“I’m addicted to bikes. Unfortunately, there is no de-addiction or counselling for something like that!” chuckles SK Prabhu who has opened India’s first motorcycle museum cum café on Wheeler Road. Vintage bikes mounted on walls and memorabilia displayed in glass cabinets at Legends Motorcycling Museum and Cafe can turn any biking aficionado green with envy.
Prabhu’s love affair with motorcycles began in 1992. He started out with a BSA and later graduated to a 1962 Royal Enfield. “I sold my first bike, but I’m now trying to get it back for my collection,” he says wistfully. Prabhu is vocal about his fondness for BSA bikes and it comes as little surprise that these bikes dominate his collection of 20 odd motorcycles on display which include a 1924 BSA 250 cc; a 1928 BSA 500 cc; a 1934 BSA 500 cc with hand-gear lever as well as a military use BSA M20 1942 500cc. The bikes that make him misty-eyed with pride however are the BSA Bantam 1953 and the Bantam D1 1966 which still flaunt their foreign registration plates.
Prabhu has traveled extensively to put together such an enviable collection, attending auctions and coaxing people to part with their bikes across South India - from Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry to Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. One of the outstanding models on display at the museum is a red-and-cream 1962 model Czechoslovakian ‘Cezeta’ scooter with a trailer. Prabhu says he picked it up at an auction at the Jawa Factory in Mysore. An avid biker and a restoration artist, Prabhu has painstakingly restored each of the bikes on display and says that each motorcycle is in perfect running condition.
“The idea for the cafeteria came to me when friends would come to see my bikes which were earlier stored at home and then wander into the kitchen in the hope of a bite to eat,” he says. Using his savings, Prabhu decided to open a cafeteria to cater to the insatiable hunger of bikers who drop in to see his collection.
The café, which is on the ground floor, serves continental fare and chicory-free coffee. In the hope of turning it into a watering hole for bikers, Prabhu has also applied for a wine license. “We are experimenting and expanding our menu on a daily basis. In fact, our cooks perfected the Chicken Kiev last week,” says the man who lives life by his own terms.
Prabhu has undertaken several biking expeditions across the length and breadth of the country. He explains that most of his biking trips are unplanned and that he has enjoyed the hospitality of people all over the country. “I’ve been everywhere in India, except Nagaland, on my Royal Enfield. I generally spend the night in some hospitable stranger’s house and then push off the next day,” says the adventurous biker.
As tiny raindrops splatter on the window at the cafeteria, you can’t help but notice photographs of Prabhu exploring the wilderness with his beloved bike plastered on the glass even as strains of classical rock can be heard in the background mingled with the sound of steak sizzling on the grill.
-Raintree Media Features