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26th April 2005

Travels on an Indian Enfield in India

Never mind riding a modern Bullet around Britain, Dan Barratt has done the proper job. Part One: buying the bikes and going nowhere in Delhi...

We landed in Delhi, found a cheap hotel and within three hours were in the Enfield Bullet showroom. After much negotiating (about half of which was in Hindi through our Indian friend), we ended up parting with about a thousand pounds each for two 35Occ 'special' Bullets.

'Special' because they had been made to order for someone else, but we had more money and didn't want to wait 10 days for a normal one. The final sum also included money for the BA or Baksheesh Account, and money for getting the bikes registered quickly and to foreigners. I've still got the receipt with the BA entry on it.

Ess Arr Motors. Do they have a branch in the west country called Ooh Arr Motors?

Also included was lifetime road tax, six months third party insurance, twin leading shoe front brakes, chrome tank, rear carrier, 12V electrics and a huge pair of leg shields / dog deflectors.

When we asked about the dubious quality of the rack the salesman said it was like Japanese things, not made to last forever.

Well that was it, we'd paid for two brand new bikes, to be collected the next day, within seven hours of arriving in India. Not bad.

When we arrived at the shop the next day, one bike was there, the other arrived 10 minutes later with the paint still wet on the number plates.

Eventually mine started. They agreed to weld the stand back on and fix the indicators and sidelights. OK we were off.

Now I'm fairly used to British bikes, but spare a thought for my friend.

She's got a 200cc Honda Benly, electric start, and is used to the traffic round Reading. Now she's on a 350 ancient thumper, gear change on the 'wrong' side, and upside down (one up, three down, plus lots of neutrals at random positions, except between first and second). It's hot, the bikes are overheating and it's rush hour in Delhi.

Enfield 350 Stuff on

Designer helmets available to match any colour of pullover. As long as it's grey.We got lost. The bikes would stop without warning. There were cars, bikes, taxis, rickshaws, people, cows, dogs, goats, fruit-stalls, hawkers, beggars, lorries and scooters four lanes deep.

Some were on the road, others on the pavement. Some were on the right side of the road, others thought it quicker to try the other side. Everyone thought they could improve traffic flow by using their horns. We never worked out the right of way at roundabouts.

Everywhere was chaos and the bikes would just cut out in the middle of it all. To start a Honda Benly you press a button. To start a Bullet you get the piston to just before TDC on the compression stroke, use the decompression lever to get it over the top, then 'apply a swinging powerful stroke to the kick-starter' - a quote from the handbook.

Then try again and hope it doesn't kick back and break your ankle, if you are lucky it starts. Anyhow, being far removed from the afore-mentioned Benly, we had to keep swapping bikes.

It would be another three days before Ali had perfected the art of starting the thing. I'd put my bike on its stand, usually in the second or third lane, dodge the cars, bikes and animals, ignore the horns, shouts and beggars, and jump on the other bike. Hopefully, by this time Ali would have got to my bike before it stopped. I'd then apply the 'swinging powerful stroke' to the other bike, and hope it didn't kick back.

We continued like this for about two hours, getting hotter and dirtier. My clutch was playing up, the bikes were hot, we were hot. It was noisy and we were beginning to despair, then suddenly we were out of Delhi. One minute we were going nowhere, the next it was up to the dizzy heights of 30mph (running-in speed). The only thing we hit was a bull, and it didn't seem to mind too much. The bikes cooled down and we were away.

This is what we came to India for...

This is what we came to India for...


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