the world on his own, so he bid farewell to his guru to establish his motorcycle garage. He decided to brand his enterprise as MB Garage in the Navi Peth area of Pune, which was a young and upcoming part of the city. With the flamboyant spirit of a fearless first-time entrepreneur, MB Garage took flight with Babanrao's sure hands on the handles of its destiny.
The young entrepreneur worked hard day and night on CZs, JAWAs, and Yezdis. Every job sharpened his skill and intuition even more. He could now just listen to motorcycles and identify what the problems were. He was called.the Doctor, lovingly by his customers.When your passion becomes your profession, then what you do does not become a job, and Babanrao lost track of time.
Before he knew it Babanrao's little son, Suhas was now by his side in his garage. Suhas’ love for motorcycles, began during his school holidays, which were spent in his dad’s garage, greasing his hands and clothes, as he observed and learned everything he could. Suhas very quickly mastered the motorcycles and was getting attracted to the growing Motocross racing scene in Pune.
One mean rider himself, Suhas was an avid participant in all Motocross events in Mumbai and Pune, between 1985 - 1989. Babanrao was also there at every event observing, making minor adjustments, tweaking settings and revealing in his son's victories. However, fate dealt a cruel blow to the Dixits when a leg injury forced Suhas to leave the circuit. This exit from the Motocross period was a challenging and dark time for both father and son, but they stayed true to each other and came out stronger and more determined on the other side.
Even as the flag over MB Garage flew high, a second workshop, Auto Spa took wing at Kothrud, with son Suhas Dixit at the helm. This new garage catered to 2-wheelers from other brand stables. Soon Babanrao and his son evolved into avid collectors of vintage motorcycles. The both of them would go out of their way to acquire discarded bikes and lovingly restore them by hand to their original glory.
"The bikes and me are of the same build; nothing has seriously gone wrong with any of us, over the years."
Babanrao's growing collection today includes aCZ 1946 Plunger, CZ 1954 150cc, JAWA 1955, JAWA 1956 350cc Twin, JAWA 1961 250cc, JAWA 1962 250cc, Yezdi 1975 Flowerhead, Yezdi 1976, Yezdi 1978, and a Yezdi 1982
Bananrao’s involvement with the Jawa-Yezdi community, long rides and competitive events began in 1961, when he participated in a race for the first time, on a 1956 Jawa. Amongst the other legendary riders he constantly raced against, was fellow doctor Arun Mane, at the Pune Aerodrome racing track.
As for the motorcycle, he always raced a stock JAWA 250 with no modifications to the frame, engine or suspension, unlike other competitors. "I used the same bike for commuting once the racing season was over," said Fariborz dispassionately; adding that he would only borrow a Mikuni Carb from Sheri Bathena for the races, and sometimes use a smaller sprocket for the Scrambles and Moto Cross events and imported Moto Cross tyres for dirt events. According to Fariborz, the motorcycle he rode was hardy, reliable and well balanced, and he could never even think of racing on anything else though he did race a factory tuned Yezdi, on some occasions.
Participation in Vintage Rallies like the one in 2001, at Pune Engineering College; another in 2012 at Jadhav Fort, and innumerable vintage bike exhibitions earned Babanrao several accolades and awards. The biggest amongst these was the 2016 Rally at Hotel Blue Diamond, Pune, where his beloved MHC 1379, Jawa ’61 250cc, won the 1st prize for best maintained original bike. Amongst the international judges were veteran bikers and collectors from the UK, Germany, France and Italy.
Joining the Jawa & Yezdi Owner’s Club of Pune in 2003, accelerated Babanrao into truly long distance riding. His first really long distance ride was a Himalayan Tour in 2006, along with a group of 12, on his beloved MHC 1379, a 250 cc, ’61 Jawa. Everything about the bike was original, including the paint. Since then, he has been on numerous rides all around Maharashtra and the neighbouring states. While the riders encountered many challenges during these rides, the Jawas and Yezdis they rode lived up to their promise of Forever Bike, Forever Value.
Babanrao fondly recounts his first visit to the Jawa factory, Mysore in 1961, which was co-incidentally also the venue of his brother’s wedding. His next trip there was in 2005, accompanied by fellow doctor Arun Mane. Their 8-day stay, turned them into spare part bounty hunters, foraging the Jawa shop floor. It’s told they returned with quite a haul, which they share with needy bikes even today.
Babanrao waxes eloquently about the reasons that stoke the fires of his 5-decade love affair with the brand: “They’re simply beautiful bikes, that are styled for comfort. They are neither under, nor over powered. They can be ridden with ease; both wheels are the same dia. and one can get spares without problems. The biggest reason that moves my heart is that true to their tag line, they are forever bikes.The bikes and me are built on similar lines; nothing has seriously gone wrong with any of us, over the years.