The Yezdi Roadking was manufactured in India under Ideal Jawa Ltd. Mysore from 1978 till 1996. Earlier when the factory had opened its doors in 1960, it was the Jawa motorcycles that were being assembled and sold under licence from the Jawa Company in Czechoslovakia. If a layman were asked about these rugged motorcycles, pat would come the reply that these were the smoky Czech 2-stroke machines, poor and outdated.
Unfortunate that not many are aware that Jawa was the biggest Eastern motorcycle manufacturing unit, producing a top capacity of 1,00,000 motorcycles annually (in comparison, today Ducati produces approximately just 40,000 motorcycles annually). The company is also, to-date, well reputed in the field of GP & Enduro competitions. Accolades and books can be written entirely on the models, not just of the Jawa company, but also of its Indian counterpart – Ideal Jawa Ltd!
When the company was forced to shut their doors in 1996 due to various factors, the models being produced at that time were the 175, Deluxe, Cl II, Roadking & the Monarch. A number of these models as well as the earlier ones, were being exported to over 60 countries around the world, including Turkey, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Egypt and others.
White Yezdi Roadkings were particularly sold to Guatemala for their Police Forces. The Roadking in its hey days had won several Indian rallies and road races, particularly at Sholavaram, running on its own 250cc category. In October 1994, 2 gentlemen from Bangalore, Deepak Kamath and G.H.Basavaraj, undertook an expedition that covered 42,038 km over six continents on their Yezdi Roadking motorcycle.
This was known as the famed “Yezdi Castrol Continental Ride”. While the total number of days was 119 days, the actual riding time was only 47 days and thus they became the first to circumnavigate the globe in the shortest period of time. Now that perfectly describes the term ‘Roadking’!
Style and Build
You set eyes on a stock Yezdi or a perfectly done up one, and the sections that just capture your attention are the large unique shaped tanks, with monograms proudly proclaiming ‘YEZDI’, matching side panels that state the model and the low-slung, parallel, exquisitely chromed silencers. Maybe while growing up and while studying, twin silencers held a fascination for me, as they boasted of uniformity. Or was it Arnold’s Fat Boy in ‘Terminator 2’?
The front end of both the Roadking and the D250 Classic, are pretty standard with the front rake, offering a smart sporty look. The standard handlebars also offer a great stance and feel to the rider, but since I’ve had occasional back problems, thanks to my long work hours on my feet, I customized different handlebars for both the bikes, that I keep switching whenever I feel the need.
While the standard bar hand grips are hard and feel too plasticky, they can be quite uncomfortable for long riding. However like most parts of the bike, that are becoming hard to source, these grips with the ‘Yezdi’ logo are a must for an enthu Jawa / Yezdi aficionado so most Yezdis will definitely have them.
While the Roadking’s tank has a long silver/ golden ‘YEZDI’ Monogram with a rubber pad strip that’s recessed and permits comfort for the knees that grip the tank while riding, the actual D250 tank has a much smaller monogram and only a smaller oval shaped rubber pads on either side.
The drawback here is that for coastal places like Mangalore, corrosion easily sets in all over and recessed places will start having a major problem. The grooves for the tank pads start to deteriorate, slowly leading to a seepage of petrol next to the groove in the worst case scenario. And if you need to take off the pads for a repaint job, sliding them back onto the corroded grooves, will give a disastrous look.
Ultimately I had to redo the tanks, take of the pads & grooves, weld a separate plate and if I was doing all this, I might as well put in a different stickering job. The seats for both the models are the same and if game for long range riding, its better to stick to the original seat. Unfortunately in terms of looks, the seats do not gel well with the rest of the bike and for a pillion, well – it might as well look like as if a monkey is clinging to the front rider from behind!
Hence, for both the bikes, I trimmed the seats, curving the front beautifully to create a bucket effect, as well as raising the height for the rear, so the pillion could sit slightly higher behind me. All in all a beautiful blending with the tank. However for the Kodaikanal trip, the bucket effect gave up and became a washing board instead!
