27 December 2017

Take me back to Bonneville

Roderick Eime

The term ‘iconic’ has been bandied about so much, it has little meaning left. But when it did mean something, it referred to brands like Triumph. And to achieve ‘iconic’ status you need to earn it.

It may have been a rough road, but Triumph Motorcycles weathered two World Wars, a Great Depression and the biggest threat of all, Asian competition. It built personality, prestige and an irresistible desirability through associations with such masculine style icon pillars as Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, James Dean and even Elvis Presley. Now if that pedigree team of superstar riders doesn’t make a boy want to get on a bike, I don’t know poo from clay.

Like James Bond and Aston Martin, Ayrton Senna and TAG Heuer, the male brand bonding between Steve McQueen and Triumph Motorcycles in particular was a match made in heaven. In fact, so enamoured with the brand was McQueen, that he even had Germans riding them in his 1963 WWII classic, ‘The Great Escape’. You didn’t know that? Look closely.

Triumph didn’t seem to mind this historical faux pas either. They even celebrated it with a limited edition Triumph Bonneville, released in 2011.

Triumph Revival

One of the oldest brands in motorcycle history, the first Triumph motorcycle went on sale in 1902 and continued until 1983 when, like so many established yet complacent European brands, they were overtaken by the rush of Japanese machines like Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki.

Reborn in 1985 through the acquisition of the brand by John Bloor (now an OBE), and despite numerous global subsidiary operations, the company remains 100 percent UK-owned. By all accounts, Triumph is riding high with its superbly crafted, retro-styled machines that channel both the extensive history of the marque and the trademark styling of their ‘60s classics, particularly the big twin Bonneville. The full range of Triumph machines however, includes everything from touring, adventure, naked, sports and cruiser.

Aussie riders embrace new Bonnies

The big new Bonneville T120 sold almost 300 units in 2016 from an April start. About the same as the Ducati Scrambler and Honda CB500 did for the full 12 months. 2017 has seen it take off, leaving both those rivals for dead and selling close to 100 units by end of March, helping Triumph to the #5 spot on the list of ‘Australian Road sales by brand’.

Like a tenacious prizefighter’s ‘old one, two’, Triumph are following up this success with the T100, a new entry point for riders wanting to be one with their own ‘Bonnie’. Powered by the soothing and percussive 900cc parallel twin, the T100 and its evil twin, the T100 Black, bear an immediate heartwarming resemblance to the original 1959 model that began this stalwart heritage.

The Street Cup is Triumph's other ‘16 release that employs the same 900cc Bonneville engine in an immaculate ‘cafe racer’ chassis complete with all the stylish accoutrements like bullet seat, tiny ‘flyscreen’ windshield and bold paintwork to match its ‘racer’ silhouette. The bike pays homage to the incredible 1969 feat of Welshman, Malcolm Uphill who rode a Bonneville to win the Isle of Man Production TT race while recording the first 100mph lap for that class.

The modern Bonnevilles deliver plenty of satisfying, silky smooth acceleration in an easy-to-manage, neutral-handling package that is a breeze around town and just as exciting on the open road. The milder-mannered T100 is a little easier to manage than the T120 which, by comparison is the big, bare-chested 1200cc brute of a brother. Similarly, the 900cc Street Cup, just feels fast in an ‘old school’ understated manner without the grotesque modern and luminous fairings that seem to typify today’s struggling sport bikes .

‘Brutal Beauty’ Bobber Bonnie a surprise hit

To take the retrospective to a whole new level, the single seat ‘bobber’ version of the Bonneville has proven another massive hit with riders seeking both street cred and a thoroughly enjoyable ride on a machine not stapled together with rusty chicken wire, proving a modern ‘Cafe Racer’ doesn’t have to be some stunt bike from a Mad Max sequel.

Maybe it was the ‘hot rod’ exhaust tuning or low down power from the re-tuned high torque 1200cc engine it shares with the T120 but, released in late 2016, it became the fastest selling motorcycle in Triumph’s 115-year history and kept the marque swimming in the early months of 2017 as many big names floundered in a sudden sales slump.

