Why indeed do I ride a Bullet? Or for that matter anyone else? For the price of a Bullet you can buy a 250 cc sportsbike with money to spare for a full set of riding gear. For the price of a Classic or Thunderbird 500 you can buy a Tata Nano. Why indeed buy a bike with the most outdated technologies, with the worst quality control in factory, with one of the worst service centers in the country?
There is just one answer to it.
Irrational , illogical love.
Bullet is not the most efficient bike in the market. It does not boast of the best speed, the best mileage, the best power or even the best torque. But what I and every other Bulleteer claims as its one all surmounting virtue is its feel.
Why do I love it? Here are the reasons.
My Bullet is not my first bike. My first bike was a Hero Honda Hunk and in that I toured for more than 20000 kms. In fact my whole riding and touring ethos were developed in my Hunk. I loved the Hunk. It never broke down on me even in the roughest roads, or the remotest terrains. I knew then and I know now that a Bullet is unpredictable. I have been stuck at a remote mountain village, in the midst of a violent political conflict on my immovable Bullet. I have been stuck in the roughest of monsoons and had to cancel a dream ride to Ooty because of an immovable Bullet. I have been stranded in a remote hill side with an immovable Bullet. These are situations that a Hunk would not land me in. But for these very same reasons I am in love with my Bullet.
A Bullet is like the love of our life. She is unpredictable, moody and occasionally truant. Ultimately it is the most human equivalent in bikes. It is not a product of factory precision or perfection. It is only as perfect as your luck and care holds out. Just as in any human relationship.
The sound of the Bullet’s engines, the low thuds when you are coasting at slow speed and distinguishing lion like roar at its higher RPMs. The sedate vibration of the bike, the comfortable posture of the bike and the sheer bliss of the bike carrying you and your saddle luggage up the winding roads of a mountain. Ultimately the joy in riding slow. Bullet is all about taking life leisurely slow. Though it can go fast, I have personally hit 126 kmph on my Bullet at a time, its sheer pleasure is to be had when it goes slow. Bikes are traditionally designed to be fast. I believe so too was Bullet once, several decades back when it was the only bike with a large engine. However in today’s fast paced life a Bullet is the best way to enjoy being slow. This enjoyment is not a rational thing, it is a bit more sublime.
I admit there are different types of bikers. To a layman there seems to be the rascals racing and stunting on the street without helmets and gears and then the riding community. However in the riding community there are these two types of bikers – the slow and fast cruisers. Before I was a Bulleteer I was a member of the largest biking fraternity in India, the xBHP. This is a community that has riders from all over the world, riding all manner of bikes, However on group rides I noticed there to be two distinct groups, ones who enjoyed going fast and ones who enjoyed going at a more sedate pace. Even while riding a Hunk I was in the sedate riding group. It is just a matter of temperament and neither group is superior to the other. In the fraternity we are all equals. But there lies the fact. Motorcycling is not just about riding at three digits, there is a lot of fun to be had in riding in the 40s and 60s.
And it is in this sector that the Bulleteers fall in. There have been countless criticism of the creed of Bullets. Most of these critics are the ones who enjoy the life in three digits. Perhaps they should take a moment to expand their perspective a bit wider to acknowledge that we are not wrong either.
I still remember my first tour on a Bullet, an Electra I borrowed for an experimental ride from the Royal Enfield showroom in Kochi. As I climbed up the winding roads from Munnar to Top Station in just third gear at a sedate 40 kmph it was an unexplainable bliss that washed over me. I could never gain that joy on my Hunk. Last year as I rode through the Hunsur – Virajpet stretch, that abysmal stretch of poor tarmac, I felt the same joy when my Bullet could cruise through the roughest roads at 40 kmph while cars and technologically superior bikes like my friend’s KTM Duke 390 struggled.
There are technologically superior bikes capable of offroading, there are technologically superior bikes capable of cruising on smooth highways however there is just one bike that can handle every single terrain of India with equanimity. Like the Ambassador or the Jeep, Bullet is the only Bike that can handle any road in India. So a Bulleteer always knows that no matter what, he can always take off to ride across India.
So my request to those disparaging the Bullet, please dont. Live and let live. The love for a Bullet is exactly as advertised, a love, purely in the eye of the beholder. It is not supposed to be a universal love! Just because you dont understand it, do not disparage it. Let us all widen our perspectives and cherish in the fact that we are a community of motorcycling enthusiasts, a tribe of bikers who share a common passion for the road. After all is it not gladdening that in a nation so accustomed to ignoring the laws and rules of the road we are a group who understand and follow them? Let us not look for points of differences and instead bask in common values shared. After all it is never the bike that is important, it is the biker.