Friday, May 1, 2020

A fine Sunday ride on an old Royal Enfield motorcycle

Rear-view mirror with broken stalk in front of Royal Enfield.
This broken mirror still went along for the ride. In my pocket.
It was a fine Sunday morning for a ride on my 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet. The sun wasn't up yet, but there was a huge full moon lighting up the neighborhood.

I half hated to break the silence by kicking my motorcycle to life — and half afraid it would be pretty quiet if it didn't start.

It didn't start; not right away. I've been experimenting with not cleaning the spark plug between rides, to see if it is really necessary. I was thinking that might be the problem when, suddenly, success! The Royal Enfield came to life on the fourth or fifth kick.

As I swung onto the seat I noticed that the left-side rear-view mirror was sagging. Sure enough, when I reached over to straighten it at the first stop sign it came off in my hand.

The stalk looked like a victim of rust and vibration. It was an inexpensive after-market mirror, but I had liked it because it was metal, in keeping with my vintage motorcycle. But metal rusts.

I stuck the mirror, stalk and all, into my pocket and rode on.

With one mirror gone there was a delightful illusion that there was no traffic behind me to my left. I swiveled my head to compensate for the loss of side/rear vision.

Still, the false sense of being uncrowded by other vehicles was enjoyable. I made a mental note not to get to like it too much.

The Royal Enfield and I took our usual Sunday detour, past the airport. The presence of the runways means there are no intersections or stop lights for a long ways and the Bullet likes to gallop — all the way up to 50 or 55 mph.

The stop light at the end of the airport, though, is a long one, and the Bullet and I sat, and sat, and sat, waiting for our turn. When it came, the Bullet's motor gently resumed its slumber.

I waddled the motorcycle over to the median and went through the starting routine. Out of gas? Maybe. Or maybe the Bullet had just gotten so bored waiting at the light it fell asleep?

On the chance that low gas was the problem I switched to Reserve.

We'd missed our turn at the light by the time the motor restarted. But, with almost no traffic around at this hour I made my U-turn anyway, lining up for another high-speed pass alongside the runway.

It was still early, so the motorcycle and I spent a few moments practicing turns in an empty parking lot. Still pretty awkward at it, after all these years. But I've recently come across advice that the best way to turn tight is to go slow. Seems obvious, but it's hard to stay off that throttle!

While in the parking lot I deliberately shut off the motor, as I was now confident it would start — at least on Reserve.

It didn't.

After many kicks I decided that spark plug would have to be cleaned or replaced after all. Off came my jacket and out came the tools and spare spark plug.

"Are you stuck?" a woman on her way to her car asked me. I said I was not stuck, and thanked her for asking.

But I half assumed I might very well be stuck.

With the spare plug was installed and the tool box buttoned up, the Bullet started. I could ride home.

But first I stopped at a gas station to tank up. I checked the receipt to see how much fuel the Bullet had taken: 3.2 gallons.

It had been empty after all.


  1. Who says an old Bullet isn't an Adventure Bike? If every ride is a trip into the unknown, isn't that adventure?

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  3. Nice write-up! Glad you carried enough parts & tools to get moving again, good planning. Riding a Bullet requires an adaptable mindset; that's part of the Bullet experience in my opinion. Anyone can take a new machine around the block, but you have to be willing to be an actual participant when riding the Iron Barrel. Nice Norton link Jorge!

  4. Properly set up it should fire first or second kick. You have a problem somewhere.

  5. I just love this blog...


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