Riding with the Veteran

He took us to an era when pudding bowl helmets were in rage and petrol for Rs 1.25 per liter! The oldest rider in the coterie – the one with maximum stories, funniest anecdotes and the best advice for the youngsters! The MTM quorum would have been incomplete without traversing into the sixties with Navroze Contractor! He had us at “….riding for the last 57 years” and there was silence in the entire room – only ruptured by uproarious laughter on the punch lines.

From cleaning his brother’s BSA Goldstar in 1956, Navroze straight away graduated to riding pillion with him for 1000 kms from Ahemdabad to the Ajanta Ellora caves. Little did his brother know that the young Navroze would take off for a spin with the bike one morning. And little did Navroze know that he would come back to a very surprised (but proud) older brother, with the fact that he actually managed to ride. Years of sneaking up and riding out the bike had proved to be worth the trouble! Of all his intriguing stories, the one that he did from Ahemdabad to London has to be the most fascinating.

It was 1977 and the journey was made to restore his BSA Goldstar by the only expert in the world, Eddie Dow, who happened to be in England. Borders were more porous in those days and getting a visa to cross Pakistan, which was the biggest problem and had to be crossed in 24 hours, was fairly easy. Getting past the rest of the countries was a breeze. Afghanistan was far from ominous, except for the roads. Finally in Tehran, when the roads turned smooth is when the journey picked speed. But something else was lurking as one of the most memorable encounters on the journey. The one in which Navroze had to negotiate with an Irani overlord for his wife, in lieu for a white stallion that was offered to him. Through freezing cold lands, being accomplices to hunting parties and through unimaginable topographies, the adventure lasted for 23 days and $1000. Despite the bizarre challenges, the ride was absolutely worth it. In England, Navroze was also given the ‘Ride It, Don’t Hide It’ award for riding a classic vintage bike, which are usually kept under the wraps by owners.

Another big ride that Navroze did, was the Bharat Parikrama; a ride to circumnavigate the periphery of India. It was 18000 plus kilometers with two others, never more than 50km away from any border along the edge of India. Between the three riders, there were only nine falls in the entire stretch. Not having fallen once in the entire ride, Navroze crashed just 50km before Bangalore but still made a bloody appearance at the press conference.  For someone with such enthusiasm and fortitude, it was hard to stay away.

A keen solo traveller, Navroze still takes off with riding clubs of various countries, when he is out shooting documentaries. Comparing riding in those days and now he touched upon expense, the need for latest gear, viability of travelling across borders and the fact how riding in groups of hundreds can be dangerous and weighty on the landscape. Pitching tents by the road is almost impossible in the country! Leaving us inspired with a bit from his Bharat Parikrama video, we were sure that he was the biggest ‘iron butt’ of the meet.