The Bike (Sept. 27, 2005)
In India, there is only one choice of bike to ride. She (as motorcycles are known) is called a "thumper" because of the beating sound her single-cylinder and exhaust system make. It is the sound of a giant's heart beating that cuts through the cacophony of India's every-day noise.
The Townsend Cycle Company of Great Britain built the first Royal Enfield Bullet in the late 1880s. But since 1963, the four-stroke, single cylinder thumper has been produced by Enfield India Limited in Madras. Every Indian male dreams of owning a Bullet, its classic cruiser style unchanged since 1955.
Its torque is 3.5 kgm at 3000 rpm; its front brake, a twin-lead seven-inch drum, the rear a six-inch drum -- pedal operated on the left; and, an electrical system with a 12-volt battery and coil. The gears, one down and three up, lever with the right foot. The tank holds 3.8 gallons of fuel, with .33 gallons in reserve. The speedometer claims a maximum speed of 78 miles per hour, but the optimum is 25 to 50.
The Royal Enfield Bullet, when dry, is a 370-pound handmade machine. No plastic parts. It’s simple enough to be assembled with a wrench and a screwdriver. The gold pin striping on the tank is a final touch by man’s hand.
It is a naked bike. Stripped down to expose a simple kick-start engine. One you can put your hands on. It’s a workhorse built for India’s god-awful roads. The simplest of the three Bullet models cost over $1,000; a royal two-wheeled chariot for those who could afford it in a country where a family man earns an average of $1,500 annually.
The company touted it as a “man’s machine.” But I disagreed.
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