“Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong,
Mountain mamma, take me home
Country Roads by John Denver Warning: Long post Ahead
This is the ownership review of my Royal Enfield Electra. The review is less technical and more descriptive type of my days with the Electra.
It is the longing to be on the open Country roads that made me long for the “Ruler on two wheels” of Indian Roads even though I already owned a bike bought just a year back. The yearning of freedom to be on the open road, the feel of cool air on your face, being under the roof of the sky, the thump of the Bullet the only thing cutting through the silence of the open country roads. The battle of mind and heart here was conquered by the heart.
My tryst with two wheelers started in the late nineties when my father taught me how to ride his trusted “Hamara Bajaj”. This was the vehicle of choice for most middle class families in India and my family was no different. I hated being taught to ride by my father because he would give me those glaring look every time I made a mistake. However looking back it is this discipline that has lasted in the way I ride or I drive today. The Bajaj Chetak was one of the 2 two wheeler in my family, the other being my grand fathers Rajdoot. My grandfather was an avid rider of his time and even rode from Delhi to North Bengal in the late eighties/early nineties. Solo. He is 80+ and still rides till date. The stories he told us put us in awe and definitely he has been an immense influence on me being the bike lover that I am. The only problem is that grandpa treasured his bikes and maintained them in pristine condition and there was nowhere he would allow us lesser mortals even touch them. As such I had to be content with my dad teaching me to ride on his scooter. Since then many motorcycles have come and gone and I still longed to own the King of Indian Road, The Royal Enfield. I don’t remember how and when this longing started but it was incurable till I actually owned it.
(Tried some changes to see how it looks but never actually fixed it due to paucity of time)
Fast forward to 2013. Now located in Bangalore with more or less secure job and this bug was biting me again. Just a few days back me and my friend walked into a Royal Enfield showroom in to check out the Enfield siblings. My friend ended up booking the Electra 350 and I was left with a severe heartache. The next few days passed horribly because my longing for the Enfield which was lying in dormant status was erupting again. Somehow the week passed and on Saturday afternoon I asked my friend if he would like to go and hangout at the company owned RE showroom. Some malls are located near the showroom anyway so we can kill some time as well. To be honest, the official RE showroom is somewhat like a government office. No one cares who walks in or walks out because the SA’s are happier chit chatting amongst themselves. Anyways with no one to bother us and it actually turned out good considering we just wanted to kill sometime. We were more than happy discovering the bikes on our own terms. And by the time I left the showroom at 4:30PM, I ended up booking the Red Bullet Electra 350. I was given a waiting period of six months. Initially I felt this timeline to be ok but later realized that with the passing of days the six months felt like six years. Me and my friend would pop in and out of the showroom every once in a while to check for delivery. After about 3 months of waiting, my friend got his Electra Delivered. For him the delivery experience was more or less hassle free. The staffs were generously courteous and willing to help. The only grouse was that they delivered him a Red color Electra although he booked a Black one. But the thought of waiting another month or so to get the color of his choice was serious enough to take the Red. So on the said date we went to the showroom, did all the nitty gritty formalities and took delivery of his bike. We rode back happily to our apartment which was around 5 km. By the time we reached our apartment, the bikes engine was so hot that it felt as if we had come back from a long ride. While I was aware of RE niggles and overheating I felt something was no right and the bike should not heat up so much on a 5 km ride. Waited for the engine to cool a bit, fooled around here and there and realized that the Engine had no Engine oil. OMG. The bike was delivered without any Engine oil. Almost bone dry. Immediately engine oil was arranged for and filled. We went for a longish test drive after putting engine oil and our mind was put at ease. We then went to the showroom and demanded an explanation. As per the showroom the bike was probably drained for the purpose of refilling fresh engine oil but the technician probably forgot. Whatever the case maybe but the first 5 km ride back home from Showroom to Apartment without engine oil had definitely taken a toll and as a result the fuel pump on my friends Electra went kaput within 2 days. The service centre changed the part for free and the bike has been running fine till date.
