Friday, February 19, 2010

Royal Enfields teach lessons to travelers

Encounters with Royal Enfield motorcycles are something many visitors seem to experience in India. Their stories often emphasize how these peculiar motorcycles end up teaching them something about themselves, about India and about its people.

A Royal Adventure by traveler Tucker Bradford is typical of these, but his gentle story telling ability makes it special as well. He tells it on his blog, Forge over. The blog name, he explains, is a nautical term for pressing on, regardless.

In that spirit he and his father visited India in 2009 and rented Royal Enfield motorcycles.

Bradford is an American who lives in the San Francisco Bay area. He went to India to attend the TEDIndia conference. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a U.S private nonprofit foundation devoted to "ideas worth spreading." Speakers deemed to have good ideas are allotted no more than 18 minutes to make their points, and the lectures hit the Internet on social media.

Bradford provides links to those, but the story of his experience with Royal Enfield Bullets is on his blog. Here's a brief excerpt:

Just past the top of the first hill, I had discovered that my bike had no hand brakes. I didn’t fully appreciate the gravity of this until I stalled out on a hill and was forced to brace the bike’s peg against my shin in order to keep it from rolling away from me while I kickstarted it. I wasn’t going to let a little thing like brakes stop me, so I waved my dad on, and we headed off in a thoroughly futile search for fuel.

We were retracing a stretch of road for what felt like the third time when my dad’s bike stalled out on him. Try as he might he could not get the engine to start. After 10 or so minutes someone from the crowd (who had been watching with unmasked glee) stepped forward to reteach us how to kickstart the bikes. This was the first indication I had that everyone in Karala seems to know how to fix and ride a Royal Enfield.

Disappointed, we decided to head back to the hotel and demand a Hero Honda. We almost made it too when (wait for it) … dad ran out of gas. We talked for a moment or two and decided to ditch his bike and head back to the hotel on my bike. At that moment an onlooker (Bali Ali) came bounding over to our rescue.

“What’s wrong,” he asked.

“No gas,” we said

“Why not just take some from one tank and put it in the other,” he rejoined.

Dad and I looked blankly.

“Here, park it on my side and I’ll help you.”

Bali headed into his work-in-progress shop (he and his buddies were building it when we arrived) and came out with some Chai.

“Want some tea?” he offered. I accepted only to find out that he had just offered me the tea that he was about to drink. “I’ll share with my friend, you share with your dad.”

The tea was awesome, and it was sweetened with the wholehearted generosity that Bali exuded. He grabbed an empty water bottle, and while I drank tea, proceeded to pop off the fuel line and drain about a half liter of gas into it. We poured that into our tank, finished the tea, chatted for a few more minutes and then as we were preparing to say goodbye, the guys who rented us the bikes showed up.

Was this cosmic synchronicity or did they get tipped off? We’ll never know. After we went down our laundry list of problems and they tightened the brakes up, we headed off to the petrol station in their wake.

The story continues on Bradford's blog.

1 comment:

  1. Great story that leaves you with a good feeling. Just think of that human beauty he'd missed if he'd been riding some boring HonSuzukamaha.


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