Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Who's the REAL Royal Enfield adventurer?

Royal Enfield riders set high standards when it comes to real motorcycling. The Guardian's television critic once took a no-frills journey by Royal Enfield and found his blood pressure rising when a "reality TV" star took the "risk" of travelling by Bullet. Here's what Sam Wollaston had to say:

"Previously I was bored by Charley Boorman: Ireland to Sydney By Any Means (BBC2, Sunday), for grinning and whooping his way pointlessly round the world. Now I'm cross with him. He's riding through India on a Royal Enfield Bullet (that's a motorbike, an old British one that they still make in India).

"I'm cross because I did that once, and now he's both encroaching on my territory and tarnishing my memory.

"But suddenly I'm over it. His bike has an electric start, you see; mine you started with a kick, the proper way. And Charley only rides his Bullet from Delhi to Agra, a day trip, with all his pals and back-up vehicles and camera crews. Presumably they then hire some locals to take their bikes back to Delhi.

"I bought mine, and took it the length of the country, from bottom to top, then into Pakistan and on home to Colchester. Three (quite lonely, to be honest) months.

"And it gets better, because Charley can't get across the Persian Gulf on a dhow, which is obviously the only way to cross the gulf - the way I did it, naturally, with my bike, on a pile of oranges. But none of the dhows want Charley and his entourage of annoying TV people, so he ends up taking the fast ferry.

"Ha, call yourself a traveller? You're a tourist."

Wollaston's reaction is so typical of the veteran motorcyclist's attitude toward anyone who is motorcycling without risking cold, wet, hunger, sunburn or piracy. Part of the exhilaration of riding a Royal Enfield, at least, is overcoming all obstacles and on only one cylinder. If there are no obstacles, it almost seems too easy.

My suggestion (I've made it before): try leaving your cell phone at home. The Bullet didn't come with a cell phone in 1955.

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