My geekyness knows no bounds.
Comic books, film, TV, sci-fi, theater, the web, gadgets, its all in there. But there is no bigger place in my geeky heart (outside of the one reserved for Dr. Who, Star Trek, and the collected works of Felicia Day) than the spot set aside for the geekiest of obsessions … Motorcycles.
Now some might say that Motorcycles are not a true object of geekery, that motorcycling is a rough-and-tumble world of big iron, hard chrome, and lots of leather (not to mention ink), but I would disagree.
Motorcycling is a realm of geekery as vast as The Vortex, and as endless as time itself. No matter whether the biker in question is a hardened Harley rider with a 3-piece patch and a rap sheet longer than the 4th Doctor’s scarf, or a devotee of vintage British bikes with a penchant for Bellstaff Trialmaster jackets and hand-rolled cigarettes; Motorcycling is all about the boys (and girls) and their toys.
Toys that go fast.
My own interests fall more towards the vintage British side … Especially anything Triumph or Norton (with a nod to BSA as being the coolest thing to come out of an armaments factory not designed to explode … Well, at least not intentionally. Old British bikes due tend to behave about as reliably as a vintage TARDIS with a blown chameleon circuit.)
Getting a hold of one of those old bikes, like a 1960s/’70s Triumph Bonnie, and restoring it, is something I want to do further down the road, but that ambition has been held back by the need to have a good, reliable, daily commuter that doesn’t require constant attention and maintenance, as these older bikes do.
But there is a whole market that has been opening up in the past few years for new “modern classic” lines of bikes that have the look and styling of vintage bikes, but all modern technology under the hood. These bikes, such as the newly-reborn Triumph Bonneville line, offer the best of both worlds.
Another bike that is taking off in popularity is the new line of Royal Enfield Bullets.
Royal Enfield is a venerable name in motorcycling with roots going back to Edwardian England, and the Bullet is a bike with a design history dating back to the 1930s.
Currently produced in India, Royal Enfields have one of the longest production history of any bike around, and were in constant manufacture up until a few years ago, when the company changed hands. (For a complete history of the Royal Enfield Company, and Enfield India, read Mick Walker’s execllent book, Royal Enfield: The Complete Story, available through Amazon.)
Although available abroad, and in certain U.S. States, for the past couple of years, we’ve only seen the new Enfield Bullets in California starting in 2011, after a complete engine redesign including electronic fuel injection, and a muffler with a 3-stage catalytic converter, enabled the bike to meet State emission standards.
The result is a thoroughly vintage-looking British single-cylinder motorcycle, with an electronic brain and a host of cleverly-hidden modern conveniences that make this puppy a ton of fun to ride.
It’s important to note that these bikes aren’t powerhouses…The Bullets is rated at 27 ponies, stock, but this isn’t about speed, it’s about stepping out in style …
Jay Leno did a walk-though of the various Bullet models for his “Jay Leno’s Garage” web series, which I’ve included on this page. You can also see the bikes at the Royal Enfield USA page, which also includes user forums, and a store with all kinds of aftermarket goodies that you can pick up to trick out your own Bullet.
Best of all, a new, top-of-the-line, Bullet C5 Classic will set you back a little over $7k out-the-door, so it’s in that range of being affordable for a second bike that isn’t your daily driver or, as Leno points out, a very cool alternative to a scooter, for tooling around town.
Munroe Motors is the local dealer in San Francisco, and I hear that they’ve got a Bullet reserved for test drives.