And, wait for it, 2018 sees the ‘darker, meaner, stronger’ Bonneville Bobber Black in showrooms with an even more aggressive, lightweight package.

Style never goes out of fashion

If ever there was a demonstration of “what was old is new again”, it’s the enduring affection motorcycle lovers - old and new - have for a brand that respects both classic heritage and current technology, combining both in a package that delights equally riding purists and design geeks.

Model Spotlight: Bonneville T100 and T100 Black

Inspired by the legendary ’59 Bonneville and styled to incorporate more of the signature design, silhouette and character of the original, the T100 and T100 Black each have their own distinctive character, enhanced by the premium finishes and familiar touches of a that classic, original motorcycle.

Sharing the instantly recognisable Bonneville lines and many of the key features of the T120, the new T100 and T100 Black both reflect the same timeless beauty. From the sculpted form of the 14.5 litre fuel tank, to the intricately detailed Bonneville engine plate and feature-rich twin clocks, the new T100 incorporates new standards for quality and finish.

The Bonneville T100 features the classically inspired detailing and stunning chrome finishes you’d expect on such a bike. Gleaming brushed aluminium covers, classic bolt-on Triumph badges unique to these two models are teamed with deep chrome mirrors, mudguard stays, handlebars and headlight bezel.

Contributing to the classic Bonneville profile on the T100 is the detailed comfort and pillion seats, finished in contrast piping with deeper foam for extra comfort.

Apart from the key components of the new T100, the T100 Black goes dark and sophisticated with fully black components including wheel rims, a twin-skin, matt peashooter exhaust and blacked-out engine covers for an unmistakable look.

Model Spotlight: Street Cup

With a name inspired by the club racing scene, the Street Cup is designed to deliver all the attitude, personality, presence and style of a contemporary custom cafe racer for today’s riders.

Sharing the same styling principles as the Street Twin, the new Street Cup has the unmissable Bonneville silhouette combined with clean lines, minimal bodywork and modern finishes. Cast wheels, an elegant fuel tank with a locking fuel cap, black sculpted engine covers with the Triumph makers mark triangle and Bonneville engine badge, this exciting bike is rounded off with an elegant single throttle body with aluminium finisher and distinctive finned head and header clamps.

To match its ‘street racer’ attitude the Street Cup packs more sports-focused ergonomics without compromising rider comfort. Compared to the Street Twin the rider is seated slightly higher and further back and the ‘Ace’ style handlebars are positioned lower and slightly forward to improve physical turn in.

Key Specs (all models)

Engine Type: Liquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel twin
Capacity: 900cc
Bore/Stroke: 84.6mm x 80mm
Compression Ratio: 10.55:1
Maximum Power: 55 PS / 54 HP (40.5kW) @ 5900 rpm
Maximum Torque: 80Nm @ 3230 rpm


Originally published in OUTThere Magazine Dec/Jan 2018

13 December 2017

Explore Australia by Camper Trailer

Explore Australia by Camper Trailer is a curated guide to the very best places to visit with a camper trailer. This book features reviews of more than 320 camper trailer sites – a mix of bush camping in national parks, free camping, station stays and caravan parks. Covering 50 regional areas around the country, there’s also information on what to see and do once you’ve picked the perfect base camp, including scenic day trips, local attractions, walks and fishing spots. Detailed maps and colourful photos make this book everything you need to plan the perfect camping holiday or camper trailer road trip.


Hardie Grant Travel
AUD$39.99 | NZ$44.99

06 December 2017

Cuba: Riding the Revolution

Roderick Eime infiltrates a Cuban secret society, the 'Harlistas'.

There's nothing new about motorcycle touring vacations, but sometimes there's an attraction that makes a destination irresistible.

Here in Cuba, Ernesto Guevara March, 52, is not only a child of the revolution, he is the son of the famous 'Che' Guevara whose iconised portrait adorns everything from T-Shirts, postage stamps and fridge magnets to tenement walls and government buildings.

