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Bajaj M80: Gone, but not forgotten

Once upon a time, cities like Pune were teeming with these 2-stroke smoke bombs, today they’re rarer than a road without potholes

Honest admission: I’ve never ridden an M80. Growing up it was so far down the food chain that I had zero interest in borrowing one, and in any case the only person I knew who had one was our milkman. What I do remember is none of them seemed to have brakes and all had thick white clouds chasing them around the city, which makes the one I’m riding period perfect. If there were a Concours for such things, this would get a jury award. Forget working front brakes, there’s no front brake lever.

There’s a leak somewhere in the silencer so the thick white plumes are not only chasing but completely enveloping me. The cadence of the horn rises and falls with engine revs (remember those days?) and I’m sure so does headlamp intensity, if it’s working at all. But I must also tell you, the M80 is a hoot.

“The cadence of the horn rises and falls with engine revs (remember those days?) and I’m sure so does headlamp intensity, if it’s working at all”

God knows how many horses that puny 75cc 2-stroke motor made when new but most of them still seem to be kicking. It moves. Heck, for something without functioning brakes this is scary quick. And that barely-silenced 2-stroke motor sounds ridiculously good. It remains eager to pop the front wheel if you’re overenthusiastic with the clutch and throttle – and to remind you the gears, just three speeds, are on the left lever just like your dad’s Chetak.

“The Bajaj M80 was the poster boy for the good old days when life was far simpler”

I can also see why it was so popular. The low gearing means it takes off comfortably in second, which also means first gear won’t struggle too much to pull half a dozen milk cans. The seat is so low and the bike so tiny it is a breeze to ride and that distinctive white thing-which-is-a-fairing does keep your pants dry in the wet. The editor reminds me that back in the day, riders would slap an expansion chamber on to the M80, strip it of all superfluous things like even the seat, and go racing (successfully!) with it. And here I’m scared to lean it more than ten degrees. Men really were men back then.

“The editor reminds me that back in the day, riders would slap an expansion chamber on to the M80, strip it of all superfluous things like even the seat, and go racing (successfully!) with it”

My mum also reminds me that once upon a time my granddad booked three M80s. Because he was an NRI with foreign currency he could skip the ten-year waiting list for the M80, though what he did with the three M80s is a mystery because not one was seen at home. I hope he sold it for a premium because today they’re worth less than one of the gloves I’m wearing. Which probably makes it a solid investment? Who knew Vijay Supers would suddenly have huge demand from Lambretta enthusiasts? Am I riding my pension fund?

Read our Honda Unicorn gone but not forgotten blog here. 

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