27 October, 2009

Bullet time

Having scanned a few pics from India I thought I'd better capture these few observations before beer finishes off all my synapses. It's sobering to realise these pics are fifteen years old.

Arriving alone in Goa I hired a Yamaha 125 for a month to see how I got on riding a motorcycle, something I'd never done before except perhaps for a quick go round a car park on my older brothers 50cc moped. I was smitten, within far less than a month I knew I needed to get onto an Enfield Bullet.

My first hired ride, a brand new 350cc Export. The natty chrome and paint finish, longer exhaust silencer and brakes, up from 7 to a whopping 9 inch drum on the front mark out this Bullet as an Export model.

Front protection bars are a popular addition in India and this bike also had a Sari Guard on the back. Ladies ride pillion side-saddle with their Saris gathered up in one hand, but the additional protection is reassuring hopefully preventing some combination of Isadora Duncan and a spinning top. Opinions differ on the value of these front bars - they'll probably save your paint in a low speed drop but Bruce reckoned they were just as likely to trap or smash your leg in an accident. The single bar on the front of Paul's Bullet was fixed with a pipe clamp, I reckon any impact is just going to spin it right at the rider's knee!

Paul's standard 350

Random Bullet in Varanasi

Bruce's 500 Export. Bruce spec'd the shorter standard muffler when he bought it new in Madras. He strongly recommended bringing a tube of thread-lock and going over every nut and bolt with it after two weeks ownership.

Bruce fording a river on our road-trip into Kerrala

The Bullet gearshift was traditionally British, right foot, 1 up 3 down. Nowadays Bullets feature left foot shifts and electric starters but in Anjuna Beach in 1994 part of the Enfield's notorious reputation came from the difficulty of starting the bugger. In reality it's no trouble at all, just so long as your ride's in tune and you understand the drill; fuel on, turn the key, thumb the decompression valve and gently turn the engine over until the ammeter show's you're about to come onto the firing strokeā€¦ kicking over a single on the exhaust stroke ain't getting you far. But at a bar or party out in the jungle you'd see more than a few guys thrashing wildly at the kickstart on an out of tune bike cursing it and sometimes getting a stinging kickback for their troubles. Maybe they were used to kicking over strokers or perhaps that last chillum didn't help but its a real fast way to get angry and exhausted.

Next year I bought my first ever motorbike, a 500 Export - it was a nice colour combination and the hand-painted '500' on the toolbox cover was a popular option letting everybody know this is the daddy, but I knew what needed to happen - strip off everything that doesn't contribute to making it go and paint it racing green... little did I know back then that I was bobbing it.

Or rather Demoto was. Operating from a backstreet in Calangute he'd work his magic, taking the rear mudguard, cutting away the end portion and fashioning a lowered saddle with a postage stamp sized pillion pad (well when you're giving a ride to a young bikini clad hippy-chick a ride to a party you need to encourage her to squeeze up tight, it's a safety thing)

This is the widest standard fit rear, pitiful eh? Demoto's mates were doing some dubious things to try and achieve a distinctly Indian custom chopper look for their own rides with the limited resources at their disposal. I wish I had some photos of them, they were proper ugly, but a glorious testament to enthusiastic guys trying to achieve a 'look'.

At that time a 500 Bullet was pretty much the fastest vehicle on the road in India, and I'm not being flippant when I say that I regarded that as a vital safety feature. Indian roads were spectacularly dangerous (and I can't imagine they've changed much) and I subscribed to Oddball's dictum "We like to think we can get out of trouble faster than we got in". The call of nostalgia tugs strongly at me to get one again here in the UK but I fear it would be a very different feeling being swamped by Micras and Corsas. The good news is that there are gifted nutters out there building V-twins out of a pair of Bullet engines (more on that soon) so who knows..?

2 Step to the white courtesy phone:

Blogger Dan shout your mess

Great shots Chris, they are pushing me that much closer to venturing out on a silly road trip!

October 28, 2009 10:46 pm

Blogger Chris shout your mess

do it! :-)

October 29, 2009 7:54 am


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