Now back to my very own. So after about 3 months of waiting and around a week after my friend Royal Enfield was delivered, I went back to the company RE showroom to check status of my bike. They told me that I am serial no 9 on the waiting list. Then I realized that they told me that after one month of waiting as well. So I asked how come they have not delivered any bikes to anyone in the past 2 months because my number has not moved. They said sir wait one more month. I left it at that for the time being and went back home. After 2-3 days I went back to the showroom and asked them to give me a quotation so that I can get my loan approved. Because anyways, the loan approval validity is for 3 months so I will not have to run around like a headless chicken at the last minute. They refused. There explanation, Sir we can’t give quotation unless your bike is allocated to the showroom. This is strange. I said sir I am asking only for quotation not the invoice. Moreover, the other RE showroom gave my friend the bike quotation once during booking and once more during finalizing the loan without a fuss so what was their problem in giving me a quotation. They told me Saar this is the practice in the company showrooms not to give quotation until the bike is allocated. The explanation was hard to digest and I felt this was a tactic used by the showroom to force the customers to avail finance from the showroom tied up financer. Without a quotation I returned frustrated even more. Anyways left it at that but I went back to the showroom after about 5 days and again I asked for my delivery status and again they said sir you are on wait list 9. Now I felt something to be fishy because on my previous visit I saw that the showroom taking delivery of around 8-9 bikes from the factory dispatches of which most were Electra’s. So I asked how come no bike was delivered to customers even though they received factory dispatches. They had no answer for this and I kept insisting them for an answer. They punched a few keys on the keyboard and then they told me that the list has been refreshed and now my serial no is 4. Hmmm that was fast. And then my luck shone again. Just as I was loitering in the showroom the truck with the factory dispatches arrived and as the showroom was taking delivery I counted four Electra’s. :D. Immediately I brought this to the notice of the SA and haggled him to allot me the bike. They were unwilling and gave me all sorts of reasons but I was adamant and they agreed to deliver me one of the newly received Electras. I arranged for the loan to be released and it still took about 10 days of threatening and shouting, to and fro a lot of emails to the company and the bike was finally delivered to me. They asked me come after 5:00 pm for the delivery so after anxiously passing the day, I reached the showroom at 5:00Pm to take delivery. After signing a few papers they prepared the gate pass and sent me below to the delivery area. There a mechanic was giving final touches to my bike which was gleaming and glistening in black…err black? I booked a Red Electra, I confirmed a Red Electra, I paid for a Red Electra and now they were delivering me a black Electra? Since the RC was not yet handed over to me I quite could not confirm the color so I asked the mechanic to confirm and he told me yes sir this is your bike. In black. He even offered me a test ride around the block. I even went for the test ride and came back and mentally readied to take delivery of the bike. But for one last time I went to thank the Showroom staff and SA and mentioned that I was expecting a red Electra but black was ok as long as I got a bike. That is when they realized that they goofed up. Mine was indeed a red electra. They registered a red electra in my name and due to miscommunication, the mech below was giving me a black Electra. Well after all the comedy of errors and to make the already long story and waiting period short, I was given the correct bike and I happily galloped home. Well not home actually. To the accessories shop like every proud Enfield owner does after getting delivery of his bike. Leg guards, seat covers and even louder silencer. The thump ones, the bass ones, the loud one and what not.
