Tuesday, 6 November 2012

My Meeting with 'Zen of Royal Enfields'

After a long time I am feeling relatively free from my usual work clutter and hence bit in a mood to write. So this post is gonna be a wordy one. To make it interesting for you all, I will tell it in the form of a story. Don't yawn as yet, you would like it. You can grab a cup of coffee/tea or horlicks, whatever suits your style of reading. Well then here it goes..

The story starts in one of the corporate office buildings located in the city of Bristol, south-west England. There was this guy, who was on a call for quite sometime. Such calls are pretty common considering the type of job he had, which required him to interact with his team back in India on a daily basis. But this time it was different. This time it sounded more like an aggressive sales negotiation, where in there was lot of pitching happening from the guy's side to sell an idea to the person on other side. Well the item under discussion was the (then expected) Hyosung GT250R and the person the idea being attempted to be sold was my dad:) Now it doesn't take a genius to know who must be attempting the sale;)

Well  It's obvious no parents (especially in India) would prefer their kids to be riding a sports-bike, that too when the concepts and the need for such a thing (A Sports Bike) is still un-explainable (by us) to majority of population (a.k.a parents) in the country. Before you jump to conclusion, that whether the sale was made that day, lemme tell ya...Sid never lost a negotiation. ever! (ahem well except for the gazillion exceptions when the conversation went else where. Lollzzz) Well, coming back to the story, I was considering my return to India and I was looking forward to getting a bike for my touring as well as day to day commute to office (I enjoy this thoroughly).

[Flashback: Till couple of years back I was pretty obstinate and dad  used to resist every idea of mine, especially when it has to do with motorcycles. Due to obvious reasons of course. But during my last ride (check my older posts on this blog) finally dad realised that I am no more wanna-be-rossi types on the road and rather have become a matured and sensible rider, with an immense passion for motorcycle touring. I consider this as a  great breakthrough in my life.]

So I was checking for bikes about to be launched in India and if any of those catch my fancy and more importantly suit my purpose (i.e. of touring in India). To give you an idea of what kind of a buyer I am, let me tell you this, if a bike is having too much sales, no matter how great a deal it is, chances are that I may give it a pass. Herd attitude ain't my thing. No offence to anyone as I say this. I like customisation, I like uniqueness in a product I don't give a damn about any trend! So I was scanning the web reading reviews and was closing in, on few (rather very few) bikes and GT250R topping that list. But my conscience pricked me when I thought of the places that I have already been to and how much this fully covered sports oriented bike can take me. Think of off-roading, think of riding on sand, think of river crossing (yep have done all these and know that if you really are a wanderer you gotta experience 'em all!), etc. So the only reason I was sharing my thoughts (that sales pitch described earlier) with dad was to know his opinion. But as he heard the term *sports* he started changing the topic and my obstinate nature kicked-in and I started defending 'sports genre' itself. After calming down a bit, dad told that he is planning to change his ride as well. I didn't know this, so this update just caught me off guard a bit and I started listening calmly. He was thinking about it for a while, as he has decided to move to a lighter vehicle for health reasons and I completely understand that. So he may sell off the Enfield Electra 5s that he has. Now this was a shock for me, as I loved that bike so very much. It had that classic cast iron mill which now we can't get our hands on through any showrooms. Again if dad has used a bike during it's run-in period I could bet the whole world that it is one of the best maintained machines (I was never so appreciative of this skill of dad, till I owned a bike myself). So I suggested dad 'lets keep that bike in our garage' and you go for a non-geared one as you may like. I will ride that whenever I come home. He said no it's not a good idea, if it has to be kept in a good condition it must be ridden regularly, else it's better off at someone else's parking lot. No way! I had done few trips on that and I just love the way it used to feel. I knew it was my call now, wait and buy a new bike (GT was out of question at this moment, as I was sure that won't be able to go places that I wish to go) or bring the Bullet from home. Finally I decided to bring this beast with me, when I return. This time dad won, and I was happy having to keep dad's bullet:) Such losses are sweetest when the other party is close to your heart and you end up with goodies:D

Deep down I knew I wanted to own a Bullet, but my last experience of test riding the Classic 500, was what, was making me look away from Enfields. To tell you about my test ride experience in brief C5 was powerful indeed and it went from 0-60 in say 3-4 secs. Considering the fact that it's not designed not meant to be a sports bike, you can imagine the power that it has. BUT..it didn't feel like an enfield. Not to me at least. So instead of booking the bike I came back home confused  or rather bit upset that I will not get to buy an Enfield which always had caught my fancy as a kid as well as when I was riding other bikes. But after this perception that I built about the new breed of Bullets, I just parked the thought of buying one, at least not a new one.

