Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Two-stroke is better than four


Joseph Patric is a bike-repair expert with a difference. He only deals with two-stroke Yamaha bikes which ceased production in 2004

Photo by Albin Mathew

By Shevlin Sebastian

It was 11 p.m. on a recent Wednesday. At Willingdon Island, near Kochi, three youths were revving up their RD 350 Yamaha bikes. One of their friends shouted, ‘Go.”
Immediately, the trio set off at full speed, their bikes creating a ‘Vrooooom’ sound, which reverberated in the silence all around.

One of the riders, Radhakrishnan looked sideways at the others. They were all riding neck-to-neck. So he turned the accelerator some more. As he zoomed past, he looked up and saw, to his shock that there was a barrier across the road. It was a single circular rod. Thinking about the dangers of braking at high speed, he suddenly got an idea. Radhakrishnan bent his body backwards till he was lying flat on the seat. And amazingly, he went under the rod unscathed. “This is the beauty of the 350,” says Radhakrishnan, who won the race easily. “It maintained its balance, till I got up again.”

Bike repair expert Joseph Patric smiles when he hears the anecdote. “The Yamaha two-stroke is one of the best bikes ever made,” he says. “It is sad they stopped production in 2004.”

The primary reason was because of the high degree of polluting emissions. But there are many die-hard fans of the two-stroke, and Patric is perhaps the only mechanic in Kochi who repairs them exclusively.

Patric said he first began working on the two-stroke when he was working as a foreman in a Yamaha company service centre in 1983. Asked the difference between the two-stroke and four-stroke, Patric says, “Two-stroke engines fire once every revolution, while the four-stroke fires every other revolution. The advantage of a two-stroke is that it has far more power. And that’s why it is used for dirt bike racing, rallies and other similar activities.”
At his house, on one side, inside a long shed, there are several two-stroke Yamaha bikes in the 100 and 135 cc range. “Because of the lack of spares, there are very few 350 cc bikes,” he says.

Patric can listen to the engine and tell immediately about what is wrong with the bike. He also looks to see whether there is a noise in the piston or the clutch. Usually, he says, problems arise, when the 2T oil is not put regularly and in the correct measure. “It is 35 ml per litre,” he says. “If this is not done, there will be complaints.”

His work includes overhauling the engine, repairing the carburettor, resetting the crank, fixing the clutch and changing the cable wires and tyres.  

In Kochi, many youngsters are using two-stroke. Says 26-year-old Subin Mathew, who is a regular customer at Patric’s repair shop, “I love the power, the initial pick-up as well as the sound. And I come to Patric Uncle’s workshop because he always uses genuine spare parts.”

There is a two-stroke bike team called ‘Team 135’, whose members come regularly for repairs. Since they take part in rallies, often their bikes get damaged. Now, they are planning a journey from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. “So I am getting all their bikes ready,” says Patric.

Not surprisingly, the 62-year-old also uses a two-stroke bike. He bought one in 1991 and did a complete overhaul only in 2016. “This bike does not need much maintenance,” he says.

And the biggest advantage for two-stroke owners is the resale value. “A well-maintained bike goes for Rs 60,000,” says Patric. “There are some bikes which have five gears. These sell for Rs 90,000. On the other hand, a four-stroke bike, like a Hero Honda, of four years goes for only Rs 35,000.”  

Like a white-collar worker, Patric starts work at 10 a.m. and finishes by 5 p.m. He takes a nap in the afternoon. “People make appointments on the phone and come,” he says. “Repairing the two-stroke is a passion for me. I never get tired when I am in my workshop.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)

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