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    Bullet The City Streets

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    GUWAHATI: The grand daddy of all bikes, the Royal Enfield Bullet, vroomed onto Indian roads in 1955 when the government ordered 800 350 cc model bikes from the Chennai-based company for its police and Army for patrolling the borders. Soon, it took over the imagination of most young, adrenaline-charged Indian males. For the longest time for our fathers and theirs it was the most macho thing to ride a jet black Bullet with a helmet to match. Over the last decade of so, however, the lean, mean machine thundering down the country's roads became a rare sight, as the demand for lighter, sleeker and cheaper motorcycles rose.

    But the legendary Royal Enfield is back on the city streets with a bang. It threatens to overshoot the proliferation of all its meeker cousins that even dared think they stood a chance of winning the race. The original Bullet-riders never really switched loyalties and still vouch for their old machines. Now they have co-fans of the Bullet in Gen X, who are going from ogling the bike to owning it.

    An expert on the motorcycle market in the city confirmed that sales for the oldest-running motorcycle model in the world have picked up once again. Although the manufacturers would like to credit this rise in sales to the recent change in the bike's engine, buyers say they are buying the Bullet because of the glamour and history attached to it, which dates back to the World War I.

    "I always wanted to ride the Bullet for the sheer glamour of it. I sold my old motorcycle and bought a Royal Enfield about five years ago and am really happy riding it," said Ranjit Baruah, a student of Gauhati University. Ranjit added that no bike is as smooth as easy to maintain as the Royal Enfield. City-based businessman Sanjay Kalita, who goes on long-distance biking trips for both relaxation and passion said: "I chose to buy a Royal Enfield in 2009 as I always wanted to own one of these macho machines. There is a plethora of fashionable bikes available in the market today but those are better for in-city riding. The Bullet is great for long trips." Kalita, who is very proud of his Royal Enfield Thunder Bird Twin Spark added he is rigorous and professional about maintaining his bike he washes, greases and polishes it to a shine every week.

    Royal Enfield is the oldest motorcycle manufacturer in the world that is still in business and has a history of uninterrupted trading. The Bullet is the company's longest-running model that has been in constant production. Although the original Royal Enfield company was based in Britain and is now defunct, in India, Chennai-based Royal Enfield still manufactures the motorcycle. Manufactured in India since 1949, Royal Enfield owes its existence on the subcontinent to the British Army, which, during World War II, needed bikes to patrol the borders and contracted a company in Madras to supply parts and finished motorcycles. Eventually, the entire operation was moved to India and the company has been pumping out affordable retro-cruisers since then.

    Talking to TOI on Tuesday, territory sales manager of the company, Mahtas Alam said, "Royal Enfield has always been in demand. However, the sales have seen a kind of resurgence since 2009 after the launch of UC engine. Earlier the engine and the gearbox were separate but now they're compact. Besides the UC engine, the company also gave a new attractive look to the bike and made it more comfortable to sit on.

    "The Bullet is so popular that there are Royal Enfield Clubs in almost all the major cities in India and also in the 20 countries where the company exports the motorcycle. The demand for the bike had suffered a bit of a setback because of various factors. However, sales have been booming all of a sudden, so much so that we are not being able to cope up with the demand," said Alam.

    "We sold 597 Royal Enfield (various models) in 2009. This year we have sold 229 bikes so far," said Alam.

    "Supply shortage is a problem most dealers complain of even though the company has doubled its production capacity," he said, explaining that the increase in demand has compelled the company to plan opening more dealerships in Itanagar, Jorhat, Sivasagar and in Agartala.

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