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Friday, August 28, 2015

Epic road trip brings Interceptor Group founder here

Royal and Ann depart from my house for points west.
My wife and I recently played hosts to "Royal," creator of the Royal Enfield Interceptor Owners website and his wife Ann at our home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

These intrepid, Swedish born Australians were on their way to Key West, the tail end of the chain of keys (islands) that carries you as far south as you can be and still be in the southeastern United States.

Royal and Ann already had motorcycled through more of the U.S. then I've ever seen — including Alaska — and in only three months' time.

They just generally charmed us with their can-do attitude. Although Ann is riding in back this trip, she is a motorcyclist. She built her own Royal Enfield Interceptor, using bits from a Series I and a Series II. Royal is also the moderator of the popular Royal Enfield Interceptor Owners Group on Yahoo.

Of course the Royal and Ann weren't riding Royal Enfield Interceptors when they got to my house — it's not what those greyhounds are for.

They're doing this trip aboard "Louise," their beloved Harley Davidson, shipped from Australia. They're towing a trailer and doing some camping.

Louise got a new tire for the trailer's single wheel while in my garage. Royal showed me how to break the bead by gently letting the Harley's kickstand down on the tire.

Royal and Ann's Facebook page details a journey that began in California June 4, and reached my home more than 15,000 miles later on Aug. 17, 2015.

By that time their mileage chart list included: California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska, Yukon Territory, Alberta, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Ontario, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Florida.

They went all the way to the Arctic Circle in Alaska, saw Mount Rushmore, Wounded Knee, Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty, the U.S. Capitol, the Jack Daniel's Distillery, the Musician's Hall of Fame in Nashville, the Dragon's Tail and Stone Mountain and much more.

Louise and her riders climbed Mount Washington!

They visited the Harley Davidson museum in Milwaukee, the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley and the Barber Vintage motorcycle museum.

Movie fans, they talked so much about Punxsutawney, Pa. ("Groundhog Day") that I began to suspect they might have been there more than once.

As they rolled out of my garage, Royal eyed the discarded trailer tire.

"I hope you won't have to pay a disposal fee for that," he said.

"Oh no," replied my wife Bonnie. "I plan to use it as a planter in the garden."

Friday, August 21, 2015

Confessions of a lonely Royal Enfield commuter

It was the first time I took a trip so long I felt I needed a map.
Plenty of the Royal Enfield motorcycles listed for sale on this blog are 10 years old or more — yet have barely 1,000 miles on the odometer, if that.

I'm proud that my 16-year-old Royal Enfield Bullet is showing 43,000 miles on its odometer.

But I have a confession.

Yes, I rode all those miles myself. But I did almost all of it in 50-mile increments, as a commuter.

What kind of motorcyclist are you, if you've never ridden all day, explored new regions over vast distances, or climbed high mountain passes?

I mean, seriously: all I ever did was run city streets 25 miles to work and then home again. I could have done it on a scooter, much less the Himalayan-conquering Royal Enfield Bullet.

Commuting had its challenges. I rode in all weather, often before dawn or after sunset. I needed to get to work, so the Bullet had to carry on, regardless. I adjusted valves and brakes, and replaced clutch cables by the side of the road.

The job I commuted to is now gone. The Bullet still gets exercise, but I haven't racked up any miles touring. I don't carry passengers (personal preference — I don't even have a pillion seat). My wife and I take the car when we go out of town.

But, last week, she was out of town visiting. I was free to accept an invitation from a friend to have lunch with him in the next county. It would mean a round trip of 80 miles — incredibly, the farthest my Bullet has ever travelled in a single day.

"Are you going to get a blog item out of this?" asked my friend, author Douglas Kalajian. It's an ongoing joke that he only writes an item for his blog, Born in Midair, when he has something worthwhile to say.

Yes, I am going to get a blog item out of it. And here is what I have to say: my Bullet didn't seem to mind as we crossed the 50-mile threshold.

I looked down at its nacelle, as if to ask "what are you thinking? Are you getting too hot? Is this too fast for you? Too far?"

The answer was the happy purr (well, clashing) of the motor and a willingness to go 5 mph faster when asked.

I could get to like this. "We" could get to like this. Let's just keep going.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Royal Enfield takes on its own distribution in the U.S.
as Kevin Mahoney and Classic Motorworks carry on

Many in the United States wouldn't know Royal Enfield without the involvement of the importer Classic Motorworks and its owner Kevin Mahoney.

Now Dealer News reports that distribution is transitioning to Royal Enfield America, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eicher Motors, Ltd. of India. President of the new company is Rod Copes, formerly of Harley-Davidson.

Kevin Mahoney built a new foundation for
Royal Enfield in the United States.
Classic Motorworks will carry on supplying parts and sidecars for a variety of motorcycle brands, and its popular online Community Forum will continue, but without Royal Enfield branding, Kevin told me.

Royal Enfield was absent and invisible in the U.S. until Kevin put his full energy and money into it in 1999. He told me the full story of how it happened almost by accident when he unwittingly became a "dealer" by ordering motorcycles for himself and a few friends.

Dealer News said Mahoney is confident that the resources Royal Enfield corporate can bring to the brand will benefit dealers and customers.

“I have enjoyed every minute of being in the industry," it quotes him.

"It has never been about motorcycling as such, but rather the chase of business and most importantly the great people, dealers and customers I have been able to interact with. The people I have laughed with, complained with, and generally loved the industry itself, have made this the best business adventure of my entrepreneurial career. Not the best money maker but the most fun for certain.”

The transition means many changes for Royal Enfield in the U.S., Dealer News said, including locating new sales, marketing and administration headquarters in Milwaukee, Wis. and moving vehicle distribution, perhaps, to Dallas, Texas. Parts distribution will be considered too.

Mahoney told me that "Royal Enfield has been putting a lot of money into enhancing the brand here, and improving the customer experience. If I was a customer I would see this as nothing but upside."

As distributor for Royal Enfield, Mahoney said he personally read every warranty claim.

Not every customer was happy.

On the Community Forum Mahoney took that in stride. He was always frank about the perceived shortcomings of Royal Enfield motorcycles (mercifully fewer now than in 1999) but reassuring that the fun would still be there if you fixed what was wrong and carried on.

Classic Motorworks will carry on in Faribault, Minn., where Kevin told me he has "the best team I've ever worked with in my entire career."

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