Sometime earlier this year Royal Enfield launched a new variant of the oldest motorcycle in continuous production, the Bullet. The Bullet series has been in production in India since 1955 when Redditch company partnered with Madras Motors in India to form ‘Enfield India’ to produce the 350 CC Royal Enfield Bullet.
The Bullet motorcycles have had a very old connection with me, from the times I would wait to hear the thump of my father’s Standard Bullet 350 when he came to pick me up after school to my uncle’s ex-armed forces G2 Bullet which he picked from the army disposal auction at Panagarh.
Last March they launched the Bullet Trials Works Replica 350 & 500 motorcycles in India. The question that popped in my mind, ‘Another Bullet! Why?’
I managed to take a spin on the 500 variant last week and this is what I found. The motorcycle is based on Bullet 500, which essentially means there is no change to the engine. This engine is the tried and tested 499 CC air-cooled fuel injected unit doing its job in the older variants of the Bullet. Oodles of low-end torque from the word go makes it an easy to manage motorcycle, in traffic or trails alike. Yes, trails and Yes, the motorcycle is called the Trials.
Back in 1948, the Trials Bullet was the first production motorcycle to feature a swinging arm suspension. And, the Trials Replica is a homage to the motorcycling legend, Johnny Brittain. He, as a young 18-year-old had great success at the International Six Days’ Trials with the Royal Enfield Factory Team.
The motorcycle has a stripped-down look, with a luggage rack where the pillion seat should have been. Maintaining an old school charm with a dash of bright coloured frames. Functional, with higher handlebars, raised mudguards and knobby tires to make it more capable off-road. An upswept exhaust to tackle deep water crossings without any worry. Though, personally, I would have loved slightly taller handlebars. With all these old-school and functional bits, Royal Enfield also ensured modern dual-channel ABS working in tandem with the block pattern tires to provide all the grip and stopping power you would need across varied terrains. Add to this a bunch of classy accessories to make the motorcycle look butch.
I have said this before and will say this again, Royal Enfield knows how to integrate a bullet motorcycle in your lifestyle. Did we really need another bullet or even a function-specific trials motorcycle? Maybe, Not. But they DO make it desirable. And that is what sets this motorcycle apart, with history and legacy from an armed forces work-horse to a lifestyle statement today and a fabulous service network across the country, Royal Enfield knows how to sell a lifestyle.
Concerned fellow biker buddies – “But, why did you ‘downgrade’ to a Royal Enfield Himalayan?”
One of the most common questions I was asked by people when I bought the Royal Enfield Himalayan. The funny thing is I find the tagging of ‘upgrades’ really stupid. You move or change to a motorcycle as per the riding style. If you can’t change you improvise and use what you have. And, on that point, people who know me well did not bother to question my choice.
Now, my question is, what is an upgrade? Is it bumping up to a higher cubic capacity? Is it a more powerful bike in terms of numbers? or just spending more money, compared to your existing one, on a new motorcycle? Or is it just doing more than what you did with the last motorcycle?
I feel the matter is imperceptible and cannot be summarized by just throwing around numbers. If I could afford to, I would love to keep both the motorcycles. Maybe, sometime in future, I will.
My last motorcycle was the Benelli TNT 300, a street bike which I had used extensively for the daily commutes and touring. Even a fair number of off-road trails have been covered on the motorcycle. And, I still do not have anything to complain about the TNT 300. A 360-degree parallel twin with oodles of low-end torque, kicking in as low as 2500rpm. Subtle linear power delivery made it a breeze to ride, especially while touring.
So, coming to the point of why I sold my Benelli TNT 300? Well, I have just one reason. My riding style changed. I started avoiding highways and travelling more of B Roads and off-road trails. People who have ridden with me also know that I have taken the Benelli to a fair number of technical trails. As long as ground clearance was not an issue, the motorcycle chugged away miles after miles. I loved the low-end torque and how useable it was when I was tackling trails and inclines. But – there is always a but, when it came to rocky terrain, the ground clearance was a hindrance. I had to take it slow and worry about the motorcycle making it past an obstacle. For water crossings, the under-belly exhaust was an added worry.
Now, coming to the Royal Enfield Himalayan. I had a few parameters for my next motorcycle. It had to be less than 3.0 lakhs INR on road in Bangalore. It had to be an off-road capable and comfortable stress-free touring motorcycle. The RE Himalayan fit the bill and the bonus was a wide service network across the country and low cost of ownership. This also meant I could spend on some good premium accessories and have extra moolah for my travel funds. Show me another touring motorcycle in India capable enough, within the said parameters. The Hero XPulse, some might say. A capable off-roader, yes, it is. Touring, maybe not.
So, in my outlook, the purchase of the RE Himalayan is an upgrade for me (even though I went from a twin cylinder to a single) as I can do all that I did with the Benelli TNT 300 and additional I can do more off-road trails, even the rocky terrains. I had money left after selling the Benelli and buying the RE. My service costs are less now because the motorcycle and spares are made in India and labour costs are less, which in turn lets me save more for my travel & motorcycle fund.
Eventually, I had to take a call between my ‘wants’ and ‘needs’. What I ‘need’, may not be what I ‘want’. But it will get me going for sure. And, what about my ‘wants’, well – that story is far from over my friend.