riding a vivid black Harley-Davidson Fatboy. My black-leather
encased knees are gripping its 5-gallon teardrop fuel tank; my
hands are gripping its wide cruiser handlebars. The wind whips
my face and hair as the 1450cc engine with the legendary Harley
sound develops 80...85, maybe more, brake horsepower and I glide
down the vast open road, flat and smooth as a billiard table.
I'm in love with this baby and I'm going to ride her as long as
that road goes on.
That, as most discerning readers will be
quick to realise, is a fantasy. Here's the reality: I'm riding
a sexy Red 'n Chrome Royal Enfield Thunderbird. My knees are gripping
its 14.5-litre teardrop fuel tank; my hands its wide cruiser handlebars.
The wind, well, it plays around with my face and hair as the 350cc
engine with its not-so-distinctive-yet-quite-satisfying sound
develops some 18 bhp and I speed down the National Highway No.8,
not very smooth, not very flat but a straight road nonetheless.
Royal Enfield India turned 50 this year and
a colleague somewhat perversely thought it would be a good idea
to have the only person in the office who's pushing 50 (well,
not exactly, I have just a few more years to go!) to ride an Enfield
and write about the experience. That's how I got astride the red
Thunderbird with its incredibly sexy (as long as you don't let
your thoughts stray to Fatboys and other fantasies) looks.
tell you the truth, the proposal was enticing. It may be more
than 15 years since I last rode a motorcycle but deep down I'm
still quite crazy about them. Every time I see a nice big bike
on the road, my head turns to check it out as it does to check
out other non-mechanical stuff. So, when the guys over at Enfield
agreed to let me have a Thunderbird for the weekend, I jumped.
Although I've owned as many as four bikes
in my life, I've ridden but never owned an Enfield Bullet, a motorcycle
that is undoubtedly the cult machine among Indian bikers. In my
biking days I always lusted after a Bullet, then the most expensive
motorcycle that money could buy and I couldn't afford. As a consolation
I drove other vehicles. Enfield's wimpish step-through Silver
Plus with a laughable 50cc engine; its stable-mate, the puny non-performing
200cc Mini-Bullet; then the slightly more respectable 250cc Yezdi
whose kickstarter niftily (well, not always) swung back to become
the gear pedal and, finally, when the Japanese made their first
inroads and I my last purchase, a gleaming black Yamaha rx100,
with a pick-up to die for.
| INDIA'S HOG LOVERS
(From Businessmen Who Go The Whole
Hog, Business Today, May 11, 2003)
of the eight is Rajeev Chandrasekhar, the 37-year-old
CEO of BPL Mobile, cruising along Ring Road on his 95th anniversary-just
for kicks, Harley is celebrating a century of existence this
year-Ultra Electra Guide, a 1300 cc specimen. The bearded
six-footer's Harley even boasts a four-speaker music system
the man has affectionately dubbed "The Tower", and
cruise control to boot. "I wear a full-face helmet on
Sundays so that people don't recognise me," he says.
That's perfectly understandable.
Thapar, the Delhi-based CEO of JCT Mills, rides to the
gym or to Delhi's very own patch of historical green, Lodhi
Gardens, for a run. The 38-year- old has even decked his
bike out with a saddlebag and a chrome eagle claw stand.
The twin-engined beauty (with a bod) stands by the porch
at Thapar's 1.5 acre house in central Delhi.
interior decorator Jimmy Mistry (actually he heads
a Rs 52-crore firm) does one better than Thapar-he rides
his VRSCA V-ROD cruiser in to work on Saturdays. He recently
rode it down the city's heaving Lamington Street to meet
with a client who was putting up a multiplex. The man gawked,
"but then things settled down," grins Mistry.
The Thunderbird, as I discovered, combines
the best of both worlds-the old worldly Bullet's mystique along
with modern day innovations. To begin with, the Thunderbird is
easier to start; you don't risk visiting an orthopaedic surgeon
after you've tried to kick-start it. In fact, you can even use
an electric ignition to get it going. Then, its aluminium engine
casing doesn't leak all over the place like the old Bullet with
its cast iron engine mould. And, in these days of spiralling petrol
prices, it delivers reasonably good fuel economy.
Still, these are probably the very reasons
why old aficionados of the Bullet will turn their noses up at
the T'bird. Its new Harley-style exhaust and mufflers don't deliver
the 'Da Thump' of the old Bullet; its new engine looks a bit spare
compared to the older one and most blasphemous of all, its brake
pedal and gear shift have switched sides.
But does that bother me? Not in the least.
I think I'm going to buy one. Now, there's only the small matter
left of getting an approval from the wife...