If you are passionate about motorcycling like me, I need not tell you how we (gearheads) build our lifestyle around our interest. I used to have a CBZ (original 2002 model) and it had subtle hint towards being a street fighter. But now I was  going to have a retro bike (Enfield, what else!) in hand, so I had to redo the thinking of the possibility of customisation and what clothes and accessories will go with it, etc etc. You know what I mean. After this initial rush of adrenaline, something interesting came to my mind. Let me tell you, it was another childhood dream of mine. I always dreamed of maintaining my bike, but not sure why during my 6 years ownership of the CBZ, I really never got my hands dirty. Initial years it was Castrol Bike Zone and later it was at Fyaz's Garage. Both these parties did such an excellent job at maintaining it that I never really felt inclined to check it myself. But now there was a huge opportunity as Bullet is kinda old school and if you are a geek (like I have been), the moment you see it you know it's calling you to pick up the tools. But it's been years since I last did anything on a bike, other than riding and wiping it with a cloth. So I just put this idea of tinkering with the Bullet aside and continued with my work as usual. But as my days of return to India came closer I started looking for somebody who is good with Enfield and who can help me maintain it myself. I prefer riding alone or in smaller groups and knowing how to fix the bike scores real high on my book. Again I have come across the usual breed of Mechanics who know nothing about motorcycles other than hammering it, sharing some stupid a$$ logic which has no base and robbing you off your money stating technical faults in the bike which never existed. Well if you have owned a bike, you surely know what I am talking about here. For more visual idea of what I am talking about click here :D So I was very clear on the kinda person I was looking for. After few sleepless nights and non-stop web surfing I came across this video:

I knew there was something about this guy, may be it's his honesty which is evident in the video, his simplicity, his educational qualification or his passion for Bullets, that told me, that I gotta meet this guy once I am in Bangalore. With this thought I started focusing my search more on this guy and came across his site:

It was a long time since I learned something new and this page just woke up that kid in me who used to be all fired up about something interesting, something exciting, something he is going do with his new toy. I read up the whole site in two days:P But as fate had it could only get 50% of the details, as rest all were so technical (yes, so much so that even I couldn't grasp it in one read!) that I had to park that reading work until I meet this scientist and see his lab. Without delay I shot a mail to him asking if he still conducts the programs mentioned in the site. I was a bit sceptical, as the site layout was archaic and I was doubtful if the contents are up to date. Days went by and there was no reply, which made me to assume that the site is indeed old and the people and places described can now be called fictional with no relation to anything living or otherwise. Lollz I had few travel plans up my sleeve so I got busy and I  forgot about this whole thing. I came back to India, joined work in Bangalore and got the Bullet along and got busy with office. A month went by, one day I just saw that un-responded mail in my sent items and as I was in India, I though of trying out the mobile number on the site. Sigh...as my luck had it, no one picked up. So I parked the whole things and started looking for another such mechanic who can help me. After two days, I was in an Hotel for an event and I got a call, well it was ghost. As the name displayed on my BB screen was 'B R Gurunandan'. With surprise and bit of skepticism I picked the call and there was this familiar voice I had heard in that video. After a round of formal introduction we sort of hit it off. The call went on for one hour and we spoke about Royal Enfield motorcycles. You can tell when like minded people meet. Well it was one of such events. He told me that he is waiting for a set of such interested people to start a batch and would let me know when it happens. May in a month or two. I was in no hurry, as my work was pretty demanding those days and I needed some time to come out of it. So that call got over after some time and I went back to my work all happy and waiting for that date when a batch will start. Well I got that mail on October 25, asking details of the make and model of my Bullet and also on the location for the meet. The first meet was planned on 4th of November on a Sunday, which I attended. Best part of this whole experience was meeting Mr Gurunandan (or 'Nandan' as we call him now). I found him quite knowledgeable and an amazing person. His enthusiasm and eagerness to share (as well as to learn from others) is highly infectious. We met at his residence (shown in the video) and got to see his collection of Bullets kept in the hall. I got to meet many other Royal Enfield owners who share the same passion for motorcycling as well as for Bullets. It was a day well spent. I have decided to share  my learnings and experience on every session (possibly) with Mr Gurunandan here in this blog for all my biker buddies to learn from and enjoy.

Thank you for your time and patience to go through this story, I really admire your patience:) and more than that your interest in Motorcycling/Bullets that made you visit the blog. Keep coming for updates on our future Bulleteer's meet at Mr Gurunandan's residence.

So by now you must have understood that this story tells about how I met 'Zen' and the future posts of this series will talk about the 'The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'. Which co-incidentally turned out to be one of the favourite books of Nandan.

Until next time..

You keep rolling,

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