Raajib Sayami, owner of RS Moto — café, workshop and merchandise store — and a bike enthusiast has about 48 vintage bikes in his collection. His custom designs and the transformation of the bikes never cease to amaze lovers of two-wheelers. In conversation with Waro Basnet of THT AutoPlus, he talks about how he fell in love with vintage bikes and the art of customisation
How many bikes do you have in your garage at the moment?
Well, I have about 48 old vintage bikes dating back to 1950s.
When did you first start riding bikes?
I remember riding a bike in Basantapur when I was about 11 years old. From that moment on I was fixated on bikes. They were an integral part of my life and I have not stopped tinkering with, fixing, and customising bikes since then.
Which was the first bike you purchased?
The first bike I purchased on my own was 1995 Royal Enfield 350-cc standard. Though my father had a collection of Japanese bikes, I was always fascinated by Royal Enfield. I still remember the day when I saw a Royal Enfield for the first time. The moment I saw it, I knew this was the bike for me.
What led you to collecting vintage bikes?
It all started when I was a child and my grandfather and father used to ride vintage bikes. My father had a good collection of Japanese bikes so that fuelled my interest in bikes. I was brought up in a family where bikes were more like passion than a mode of transportation. I also used to see old bikes being scrapped or thrown at the corner of the streets. I got in the habit of purchasing them and working on them.
From where and how do you collect your bikes?
All of my bikes are from Nepal. Once there was a time when I would do nothing but look for old bikes to work on. I used to stroll around the Valley to find old bikes. I got some of the old bikes from my grandparents, rest I collected from the streets.
How did you learn to customise bikes?
I did not take any classes or training. I learnt it on my own taking references from magazines and my passion fuelled my knowledge further.
Which one is your favourite, and where would you want to take it on a ride?
Triumph Thunderbird of 1857 that was gifted by Queen Elizabeth to King Mahendra is the bike I love most — I have always loved British motorcycles. Other bikes on my ‘favourite’ list are: BMW R50/5 dating back to 1970, Honda CB 450 1966, Vespa 150 1962, and Ducati GT 1000 2007. I usually ride Suzuki GN 125 on the streets of Kathmandu. It is very smooth and fun to ride on the streets of Kathmandu.
How did the idea for RS Moto come to be?
RS Moto was established in 2012 as Moto Café which envelopes my love and passion for motorcycles, music, food, and art. It was my friend’s concept; she motivated me to establish RS Moto after seeing my work on some of my old bikes. I started RS Moto as a lifestyle that I have always wanted to be a part of.
Customised bikes haven’t yet been given a legal stature in Nepal, what do you think about that?
I think customising bikes is a form of art. I don’t think customising bikes should be considered illegal. A painter has the freedom to create art, a musician has freedom to compose music, then why should bike enthusiasts not have the freedom to customise their bikes as per their interest?
A version of this article appears in print on January 16, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.