The Motorcycle purchasing diaries…
It was 2003 & the occasion was my Brother in Law’s motorbike purchase day. We all were busy getting the paperwork sorted when he popped this question – “I am about to get my ride, which one are you going to own?”
At that time my knowledge on motorbikes was as dubious as the Lockness monster in Scotland. But make no mistake! In my circle I was known as the motorcycle pro! People used to seek advice for the ride they should go for. You must be wondering how I maintained that image, right? I used to skim through a lot of auto magazines, trying hard to by-heart most of the written stuff and that immensely helped my image. Some of the advice seekers actually took my word seriously & made their purchases… and I still feel sorry for them.
So when the question of the motorbike purchase was thrown in, I was absolutely not in the position to ignore it.
Sorry, you said something or I am still not so sure were not the words to be uttered. The reputation was at stake and I was trying hard to determine which one would I go for, when this motorcycle zoomed past us.
“that bike” – the declaration came. He turned & when he looked back, there was this mixed expression on his face – “That one?… that is Royal Enfield! Are you sure that you would want to buy the RE” … to which I was nodding, smiling.
That point on, I started taking keen interest in this Chennai based company ‘Royal Enfield Motorcycles‘ (RE here on). In the early 90’s, motorbike market was not opened enough and the major interest of fellow Indians was to own a car (it still is). Motorcycle for most of us was just a two-wheeler to commute from point A to point B. Plus it should/must/have/can’t ignore to deliver great mileage (The paramount expectation! Point A to point B is just a theory)
So, no one cared about torque, cubic combustion, genre, type or anything else. But we had our own segmentation done i.e. if you are married and have kids then scooter is the thing for you. Motorcycles were basically meant for bachelors & loafers!
And then there was Enfield, offering 350 cc bikes with a trademark thump sound. It was not following the popular trend or giving way for our sentiments. To tell you, it was enjoying its own cult following.
Everything and I mean everything was wrong with this motorcycle. Known as bullet, the bike gave way less mileage than usual and this was way below our expectation. Also, it had this knack of taking a soul on long rides… Commute from Point A to ‘explore’ point B was in its DNA. So, it never made any sense whatsoever to the regular Indian.
You should have something wrong with you to own an Enfield (it still holds true for some of us). But this company holds quite a reputation, their bikes commands a lot of respect & attention, as when riding with them; one may find people looking at the bike with googly eyes and bombarding the biker with their questions…. how much mileage does the bike gives… what is the cost .. etc
Coming back to our story again, it had been many years since I declared that would purchase an Enfield. Now, I was in my college days and ‘read hard, get a job and settle down in life’ has taken the major chunk of my mind-share. Naah, not really… The said mindset lasted till the time I had my first interaction with that mysterious lady in red!
What a day it was…the college organized a theme dance party and being the frozen foot I was sitting outside the main campus gate, enjoying my smoke. It started raining, when I saw her, for the first time… and the next moment we were both standing under the same shed. For the next few years, I was trying hard to convince her that I am her prince charming … then reality struck me a fateful day, when got to know that she already had a boyfriend and the lad owned an Enfield.
Signs from upstairs reminding me of that declaration, huh!!
So the moment I got a job, the first thing to do was to search the internet, for info on RE.
Welcome to the slogging days… where you suddenly have to prove many things to a lot of people. The bike was costing a king’s ransom and my salary was not enough to bring RE home. But determined as an ant, I realized that it is time to save. And then, two years passed by. My lady in red was married to someone else (not the proclaimed Enfield lad) and I was still taking my savings seriously.
One day, I realized that had enough money to make the purchase. A few days of internet research on bikes brought out that pro back in me and out of given options one motorbike held my attention.. the classic 500 – Desert Storm. I had to buy this one as we were meant to be together.
Everyone was silent when I broke the news at home. My father first thought that it is a joke but when realized not, he gave me a good piece of his mind, i.e. why I should look forward to own a car than this motorcycle. On the brighter side all siblings were excited.
My old man was determined that he will not let me purchase the machine as most of the heat was coming from his end… ” look boy, this motorcycle does not fit in our family history… Why would anybody buy this motorcycle? …You know what Gupta uncle was saying about this bike? He said that it gives a mileage of 10!!
Pa, tomorrow I am going to test ride and then book the bike as there is a 4+ month waiting period, so the RE would take her own sweet time to come.
When he realized that it is time, he played his last option.
What? Wait! Before you do anything silly, I want your brother to accompany you along. I know that you will be all gaga post the test ride and if I come then you would not like my feedback. We should have someone who can give us a neutral feedback without any biasness.
And that is when I realized why most ‘India – Pakistan’ cricket matches are played in neutral countries.
