Posted on February 16, 2010
Forever and ever
Enfields are usually loud motorcycles. Made in an age when drive-by noise regulations were inconceivable, they are now quieted by pollution critics. To me, most of the machine’s charm lies in the sound and I made Gia, my 500cc Enfield, a loud mouth before I took delivery of her.
Though remarkably similar, the 500 doesn’t have the sweet thump of the 350. Different final drive ratios mean that they sound quite different and distinctive. The 500 is more powerful, obviously, and can hit decent speeds very quickly. Older 350s have a more relaxed, lazy demeanor.
A bystander is usually the one to get the best aural experience of an Enfield. The rider has to contend with the clatter of the tappets and various other sounds that each engine uniquely makes. But at times like this, when one’s riding next to a tall gardened median as on Marine Drive, the rider gets an even better experience.
As I edged closer to the tall median, the exhaust beat reflected off it; the sound of the long stroke single properly loud now. What I like most about the 500 is the way it sounds when riding around 80 kph. It’s this fast beat – like someone doing a drumroll on a big bass drum. I opened the throttle to enjoy the orchestra more and Gia didn’t disappoint. Badly in need of tuning (as she usually is after a long ride), she still charged on, the power evidently there.
Marine drive was quite bumpy – I think they never get time to maintain it due to the constant traffic – and the dead suspension was letting me know the exact condition of the road. As Gia jumped the bumps, my wrist ended up opening the throttle more, for a fraction of a second. That was sufficient to make the volume levels jump, reminding me that there was more power in reserve. I peeked at the speedo. The broken needle was bouncing around in its cage, but the base of the needle was still working fine. Hard to accurately tell the speed without a needle, but it was around 80. Open the throttle just a bit more, a few more jumps in the volume and I was almost doing 100. What a glorious sound!
Enfields are like elephants. Expensive to buy and even more expensive to maintain. They can carry large loads and can travel great distances. But each one is unique and temperamental – not quite ideal when doing a 30 day ride in the middle of nowhere. Gia though, been enormously reliable – never letting me down on any of the many rides we’ve been on. Other Enfields are far more notorious. There’s always this doubt – even after spending thousands on maintenance – that something might go wrong.
It’s this nagging feeling that draws me to other motorcycles. The KLR 650 is a great option. Getting it in India is a different story altogether. Like other Enfield owners, I’ve already spent much more than the cost of the motorcycle in maintenance over the past 7 years of ownership. There’s a redeeming fact though – I can actually sell Gia for more than what she cost me new.
But then I remember experiences like these and know that I have to keep her. Forever.