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Old 14 Jan 2009
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Question India 2010, first tour, advice/comments needed

Hi all,

Planning on heading out to Asia Jan 2010. Going to spend a few months relaxing visiting friends in Thailand and Indonesia before getting to India in March 2010.

The plan is to get 2 motorcycles locally for myself and my girlfriend and to tour india region (prob including nepal) for about a year or so.

Background - both of us have extensive experience in asia having overlanded (not by bike - public transport) throughout singapore malaysia, indonesia, thailand, laos, camboida, china several times previously. (although extensive periods have been spent fishing, camping and errr, not doing a lot, on remote islands!). and we have traveled round australia for a month in a camper including crossing the nullabor which was pretty cool.

This will be out first experience motorcycle touring and we currently do not have a huge amount of biking experience although i have ridden some basic off road bits in Thailand and the south pacific islands.

So, background over, questions.

We figured a year was probably a reasonable amount of prep time, what I would like, if anyone would be kind enough to reply, is some input - suggestions, things to do in advance, any comments etc.

I have spent two weeks reading online, i have some idea of out options regarding bikes and the various pros and cons. I am currently thinking Bullets, probably new ones from a dealer. Although i don't have a great deal of mechanical know how, I am an engineer and learn fast. I am also considering if it is worth purchasing a Bullet over here and getting to now it before going. Also I am looking to learn the basics, and maybe not so basics, on troubleshooting/maintaining it myself. Suggestions on how to go about this would also be welcome.

for reference i am based in South London near clapham (before anyone suggests a great enfield garage the other side of the world etc!)

Fortunately for us the financial side of things will not be a major issue as we have pretty good earning power and not a lot of expenses.

Thanks to everyone here for making this such a great site, such a trove of information, I feel far more confident just knowing i can ask stupid questions here and get informative answers!


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Old 15 Jan 2009
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The only Bullets I saw in India were in a poor state and from everything I've read, I'd given Bullets a wide berth. Certainly many Indians prefer smaller capacity Japanese models which are more reliable, more economical and more powerful.

Have a look at this report for one idea: Ladakh, Heaven on Earth, YogeshSarkar.com

"For sheer delight there is nothing like altitude; it gives one the thrill of adventure
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Old 15 Jan 2009
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Do some courses
1) rider training .. specifically 'off road touring' if you can ... I know bm do one .. buit there must be some (cheaper?) others? Note not a MX course!
2) first aid - preferably 'remote area' ... say more than 2 days at teh course .. that should give you enough information on how to deal with anything that may happen..

Motorcycle maintance courses used to be run over there .. you'll need a local comment on this..

Attend a HU meeting .. you 'll get lots of help/ideas there..
Regards Frank Warner
motorcycles BMW R80 G/S 1981, BMW K11LT 1993, BMW K75 G/S
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Old 15 Jan 2009
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Don't worry too much pal. Although i would like to agree with the previous comment about doing a course but there is just NO course in this world that can prepare you to ride in india. (Except of course riding in india)

About the Enfields...
These bikes are considered Big in India. I myself ride a 500 and wouldnt ride anything else at all. Its got balls of steel. Well, ok, one ball of steel but it can take you and your luggage cross the highest of the passes. Its torquey. Its not really fast but has good enough top end. Given the traffic conditions here, you will enjoy slow riding and bullets are just what you need. You can find mechs for bullets everywhere.

You can get something like a Hero Honda Karizma, which would be cheaper than a Bullet but will be much more reliable. They will take all abuse, ride fast, give better fuel economy and will run flawless.

But if in india, ride a bullet.
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Old 15 Jan 2009
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Thanks for the comments guys,


I'm defiantly considering the local jap alternatives to an Enfield but, its a pro's and con's thing it seems. More reliable and faster (although faster is really not a big deal as im in no need of racing round india) verses higher availability of servicing for enfields and more low end power.

I have to admit there is also considerably more attraction in riding the enfield than the alternatives, it is more ascetically pleasing after all.

Im a big guy, 6'4" and 105kg, and little plastic jap bikes do not feel good at my size. I also wonder how a 125-180 bike will cope with me and luggage going up a steep mountain pass, also wondering how to attach that luggage to a Bajaj or Hero or similar in the first place!

The again, my girlfriend is 55kg and about 5'10, although physically very able (we are both 30) and not adverse to hard work or roughing it (god knows cambodia can be hard work and rough!)

Its almost like two different bikes would be more suitable but i have read plenty of people saying NEVER take two different bikes touring, it makes it harder. That and I doubt she would settle for a more girly bike if i got the enfield, im pretty sure she would demand one as well! (and who can blame her eh?)

Thanks for the link, i am working my way through quite a few blogs/traveloges/threads types right now to get some background.

In case anyone else is interested or reading this thread later with similar plans, then as well as Tim's link;

onwalkabout.com -- Sometimes you have to go onwalkabout!

