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2nd June 2005

Travels on an Indian Enfield in India IV

Finally, Dan Barratt explains what it takes to travel over 11,000 miles on an Indian Enfield. Oh, and what to avoid riding in to, too...

The first thing I hit was the bull in Delhi. In fact the only things we hit were animals. Ali ran over a cow's hoof, almost hit a monkey and gave a dog a headache with her front wheel. I was overtaking an elephant and was whipped by its tail, not the sort of thing that happens in Southsea.

Catford Shopping Centre. Errr...

The most damage was done to the bikes when we took them on a train journey. We were ripped off on the fare for a start. When they arrived at the other end one bike was minus a front brake lever and wing mirror, and had a broken leg shield and a ripped seat. It was 2am, we'd been on a train for over 24 hours, second class, and had just had to wait two hours for the door of the guards van to be opened. Even in this mood I lost the argument over compensation. I knew I would - if it goes forward it can't be broken.

New parts at the Enfield agent set us back almost three pounds.

The Bullet is still the bike to have in India. 'Ah, Enfield, very good motorcycle'. We never had the heart to say that actually they weren't. I presume the exported models are better quality than the Indian ones.

The design isn't too bad, it has lasted over 40 years almost unchanged. The worst thing about the bikes is the build quality, especially the electrics. I called my bike 'Bubonic' because it was black and plagued with problems.

The bikes are actually guaranteed for six months, however, this doesn't cover vibration or oil leaks. Our first free service cost about 20 quid. I would actually pay to keep an Indian mechanic off my bike so that was the last time it saw a dealer.

About half the things that went wrong could be traced to the mechanic at the shop we bought them from, the other half to being badly put together in the factory. Nothing actually broke, it just needed adjusting, bolting or welding on again, or hitting with a hammer.

Enfield 350 Stuff on

Mind that cow!

We had had our bikes converted to 12V. Sorry, we had most of the bike converted to 12V. Less important things like indicators and sidelights were 6V and blew straight away. It became a mission to keep all the lights working. One chap tapped the illuminated speedo, one evening and said, 'I've never seen that before, very good'.

Apart from the bulbs blowing daily, (12V ones included), most of the connectors hadn't been pushed together properly. This caused the lights to flicker, sparks to come from the headlight shell, and the bike to cut out when you went round a corner. Our regulators were fine but we met some Israelis who were on their sixth.

The ignition switch fell apart on one bike, the other wouldn't stop when you took the key out. The timing took ages to get right but once we hit on the right settings was OK. The same went for the carb. Nothing had been set up at the factory. It is very difficult to explain that your bike is faulty because it misses a bit, or is difficult to start. If it goes forward it works. A plug would last about two days, then had to be cleaned or replaced - could we find a wire brush? Everything seemed to be sold form little boxes on street corners, except wire brushes.

We also had problems finding the right oil. Oil is oil, looks the same, must be the same, truck or bike - no problem. When we did find five litres of the right stuff so we could change the oil we couldn't find the recycling point anywhere. We got up early one morning and drove along a quiet dirt track ... Sadam would have been proud of us.

The chains stretched loads to start with, and then settled down. The tappets needed adjusting a few times on one bike, and the front wheel bearings came loose. A huge clunk was a loose engine-mounting bolt. A few spokes came undone. The jets got blocked on one carb. The clutches had to be adjusted once or twice and didn't like sitting in traffic. My bike would get through about half a litre of oil on a hot day, the other was almost oil tight. We would ride for about 12 hours a day, cover about 400 miles then spent about an hour tinkering.

'Daily Safety Check'

They got better as we sorted things and as the engines loosened up, nothing major went wrong during our 2000 miles, and they are dead easy to fix, dead cheap too. Every spare we could think of was purchased - pistons, rings, valves, springs, pushrods, clutch, gaskets, spokes, cables and it all came to under 30 quid.

Why did we buy these spares? Because after the month's tour of India we turned the wheels west and crossed the Pakistan border to head back home to Britain.

Despite the truck drivers, touring round India for a month on the Bullets was splendid. The bikes are just right for the type of riding, they are comfortable and rode the potholes well. The low-revving motor is relaxed, full of character, and sounds nice. The bikes are fast enough to overtake most things on the road and would go for 12 hours on one tank of petrol. We got to many places we would never have found by public transport, and met lots of really great people. The low life of every country is found in the main tourist traps, get out of them and you see a different side of the country.

Both bikes (and riders) have since covered the 11,250 miles back to Britain via Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Cyprus (yes a bit of a detour here), Bulgaria, Rumania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, the Czech republic, Germany, Luxemburg and France with no major accidents, breakdowns, kidnaps, robberies or shootings. We still had fun though.

We did the trip in 1996 / 97, both Bullets are still running well, mine - being used daily and being kept outside for a few years - is just about due a rebuild. I enjoyed breaking down so much I went out and bought a 40 year old Ural in Poland a few years later...

Outside a village in Pakistan


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