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Location: Bouncing between Sacramento and Portland.
You waited at rail crossings? I just went underneath the barriers same as the locals. The best was the guy in front of me not moving so my bike was still on the track as the train slowly approached. He moved, but he made me sweat it out.
The only thing stolen from me was an Ultraman and Ultragirl I had ziptied to the crash guards. 1980.html
The brakes on my Enfield were good and I rode it like I stole it. Lots of standing on pegs letting the bike bounce around. The gear shift was on the right side which is what I'm used to. I kept trying to put it into 5th. I'd ride knowing it was in top gear but after a while I'd convince myself that maybe it wasn't.
My biggest problem on the road was the green jeeps with 4 to 6 people on top. Everyone else swerved to miss a pothole so that made sense, but those guys just liked playing chicken I think. I have no idea why I didn't seen one roll. Lucky for me.
bar none, the best bike for the trip in india. i dont know where tim was looking at bikes but my enfield is in great condition! it only takes care and effort.
yes buy your bikes here. you might find it easier to buy used ones though due to govt red tape.
then you take it to the best mechanic referred to you. get it all done up from the start.
then, go wherever you want. any other bike will not take the beatings, carry your luggage or yourselves any better than a bullet. i suggest the 350 as it is considered a better bike than the 500. no offense chaterjeet!
and, every mechanic in india can repair it.
if you start out with it in best condition, your chances of anything more than a puncture are small.
i am currently in northeast india on my kolkata friend's 1986 350. i have a 72 in the usa from my last trip here. i fell in love with it and didnt want to leave it here!!
if you think you might feel the same, check out your country's import policy. it had to be older than 30 years to get into the usa without an import license of $50,000!
at least get a bike at home just to get used to driving a bike. then, in all the other countries you can rent bikes as long as you want to stay sharp.
yes, the only way to prepare for driving in india is to drive in india! thats all i will say on that!!
then, go wherever you want. any other bike will not take the beatings, carry your luggage or yourselves any better than a bullet.
Sorry, but that's simply not true any more. It may have been ten years ago, when the competition had 100 and 125cc, but not now, at all. There are a lot of other bikes that will take a lot more by way of abuse and demand no more than the regular oil change and chain tightening.
Great big ugly panniers can be attached to any bike by any half decent fabricator, and make any bike wide enough to lose it's ability to split traffic. If the idea is to carry vast amounts of luggage around with you, without the ability to split lanes/thread through dense traffic, I think a cheap car is a far better (sensible?) option. More torque too, unquestionably.
Pretty much anything you really need can be strapped on with bungees, a couple of saddlebags, and a tankbag. Heavy tools etc can be strapped to the saree guard. All Indian bikes have this, on the side of the chain (cretinous homologation requirement, even the R1 sold in India has this fence kind of thing at the rear).
A weird Pavlovian reflex exists among quite a few Western tourists (India on bike = Enfield), without even considering the options. Bigger (read heavier) is not always better. And for something made with supposedly modern tooling many of them still leak. Besides, for the average small town dealership, parts for the 500 only make occasional guest appearances.
Certainly, bullets will give very little to complain about if you pretend you are on a 100cc bike and ride at similar speeds, but the moment you get onto a fast road and find that you have to push hard to keep up with the car and MUV traffic at 80-90 kph, you'll realize why speed and top end matters as well. You do not need anything more than a 100cc bike if you plan to do 200 and 300 km days only. Not that a bullet can't do a lot more, but the "girly" bikes can do it a lot better with less fuss. Of course, they dont have "image" , and I guess one has to decide how important that is.
I swopped bikes with a Hussain in Jodhpur. He had a very new Enfield, with disc brakes, and improved suspension. I have a well worn BMW 800 cc Basic, and we went for a ride. In town the bike was loud enough to clear traffic, and cause spontaneous abortions, and on the open road it just wobbled along, long curves wern't too bad, but sharp turns were a challenge. You have to wrestle the machine most of the time, and there are some numbing vibrations at the most useful speeds. Puny brakes. Quick steering changes are also risky.
I don't think this is a machine for long hauls, if your average mileage is 100-150 k per day then this is not such a problem, and this is probably a suitable max for India. Gives you time for other things, and to recover. Start early.
Reliability, fuel efficiency, electrics I don't know. the whole machine is a time warp, which is probably it's main (only) selling point. Charisma in buckets, but it feels like it was put together by the less gifted mechanics on the planet, and they were having a bad hair day.
Personally, I would buy/rent one, just for the "Indian Enfield Experience", but it is still a very old fashioned bike, so drive accordingly.
Good luck, and safe journey.
Peter, in Oslo
Fully agreed. I like the Enfields a lot, and I once took part on a tour in Kerala & Tamil Nadu with one, but they´re certainly no match for a more modern big bike regards long-distance touring.
Plenty of character, yes, and fine for short rides, when not carrying a lot of load. Anything beyond that, and the only real reason to do it would be, that they´re the biggest bikes easily available in India.
