Friday, August 18, 2017

It's hard to be humble when you ride a Royal Enfield

"Some people will tell you that slow is good – but I’m here to tell you that fast is better. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me. Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba…"
--Hunter S. Thompson

It's hard to be humble when you ride a Royal Enfield

Here are some thoughts about Royal Enfield motorcycles, pride, humility, Lawrence of Arabia, Hunter S. Thompson and the plague of scooters on our roads.

If none of this makes sense, forgive me. It will at least serve to illustrate the train of thought a Royal Enfield rider experiences as he motors to no where in particular.

I took such a ride yesterday, with no goal in mind, "just to keep the battery up," a woeful excuse lacking all sense of real purpose.

Being in no hurry, I of course found the traffic moving too fast for my taste.

Hunter S. Thompson wrote that "fast is better."

It's not. Speed is exhilarating but it robs the ride of all the small joys that make motorcycling so pleasant. In this case, I was particularly enjoying how well the gearbox of my Royal Enfield shifts now that I've improved the linkage.

T.E. Lawrence — Lawrence of Arabia — has been said to have been addicted to speed. His wonderful description of his race on his Brough Superior motorcycle with an RAF Bristol Fighter certainly captures his love of speed.

But I ask you this: if Lawrence so enjoyed speed, why didn't he just get an airplane?

Well, perhaps, even at its bespoke price, the Brough was more affordable than an airplane. But I have another explanation.

Motorcycle riders can go for a blast, as Lawrence did that morning, and then return and park the motorcycle without diminishing the excitement in their veins.

Contrast that with flying an airplane. The take off may well be exhilarating. But then there is that long, slow approach to the landing, deliberately giving away altitude while carefully loosing speed.

Up ahead, barely in sight, is the precise spot on the runway where the airplane must finally be going so slowly that it stops flying, with its all too delicate landing gear just kissing the ground without being crushed by the fall from the sky.

It's a fraught, exacting process that no doubt leaves pilots sweating and grateful for their luck — not at all like roaring home on a motorcycle, still flushed with the thrill of speed.

Which is why I bring up Royal Enfield motorcycles. These have more personality than other motorcycles. Chief wish of the Royal Enfield Bullet I own seems to be to ensure that I remain, at all times, exhilarated, yet still humble in its presence.

And so, as I made my ride-to-nowhere yesterday, I displayed too much pride when a fellow on a damned little scooter shot by me — in my lane! — as if I was standing still!

Offended, I kept the guy on the scooter in my sights and, as traffic would have it, was soon able to overhaul him when he stopped for a red light.

Choosing the lane next to his I went by as slowly as possible, obviously drawing his attention. I raised my right hand and I — waved.

It was a gallant little wave — knights of the road and all that — to illustrate that not only could I catch him, I was confident of my ability to do so and not at all offended that he had momentarily seemed to show me up.

At that very moment my motor quit.

Smile frozen on my face, I coasted to the curb and paddled the motorcycle up a curb cut and onto the sidewalk. The scooterist beeped his horn as the light changed to green. Bye!

I turned off the ignition with the key and dismounted, prepared for whatever punishment the Bullet meant to meet out.

I immediately noticed the kill switch was on "off." I had waved with my right hand and returned my palm to the right hand grip, apparently brushing the switch there to "off" in the process.

Examining the switch, it's hard to see how it's even possible.

Yet there is no other explanation — unless you believe the Bullet itself moved the switch to teach me a lesson.

The source of my humiliation.

Friday, August 11, 2017

A visit to the Royal Enfield USA store in Milwaukee

How much is that Royal Enfield in the window?
It wasn't part of the plan to visit the flagship store of Royal Enfield North America in Milwaukee.

But when a trip to see my wife's mother put us in the city's Historic Third Ward it was easy for Bonnie to suggest I stop in, "just to look around."

So, with wife and mother-in-law waiting in the car outside, I dashed in to see what new Royal Enfield colors might be on view.

Sign on building emphasizes Royal Enfield's long history.
Like many buildings in the old-timey Milwaukee neighborhood it's in, the Royal Enfield dealership is a historic 1914 building. I wrote about the history of the building in this blog post.

It's worth strolling the up-and-coming neighborhood to see how the great old buildings are being restored and utilized.

Royal Enfield Milwaukee is in a historic 1914 Old Third Ward building.
But I didn't have time to do much more than wave at the dealership employees on duty and promise to spend more time "next time" I get to town.

The newest model on site was the Himalayan, which likely won't go on sale until "this autumn," one of the representatives told me. I assume that is the optimistic view.

The Himalayan on view in the store isn't for sale — yet.
I was glad to see the new Squadron Blue color for the first time, in person. I was surprised it is not glossy. It's a military-style paint job, in line with the Desert Storm and Battle Green tributes to Royal Enfield's long history of serving the armed forces.

I shared a joke about Milwaukee winters with the sales representatives. And then it was time to go.

Royal Enfield of Milwaukee is at 226 N Water St., Milwaukee, Wis. They're open 10-6 Tuesday through Friday, 10-4 Saturday, and Sunday 11 to 3. Closed Mondays.

Squadron Blue joins the other military colors,
Desert Storm and Battle Green.
A party at the Milwaukee showroom is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 9, with food, drink, music, test rides and, of course, the full line of Royal Enfields to see for yourself.

Sure way to draw customers: Put a Royal Enfield outside the store!

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