Wednesday, February 25, 2009
When I started riding motorcycles they all had point/coil ignition that could barely keep a spark plug hot enough to prevent fouling, skinny rock-hard tires with nail-attracting tubes in them, and wet-cell batteries you had to refill as often as the gas tank or they’d boil dry and die.
This combination of sub-par systems meant you never really knew if you were going to get where you were going on time—or at all. You don’t get that with modern bikes, and that takes something away from the adventure that is riding motorcycles.
But every time I look at a Royal Enfield, the possibility of getting stranded and having to push it home is the first thing that enters my mind. And for some perverse reason that makes me want to swing a leg over it and tempt fate.
The Bullet 350 has pushrod-operated overhead valves, and puts out a claimed 18 horsepower at a leisurely 5000 rpm. The spark is lit by points, and top speed is 62 mph. Even at that the 7-inch front drum brake and 6-inch rear are probably overmatched.
There was a Royal Enfield dealer in a city about 125 miles from here, and I used to stop in when I was in the area to look at the bikes. The first time I saw one I spent 10 minutes looking it over and discovered maybe five things that looked like they’d break or fall off in the first 100 miles. Every part on it appeared to have been designed with the phrase “more or less” in mind. It appeared not to have been manufactured as much as carved; it wouldn’t surprise me to discover anvils on the factory floor.
So why would I like to ride a Royal Enfield Bullet 350?
To once again feel that old thrill that attracted me to bikes way back when. To once again feel like I’m part of the rider/bike equation, and not just another accessory the engineers had to accommodate.
To see if I really get where I’m going.