Words by Abhishek Wairagade
Photography by Varun Kulkarni
Indian bikemakers have been sticking to the safe formula and over the past fifty years, we have seen loads of mopeds, scooter and even cruisers being manufactured in the country, with just one goal in mind – to provide maximum value for money. Amidst the sea of value machines, now comes a fresh wave of superbikes, keeping the true blue bikers in mind. Behold Avantura Choppers, everyone. And do not confuse the name with Fiat’s Punto based crossover, the Avventura. Like everything else on this bike, the name of the company has been given a lot of thought. And the owners are proud to tell us that this bike is made in Vasai (on the outskirts of Mumbai) and after taking a glance at the bikes, even I was proud of them. If this is something an Indian bike manufacturer can do (with absolutely no automobile background) then the world must, and will know that we have arrived. And we have arrived in style! Yes, that is a big statement and I would like to elaborate on more about why I am saying so. Read on.
What is Avantura?
A brainchild of Gaurav Aggarwal, he has been an avid chopper fan and an owner of one of the Big Bear choppers. One of the three co-founders of Avantura, Gaurav has handled nine PVC manufacturing units during his career. Vijay Singh, CRO and co-founder handles the sales and tells us that Avantura will have eight dealerships by the end of FY2019 in metros such as Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Delhi, Indore, Chennai, Kochi and Kolkata. Third co-founder and CMO, Amitabh Biswas is a brand management expert and says that the Indian market has immense potential, when it comes to choppers. Their projections suggest that Avantura will have 200 bikes plying on our roads by the end of 2019. Way too optimistic? Not really we’d say, as the bikes do have a lot of potential.
What is a chopper?
Well, these are not helicopters as most of the non enthusiasts would like to believe. Choppers came into play, back in the 50s in America, when hogs got bored of their big cruisers and baggers. Then they literally ‘chopped’ the bikes to the extremes, changing the geometry by stretching the steering as far away as possible. This also gave birth to a lot of aftermarket kits, including higher displacement engines. Since then, the ‘art’ has caught on in the other parts of the world, including Europe. The Middle East and China are currently seeing a rise in the demand and that implies a lot of untapped customers in global markets.
What so special about Avantura Choppers?
The very fact that of being a full-fledged chopper manufacturer itself gives it a lot of cred. How many factory chopper makers can you think of with the exception of say, Big Bear Choppers? And Avantura has got the best people on board to make the products. Kevin Alsop, who also features in the TV show Biker Build Off and the owner of Big Bear Choppers was brought on board by Gaurav to design and develop the Avanturas. Playing the role of Chief Design Engineer, Kevin has modded the chopper architecture for Indian conditions. The makers made Kevin ride on our roads to understand the issues and pitched the idea of having at least 145mm ground clearance to him. Facing lots of issues in terms of the geometry, Kevin reworked the design and also softened the suspension setup for comfortable riding on our roads.
The makers have gone all out with a ‘no compromise’ approach and that reflects well when you look at the mechanicals on the bikes. Both the Avanturas come with high quality parts including S&S Engines, Beringer braking systems, Primo suspension, Mustang seats, Kellermann lights and Avon tyres. And everything has been custom made for the Avanturas, including the frame architecture and massive 280-section wheels. Fabrication of the frame is carried out in Vasai plant, where they also manufacture all the other components, including the massive 23-inch wheels.
How does it all fit together?
Both the bikes share majority of the components, with the exception of a revised geometry and rear wheel. The 2000cc, V-twin is the largest capacity air-cooled engine in the world right now and comes straight from the USA, made by S&S (Google for more). The ARAI testing is yet to be completed so the final figures have not been released yet but in the stock format, the engine makes 130bhp and 127Nm. Expect the figures to be lowered considerably as the engine has been detuned for our fuel quality and the compression ratio has gone down from 10.8:1 to 8.9:1. The S&S V124 was used in H-Ds between 1984 to 1999. However, the fueling is take care by modern electronic sequential port injectors.
The second thing you must know about is the geometry of these gigantic superbikes. The headstock on both the bikes remains the same and as you can see, the Rudra is the more raked out version with a steering angle of 38-degrees! The Pravega on the other hand sticks to 34 degrees. The wheelbase is massive too with both, the Rudra and Pravega stretching their legs at 2180mm and 2006mm, respectively. Sitting still, the Rudra measures 2908mm (9.5 feet) while the ‘shorter’ Pravega clocks the scales at 2006mm (6ft 7in).
Finally, how does it ride?
First things first. The sizes of the both the bikes are intimidating and many of the newbie riders even refused to ride the bikes after seeing them. But that is what makes them special. Choppers are supposed to be wacky and crazy and unless you’re comfortable on big cruisers, we don’t recommend you take a test ride. Neverthless, true-blue chopper riders will be happy to ride the bikes, especially the Rudra. I’m a well-built guy with a height of almost 6 feet and several of my peers felt that I was looking puny on it!
Get astride the Rudra and you’ll be blown away by its proportions. The handlebar and foot pegs can be customised to your style, and there are three handlebars to choose from, so the riding position can be altered to make it comfortable for you. The Rudra felt perfect for my physique although I would have liked the pegs to be set slightly forward. The Mustang seat is well cushioned and will keep you comfortable in the saddle, even during long journeys. The instrument cluster is very H-D like and gets an analogue tacho while the digital display shows the speed and battery voltage.
Once on the move, you’ll actually be surprised to know that the bikes feel extremely manageable. In fact, I can stick my neck out and say that the Rudra was ‘nimble’ for my liking. The custom-made, 280 section rear on the Rudra allows you to stick to your lines mid corner while the 130 section front helps you tip over the bike, without much fuss. The S&S unit is a gem of an engine with a chunk of torque being available at the bottom range, and the power starts tapering off just after 5000rpm. Open the throttle slightly and you get on the move without much effort. Whack open the throttle and you’ll feel the front end giving away, such is the ferocity of the 2000cc engine. And remember, these bikes weigh almost 350kg when fully loaded. All this translates to a lot of fun, even in winding sections. In fact, I had doubts about the makers having done their homework when I came to know that the ride was scheduled to happen in Mulshi. But the bikes did not disappoint and I had a lot of fun, carving corners through Tamhini Ghat. A lot of credit goes to Kevin for this as the weight distribution is 55:45 (front:rear). And do not worry, the chopper characteristics have been taken care of and you’ll not be disappointed, if you’re someone who prefers straight line stability over cornering ability.
Too ambitious for India?
Not really. The superbike market is growing and there are no production choppers being sold in the country today and hence, Avantura faces no competition, whatsoever. Choppers are not practical bikes and are extremely difficult to deal with on a daily basis. But these are niche products and cater to a specific cred of bikers, who love the thrill of riding on open highways while the world looks at them in awe. And the Avantura Choppers are more than capable to take care of that aspect, if you belong to that group. And they are not overpriced at all. The Pravega costs Rs 21.40 lakh while the Rudra is priced at Rs 23.90 lakh, ex-showroom Mumbai. And all this money for components from the top drawer. Some say, it’s a bargain.