Here's a quick background to why we are travelling on a 50 year old bike and a special bit for old bike nerds like myself giving the spec for our weapon of choice....
First of all here are the whys:
1. It's cheap - parts are cheap, it was cheap to buy and you guys with a new BMW just think how much money you would have saved on your carnet if your bike had a value of 500 quid
2. I know how to fix it. That could turn out to be a rash statement as the trip progresses but suffice to say I can fix it better than I can a new bike with such horrors as electronic engine management sytems
3. It goes slowly. This of course to many would be a major turn-off but I'm travelling to meet people and see places, not to race. And slower is safer..
4. Old bikes open doors. It's pretty amazing how much more interest and hospitality you get with an old junker compared to a modern plastic rocket. Somehow too it blends into the environment more in developing countries. It is still worth way more than many will earn in several years but that's a scale more can relate to than a bike that many wouldn't be able to afford in a lifetime
5. Breakdowns are fun. Yes, really. Thought I'd leave that to last as it may seem the least convincing part of the argument. Some of the best experiences I have had and most I've got to know people travelling have been through breakdowns.
And now the wherefores:
A 1955 Bullet was chosen largely because it's an old bike, I already had it so didn't have to spend much money and of course with bikes still in production in India spares are fairly easily available and cheap. The '55 500 frame is the strongest and roomiest of all Bullet frames and unfortunately much heavier too. Uniquely amongst other Bullets it has a cast swinging arm mount, cast swinging arm and the top rear frame diamond is also a casting. The starting point for the bike was fairly non-original so it didn't seem to be too much of a shame to modify it for long distance travel.
It's running with a 1990 Indian engine, actually no different from the British one at all apart from carb mounting and it has an alternator instead of dynamo. I've got the original engine but have never had it apart whereas I had the Indian engine which had been rebuilt and was a known quantity. It's all running standard apart from an alloy barrel (weight and cooling), an Amal Mk one and a half concentric (slightly better performance and isolated from the heat of the engine giving even running) and a Lucas SR1 magneto (reliability and not dependent upon a battery for starting and running).
The British rear wheel has been replaced with an Indian one. The British is not quickly detachable and a real pain to remove for punctures whereas the Indian one is relatively easy. An 18 inch alloy rim was laced onto the back to allow a wider tyre and slightly lower the centre of gravity - less ground clearance but better handling for carrying the weight). A disc front brake has been added from a new model Bullet. This involved a new wheel, lever and calliper as well as repacement fork sliders. At the same time Indian fork legs were added as they are double damped whereas the British ones aren't.
The other changes of note are alloy mudguards (weight), scrambles type handlebars (comfort and off-road control) and a large home-made sump bash-plate.