I’m not proud of what I am doing right now. I hate people making a racket when I’m sleeping. More so on cold, winter, Sunday mornings. However, I’m afraid I’m something of a hypocrite. Because I’m not exactly doing unto others as I want them to do unto me. Or some such. To be more precise, I am terrorizing an entire city suburb astride a mad, homemade, custom Royal Enfield. And enjoying every second of it!
A custom Royal Enfield. What’s new in that, you say? Well, usually, not much. Custom Enfields are more common than obese people in America these days. Most are long enough to give some BMC buses a complex and have roughly the same turning radius too. Then there are those more classy, more original café racer builds, which if you ask me is way closer to the spirit of the Royal Enfield than any chopper can ever dream of being. But this is not your usual custom. The bike I am straddling today is something completely different. Merely calling it a custom Royal Enfield is a crime. It might resemble a café racer at first look, but as they say – looks can be deceiving. Why? Because at the heart of this baby ticks not a single pot heart, but a full blown V-twin. And this heart leads out into two exhaust valves that are attached to, err, two pipes. No, I’m not saying pipes as a fancy word to describe exhaust. I’m saying pipes because that is exactly what it is. Two hollow metallic pipes making a noise that make people think world war three is nigh. Hence the terrorized neighbourhood you see.
So how did I end up atop this engineering masterpiece? Let me tell you a little story. It all began on the day after Christmas. Whether a product of an epic hangover from the previous day or the result of meticulous planning they refuse to say. All they told me is that on 26 December 2007, the two gents realized that they’ve been sitting on their behinds and contemplating long enough. It was time to put their plans into action. You must be wondering who ‘they’ are. One has been fiddling around with RDs for longer than even he remembers and is popularly known as Dean Fernandes. The other is a well known Royal Enfield maniac and is called Anand Bhalerao – Andy to his friends. Once they set their minds to building the bike, it took them a year and a half to get the blueprints and drawings ready. But as soon as the drawings were ready, the work had to be put on hold as Andy met with an accident in Ladakh. While Andy recovered, it was time for Dean to get married. And the work got delayed yet again. Finally in the beginning of 2012, the serious work began and after six months of wrenching the bike was up and running.
There is still some fine tuning left to do on the machine (the new gearbox, electric start and the like) but for the large part, it is more or less done. If you want to take a peek at it and listen to its mighty roar, head on over to the India Bike Week, Goa where it will be on display. If you’re lucky you might even be able to persuade Dean and Andy to build you one. Of course they will charge you for it. But trust me, it will be much, much less than what you will spend on any other v-twin fresh from the showroom. AND you are guaranteed to have a motorcycle that only a few will ever have their hands on.
As for me, I’ve just spotted a set of buildings that seem awfully quiet. I think I’ll go wake them up now. Muhahahaaa…
So here I was. Sitting in the middle of the road like a, er, sitting duck. I had stalled the bike trying to take a U-turn. And despite my best efforts, that included me standing with both feet on the kick-starter, it refused to budge. Apparently I’m doing it all wrong. The trick is to pull the clutch in, and nudge the kicker halfway down and then whack it all the way down and pray it doesn’t kick back. There is a moment of uncertainty and the twins start firing away. Incidentally, this 700cc motor uses two 350cc AVL blocks and heads, an oil pump borrowed from a Skoda, two massive Mikuni carbs, a right side shifter from the standard Bullet (which is soon to be replaced by an AVL 5 speed shifter on the left side) and everything else handmade by Dean and Andy. I make a mental note about the gear lever being on the wrong side and flick it into first gear. I let go of the clutch and give an armful of throttle and… WHOA! You know that butter smooth linearity that Jap bikes are so famous for? This baby knows nothing of it. The moment I let that clutch loose and twist my wrist, the 19-inch wheels and stock rubber break traction and leave those behind me breathing in dust and bits of rubber and tarmac. There is freight-train amounts of torque being unleashed and it had me grinning inside the helmet. Till I realized it was time to shift to the next gear. I flick my toe, dump the clutch and for a moment there seems to be nothing happening. Then it comes. A tidal wave of torque propelling you ahead the way no Enfield should ever be able to. And it doesn’t stop there. It just keeps on going in third and fourth gears.
I would’ve been happy just going up and down on arrow straight roads on this beaut – whacking the throttle open, braking, and then whacking it open again. But then there are these other things that are quite often a recurring feature on our roads – corners. So along came a corner and like most sane people on a Royal Enfield, I prepared to back off. Because that’s what my mind said I should do. But that’s not what I do. I keep the throttle pinned and begin to hang off (something made insanely simpler thanks to the rear set foot pegs and clip-on handlebars). Entry – Hail Mary full of grace… Apex – hmmm, interesting… Exit – are you serious! This baby just blitzed through a high speed corner without getting unsettled. That’s when the cobwebs cleared. Extra weight from v-twin + clip on handlebars = more weight on the front end and lower COG. Damn!
And “damn” is something I kept muttering to myself as I got off, stood on the side of the road and stared at the bike after my brief ride. This one is a looker. Everything from sculpted tank painted a smooth matte black with a single gold pinstripe to the fender-less front wheel make you want to stare and stare. Then take a break from staring ‘coz your eyes hurt. Come back in a minute or two and stare again.