Like the child of any famous public figure, Ernesto seeks to find his own identity and that has been through motorcycles, Harley-Davidsons specifically. Again, it's a coincidence hard to ignore given his father's famous pilgrimage across South America on a Norton in 1952 that became the cult classic film, 'Motorcycle Diaries'.

It was an opportunity too good to miss, so I tracked down Ernesto who operates La Poderosa Tours out of Havana with his Greek-born wife, Maria Elena, and signed up for a sampler of his touring program that takes riders through some of the spectacular scenery of Cuba. Anyone who has seen the film or read the book will know instantly the significance of 'La Poderosa'.

Havana thrives on nostalgia with everything from centuries-old Spanish colonial architecture, mid-20th Century US-inspired excess and harsh Soviet-era blandness. Remnants of these bygone times populate the alleys and boulevards of Havana in the form of hundreds of 1940-50s-era US cars from Chevrolet, Ford and Chrysler mixed in with such Soviet curiosities as Lada and Moskvich. The old Harley-Davidsons are there too, but much harder to find.

Unlike the garish Fairlane, Thunderbird and Dodge taxis that throng the streets, The Cuban 'Harlistas' are an underground cult whose cherished machines only come out for special occasions. The devotees meet at such 'hole-in-the-wall' establishments as Chacon 162 in the historic quarter of Old Havana where an old Panhead hangs from the ceiling. Its name is derived from the Cuban equivalent of 'Route 66'.

The fleet of 14 bikes used by La Poderosa Tours are modern H-D models such as ElectraGlides, StreetGlides and Dynas brought in through a convoluted method via Panama. It's all above board but as anyone will tell you, anything in Cuba is complicated.

Tours are typically a week or longer to such historic locations as Trinidad da Cuba in the country's south-east where the 500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage city remains surprisingly well preserved.

A full report will appear in Australian Road Rider Magazine

For details about joining a La Poderosa 'Harlista' Tour, contact Robyn Smith at Movidas Journeys +612 9700 1327 www.movidas.com.au

Main pic: Max Cucchi / Backroad Diaries Publishing

27 September 2017

Amazing barn find GTHO Phase III for auction

Gosford Classic Car Museum is hosting its very first public auction on Saturday 28th October, with VIP guests including Australia’s wealthiest heading to the Coast to view some of the nation’s most prized vehicles. Supported by Pickles, Australia’s number one auction and valuation specialist, the Museum will have up to 70 classic cars on sale, ranging from $50,000 AUD into the millions.

Headlining the auction are four show-stopping vehicles:
  • 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III – fewer than 100 models remain in the world
  • 1988 Porsche 959 – the world’s fastest street-legal production car when first introduced
  • 1968 Lamborghini Miura – Italy’s finest sports car
  • 1966 Aston Martin DB6 – the longest production run up to that date of any Aston Martin model
Gosford Classic Car Museum is home to the largest collection of cars in the Southern Hemisphere and was founded by Tony Denny in 2016, who – a car collector himself – decided to turn his hobby into a passion project.

In support of a very important cause, the Museum will also auction off its unique Formula Vee, with all proceeds going to NSW Kids in Need, which supports six child-focussed charities in the region. The previous owner was a racer who sadly passed away from cancer last year.

Tony Denny, Founder and Owner of Gosford Classic Car Museum said: “We’re thrilled to open our doors to the world for one night only, in what is one of Australia’s largest car auction this year. Selling off 70 of our classic cars is no easy feat; however, it is essential we make room for the exciting new collections that we have waiting in the wings. We can’t wait to see familiar and new faces on auction night!”

General admission tickets to the event can be purchased from Eventbrite for $25, with VIP options available as well. The catered affair is expecting up to 1500 guests.

Steve Allen, National Manager of Prestige Vehicles at Pickles added: “We are excited to collaborate with Gosford Classic Car Museum to bring to life Australia’s most iconic classic car auction to date. With the amount of quality and exotic collections going under the hammer, we foresee it being a great event.”

For bidders unable to attend, an online bidding facility – Pickles Live – allows bids to be placed worldwide in real time. All vehicles can also be viewed prior to auction in person by appointment or online.

