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Thursday, February 12, 2009

The motorcycle whisperer: does he exist?

Here's a quick quiz for you:

Q. What is the single cheapest accessory you can buy to improve the sound of your Royal Enfield Bullet?

A. Earplugs.

I'm serious. A couple of cheap foam earplugs shut out the howl of the wind and the higher pitched clatterings common to Royal Enfield Bullets. What comes through are the pleasant, low frequency thumps of the engine and exhaust. They are almost more felt than heard.

An added benefit is that they help eliminate the fearful "what was THAT noise?" that pesters riders. Nothing spoils a ride like anticipating mechanical troubles that never come.

Listening for mechanical troubles is naturally part of your job as your Bullet's favorite mechanic. Many stray noises have easy fixes (my rear fender rattled on acceleration because the bolt holding a stay had jumped overboard). Some noises are more mysterious and I prefer to take them to a real mechanic, Wes Scott in Fort Lauderdale.

As good as he is at diagnosing unfunny sounds, he has never claimed to be as good as Dinaker Kulal, a Royal Enfield mechanic featured in The Times of India. Kulal has spent a working lifetime at Royal Enfield dealerships and now has his own Bullet garage in Mangalore. The Times credits him with ears that identify problems.

New Enfields will feature electronic ignition and fuel injection, and I wonder if that is part of the reason Kulal favors the original Bullets. Computers must be hard to diagnose by sound.

"Original is original. The thump, the beat. It's a royal ride," he says.

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