Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The THUMP mania that spreads...

As far as biking is concerned, I bought my first bike in the year 2000. It was a Hero Honda Splendour - a 100cc motorcycle. I bought it because commuting to my office direly needed a bike for me.

In 2003, I got married and after 7 years of married life, my wife needed a bike. There had been a necessity of a vehicle for my wife to tend to adhoc needs at home, especially for our two little kids. I zeroed in on TVS Super Excel moped.

Dad was already having a old moped (TVS 50 XT) and I was having a 100 CC bike. The problem is that there was neither sufficient space to park a third bike, nor my wife could ride my dad's old moped.

When I bought my bike, the cost of petrol was Rs.24 /Lt (year 2000), by year 2010 the price escalated to Rs.50 /Lt. On the other hand, there had been many headaches on my daily commute such as stray dogs toppling many of my biker friends. During the year 2004, I too tasted a long skid on a oil spilled turn, luckily I escaped with bruises which needed a weeks leave from work. Over the ten years there had been a considerable increase in irresponsible drivers giving bad surprises. To add to this, casual loiterers just peep in after an accident, support the irresponsible localite who was the cause of the accident and the gang come against the poor bikers and plunder money out of katta panchayaths. Few of my friends have been casualties of this bad system that still prevail around us.

Given the expenses involved on fuel and the horrible accident stories happening around, I decided to tick off the practice of riding the bike for daily commute to office.

It had been a great time owning the fuel efficient 100cc Splendour bike and maintaining it in mint condition. This bike commanded a great price on the second hand market too.

Since, I switched to public transport for my daily commute; my bike got into riding mode only on fewer occasions; Though its not a great experience using the government buses day in and day out. The crew of the government buses give surprises with their absences, as well there comes lot of reschedule in case of festivals. We usually get atleast two surprises in a week. Ofcourse these are the opportunities in getting used with a Plan B and hopping on to any other buses or getting help from bikers for their pillion seat and do the commute. Though these are full of surprises,  is gives stomach chills, its a safer mode ! At first the change over was little harder, but over a few months I got used with the public transport.

The Super Excel moped that is gonna be brought for my wife would suffice in times of my needs. So, by the year 2010, I sold my bike and a couple of weeks later the new Super Excel moped made its entry. So by then, my dad's TVS XT (old moped) and the new TVS Super Excel got to be parked at home and serve our needs of transportation.

After the new moped came in, my dad's old moped became a thing to worry as it needed plenty of visits to the mechanic. After much effort we successfully persuaded Dad to sell it off.

Bigger bikes from Royal Enfield have had a bit of kindling my joy a little, for many a time. Though its a sub conscious thingy.

The thing that attracts in this Royal Enfield bullet is the cult design that had gone in since the British War Era. Till this day, the military design with tiger eye lamps makes the pull, rather than the technology behind these bikes. The Dud Dud thumps that come out of the roar of the bullets are a music that still play in our ears even though the bike itself had gone off from the scene for more than a while.

It was during this time that the Royal Enfield company have been inviting its Twitter fans for factory tour. I had great time visiting the historic Royal Enfield factory at Tiruvottiyur. It was then for me to plunge in and know more about Royal Enfield.

I did put in sufficient time to approach the owners of the RE bikes. It was then I got to bump into people who had owned the old Cast Iron RE bikes and also the new RE bikes. The cast iron bikes are the ones which have brake on the left; gear shifter on the right and the new bikes have brakes on the right and gear shifter on left side. The old ones have separate sections for the engine, gear box, clutch and an exclusive neutral shifter. The new ones have a technology termed UCE which have all the three combined into a single section. Neutral shifter is a pedal, which helps the rider to shift the gear from a higher one to to neutral at a single tap. This facility is available only in Cast Iron bullets.

Then I searched for people who had owned both the kinds. A lot of interesting things that unfolded before me over a period of more than a year. Having fished so much of interesting things about this bike, I decided to try buying the cast iron type of Royal Enfield bike. These types of bikes had been stopped of production many years ago and its not possible to buy a new one.

I expressed my desire to my family. This was the point wherein all the problems started. I faced a stiff opposition from each and everybody at home against buying a old bike. I generally await for a consensus from my family, of-course they are the ones who care me the most. So I respected their arguments especially from my well experienced Dad. He was too particular not to go for old vehicles since there may be legal problems.

After so much of tiff at home, on one night, at about 1.30 a.m. my dad was awake and me too. Since, the idea of buying a old bullet was still in discussion, day in and day out, we jumped into a debate with him telling the problems associated with buying old bikes and me trying to prove my stand. Then, mum chips in and expressed that the time is 2.30 a.m. and why this hulla bullah at the brink of the night. It was a hard situation wherein my well researched work of over a year is getting pushed down.

Then my Dad goes in asking his friends and relatives about the bike. Problem started as no one voted in my favour. I then did a postmortem of his method and found that my Dad has asked the people who were not users of Royal Enfield bullets.  After a bit of hard time, everybody at home left me alone without vouching my decision.

Though I was clear on my judgement based on my home work of more than a year, having nobody to support me, did put my intuitiveness into a difficult situation. It was a hell of a situation that I decided to make the next step of approaching the local mechanics and bike brokers to know the availability of the old bike.

