Friday, March 16, 2018

Royal Enfields named Olive & Emilie and their owners

Chris and Mike Black with their Royal Enfields, Olive and Emilie.
Paul Davis Photography Photo
If you're a fan of Royal Enfield motorcycles, and you've been on Facebook, you've probably encountered two happy people riding around on Royal Enfields and you probably assumed their names must be Olive and Emilie.

That's because their Facebook page is entitled "The Adventures of Olive & Emilie."

But no. Olive & Emilie are the nicknames of their Royal Enfield motorcycles. The riders are Mike and Chris Black, of Tucson, Ariz. Their enthusiasm for Royal Enfields won them the title of Southwest Regional Brand Ambassadors for Royal Enfield.

But their enthusiasm for their motorcycles came first.

It was their Royal Enfields and their love of travel and the outdoors and their obvious joy in living that brought their Facebook page to the attention of Royal Enfield North America.

It's a story they love telling and they shared it with me when we sat down for a moment at the launch of the new Royal Enfield Himalayan adventure motorcycle in Texas.

The Blacks tell their story with a bit of a German accent. Both grew up in Germany. Chris is German, but Mike is an American kid, a "military brat," raised overseas.

He grew up to join the Air Force himself, serving with Blackhawk helicopters in Kuwait and Turkey. He's now employed by a contractor that services helicopters for the Department of Homeland Security. He volunteered to keep the choppers running in Puerto Rico, bringing relief after Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Motorcycling had been on the back burner for Mike when, in 2012, as a gift marking the bachelor's in business management he earned while working full time, the couple started looking for a motorcycle.

In what Chris calls "a magical moment" they spotted a Royal Enfield in the corner of a shop they visited. The mistook it for a vintage bike. But when they learned it was a new Royal Enfield, and, better yet, the Desert Storm model, it seemed the natural thing to buy.

So that accounts for "Olive."

Growing up, Chris hadn't been allowed on motorcycles. But after riding pillion on Olive, she began to get ideas. At age 51 she signed up for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course.

Mike told her the morning of class that he had already ordered a second Royal Enfield motorcycle for her.

"No pressure!" Chris notes. She was the only one in her class to pass the course.

So that accounts for "Emilie."

The Adventures of Olive & Emilie Facebook page began as a way to let friends and family know about their activities. They had decided to get "back to basics" in life and Royal Enfields seemed to fit.

They're "unpretentious, honest motorcycles," Chris said.

"No one expects you to act a certain way" when you ride a Royal Enfield.

The Blacks love being approached by people young and old fascinated by their Royal Enfields. They treasure the response from one rider of a bigger motorcycle: "Now that is a real bike."

The Blacks use words such as "simplicity" and "less is more" to describe their philosophy about life and what they appreciate in Royal Enfield motorcycles.

For instance, they motorcycle together but deliberately don't use radio headsets. If hand signals become confusing, they just stop and talk. Simple.

The Facebook page currently has more than 1,000 followers. Naturally they get questions.

One rider in Dubai wrote to ask what he could do to reduce the vibration of his Royal Enfield. Their answer was characteristic of them:

"We just embrace it."

They were delighted when the guy picked up on the spirit of that suggestion. "That's just what I'm going to do," he responded.

As brand ambassadors for Royal Enfield the Blacks just keep on doing what they're doing. They are not paid, but were given a Royal Enfield Continental GT that also turns up on The Adventures of Olive & Emilie.

"They don't tell you what to say," Chris said.

Frankly, no one could write a script for these two people. They're writing their own and you can follow along on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Royal Enfield 650 twins sparkle someone else's eyes

It's hard to ignore Royal Enfield's new 650 twins.
I'm sitting at the Royal Enfield Himalayan launch event, salivating over a different Royal Enfield. To my surprise, Royal Enfield had brought the new 650 twins, not yet introduced to the United States.

Sexy, sleek and presumably faster than the trials-style Himalayan, the Continental GT 650 cafe racer and INT650 Interceptor can't help drawing attention.

I'd seen them at the Long Beach International Motorcycle Show, but they were on pedestals there, giving off a definite "look but don't touch" vibe. At the Himalayan launch the new twins sat the floor near the bar. They seemed approachable and, when others tried swinging a leg over them I wasn't too shy to try myself.

Of course they felt great, although sitting on a motorcycle inside a banquet hall is bound to feel a bit foolish.

Sleek and sexy looking Royal Enfield 650 twins.
Still, if anything, they were more attractive when seen at ground level than they had been on the show floor.

I can't say they felt light. I'll call them substantial, like my own iron barrel Royal Enfield Bullet. But with much more power they certainly promise to turn frisky on the road.

While the Himalayan certainly impresses — one moto-journalist present called it "the perfect going to college motorcycle" — the 650 twins looked like more ultimate joy.

My college room mate, back in the day, had a gorgeous Triumph Bonneville and a very pretty girl friend. The guy, the girl and the British motorcycle made an impressive sight on a Spring day. That was long ago.

Last I heard, he had married the girl. That guy and that girl grew up and moved along.

But it looks to me as though Royal Enfield is bringing back that motorcycle, at least. Is there one in your plans for next Spring?

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