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Monday, October 10, 2011

Pioneering manual for Royal Enfield Bullet is back

Illustration from Royal Enfield workshop manual.
On Feb. 27, 2002, Boni Gopalan announced to the Royal Enfield Yahoo discussion group that "A draft version of online manual is available." It was posted at a link on Tripod.com.

For fledgling Royal Enfield Bullet owners like me, the Tripod manual was a first look inside the mysterious workings of my Bullet. It was a revelation, especially in the United States, where owners were widely separated and had nothing to work with but the meager owners' manual that came with their new motorcycles.

I printed out the pages I wanted. Probably because I relied on those print-outs instead of the website itself, I wasn't aware that the Tripod manual, as I called it, had vanished from the Internet.

Now it's back.

"Old timers might remember the history behind workshopmanual.tripod.com — which later became enfielder.com. Anyway, both these websites experienced an engine cease some time back and I was a bit busy with some personal stuff to get the content back online," Boni told the Yahoo group, in May.

"As they say, an error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it. So this weekend I sought some redemption. Bought a domain and hosting space, located the content from some long forgotten hard disks and propped the website back. Here it is: Royal Enfield Bullet Workshop Manual.

"Hope this is of some help as it did for many years. Suggestions for improvement are always welcome."

I was glad to see it back, even if it wasn't properly called the Tripod manual anymore. But what was the history of this pioneering effort?

There wasn't much applause, at first, back in 2002. "I appreciate your work," one member of the Yahoo group responded to Boni's announcement, and that was it.

These were the years of constant Flame Wars on Internet groups. Boni was accused of plagiarism, to which he responded, upset, that the workshop manual was in the public domain and he had permission from Royal Enfield to post the manual.

His comments only brought more criticism.

Some were concerned that this free manual undercut Pete Snidal's efforts, then underway, to prepare a better workshop manual that would hopefully pay him for his efforts.

The need for a new manual was obvious, Pete noted in those days: "I have a Redditch manual (laughably vague and assuming of expertise before it starts) and an Indian one, and the exploded drawings are different..."

Pete questioned Boni's effort in a message entitled "The Nefarious Manual Project" (the word "nefarious" had been used by someone else, not Pete, to refer to the effort).

But that quickly changed. Pete took the high road, welcoming the Tripod manual.

"Had a little spare time at work today, and checked out Boni's manual site, and want to say This about That," Pete wrote.

"Personally, I think it's a laudable project that should be appreciated by all Enfield fans everywhere."

Even Royal Enfield should be grateful, Pete added:

"The factory should appreciate it, since in the end, it adds support to their customers world-over — not everyone has the option of running down to the corner store and buying a manual, and a badly-adjusted Enfield is hardly an ambassador for the marque at any time."

Pete even wrote an item to be included in the online manual. Boni replied:

"We (I am talking on behalf of a team of 16 who are spending some time to put the workshop manual online) are highly honored by Pete Snidal's comments. I have published Pete's article on 'Checking and Setting the Ignition Timing' ... This is the right spirit with which we can approach this project...

"I understand and acknowledge the fact that the original publication is erratic at times. Also the language is bad. The lay out of chapters are the worst. BUT can't we correct it? Yes we can, the work is underway; Pat Brennan, a gentleman from Ireland is doing the proof reading of the manual. Aim is to make it readable. Next phase will be to do technical proof reading. It will be a lot easier and faster since we will have it in electronic format."

That was a decade ago. I wrote Boni recently to ask about the history of the online manual, and why he brought it back to life.

"The old website was an online community effort by Bulleteers who never had a chance to ride together in real life. We all met on the Royal Enfield Yahoo Groups. I did not know that there are online Enfield groups or that there are people like me who love the Bullet in places other than India when I moved to the U.S. in 2000 for work. Since I was without my Bullet in the U.S. I became extra active on the online forums.

"Soon I was convinced that there is a vacuum in foreign lands when it comes to fixing Enfields the right way. Though the official manual is not all correct I thought why not make it available online. So I gave a shout in the Yahoo groups for volunteers to help me digitize the workshop manual.  In parallel I sought and secured the permission of REL, Chennai for the proposal.  A dozen or so people answered my call.

"There were people from Australia, U.S., Ireland and of course India.  I co-ordinated the work in that I assigned chapters for digitization to individuals. They typed up and proofread the stuff. I converted the content to web pages and organized. I think it took about a month or so to get all the pages done.

"We hosted it on (Tripod) initially. After a couple of years I moved it to enfielder.com. Around this time we did a complete makeover for the website by spending a few dollars on eLance and started incorporating Google ads to pay for the hosting — this making the website self-sufficient. It ran very well 'til 2009. That was a particularly difficult year for me and as I was caught up with stuff on the personal front the website lapsed. I lost the domain name and hosting account.

"Now through Fix My Bull I am trying get things back in order."

I appreciate your work.

2 comments:

  1. Looks like a good job...never too much Bullet info!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Somethink else I'd like to see reappear are thearticles from the old DRS
    website in the mid 2000's, durinDdan Homes racing days

    ReplyDelete

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