Some people said, that Enfield would be the only ´right way´ to do India. I wouldnt argue with them, but I still think the Vstrom, as a bike, was generally a million times better for Indian roads & traffic, especially for carrying both of us, and our considerable luggage. In fact, in my view, it fit the riding environment quite perfectly in many ways.
I heard they are now opening some showrooms in Delhi & Mumbai, where rich kids can go buy Hayabusas & R1´s, and then go smash their fancy wheels and bottom plastics (and if they run out of luck, probably themselves as well!) into tiny pieces... wonder why no-ones selling a bike like the DL650 in India? It´s got everything you need for that country - 70 hp, even when riding 2-up, was just overkill most of the time. Actually I think I know, where it comes from. The taxes&duties on imported big bikes are so high over there, that you can only sell them to the filthy rich, and they´ll want the fastest, flashiest ego-rockets available.
well yes indeed. if making time is important then another bike will be better. i guess the type of trip comes in to play when choosing the bike.
i wouldnt want to ship a bike from the usa because of the expenses involved. for a short 6-8 months in india why spend over $1000 to ship it? for that money i can buy a used one here and travel on it for 2 months!
also, my only bike is an enfield so why ship it to india anyway?! coal to newcastle, no?!
my last trip here i hadnt even heard of enfield b4 i found myself buying and prepping one up for the trip in kolkata.
and even when fully packed, i can manage to split traffic in towns pretty well.
i could imagine using a hero honda 150 here if it was summer weather and less gear. but with the camping gear and all i cant imagine a better bike for the trip than the enfield.
and, along my travels i have met more than a few people broken down in less than beautiful places waiting for parts for their bikes to come from europe or elsewhere. that wont happen in india with an enfield!
a1arn, other than the enfield 500 i dont know of any bike bigger than the bajaj pulsar 180 available here. at least, i've never seen one. and torque...whats that?! lol and i dont wanna go 80-90 mph on the roads here!
thats all i'm saying. not that enfield is the best bike in the world, just the best one you can get in india for a trip in india.
Touring is not about covering enormous distances fast, that's iron butt territory, and I'm not unfamiliar with that either. However, there is a reason for having a bike that will go fast if required, and that is to spend more time exploring the destination of your choice, perhaps covering only 100km around it over the entire day, sightseeing, rather than crawling slowly along and wasting an extra day on a very boring highway with little scenic value.
We bike it because "it's fun" as opposed to caging it/taking the train. It's not so much fun when you have to get off the gas while climbing the twisties because you are scared the piston might seize. And it certainly is no fun when you have to crawl down the mountains on the other side because you are not sure whether your brakes are planning a short holiday of their own. It ceases to be fun when you have to put up at a god forsaken place for three days eating up your very precious vacation time because something major broke down unexpectedly, or being forced to move at 60 kph on the open highway because you can sense your engine overheating for no particular reason.
This is where a faster, more refined bike scores.
They put the fun into touring on two wheels.
So what are the options to the Enfield.
Assuming a fair degree of luggage and NO heavy camping gear (cheap hotels are all over the place except in the metros), bigger bikes suitable for touring first. This excludes the RD 350 (reliability, spares), the Hyosung 250 (Almost NO service at all),
Karizma, 223 cc. 16.9bhp
Pros: You can run all day and night at 100kph, just stop to tighten the chain every 1000km or so. Refined fast cruising, intuitive handling, smooth ride, DC electricals so upgrading the bulb to 100/90 halogen is easy. Easy to fit tubeless rubber
Cons: Horrid seat (easily modified), plastics expensive and designed to break without much reason . Few good bungee attachment points (again, easily fabricated), limited service outside the metros, ridiculously expensive very poor quality spares sold by authorized dealers BUY A NEW BIKE ONLY!
Pulsar 220: 20bhp
Pros: Super brakes, lovely INSTANT pickup at almost any engine speed. Only bike in India with projector headlamps, tubeless rubber as standard. Grin Factor like no other, apart from the now defunct RD 350. Fuel injected, so runs at altitude without a hiccup where other bikes are gasping. Oil cooler. DC electricals
Cons: Unsorted electricals, temperamental meters. Poor service, even more limited service facilities than the Karizma. Engine rougher at high rpm, noisy. Few proper attachment points for bungees. Completely useless rear view mirrors. Not so great seat
Pulsar 200: 17 bhp
Pros: Tubeless rubber as standard, oil cooler. Reasonable grunt (equal to the Karizma), good brakes. Cheap parts.
Cons: Roughness at high rpm, noisy. No FI. AC electricals. Attachments for bungee hooks. not so great seat
Bajaj Avenger 200/180, 16/17 bhp
Pros: Cruiser looks, relaxed running on flat straights, fat rear tyre gives stability on broken surfaces, very comfortable seat
Cons: Cruiser geometry, does not really like curves, low loading on front wheel bad for the back on bad roads. pros and cons of the pulsar engine.
