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Friday, November 21, 2014

Accessories improve look of Royal Enfield Bullet

Standard Royal Enfield Bullet is improved by subtle upgrades.
A 2001 Royal Enfield Bullet 500 for sale on eBay in Washington state is just about perfect.

Literally. It has only 50 miles on the odometer. The seller says he bought it only for display, kept it in his climate controlled home museum, and rode it only three times.

But that's not why I consider it "perfect." To my eye, this Bullet has been tastefully modified in ways I might have done myself, if I'd wanted to spend the money. The seller listed the changes made:

  • K&N air filter
  • Duck bill breather
  • Relocated horn
  • Chrome brake rod w/nut.
  • Chrome chain adjusters
  • Chrome rear wheel spacers
  • Chrome rear wheel hub cover
  • Bar-end mirrors
  • 350 front fender and fender stays
  • Re-jetted carb
  • Big tri-bar headlight and mounting ring
  • Removed turn indicators
  • Solo riding seat
  • Re-mounted electronics out of sight
  • More open muffler
  • Removed rear pegs

He doesn't even mention the tomb stone tail light fitted. While my own Bullet has the solo seat, I never got around to removing the passenger pegs. This man did, and it's a nice touch.

Clean look, but visible air filter looks too modern to my eyes.
I would have left the turn signals and the air filter box; the visible K&N filter looks too "modern" to me.

Note that although the electrics were relocated, the battery box remains, so there is no "see-through frame" effect anyway — so nothing would be lost by putting that K&N in the original air filter box.

Fuller 350 model front fender looks better than version on 500.
On the other hand, the switch to the better looking 350 front fender is subtle but effective. However, I wouldn't pay to replace a fender until I'm done denting the old one. That's the difference between cheap me and particular him.

Big headlight looks great.
Relocated horn is neat but why does it face down?
I think he got this one right.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Royal Enfield hires designer Pierre Terblanche

Royal Enfield brings on Pierre Terblanche.
(Photo from Twisting Asphalt.)
Royal Enfield has engaged the services of Pierre Terblanche, a South African widely considered "one of the most influential motorcycle designers in the world today."

Rather a surprising move from a company that hasn't found the need to change the basic look of its most iconic products since — actually? — at least 1955.

Most famous for his designs at Ducati, Terblanche is responsible for motorcycles that look to me to be nothing at all like any Royal Enfield marketed so far.

Here's a short YouTube video of Terblanche discussing one of his Ducati designs. Never mind the motorcycle. Watch the way he strokes the motorcycle with his hand as he speaks.

This is a person who cares about design. He obviously hasn't joined Royal Enfield to reinterpret the glories of its 1949 model.

And Royal Enfield hasn't hired him to turn back the clock. Here's the quote from Siddhartha Lal, managing director and CEO of parent company Eicher Motors Ltd.:

"I am very excited that Pierre Terblanche has recently joined our team; he is one of the most prolific industrial designers for motorcycles, and is best known for having created some extra-ordinary motorcycles as the head of design for Ducati for over a decade."

The key words there are probably "extra-ordinary." On Twitter Lal referred to Terblanche as "the motorcycle design genius of our generation."

The BikeEXIF interview with Pierre Terblanche is three years old, but it is revealing and it is the link Lal provided on his Twitter feed.  It may provide a further clue to what Lal is thinking Terblanche can bring to Royal Enfield.

My favorite part is Terblanche's reply to a critic under "Comments."

"You have to remember that I am a designer and that we are notoriously romantic."

I like that.

I also liked his passing reference to the classic (and often beautiful) fighter planes of World War II.

"I like Spitfires. Not as much as the Mustang P-51 or the P-38. But it's nice."

Friday, November 14, 2014

1967 Royal Enfield Continental GT: What price patina?

Is there room in your heart for this little Royal Enfield?
I'm sure I wasn't the only enthusiast pausing to consider the 1967 Royal Enfield Continental GT for sale on eBay in Ohio recently.

"In this auction we have a 1967 250cc Royal Enfield Continental GT that has a barn fresh patina, a few extra parts, and a strong running motor," the seller wrote. "Here is a video of it being started and idling."

There were lots of negatives: Rear rim, bent. Fork tubes, bent. Swing arm, bent. Busted gauges. Busted headlamp. Missing seat.

Restore it? Or leave the evidence of a hard life?
But it runs and, yes, the patina. What patina! Why not just leave those gutted gauges the way they are? Try to make the forks somehow roadworthy? Keep that delicate looking, scratched up brake cooling intake as it is.

Why is patina appealing, when "wear and tear" is not? And what is patina worth, if anything?

In the December issue of Car and Driver columnist Ezra Dyer has an interesting take on "barn cars," the hottest new/old thing on the auction circuit.

"Just a few years back, you'd go to an auction like this and look for a car that was clean, shiny, and freshly tuned up. Like a total idiot! Originality, we now know, is more valuable than superficial considerations like beauty or safety...

"Up is down left is right and bad cars are good cars," he writes.

As Dyer points out, part of the appeal of patina is the obvious originality. It strikes me that most of what is left of this Continental GT probably is original to it. No one would have swapped in broken parts. This is not "faux patina" — distressed paint added to make a merely mediocre motorcycle look meaningful.

So it's historically accurate, anyway.

Tiny brake cooling duct.
Trouble is, this little motorcycle led an historically very tough life.

It's a question every buyer has to answer. Yes, a motorcycle is only "original" once and patina is evidence of that originality.

But it also is true that a motorcycle is only "new" once and patina equals "very used."

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