There is no doubt that when Hero Honda launched CBZ in 1999 it was a trend setter. Apart from creating a new segment for motor cycles in India, it also introduced a slew of features - wider tyres, disc break ... and a lot of style. So, when I landed in Bangalore mid-2000, after getting a job, I did not think much before zooming in on what bike I wanted to buy! In terms of performance, there was a lot of room for improvement though. Yamaha's 2-stroke bikes (the RX 100 and 135) were arguably better performers and Suzuki had just launched Fiero which almost matched - if not bettered - CBZ in terms of performance.
Our college seniors had started to do long bike trips by then. Two of my college seniors owned RD350s and I could not help but drool over its performance. Inspired by them, me and friends also planned a bike trip - to Nandi Hills - which marked the beginning of a passion for me. Nandi Hills trip was followed by a much longer trip to Kozhikode in a few months time, which was a lot of fun and gave me a lot of confidence as a biker. But, Vishal had an accident towards the end and fractured his arm. Subsequently, all my friends backed off from any more bike trip plans terming it too dangerous.
I had developed a reputation of being a fast and rash driver by then - epitomized by Ashish's testimonial in Orkut, which read '... and for the weak hearted one friendly advice, dont sit behind him on the bike ... coz each comment you make about his driving (which you will not be able to resist) will result in a swinging of that speedometer of his by 20 degrees clockwise ...' These were the days, when I used to enjoy zipping through the traffic on Old Airport Road and Inner Ring Road. The one incident that brought me back to ground was when I tried to race with a guy on Inner Ring Road. I was smiling to myself when I overtook him on the straight road starting the Sony World junction and pressed the break a bit when we approached the small S-curve. But, the guy went past me at the same speed (a little above 100kmph), effortlessly flipping his bike to the left (and then back to the right) - even giving me a backward glance on his way. Its another story that I spent the next few days practising to negotiate the S-curve at 100+ without touching the break :)
Finally, I decided to hit the roads again - this time all alone - on a bike trip to Palakkad. This trip was to be the 1st of my many solo bike trips. Soon, I made a plan to bike to Kanyakumari and managed to get Soorjith for company. We went in Soorjith's Fiero this time, but the trip ended in disastor with we returning after an accident near Namakkal. An SLR camera (Nikon F65) that I borrowed from Rajeev was broke too.
It took me yet another solo bike trip to Hyderabad to gain the confidence to head solo towards Kanyakumari. The bike trip to Kanyakumari was memorable in many aspects and I spent a few days more, exploring places around Kanyakumari. This was also the first time that CBZ gave me some mechanical problems and I had to return in a train. But, that did not matter much, as I was contemplating to complete a personal project - to bike towards all 8 directions from Bangalore and cover the whole of South India in the process! I had already covered south-west (Kozhikode and Palakkad), north (Hyderabad) and south (Kanyakumari) and decided on Mangalore (west), Chennai (east), Pondicherry (south-east), Karwar (north-west) and Vishakapatnam (north-east) as the remaining destinations.
I had pillion for Mangalore trip in May 2004 and Pondicherry trip in August 2004. In between, Pavan joined me for the Chennai trip and ended signing up for more - he turned out to be great riding partner. This is the time when the Golden Quadrilateral project was in full swing and the Bangalore - Chennai highway was almost complete. This is also the time when I ended up modifying the CBZ a bit - with a slightly bigger engine, a modified exhaust, wider tyre and a sportier handle and crash guard. While, this gave the bike a sporty look and a little bit more pickup, affected it negatively in terms of top speed. Eventually, I guess this modification reduced the longevity of the bike by a large extend.
There was a much bigger gang for the Karwar bike trip, which turned out to be one of the most eventful bike trips I have done so far - with Prabul having an accident and Champak's Yezdi failing a few times. The last of the long bike trips in CBZ also was the longest - a little more than 2000kms. Me and Pavan took 5 days to complete an epic bike trip to Vishakapatnam, with which I completed my 8 directions project.
Post Vishakapatnam, the bike was used only for commute and I did not even service it properly for a while. I also tried out wheelies and stoppies in it - a particularly memorable one was with Ashish sitting behind, when we ended up toppling backwards! All this circus and bad maintenance, eventually spoiled the bike's performance. I switched to Versa for long trips by now and the bike was confined only to commute. When I moved in to Cambridge Layout with office at walkable distance, the bike mostly stayed at the basement. Eventually, it refused to go beyond 60 and gradually even that looked tough! I tried taking it to a few workshops for revival, but finally gave up.
With my office shifting further away from home and the bike giving a lot of trouble, I had to think of alternatives. With the Bangalore traffic, I did not want to drive a 4-wheeler to work everyday and maintaining two 2-wheelers would have been tough. Eventually, I had to take that tough decision to say adios to my faithful companion for years. CBZ was gone - but it will always stay in memories.