He indeed asked my cousin brother to accompany me for the test ride. What he hadn’t revealed, was that he already had a plan up his sleeves. My dad had a prior word with the cousin so as to make sure that the neutral feedback should be tilted on his side. Unaware of all the diplomatic settings, I was happy to have a third opinion and readily agreed to the proposal.
So, the next evening, both of us went to the showroom. The roads were surprisingly empty for that time of the day and we were at our destination, before time. There was a guard sitting outside & by the look on his face, I was sure that he is daydreaming himself on a far-flung island. When asked about the showroom he pointed towards the first floor and as we climbed the stairs, we heard the signature thumping sound, getting louder with every step.
The showroom was good, with a pictorial history of the motorcycle company on the walls and displayed bikes. What caught me jaw-dropped was the Desert Storm; it was way better than the photographs … standing quietly in a corner, she had this aura of being simple and suave.
As I approached her, the soundtrack from ‘the last car’ – Trevor Rabin; stated somewhere in my head. This bike was designed as if it came out straight from the second world war. We never got the chance to test ride the RE but were happy, just to see it and came back with a few catalogs. The test ride was not important as I already had made up my mind that will go for this bike ‘no matter what’ and would prefer to ride the bike, when she is mine.
Few hours from then, both were sitting in-front of my father and all my brother could say was ” Uncle, if got a chance, I would like to sell my bike and purchase what he is eyeing” and it was hard for me to hide that broad grin. Post this, my father had no cards to play and he gave his reluctant “submission” to the decision. Booking was done the very next day, but the waiting period was more than 3 months and all I could do was to wait and read more about RE and its classic series.
The months flew by. Everyone was inquiring about the day when I will bring her home and my dad never missed a chance to suggest that I still got time to cancel the order and should do it before it is too late!
One fine day, I received a call from the RE showroom with the dealer saying that the bike has arrived and when would I like to take her home. Later that evening I was found sorting the required paperwork . When everyone came to know about the latest development, most of the siblings’ self invited themselves asking me to bring her on a holiday or the coming weekend so that they can make it to the showroom and we humbly asked the dealer if can shift the pickup to upcoming Sunday.
On Sunday, we were there in the showroom by 11 and the dealer told that the bike is getting its accessories in the back workshop. Now, normally this should be a life changing experience as in some time I would have the bike I was dreaming of for so many years but in reality, nothing happened. What actually happened was that mother asked me to accompany her to the nearest fruit and vegetable market as it was some time before the bike was ready,so she decided that we would rather be buying groceries than drooling all over the bike.
We were back by 1 pm and the keys were handed over within few minutes. ‘Here it is.. the keys, the kit and the paperwork.. your bike is all set to roll’ the dealer said and handed me the twisted metal which would bring her to life for coming years. The bike sprung into action as soon as I pressed that electric start button (honestly, I hadn’t had the courage to kick-start the RE) and we were off in a jiffy. I instantly realized three things 1) She got some raw power and one should be careful to keep her in limits 2) The thump I was hearing in my head for the past so many weeks were of hers 3) We would definitely do some long rides in coming years.
The highways were changed forever, thereon.
In India, we have this ritual where every new purchase will first be shown to the almighty god, so as to seek their blessings and then will be used. This tradition has been followed for generations. So, our first stop was this old temple where a decade back my father was standing with his newly purchased car and now it was my turn.
A gentleman with humble origins came over and gave the first compliment ‘Yeh hain sawari ‘ (Now that’s what you call a bike) .
Everyone was happy (including grandma, Mummy, Di, brother-in-law, siblings, neighbors, unknown onlookers, me, the bike) but my father showed a lukewarm response asking occasional questions about the bike. All of us took endless short rides that very day, changing the rider and pillion every now and then and the bike thumped smoothly.
It had been 7 months since I brought the RE and now the bike was part of our family. However, I had this feeling that it was not yet got the approval from the head of the family. All this while my father never showed any interest in riding the RE and only inquired about the mileage she was returning or gave a few suggestions for the accessories I should opt for. When I asked him if he would like to ride the bike, he laughed and turned down my offer.
Then came his day of retirement from the job. He had his association with this firm for 31 years and it was ending in a day. The previous evening we were all busy planning for his big day….what to do, where to eat and how to make his day a memorable one. A lot was discussed and few ideas were okayed. It must be around 10 and I was about to retire to my beloved bed, when he came over and asked if we can have a word…
You awake, son?
Yes Pa, tell me
Don’t know if it is okay but can I ask you something?
Of-course Pa, what is it?
And what he asked was totally unexpected, out of the blue.
You know that I am retiring tomorrow, so was just wondering if can ride your bike to the office!
Overwhelmed, I was not sure what to say. Never realized that there was a biker in him, too.
The next morning, I was preparing the bike, for him to ride…