IndiaMotorcycle - India on an Enfield A Woman's Motorcycle AdventureÂ*


On the Edge: A Woman's Solo Motorcycle Odyssey Through India

Drunken Monkey Motorcycle - very amusing, like Hunter S Thompson round India at times! (meant as a compliment of course!)



http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/gregfrazier/news/2000-12-22.shtml - Greg's always good to read.


might be of interest/use and it saves someone else linking them all in again.

On a side note if anyone else has a link to any reading material they recommend online or offline then thanks in advance.


Thanks for the tips, I have seen some links and reviews of the BM course in Germany and it seems pretty good and challenging so i will look to do that unless an equivalent more local option turns up.

The med course is an excellent idea, i haven't done a first aid/trauma course in about 8 years now so its well worth finding one. I know indian hospitals leave a lot to be desired and, touch wood, we wont need one if we are prepared and trained and fortunate!

I know that you can arrange informal maintenance courses over there but i would like to do as much here as i can before i go, in know once im there i wont be wanting to hang around in Delhi (or similar city depending where we start but prob Delhi) for a few weeks. Also with a year before departure it is good to have things to take my mind of the slog of working in London which give me a sense of achievement and gaining practical skills is always good.

Hope to make the UK June HU meet but need to sort my diary and make sure i am in country (work takes me to Africa and elsewhere quite a bit) before committing.


Thanks for the 'no worry' tip! I know it will be a considerable shock adjusting to Indian traffic but i am hoping my experiences in places like Cambodia will help me make a swift adjustment.

Good to hear some positive Bullet comments! As you mention its the low down power not the top end that is important when lugging me and my gear around the mountains!

The Karizma is an option although i dont know how i would add luggage to it. Also im not a big fan of the looks. The adverts for it on its website are quite amusing though!

Karizma - Always Game

"But if in india, ride a bullet."
lol. I understand. I hear a lot of this reasoning. A lot of "it was bad, it was annoying, it was unreliable, bits keep falling off, don't buy one" then i ask if they went back what they would get and they say "well, a bullet of course!"

Thanks again for all the input.
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Old 15 Jan 2009
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India is not the place to learn to ride!

Do take some courses and do a lot of practice rides in busy traffic...
Yes, once in India you have to re-learn all over again and adapt to the 'peculiar' way to drive and use the road.
I posted some considerations to riding there. I don't know if others agree with me but, take a look at the entries of this post:
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Old 15 Jan 2009
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Well, having just come back from riding in india with a broken arm and broken jaw I must say it's a pretty hairy place to ride.

In some ways getting the hang of riding there is quite fun, and you do learn a hell of a lot (eg; getting sideswiped by a car and not falling off!)
However it's not a place to kid yourself about how dangerous it is.

Although the weather is insane, I would stick VERY firmly to ATGATT and despite what the locals do, 4 up with no helmets is a REALLY bad idea.

For an example of the oddity of the driving style, if for example you encounter a truck on the road, it's indicating right, you may assume this means it's turning right.
Well, it MAY be, but equally likely it's suggesting that you overtake it.
Oh and riding a bike with a headlight wired on permanently, gets a bit irritating after the hundredth guy that day tells you 'your light is on!'.

My biggest tip for driving in a foreign country would be... Do what they expect you to do as much as it's not suicidal, as I reckon it's a safe bet that most problems occur when one motorists does something another motorist aint expecting...
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Old 16 Jan 2009
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You may want to check out this site. 60kph.com
They are a great bunch of guys with a lot of good info on touring India on an Enfield.
My wife and I road around NW Inida and Nepal two-up on a newer 350 Bullet and had no major problems. Granted, no high speeds but it took us everywhere we wanted to go. Just bring some spare parts if you are going to a remote area.
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Old 16 Jan 2009
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cheers for the link, useful first hand info - just what im after!

Go slow be patient and careful.
great advice. as we are planning a year or so there is no intention or need to go fast or rush.


Ouch on the arm and jaw! what happened?

ATGATT is essential in asia i find, although i tend to be a bit lax when using 50cc-125cc on islands in SEasia but im going slow and usually on sand or dirt and in no rush. Otherwise, and certainly in any asian city or major road, basically anywhere where i have to deal with other road users i totally agree.

ear plugs are a good tip too thanks.


cheers for the link, good site, i have Gaurav's first DVD on order and looking forward to their new one soon too.

what year was your bullet and how long did you ride? I get the impression the recent ones are a different beast from the older ones as far as reliability goes.

Cheers again all for the info.
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Old 16 Jan 2009
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I spent 4 months in India and a couple weeks in Nepal and my only accident was sideswipping a bicycle rickshaw at a super low clutch-burning speed. Nothing major.

