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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Royal Enfield is a piece of history without the wear

My 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet lives in "the real world."
"Own a piece of history without all the wear of time..."

That's how Royal Enfield dealer MC Supply in Hastings, Mich. put it, in an eBay ad for a Royal Enfield motorcycle.

I liked the line so well that I wrote to ask who was the author.

"Sarah in Parts had that pop out of her head (not exactly what she said). She has no problem with you using it," came the response, from "Ed."

Well, Sarah, that was a great way to put it.

It answers, in part, a question put by "John in the UK" recently on the Royal Enfield Yahoo message board. He was responding to advice on the board that owners of the original made-in-India Royal Enfield Bullets hold down speed to improve reliability.

"Am I reading this right?" John asked. "Fifty-five miles per hour is the best speed for these Indian bikes? I ride my 1947 Model G faster than that with no trouble. Why do people buy them if they go wrong so often? Why not buy a real Enfield (British)? Not only do they need less maintenance, they go up in value."

I replied to John, listing my reasons, and keeping in mind that Britain stopped building "real" Royal Enfields 40 years ago:

1. I was a new rider (although I'm an old guy) of limited mechanical ability to handle a rebuild or source parts and thus liked the idea of buying a new motorcycle, with a warranty, until I could gain some skills.

2. Availability. I'm in the U.S. and I needed a motor vehicle immediately to commute to work. The Bullet could be purchased at once, ready to roll. I did the break-in while going back and forth to work.

3. No guilt. I'd attempted to restore a couple of old cars, and so badly botched the effort that they went to the junkyard afterward. Since the Bullet was still in production, I felt I had no obligation to history in using it up. And, as I say, I wanted to commute, so the miles built up very quickly (although I never have managed to use it up).

4. The experience of riding and maintaining a vintage motorcycle was still there. I don't feel I've missed out at all on the challenges riders faced in 1955. I run it in all weather (OK, I live in Florida, so the weather is usually beautiful, but it does rain here) and I don't baby it the way I might a true classic. I like to say that it "lives in the real world."

5. Just plain liked it.

I was proud of my answer. But I really think Sarah said it better.

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