On Your Bike…

dan on a bike

I’ve just taken a Royal Enfield motorbike for a test drive at their factory in Chennai.  (writes Dan Isaacs of Newshour) -Fantastic. I’ve had a bit of a thing for them ever since I lived in India a year or two back. Nearly bought one but my wife put the khybosh on it. The ‘Bullet’ is a classic British bike from the 50s, still being produced in India today. Was it a Bullet Steve McQueen tried to make his get away on in the Great Escape?
Probably not, that would have been German, but you get the idea.

Perhaps you have a ‘dream machine’ you’ve always wanted to own but like me, never quite got up the courage to go for it? Or come to think of it, a magic film moment involving a great car or bike? I can think of quite a few.

There was of course a point to my trip, apart from simple pleasure of it. The Royal Enfield factory in Chennai — which is the only place on the world still making these bikes — is doing phenomenally well at the moment, expanding it’s export market rapidly despite very difficult global conditions for the automotive industry.

How have they been able to do it against the trend? You’ll be able to hear my report on the BBC and see a few more of my pictures up on the website in a few days time …

I’ll post here when i know it’s going out…and in the meantime if you have any bike stories, i’m all ears..

12 Responses to “On Your Bike…”

  1. 1 Roberto
    May 22, 2009 at 13:46

    RE “” Was it a Bullet Steve McQueen tried to make his get away on in the Great Escape? “”

    ———- It was a Triumph Bonneville as I recall.

    The film a loose adaptation, so it’s doubtful a spetacular jump was ever made by one of the escapees and of course a German bike would likely be used. McQ was a top shelf pro quality bike rider who could carry off the stunt and Triumph 650 was the superbike of the day. I believe Evel Kneivel also used one for a time in his stunts.

    Used to have an H1 Kawasaki 500 back when they were the fastest production bike in the world. Stripped it down, souped it up for too many escapades to responsibly admit to. Wouldn’t have a bike today except in low traffic areas. Cars often don’t see them and pull out from side streets without warning.

    I doubt the Royal Enfield you ride is much like the original. I’d want a Vincent 1000cc Black Lightning if I could afford an English classic. Factory took their Black Shadow and stripped it down and souped it up in the vein I did to my H1. Couple of really great folk songs written about this bike.

  2. 2 Dennis Junior
    May 22, 2009 at 13:57

    For Mark:

    [Dan Isaacs of Newshour]

    Just read your information, excellent reportage regarding riding the bike….Thanks for keep us updated regarding the time….of programme…

    ~Dennis Junior~

  3. 3 Anthony
    May 22, 2009 at 16:13

    I have a Yamaha TW200, which is a street legal dirt bike that I can get 60 miles a gallon with. My friends make fun of me since it’s not “cool” looking, but I can ride off of curbs, up dirt walls, and run through grass without skippin a beat. At my old job, I rode my bike and could ride up curbs easily to take short cuts. I stopped riding a while back when a white Mustang smashed into a Civic about 25 feet (about 7.5 meters for EVERYONE else in the world) right in front of me. I still take my bike up and romp on the dirt in the hills. Theres nothing like riding, you can leave the whole world behind, for just a few moments everything melts away and you feel that magical feeling as if you were a kid again. Man, I need to take my baby Giselle for a spin this weekend, it’s been a while and she needs some TLC.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

      May 22, 2009 at 20:20

      When it comes to bikes — Hmmm I love my Jap Crap; Yamaha XT 250J. Its 30-some years and doing fine. No repair jobs required and grubs the trail quite well.
      Not so much biking these days but I have had both adventures and misadventure like flying right on top of thorn bush on rough terrain. Of course I am afraid of pneumonia; that’s why I spend a lot of time advising young riders.
      I knowed them Enfields from Mister Singh a stone’s throw from hear at the foot of Kilimanjaro. My advise to you is simple; stick to the paved road because of that hard suspension unless the Indians have managed to negotiate around this prolem. The only shocks I knowed there were only two lille bicycle contraptions Mister Dan — hard as bare nuckles on your butt. Turns a man towards the sofa instead of hit the trail.

  4. May 23, 2009 at 15:10

    Dan, the bike you are shown riding is the new Royal Enfield C5 (Bullet Classic 500, officially) with the new unit constructed motor, five speed transmission, fuel injection, electric start and front disc brake. Miles ahead of the Royal Enfields built for 50 years in Chennai and still beloved by vintage motorcycle fanatics around the world. Although the C5 is something new for Royal Enfield, it remains evocative of the original, with retro styling and a 500cc single-cylinder long-stroke thumper of a motor (although now with self-adjusting push rods). It’s still a timepiece, but it is the top of the line timepiece from Royal Enfield. You look great on it. All best. David in Fort Lauderdale.

  5. 6 archibald in oregon
    May 23, 2009 at 18:56

    It was actually a BMW, evidenced by the protruding cylinder heads so characteristic of Bavarian Motor Works cycles. I do not think that the German army would be riding British machines, since they viewed German technology as superior to all others, at least during WWII.

  6. 7 Peter Dobbie
    May 24, 2009 at 17:25

    Hi Dan, great pix….I ride a Kawasaki ZZR 1200 – it’s the ONLY way to navigate through London on a regular basis. It can also be really restful, so much LESS stressful, than driving a car – you actually MOVE through the traffic. I just dont get why so many people still do 4 wheels, when 2 are so much better, in so many ways :o)

  7. May 24, 2009 at 21:40

    The India Enfield is indeed nearly identical to the Royal Enfield Bullet, which began it’s life in 1949. The only substantive changes are electronic ignition and better brakes. This is one design for ruggedness that has stood the test of time. It belongs on the same pedestal of utility as the venerable Honda 50 Super Cub.

    In fact, I believe it holds the record for the longest continuous production of any powered vehicle without major changes.

    The Honda 50 of course holds the record for the most units produced for a powered vehicle; over 60 million produced since 1958.

  8. 9 Roberto
    May 25, 2009 at 18:41

    The original Great Escape trailer:

    McQueen makes his first motorcycle foray at 1:45 or so, and of course the jump at the end of the clip. This is McQueen himself, not a stuntman. He was far superior to any stuntman they could hire.

  9. 10 Terry Rigby
    May 26, 2009 at 06:19

    To archibald in oregon, Steve McQueen’s bike was an English Triumph. Since that part of the film was purest fiction there was no need to be authentic, though whether a BMW R12 could have been used to jump fences is debateable.
    Meanwhile, I had an Indian Enfield 350 Bullet in the late 1970s. It was possibly the worst bike I ever bought, spares that would not fit, chrome that fell off, parts breaking at sedate speeds and a gearbox that was rubbish, amongst other faults.

    • 11 Dan Isaacs
      June 1, 2009 at 14:22

      “I had an Indian Enfield 350 Bullet in the late 1970s. It was possibly the worst bike I ever bought…”

      Yup, Terry you’re right about all that. The old Bullets were a nightmare, they leaked oil, broke down, and as you say bits fell off on occasions. But tell me honestly, did you enjoy the bike, with its thumping single cylinder, despite its many failings? I’ll hazard a guess you loved it.

  10. 12 polnajung25
    July 3, 2009 at 06:59

    This is the good articles about automotive. I will bookmark this articles. Thank you.

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