I completed my MBA in Marketing in 2000 and took up a frontline sales job. Within a few years I decided to make a switch from my old scooter to a new bike. It may seem a no-brainer now but in those days the scooters were still quite popular – a key advantage was the storage space on the platform between your legs.
And Hero Honda Splendor was my choice – it was known to a be work-horse, fuel-efficient and maintenance free bike. And it was popular and destined to reach a stupendous sales volume of more than a million bikes a year.
Am sure the dynamics of the two-wheeler industry in India and particularly of bikes has seen a sea-change in the recent years as growth has stagnated and increasingly players are looking to tap external markets particularly in Africa. But the first decade of the 21st century was a gung-ho time in India and bikes were increasingly becoming popular with the young generation.
The reasons were quite obvious as well – apart from being a style statement, bikes provided a great value-for-money in terms of running and maintenance costs. And they just took the scooter segment by the storm and the renaissance of scooters in their new avatar was yet to happen though TVS Scooty was a fore-runner in this space.
Splendor was a great ride and I had my inhibitions since I had always used a scooter till then. Habits don’t change that easily and the lack of storage space was a genuine issue for me as I would always have stuff to carry because of the field nature of my job. But I was really impressed with the bike. It was a pleasure to ride and you hardly felt the strain of a long working day wherein you would drive for at least 2-3 hours and over 100 KMs as a matter of routine. Guess the back-ache the scooter lovers encountered later on in life is quite a real story.
There were other practical advantages – I never had a break down with my bike, it was convenient to weave through the chronic traffic jams in the city and you could park it easily in the niftiest of spaces. Lugging the helmet was a bit of an issue but I did hate to leave it latched to my bike.
Weekends were meant for long drives and the superior mileage was a great plus. You could explore nearby getaways from the sweltering city with real ease and driving the highways was fun as well. While I was not part of any bike-gang – I can sense their excitement in going for those long drives. Pondicherry, Mahableshwar, Tirupati trips were all ‘been there-done that’ part of the story.
After a few years, I moved on and away from my field job. Riding a bike made little sense and so I traded my bike at a good price. Splendor was the market leader and commanded a great re-sale price. And it was very easy to sell as there was a ready market for it. But I ended up buying a new Splendor again as it was convenient for use over the weekends. I finally sold it while moving abroad and the buyer was so very happy to get the bike. Guess nothing can beat that as an ownership experience.
I do visit India once in a while nowadays and do grab a chance to drive a bike again. Quite often I get to ride a Splendor and remember my early career days when the bike was such an integral part of my life.