For full details on the auction, visit https://classiccars.pickles.com.au/

23 September 2017

Web Spin: 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob Softail

So what's all the fuss about Harley-Davidson's new Softail range? And what happened to Dyna?

Even though I’ve owned a Harley for nearly two years and rode my first one a year before that, I still consider myself a Harley novice. However, I have been making up for lost time, swotting up on the copious history of this venerable make and riding as many of the models as I can.

Now, with the release of the new 2018 models last month, tongues were definitely wagging at the news of the dropping of H-D’s Dyna models, merging them instead with Softails into a single line. So, what does that mean?

To investigate, I headed out to Harley-Heaven in Western Sydney to meet new dealer principal, Craig Smith. Smith has been with the brand for more than a decade, servicing dealerships around the country for H-D head office prior to his new role in the big seat in Blacktown, replacing the affable John Buchanan, now back home in New Zealand.

Harley-Heaven Western Sydney
Harley-Heaven in Western Sydney

On a record hot September Saturday, dozens of diehard H.O.G. members and freelance riders are gathered for the semi-regular ‘shop ride’ at the smart new dealership where there’s comfy couches, a kick-butt coffee machine and lots of shiny chrome and matt eye candy.

David, Craig (dealer principal) and Joe at H-H 

Craig ushers me out to the rear where his demo bikes are parked and introduces me to a spanking new Street Bob, complete with the all-new four-valve-per-cylinder Milwaukee-Eight 107ci V-twin with dual counterbalancers. It’s the entry-level bike for the new Milwaukee-Eight range, stripped down and raw, ‘bobber’ style. The mini ‘ape’ bars are a bit unfamiliar to me initially, but they certainly work with the aesthetics.

2017 model Street Bob with exposed shocks.

“The old Dynas had the familiar twin rear shocks but now the suspension is a single coil and shock under the seat and the tubular frame is now 65 per cent stiffer than the old style Softail and has half as many component parts,” Craig tells me, “There are fewer welds and no more rubber engine mounts. Instead the engine is solid mounted, increasing frame stiffness.”

There is lots more technical stuff to ponder, but the proof as they say, is in the pudding, so let’s ride.

Close to fifty Harleys roar out onto Sunnyholt Road with me trying to look the part as the massive formation heads toward the Hawkesbury in a rowdy phalanx of Milwaukee muscle.

Smoko near Pitt Town.

Even though I am circumspect to begin with, the easy-riding nature of the new Street Bob soon has me confidently sweeping through the tight bends and accelerating smoothly out of the apexes like I know what I’m doing. The feeling is deceptively light and nimble and I find I can actually lay the bike over a little without scraping the pegs. Vibration is minimal and the power comes on smoothly right through the rev range.

Harley’s clever advertising copywriters are calling this “new school technology, skip school attitude.”

As with any radical change, there will be those who resist. Will Dyna make a comeback down the line? I doubt it. Harley-Davidson is knuckling down with a renewed R&D force that has promised 100 new models in the next 10 years which means there will inevitably be some ‘out with the old’.

Whether you’re an old hand or a dreamer, nothing should stop you getting into your nearest Harley-Davidson dealership to make up your own mind.

2018 Street Bob profile. No more visible shocks.
Rear suspension is neatly tucked under the rider seat.

Test Bike:

Harley-Davidson Softail Street Bob (2018)
Milwaukee-Eight 107ci V-twin (1,745 cc)
Priced from $23,495AUD

Test bike supplied by Harley-Heaven Western Sydney
70 Sunnyholt Road,
Blacktown, New South Wales 2148

04 September 2017

Confederate motorcycle: The Rebel Yell

A Confederate motorcycle is a thing of monstrous beauty. Not for the faint hearted or lightly heeled, it’s unashamedly American in every way. Roderick Eime takes up the star spangled banner.

Would you buy an expensive motorcycle and never ride it? Do you consider an item of exceptional industrial design a work of art in line with a Picasso or Dali? Well, if so, you might be in the market for a new Confederate.

