Saturday, September 3, 2005

Bullet of a mobike
H. Kishie Singh

(Top) Thunderbird with the sissy bar and Bullet’s new model Electra 5S

THE Bullet, also affectionately called the Thumper, by die-hard motorists has been one of the most famous mobikes in India as well as the world. Its maker Royal Enfield, to celebrate 50 years in India, recently launched two new variants — Bullet Electra 5S and Thunderbird. These are basically old wine in new bottles. The engine, chassis and suspension remain much the same. The new additions have disc brakes, electric starter and much fancy chrome and paintwork. The electric starter is optional.

The Electra 5S has a five-speed gear box and its gear-shift lever is on the left side — a first time for both fitments. Traditionally, the Bullet has a four-speed gear box and the gear shift lever is on the right. Royal Enfield has also departed from the traditional black colour. The variants today are available in a range of stunning metallic colours.

The Thunderbird, which was launched in 1998, was India’s first cruiser bike. It had high-rise handle bars, the seat shape was different and it boasted of a sissy bar. The sissy bar is a backrest for the pillion rider and it is called so because it prevents the pillion rider from falling off. Guess, it is considered macho to have no supporters. The new Thunderbird is a fully loaded version with electric start (optional), disk brake in front (optional) and fancy colours. Both bikes have four-stroke, single-cylinder, air-cooled, 346-cc engines. The Bullet has had all this from day one. The digital TCI ignition is new.

In the past, Enfield has come up with a number of products like 22-cc Mofa, 50-cc Silver Plus and a 150-cc scooter called the Fantabulous. However, the Bullet has always been the face of Royal Enfield.

Royal Enfield entered India in 1955 as Enfield India Limited. It imported completely knocked -own kits from Enfield Cycle Company in England and became the first four-stroke mobike manufacturer in India.

In 1956, 163 Bullets (350cc) were produced. There has been no looking back for the company since then.

We know about the last 50 years of the company’s history, but Enfield has had another 50 years of interesting life before that.

In 1891, Enfield started an ammunition factory in Raddich, England. One of their products was bullets. In 1901, they ventured into mobikes. It was made like a bullet, they claimed. The claim holds good today.

Royal Enfield is the oldest mobike manufacturer in the world — it started mobike production in 1901. Famous names like Triumph, BSA (Birmingham Small Arms), Norton, Matchless, AJS have come and gone but the Bullet goes on racing ahead. During World War II, Royal Enfield did yeomen service as the dispatch rider’s (DR) mount. It was this reputation that prompted the Indian army to place an order with Madras Motors, which were assembling the bike in India. This was in 1949. The Bullet continues to be the preferred mount for the armed forces and the police in the country today. In 1990, they introduced the Taurus, the world’s first production of the diesel-backed mobike. In 1994, the Eicher group acquired the company and changed its name from Enfield to Royal Enfield.

The Director, Sales and Marketing, Royal Enfield , S. Vaitheeswaran, says: "We have vintage and classic brands that are different and unique. We make them all but without losing our "identity". That is the Bullet’s USP. Whatever the name, shape, size or colour of the Bullet, it continues to rein. And remember, Bulleting is fun but wear a helmet at all times.

Happy riding.