Pros: Tubeless rubber can be easily fitted (alloy wheels). Cheap parts, much wider service network. Kick starter (+electric, unlike the 200/220) so dead battery is not an issue. Good brakes, reasonable pickup as well
Cons: AC electricals, poor component quality, rough at high rpm. Not so great seat
Then, of course are the 150 cc bikes. These have a MUCH, MUCH wider service network, very cheap spares, and dazzling fuel economy, but do lack some grunt (there is one that actually turns out 17 bhp, but as it a track bike, I cannot really consider the R15 a tourer - very cramped, designed to a different brief). Not that you can't tour on them, somebody I know just completed a 1000 mile saddlesore run on a 150cc pulsar two days ago, that too a bike that has done 138000km with only one engine rebuild. Experiences on Two Wheels: SaddleSore Success at first attempt
Why aren't there bigger bikes here?
Simply put, because they have no status value for the political class. Hayabusas do, that's why they are coming in, so do R1s priced in Valkyrie Rune territory.
The import duty for bikes is 156%, as opposed to 36% for yachts and aircraft (and NO duty at all if it can be shown that they will be used on a commercial basis), and the paperwork for bike imports is so hugely convoluted that NO end user will be able to produce the necessary documentation.
Also, to protect our "fledgling" bike industry, who, after 25 years of production still apparently need protection after braying long and loud that they are "no1" and "no2" manufacturer in the world, based on volume, not quality. It's also the reason why Enfields are still produced in India.
and you DO know your stuff about the bikes!!
i like the term 'caging' too. never heard that one before.
will look at those options on the next trip if i go to the south of the country and the western ghats. (plan B for this trip if the northeast didnt work out)
i can relate to all of your f'rinstances here. i guess having never owned or driven a modern bike for any appreciable distance i cant compare, but...i can relate!
thanx for that
Every word Arn said is correct. The newer bikes are fast, reliable and what not but they are not Enfields and never will be. Thats a class apart. Enfields have been doing this kinda stuff even before the Adventure touring was born. A comparison cannot be drawn.
Its kinda like going to safari on jeeps and on elephants. Which is more fun is purely a question of choice. Sometimes, minds rules, sometimes the heart.
What do you go to India for should be what dictates your choice of motorbike / transport. I'll be in India in four days to go riding around, starting in Bangalore. Will I consider other bike than an Enfield? Maybe although I doubt I'll take something else. Part of what attracts me to riding in India is the Enfield itself. It adds something to the atmosphere, it's probably just a romantic thing. I rode there on my bike two years ago. It's not the best country for a ride but it is a great place to visit with great people and plenty to keep you amazed all the time. I hated it in the cities and headed for the countryside. Once you find a bit of 'room' for yourself it's paradise.
I read something on this post that it’s great advice if you take your own bike to India: take a cover with you. I remember people approaching me while stopped in traffic to ask questions (engine off). What bothered me is that many will reach and flick the dashboard switches WHILE YOU'RE STILL ON THE BIKE!! Park the bike, dismount and before you've taken your helmet off there are two guys on the bike and a third taking pictures on his mobile. They don't think they are doing anything wrong. Every morning I found the engine switch on cut-off, heated grips on, abs disengaged, driving lights switched, emergency lights switched on, and the bike in gear... One of the rearview mirror's self tighteniong nut was loose, probably damaged, and the mirror swung a bit. I saw a guy swinging it back and forth from the distance; by the time I got there the bolt had broken and the mirror fell on the floor. For how long had he been swinging the blasted thing..? What did the guy do? Go away? Nope, he started flicking the switches...
I don't mean to portray anyone in a bad light. Indians are very hospitable and considered, probably the best of reasons to travel to India.
Anyone in Bangalore or surroundings next week on for a spin a and a ?
chanderjeet, that is the enfield spirit!
i did however see the honda 220 the other day. looked nice but the light changed and i couldnt check it out in depth.
now in meghalaya and it is quite beautiful for riding. blue skies, a bit chilly and lots of hills.
the 86 350 has some gear problems in the steep uphills when i'm loaded(with gear!) but it is so sweet!!
dd, if you're coming up this way, let me know.
I went from Delhi to Manali by bus and rented a 500cc Enfield in Old Manali. The bike was in a very good condition except the rear tire. Take care that in small cities spare parts are difficult to get - even there are mostly bullets on the road. If you travel alone maybe the 350cc Bullet will make your journey easyer because there are more spare parts. On my trip from Manali - Leh - Kargil - Padum - Kargil - Srinagar - Dharamsala - Manali I could not get a new rear tire or even a proper gas cable!! Take some adjustable adapter and your Leatherman for fixing small issues on your bike (half of my bike felt apart due to really challenging road conditions).
I went there alone without any preparation - nothing happened to me except a dog bite - so I got rabies at the end of my trip ... grrrr
The price for the bike in Manali was about 160€ for 30 days including insurance and perfect paperwork.
New bikes have regular brake/gear levers, older bikes have them reversed ... you´ll get used to it very quickly - even when my clutch lever broke and I changed the clutch cable to the front brake lever, I could still ride it without problems - the left hand is then free to cover your eyes in difficult situations .
If you have time - go from Kargil to Padum (btw - take the old road from Leh to Kagil - it´s amazing and takes you maye just two more hours of riding). If you want check some pics about this trip:
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