Since the wraps came off the Jawa Motorcycle range in November, to say I’ve been looking forward to saddle time on them would be an understatement. Three motorcycles were revealed—the Jawa, Jawa 42and the bobber-style Perak. While the Perak is still a long way off, the Jawa and Jawa 42 are slated to be in dealerships by March 2019. I got to ride these two over 200km in their pre-production avatar.
It is very difficult to judge the proportion, shape and visual sinew of a motorcycle on screen but let me tell you that the Jawas looks way better in the metal. The standard Jawa borrows liberally from the iconic classic, right from its valanced mudguards, headlight assembly and the hallmarked tank, finished in chrome-and-paint combinations. Jawa 42, on the other hand, is a brasher, more aggressive take on the Jawa DNA with a trim front fender, smaller headlight coupled to an offset analogue-cum-digital speedo pod with wide tracker-style handlebars and a youthful paint scheme all trimmed with gold. Both bikes taper off elegantly into an old school rear end and are mercifully equipped with small and smart looking indicators that blend seamlessly into the overall design. The period-correct twin exhausts come with 5-position adjustable flutes to tailor the sound to your liking.
The reworked Mahindra Mojo engine is the jewel in the crown with a gorgeously styled vanity-finned cylinder head and pleasingly plump rounded engine cases that instantly recall the Jawa of yore. Despite its reworked modern mechanicals, after seeing pictures on my social media, people have been messaging saying their father owned a Jawa back in the day, and that this looks exactly like the one he had. Jawa has opted for the 293cc liquid-cooled single cylinder already in use in the Mahindra Mojo. This is a well-proven dual overhead camshaft (dohc), four-valve power plant that produces 27PS of power but delivery has been changed via the magic of ports, cams and mapping to give it a useful low-end and a solid mid-range that peaks at 29Nm of torque at 5,000 rpm.
Overall, both the Jawa and Jawa 42 are handsome motorcycles that are very well put together, with a decent amount of mechanical sophistication for not a lot of money. There is no LED lighting, instrumentation is simple—spoked wheels are shod with MRF tyres—18-inch front and 17-inch rear. A single-channel ABS with a 280mm Bybre disc in the front and drum brakes at the rear are assigned stopping duties. These motorcycles are manufactured at Mahindra’s Pithampur plant in Madhya Pradesh which also makes the Mojo so the tooling and assembly investments have been significantly lower than starting from scratch, enabling the motorcycle to be offered at an accessible and attractive price point.
So, it looks cool and feels cool—but how does it ride? Damn well, as it turns out. The first part of the ride was on a four-laner and progress was swift. The Jawa is more comfortable to ride with its higher handlebars than Jawa 42 which spreads you outwards and forwards with its wider and lower handlebars; otherwise the performance is identical in both. A light clutch pull and broad spread of power lets the motorcycle get off from a standing start with ease, which should benefit newbie riders. The precise 6-speed gearbox is nicely spaced, the clutch pull is light and 100kmph shows up pretty quickly on the speedo without much drama. Progress is slightly disappointing after that with some handlebar vibrations coming in as the needle slowly inches to the 120kmph mark, the top speed I could hit. The sweet spot for highway riding is between 90-100 kmph and it seems this bike could motor along at that speed all day long. And in traffic the Jawa split lanes effortlessly, its light weight and nimble handling paying big dividends. I didn’t measure fuel efficiency, but with a 14-litre tank one could put some serious distance between fuel stops.
After 45km or so, our route took us onto single-lane country roads that twisted and turned, climbing up and down as it took us deeper into rural Rajasthan. This is where the Jawas came into their element, diving into corners with fluid grace and pace and it was easy to get into a rhythm with the road. The all-new, dual-cradle frame, developed around the engine, blends the best of period aesthetics with a superb ride and handling that modern engineering bestows. The nicely tuned suspension also does a good job of keeping both wheels on the ground despite the not-so-ideal road surface. The ABS-enabled front brakes are excellent in feel and modulation, inspiring the confidence to push the envelope.
After a couple of days in the saddle, the overriding impression is one of a fun, friendly, easy-to-manage motorcycle. Jawa’s assumption, one I happen to agree with, is that the target buyer for their bikes isn’t going to be focused on flat-out performance so the lack of big power numbers won’t be a deal breaker at all. Classic Legends has demonstrated its ability to connect the technical left brain to the artistic right brain to reproduce the character, appeal and attitude of the iconic Jawa, and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if this new duo enjoys years and years of popularity, just like the original.
■ Engine: 293cc single-cylinder, four-stroke, liquid-cooled, dual overhead camshafts (DOHC) ■ Max power: 27bhp ■ Max torque: 28nm ■ Tyres: 90/90-18 front, 120/80-17 rear ■ Suspension: Telescopic hydraulic forks front, gas canister-twin shock hydraulic rear ■ Braking: Dia 280mm disc with floating caliper and ABS, rear drum brakes 153mm ■ Kerb weight: 170kg ■ Tank capacity: 14 litre ■ Price: ₹ 1.64 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the Jawa and ₹ 1.55 lakh (ex showroom, Delhi) for the Jawa 42