With this, the position of the foot pegs, front & rear can be a wee bit of a bother especially for taller people. The Jawas / Yezdis have an excellent centre of gravity, primarily because of their height. They can take any turn you throw it into, and it’ll come out like a ballet dancer. Knees and leg muscles would however take a slight beating as the knees are bent at almost 90 degrees.
Watch a Yezdi rider from behind or from the side and you’d understand this better. But like most factors, most riders would not even bother with this tidbit! In totality the purpose of the bike was simplicity, ruggedness and functionality with looks, appearance and even comfort taking a back seat. We’ve had riders ploughing straight on into a loaded truck or a racing jeep and they’ve had fractures and broken bones but they were alive!
I have rear ended a bus and have been slammed from behind by various vehicles. I was once sandwiched and smashed between an Alto and a road divider guard rail. Here I just lost my throttle and accelerator cables while in other cases, I barely had a scratch and my poor Roadking had either a smashed headlight, a smashed tail lamp with bent mudguard or a broken indicator. The all-metal bike was a boon in preventing anything of a more disastrous nature!
Engine & Transmission
The Roadking was actually based on the 1974 Jawa CZ 250, made famous by the rider Jaroslav Falta, the runner up in the ’74 Motocross World Championship. While of similar engine capacities of 246 cc, the original bore and stroke was of 52.0 x 58.0 mm, while the compression ratio was 9.3 : 1 and the total power output was 17.00 hp @ 5250 rpm.
In the case of the Yezdi models, while D250 Classic’s bore and stroke was of 65 x 75 mm, the compression ratio was 7.6 : 1 and the bhp was 13 @ 4750 rpm. In comparison the Roadking had a bore and stroke of 70 x 64 mm, a compression ratio of 8.2 : 1 and a solid bhp of 16 @ 5000 rpm. No wonder then, that the Roadking was the preferred model for rallies and races with its nimbleness and quick pick up!
Apart from the bore and compression difference, another minute factor that contributed to this is that while the Classic and other Yezdi models used 3 piston rings, the Roadking used only 2 rings. Usage of the right carburetor could also spell a major difference. Most Roadkings use the Czech Jikov, originally used with the CZ and Jawa motorcycles in Europe, while others including the other models, as in my D250 Classic use the Indian Pacco type that cuts down on pick up but offers better mileage, unlike the Jikov that’s just the opposite.
While riding these machines, there is a clear definition between the two. While the D250 Classic gives a majestic and benevolent feel with power that can take you on and on, the Roadking presents itself as the spoilt brat that’s highly energetic. It’s quirky, has the capacity to take city conditions under its belt till the time it gets fed up and once on an open road, is like a wild animal waiting to be unleashed! Definitely 2 different machines from the same clan.
The gearbox in its simplicity, is a 4 speed constant mesh, while the clutch has 5 friction plates, running in oil bath. Some might say that the gear box could be the weakest link in this otherwise solid motorcycle. The cam shaft plate that holds the shaft rod and allows the gear cogs and cog shafts to shift and hold during gears changing, is a tough old bird that will do the job, but requires the cog shafts to lock into place properly, unlike the new generation bikes that are all pretty much smooth.
Hence as my mechanic says, “depress the clutch completely, shift properly into gear and feel the gears!”, which left me wondering how on earth do I feel the gears? Failure to do this, could mean that you can end up at 6 in the morning, stuck in the middle of a jungle with your gear box whacked out, which is what exactly happened to me!
Chassis and Suspension
As mentioned earlier, the Roadking and other models were based on the CZ Jawa 250, that was more extensively used for motocross rallies. No wonder then that even the chassis is built of a square tube, in a single frame and has a motocross / ice racing origin. With proper weight balance, handling was much easier, with the motorcycles proving to be more agile than their competitors.
The front forks had a more noticeable rake and the telescopic shock absorbers with proper and set oil seals, are a delight to feel and watch on rough roads! The rear shock absorbers are also hydraulic and adjustable and offer perfect seating comfort for both rider and pillion. In fact comments by girls and guys alike who’ve travelled pillion, that this bike is much more comfortable to ride on as compared to other bikes, made me swell up in pride quite a number of times!
