Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Epic journey through Africa by 1955 Royal Enfield Bullet

Intrepid couple and 1955 Royal Enfield Bullet they took to Africa.
Richard Miller, author of the Red Devil Motors blog, crossed Africa on a 1955 Royal Enfield Bullet. He recently re-posted the link to his travelogue of this adventure, carried out over 18 months, 10 years ago.

His diary of border and river crossings, strandings, breakdowns and improvised motorcycle repairs remains good reading. Since it was composed in the random Internet cafes of the day, the entries are short and punchy.

Richard did much of the trip two-up with then girlfriend Sascha Meyer. Through mud and rain and presumed danger they pressed on to success. Best proofs of success: Richard still has the Royal Enfield, and he married the girl.

Problems? The second entry in the diary begins with the word "Dammit!"

But the "sun shines as it should" through France, Switzerland, Italy and Greece. Challenges arise as they carry on through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania... My command of African geography becomes strained as the travelers take on deserts, bad roads and sagging mattresses.

This river crossing looks a bit chancy.
A river, but no bridge? Into a tiny boat goes the Royal Enfield, water lapping at the gunwale. The motorcycle smokes, rattles, sheds parts, breaks parts, bogs down in mud, but somehow Richard keeps it running.

By midway through you're rooting for him to either make his goal or end the suspense and go home to comfort and safety.

Why do this, in 2006, on a motorcycle that even then is 45 years old? Richard explains that he knows how to fix it, parts are cheap, it's a conversation starter and "breakdowns are fun."

A wrench serves as a splint for broken Royal Enfield.
And so it seems, as he makes friends with the people he meets through genuine necessity as well as sincere interest.

And he gets engaged!

As for the Royal Enfield Bullet, Richard says it is a "1955 500cc Redditch-built example but fitted with a mostly Indian motor and Indian wheels (for the disc brake at the front and quick release at the back to ease puncture repairs). The choice of Indian motor was down to me having a proven motor spare and ready to fit. The British one was untested; I still have it though and it shall go back in the bike.

"I still have (the bike), albeit in pieces. It has patiently waited its turn but is now nearly at the top of the list and I hope to start working on resurrecting it in 2018."

Note: A peculiarity of the travelogue is that once you get on Page 2, you have to keep going up to the top to hit "Apply" to read the next installment. It's well worth the trouble.

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