Dodgydago says good stuff in the link he posted. I really wish I had goggles. I tried to find them but no luck.

I met up with the 60kph Club. Great bunch of folks. I went on a weekend ride with them before I had my bike. I learned a lot from riding pillion.
Not Ted Simon since 1970!
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Old 17 Jan 2009
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We were there in the fall of 06 and road about 7,000 km in 7 weeks on a 2004 bullet. We started in Delhi and rode all mountain roads through Himachal and Uttaranchal to Nepal and sold it to an Israeli couple in Pokhara. It had around 1,500 Km on it when we got it. I don't really know how well it held up compared to an older model. But during our tour, mechanically we broke a throttle cable and had the front brake cleaned. It was a bit hard to start at times. I had a hard time getting used to the decompression kick start thing. Other than an oil change and new rear tire to the bike, that was about it. We are thinking of going back to India this spring to do a tour in the NE on another Enfield.
Happy Planning
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Old 18 Jan 2009
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Dave Smith,

Thanks for the info.

Just watched Gaurav's movie - riding solo to the top of the world - so meeting up with some of the 60kph guys would be cool. looking forward to their next dvd.
I'll probably drop them an email.


cheers for the info, good to put comments in context of bike/duration.


interesting and useful read for anyone one interested in this subject.

How to buy a used or Second hand Enfied
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Old 21 Jan 2009
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I rode around southern India on a Bullet last year. Can't really add the the advice given above except with respect to the Bullet and traffic. The Bullet is an Indian classic. But it has all the "classic" flaws of the 1950's Brit bikes--oil leaks, crappy electrics, even worse brakes (no, wait, that's "even worse brake"--the front is useless). The Bullet also has the shift lever and rear brake pedals reversed--and the shift pattern is upside down--MotoGP style It's a kickstart and carbureted with regular points for timing. If you're mechnically experienced, it's a nonevent. And every mechanioc in India can work on it, although you're best off with someone who works on them regularly. It's a good-sized thumper with plenty of torque. Not much speed, but Indian roads don't lend themselves to high speed.

Indian traffic is everything you've heard. Chaotic does not fully describe the mayhem. But you'll find there is a rhythm and flow. Use your horn liberally--drivers expect it. They want you to let them know you're there. Often as not a truck or bus driver will respond by leaning out the window and waving you on to pass. Get out of the city and into the countryside as soon as possible and you'll have a safer and more enjoyable time perfecting your Indian driving skills.

It's a beautiful country with wonderful, friendly people and I can't wait to get back.
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Old 21 Jan 2009
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Originally Posted by KimR1 View Post
The Bullet also has the shift lever and rear brake pedals reversed--and the shift pattern is upside down--MotoGP style It's a kickstart and carbureted with regular points for timing. If you're mechnically experienced, it's a nonevent.
Whilst I agree with much of your post, you have to accept the above statement is really apoint of view or perspective.
For me having a left hand shift right hand brake is wrong. I learned when they were the way you described and my instincts do not take kindly to havig them the wrong way round. I also rode bikes on which I could reach the ground, many modern bikes require you to have a 36" inside leg and wear high heels to accomplish this. I dont have either.
The reason I am bothering to write this is I have been told I should learn to get used to havingthe pedals reversed, yet many here have complaine d when THEY have had to make the switch in reverse. Hopefully soon I will part company with my 1985 bmw r80rt which has beena good bike, but I simply dont get on with it. My next bike will be either an old Triumph, or new (pre EFI) Enfield.

AS an aside, the old Enfields are built in India using 1950's tooling which was worn out long ago. The new Enfields are built with some of the most modern machinery in use in teh world. The much vaunted 'JAP' bike for sale in India are mostly built there. I do not know the age of the tooling

ok, take some of this as a bit tongue in cheek
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Old 22 Jan 2009
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Driving in India

Just back from India, still shaking and drinking neat whisky at 5 in the morning. Seriously, just take it easy, there is a system (as described, but white SUV's are very high on the list), but it really feels like someone gave real cars to kindergarden kids. At railway-crossings people line up on both sides of the road, barrier lifts, result - traffic jam. Pathetic.
Several times other drivers tried to ease me off the road from the side, only remedy is to lash out and thump car, they seem genuinely suprised, but back off. Overtaking is outrageous, just don't get involved, there is nothing you can say or do which will make the slightest difference.
In six weeks I saw several fatal accidents, every one was 'avoidable', caused by ridiculous driving or overloading, whether you stop or not is up to you, there is no tradition of helping, but other travellers stop to gawk, and block the road.
A major problem with bikes is people fiddling with them, stealing anything they can loosen, just fiddling until bits get broken. I had a bike cover, really effective, but it was eventually stolen You will get used to crowds just looking at you, imagine if you came to Europe with a camel, you'd get a crowd here too.
Good luck,
Peter, in Oslo
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