Now, Selvam Anna, my neighbor and a old time bulletteer came into the scenario. His effort helped zeroing in on a bullet and after verifying the documents the bull was bought on 7th Jan 2012.

The above photo was the first click of my bull. It was Selvam anna who is riding it after we filled few litres of petrol to come back to home after buying it near Panruti. The person on the right, clad in black shirt is Selvam Anna's friend who is a mechanic. The person on the left clad in white liaises on selling used vehicles.

A photograph clicked once the bull was parked at home. You can read the worries on family members standing besides my RE. Yes everyone was worried that some old metal had been brought in. All of them would have been happy if a brand new bike in mint condition arrived.

Initial days of owning this bike was bit hard since the machine is bit heavy. As months passed by, I got used with that. The next problem for me was that, the bike never roars even after repeated kicks, which gave so much of pain on my knees. After bit and bit of tuning on the engine and carburetor and then replacing the battery almost the bigger problems were solved.

After a few times of taking my dad as a pillion in this bike, his perception too changed. Mum got to be pillion and she too got little pacified. That is the charm of this 350 cc machine.

Now almost two years have passed. People in my family got very much used with the old bike. This is because, the THUMP coming out of the roaring engine has a charm which changes the mood of the people. This heavier bike has its centre of gravity at a very lower point. So, its more stable. The wheel base is longer than the ordinary bikes, which translates to more road grip.

Though I have tuned the bike to perform in the efficient manner, I was not particular to tune up its skin. As its a bit costly affair I do not want to burn my wallet now. Till then let it look bit ugly.

My younger brother living in Chennai is now in a dire need of a bike. He decided to buy a 100cc bike and I too gave my signal to go ahead. I told on the difference between owning a 100cc bike and possessing a old RE bullet. He just needed one for office commute and to the ad hoc family needs. He opted to go for 100cc bike.

Dad was eager to know about the bike. While Dad came to my place in Cuddalore, we both went to the Hero Showroom to let my dad to know of the Whats? and How muchs? of the 100 cc Passion Plus that brother had decided to buy. The first conversation that came up between us was the design of the seat. We then went near other models and Dad was particular on the vehicle having a flat seat than the one inclined to the front. We opened up a discussion that all the bikes available in the market have seats which project downwards and the pillion seat lies a bit higher.

So, this experienced bulletteer, throws comparison on all aspects known to him with respect to a Royal Enfield bullet to that of the bikes. Dad was already satisfied with my bullet and over the last two years, he had got to know more about my Royal Enfield bull.

Now, we come to the reception desk at the show room and leave from there after getting a quotation. The bike costs around Rs.60K.

Dad opens up his liking for the bullet and asks me to look for a old bullet for my brother. I was quite stumped off on his!

Two years ago I took hard time to convince my judgement on the bullet, but all my efforts drove me nervous. But, he now votes for a old bullet for my brother. An opponent of the old vehicle market has changed sides and now voting for the Cast Iron Royal Enfield. Great DAD. And my one year work of fact finding behind the Cast Iron RE had not gone waste!!

The search for the bull is now ON !

My brother was hesitant on whether it would be hard to ride a old bike which has brake and gear shifter on the other sides. Now its my duty to cultivate the CULT and enjoy the THUMP. Though everyone has a little fear on riding a old cast iron RE, its a charm and the bike is like a child to ride. To make my brother realize that, he was made to come from Chennai to Cuddalore and take some definite exercises.

We could spare just two hours and I need to pack this time to make him fully aware of riding the old bull. Here goes the photo log of what happened day before yesterday (22 Dec'13). 

At first he was made to ride only in first gear on the vast grass ground.

After a few minutes, he got used with the first gear. Then I asked him to try going to the second gear. Since its a grass ground, enough speed could not be built up to shift to the third gear.

Then, few more lessons on kick starting. This is a harder part and would need more time to master.

Then he was made to ride it in 8 formation. This maneuver would test the skill of the rider in turning / cornering at very slow speeds without resting the leg on the ground. He did it with ease. So I moved on the next step of making him realize on how heavy is the bull. 

The petrol tap was closed and bike was laid to its left side on the ground. He should lift the bike on his own. I was particular to check if he would be confident to lift the bike.

That was an anxious moment for him.

Then he needed to drop the bull to its right side.

A bit of worry can be seen in his face. But once he gets a bull I would be worried if he is not confident in realizing its heaviness.

Having retained the bull back to its position, his confidence level pepped up. Now, I am happy of having imbibed his confidence to tame the bull. As you can see, pulling the bull back to the standing position needs to be done by holding the hand bar at specific spots on the bike. Once this is memorized on his subconscious mind, I need not worry.

Now he has got the ability to ride it.

I was more than confident that he could ride it on the roads which have normal traffic.

It took another half hour for him to be certain to shift to the fourth gear and  push the bull above 30 kmph.

Though I have got myself trained to ride this bike over a very long period, the art of training my brother was a new experience. Customizing these challenging steps to make him confident of riding it in just two hours was a wonderful experience for me too.

Alas I made him a confident THUMPER. Now the searching for a old RE bullet is ON.

The demand for the old type of Royal Enfield Bullet is so high nowadays and having approached with many people, we are still to zero in on the right one. Selvam Anna has been of help too. Shall update it once buying it succeeds.