I first rode out in India back in 2006. 14 years have passed very quickly, and India has changed beyond all recognition.
I had never ridden a Royal Enfield Bullet until I landed here and even though I was looking forward to the challenge – 18 claimed horsepower, gears on the right, all upside down, rear brake on the left and drum brakes all round, I was terrified!
Seven days earlier, I had been riding my Ducati 999r Xerox World Superbike Replica properly on the limit up and around the deserted roads in the West of Scotland. During the week they feel like a racetrack, super smooth, no traffic and you can see for miles. In no way did riding flat out on a Superbike scare me the same way India did, or was it the Royal Enfield?
Now that I think about it, it was probably both.
I forget to mention that the Bullet was whopping 350cc.
I will admit to falling off the Bullet, quite spectacularly, and at high speed. Well, quite high speed, given what I have just written. 80kmh, that’s around 50mph – fast enough. Not my fault of course, no way. There was a witness and there’s a good chance he might read this so I need to stay as close to the truth as I can. (PS. He’s a well-known motorcycle journalist).
I soon realised how little I knew about riding a motorcycle as this demanded a whole new set of skills that I didn’t possess. If I wanted to survive the next two weeks, then I’d better start learning quickly. So, I got to work and here we are, this is what it has led to.
I did survive and I learned fast. Despite the Bullet being a 1950’s designed motorcycle, I managed to find a work around. Be smooth, look out for cows and don’t be afraid to give it full throttle when laid on its side.
So, what’s changed in India?
People have more money, better houses, the roads have improved no end and the latest Royal Enfield is pretty good. I never thought I would ever be saying that.
I’ve just spent a couple of weeks riding the latest fuel injected 500cc Bullet across South India. The roads were quite superb for most of the ride and I’ve stepped off having thoroughly enjoyed myself. It handled well, had enough power, the gearbox was perfect, braking was excellent (even although it had ABS) and check this out – It averaged around 33kms to the litre. It’s not a mistake, you read that correctly. I checked and double checked. I believe that to be just under 85 miles to the gallon. Not bad at all for a 500cc motorcycle.
I had ordered 15 of them around a year ago, paid the deposits, everything seemed in order. I then got the news in Nov 2019 that they were being discontinued and were no longer available.
This is India, anything is possible – so I’m reminded most days.
Our dealer pulled out all the stops, used all his influence and did a bit of shouting along the way. Low and behold, my bikes turned up just in time.
The truth is, they really were discontinued, and the factory put these together, just for Nomadic Knights and that’s it, they are no longer available.
We got the very last of them. We now also know that the iconic 500cc Bullet engine in its current format is also finished due to emissions. This is the end of an era.
Buying them seemed a good idea at the time and it now feels like it was a fantastic idea, I’m taking all the credit.
Founder of Nomadic Knights.