If one was of the typical Indian mentality mindset of ‘Kitna deti hai?”, then the advice would be to steer clear and head for the Bajaj or Hero Honda pavilions! This is no fill it, shut it, forget it bike! I’d say fill it, shut it and contemplate your next filling date! Not exactly a fuel guzzler, but with that type of a pick up and power, one can expect an average mileage of 25 – 30 km/l!
Like I said, the carburetor plays a major difference, apart from jet sizes, condition of block head, carbon deposits in silencer pipes, etc. The Roadking running on the Jikov carb, gives me a strict average of 23 km/l, while the D250 Classic with the Pacco carb allows me a leeway of 28-30 km/l. I look at it this way, its definitely better than using the 4-wheelers, I can park anywhere and of course, the bikes are more fun to run! Its also more convenient when I’m using an Indianoil Credit Card at fuel outlets, but checking my bill at the end of the month does not exactly bring a smile to my face!
Performance, Handling & Braking
I was told that learning to first ride on the Yezdi is the best thing to happen, rather than learning to ride on other bikes and then coming to a Yezdi. How true! After a Yezdi, you can only go to a larger capacity bike like the RD350 or a Bullet, or with enough moolah, a CBR 900 cc! Anything smaller, and you start feeling like Jackie Chan in a romantic movie, wondering what happened to all the power and throbbing feel below you!
Both, or actually all the Yezdi models, perform just right on the road. The familiar Jawa-CZ twin exhaust ports give that sweet roar, once the exhaust mufflers and end-cores are removed. With these on, the bikes sound pretty tame but are still fun to ride. Another world famous feature is that the kick starter and gear share the same gear rod, that can be reversed to double as a kicker and once fired up, returns to the original position to start shifting into gears.
And let’s not forget the auto-clutch facility, unique only to these bikes. If the cam shaft with kicker return springs are of the topmost quality, these bikes can be ridden without using the clutch lever. Sounds complicated? Imagine that the clutch cable suddenly snapped, that’s quite prone to happen with these bikes.
Using the right technique, the bike can be started, put into 1st gear using only the gear lever and after taking off, switch into higher gears, minus the use of the clutch lever. Now imagine the looks of people around you when you try out all these styles and then the awe, you generate, courtesy the Yezdi motorcycle. And that’s what makes the handling fun and easy!
Braking, especially at high speeds leaves something to be desired for, and in some cases is almost non existent, if you’re more comfortable with the bikes of today! The front end, courtesy the twin cam double leading shoe, will give a superb dip and grip on any surface, while the rear braking action is just ok and not excellent.
In that context, a lot of riders tend to experiment, with converting rear cables to rod type, as well as installing disc brakes where possible. As I am a pretty much sedate rider, I’m comfortable with the braking action on both the bikes, provided the brake pads are replaced regularly and the cams are properly greased!
All said and done, the Jawa & Yezdi clan has started a fan following that’s growing through the cities and in particular the Roadking is quite in demand. Lack of proper servicing centers, trustworthy mechanics and availability of spares has added to its elusive, charismatic aura, while the pessimistic’s keep blowing the death call of this marquee.
How many of today’s riders know that in June 2005, 10 riders on 8 Yezdi motorcycles, took the highway to Leh, Khardung La, and the Nubra Valley, through the Rohtang pass, without a backup vehicle, firmly placing their trust on their solid bikes? This was part of the famous Yezdi Endurance rides, that tests the best of the group’s riders and bikes!
Understanding the mechanicals and parts of the bike is very important in knowing the bike. In all its simplicity, my D250 Classic was broken down to just its bare chassis, with the help of my friend, Zahin. Exactly 1 month later, after everything was checked, parts replaced, metal chromed or powder coated and body painted, the Classic was put together to its former glory and the following morning was ridden to a Classic & Vintage show, around 120 odd kms.
Jawa Yezdi Roadking Full Specifications
Yezdi Roadking 250cc specifications at the time of production were:
Engine: 250 cc (15 cu in) Air-cooled, two-stroke cycle, single cylinder, twin exhaust, kick start
Power: 16 bhp
Torque: 2.43 Kgm at 4250 RPM