(Sorry for hazy pic) Odo reading 0-20000 km
So after putting a seat cover, crash guard, and a Gold star Exhaust I rode back home. Now with me and my friend both owning our very own Electras, we demolished our 500KM first service mark in 2 days. With all the excitement, we just could not digest in our belly that the first service was just 500km away. We wanted to get done with it as soon as possible while properly breaking in. Did a few restricted speed runs in NICE road and a trip to Mysore and the break in period was over. Immediately we handed over our bikes to our respective showroom service centers for the service. As usual the service experience was nothing great. In fact going to service reminded me of our school days. I had to reach the Service Centre at exactly 8:30 AM and get it numbered and Service Centre was willing to take only this many bikes per day and if you were late no Service blah blah blah. Somehow I tolerated this nonsense till second service and I have never returned to Service Centers anymore. I am more of person who would like to sit with his mechanic on Saturday or Sunday afternoons and actually get things done under my watch. I searched for best mechs available in Bangalore on various forums on the internet and tried a few of them and I found one thing quite common with RE capable mechs. The local bullet mechs were even more problematic to deal with compared to the Showroom service mechs. Most of them are big on ego and hardly ever willing to listen and with the sudden burst of new Bullet owners in Bangalore, they were least bothered about retaining customers. Anyways I found a mech who would occasionally work on RE bullets old and new just closer to my apartment. Although he charges a bit on the higher side he is willing to listen and get work done as per my convenience and time.
The first ride to Nandi Hills
It has been 3 years now and the Electra is going strong. I have covered length and breadth of South India mostly with my friend or solo. I am more of a solo rider and prefer to ride either solo or in a group of 2 or 3 bikes and not more. The Electra still rides strong and can live till another long termer. The bike felt noisy and the tappet clatter was a bit annoying for the first 1000 km. The vibrations are well like a typical Enfield. However I feel this too smoothed out after the 1000 km mark. The bike is a pleasure to ride as long as you keep it at sane speeds of 80-90 kmph and occasional push to 100-110 kmph. Beyond 100-110kmph the bike becomes light and doesn’t really inspire much confidence. The highest speed I have touched on my Electra was 130-135 kmph beyond which I didn’t have guts to take it. That was the time when I was experimenting with achieving high speeds on my bullet and had done some performance expected mods like free flow bend pipes, Greasehouse thumper exhausts, rejetting of carbs, K&N filter etc etc. The above speed was achieved on the NICE road where the roads are flat and open for miles and miles to come and I don’t recommend high speeds to anyone. Especially on a bike with ancient underpinnings. After a few months of obsession and spending quite a few bucks trying to achieve this realization dawned that if I wanted high speeds Electras not the bike to do it. Get a Yamaha or KTM and do it. Prior to my experiments with high speed I have experimented quite a lot with getting the perfect thump on the UCE Electra. Spent a lot of time and money and that time too I realized one thing. No matter what you do to it you can never replicate the thump of CI Bullets. Mind you I liked the sound of my bike but thump is thump and it cannot be achieved.
The thumper Some of my notable rides are as listed below:
Bangalore-Vellore-Pondicherry in 2 days- Solo
Bangalore-Salem-Erode-Sathyamangala-Chamrajnagar-Bangalore-2 days- 2 RE Electras
Bangalore-Wayanad- Kozhikode-Kochi-Pallakad-Coimbatore-Sathyamangala-Bangalore- 3 days- 2 RE Electras
Bangalore-Sringeri-2 days- Solo
Bangalore-Mangalore- days-2 Enfields.
Bangalore-Pune-4 days trip-solo
This list excludes all the innumerable trips to Coorg and Mysore and other nearby areas from Bangalore which is a just too common getaway from Bangalore. Odo reading 20000-30000km
Since then I have got married and shifted base to Hubli and made a few trips to Belgaum, Hampi, Badami, Dandeli, Gokarna, Goa and more with my better half. My wife was a Bullet hater to start with and was insisting on getting rid of it since shortly after marriage. She is a convert now and she prefers long trips on the Bullet to the car. After our August trip to Sringeri- Hornadu-Kudremukh- Udipi in our car, she was somewhat left unsatisfied and proposed to do this trip again on the Bullet. Now Even I feel that the only natural progress for a Bulleteer is a Jeep or a 4x4. Anyways more on that later. The bike is a bit neglected these days though as I have restricted it for short trips only and prefer the Car more so because it’s a more responsible way of seeing the country especially with a wife in tow. As on date the Odo reading on my bike shows 29978 km and hope to cross 30k KM mark in a day or two. I am hoping to give it for a mid life rejuvenation sometime after crossing 35k KM mark.