While daily road use is possible, the small, select group of Confederate motorcycle owners are more likely to have their machines mounted on a plinth in the man cave next to the IXO Elysium carbon fibre pool table and the William Wiley pinball machine.

The Confederate buyer is more than a mere enthusiast or design dilettante, he (and yes, it’s more than likely a ‘he’) is a true aficionado, a genuine connoisseur whose love of motorcycles transcends the simple joy of riding to one of a near spiritual obsession.

“What we wish to do relative to to our screenplay, our ‘song’, our communication through the machine and the brand,” says Confederate CEO and founder, Matt Chambers, “is to encourage a new approach where every person is nurtured to be exactly what they were born to be. To be completely in harmony with what's going on inside of themselves.”

Now that could easily sound like self-indulgent waffle to the casual listener, but hear me out.

Chambers is not your average guy, not your average businessman, nor even your average visionary. After funding his studies by running his father’s pool hall, he earned a bachelor of arts in business administration from Louisiana State University in 1975, then went on to receive a juris doctorate degree in 1978, launching a solo 13-year career in law in Baton Rouge.

After winning a massive police brutality case in 1990, he sold up in favour of his true love and went on to create Confederate Motor Company, Inc. underpinned by the philosophy of “enlightened design through true American inspiration”.

Chambers doesn’t just pay lip service to this motto like so many hollow corporate mantras. Fiercely patriotic, he adheres to the belief that Americans are among the world’s greatest designers, if not the greatest. Sure, we could argue about that all day long, but he’s just as quick to point out the gaping flaws in the system it has created and why the great American designs have fallen by the wayside in favour of focus group-researched dross.

In a TEDx talk he gave in Birmingham, Alabama in 2011, he articulates both his love and loathing of “the American Way”. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube, but essentially Chambers calls out the slide into rampant consumerism as “a system of chicanery and hucksterism” led by the likes of GM. It’s a system, he asserts, that has turned beautiful and functional engineering into faux-branded consumer junk.

“We’ve lost our core competency,” he tells the transfixed audience, “we have become like the vinyl roof on the Cadillac, the fake wood veneer, the fake hubcaps. It’s a marketing trick, devoid of substance, leaving us empty and helpless with our addiction to consumerism.”

Confederate is his vision of restoring prowess to the American Way through his motorcycle designs which imbue a sense of both strength and rebellion. Chambers says this restoration of essence and culture can be achieved by selfless dedication to purpose and exceptional craftsmanship. Yep, heady stuff alright, but he backs this up with the product, which he describes succinctly thus:

“The new Hellcat we have just completed has the lightest, stiffest, toughest drag race-inspired chassis architecture, spinning the lightest driveline from the heaviest flywheel located at the centreline vertical and horizontal axis of the motorcycle, powered up to the fattest pistons, pushing through the longest stroke, making the greatest amount of torque as a percentage of weight of any machine by far, ever made.”

Let’s just catch our breath for a moment and have a look at what this machine is all about.

In the saddle

Tested: Confederate X132 Hellcat Combat

Test Rider: David Song.

Even for the experienced rider, there is a certain level of apprehension and intimidation that needs to be overcome. All of a sudden there is a massive 2200cc V-Twin capable of 217Nm and 120kW under your butt. That’s about as much grunt as a medium-sized sedan. Not to mention the handbuilt, military grade aluminum chassis machine comes with a pricetag just shy of $100k.

Even though the Hellcat has the appearance of a straight line drag bike, it is surprisingly agile, thanks largely to its low 220kg dry weight and ideal balance. BST carbon wheels and a multi-piston Beringer braking system keep the whole box and dice nicely on the road.

Two 1100cc cylinders ensure there’s plenty movement down there. As the twin pistons work up a head of steam, it’s the kind of intense vibration a brace of Browning .50 caliber machine guns generate, an analogy not lost on this bike with its namesake a brutal WWII US fighter plane. This machine is very much alive, reminding you at every moment of its exceptional capabilities.

The riding position is comfortable as the bike itself is not physically massive like some enormous cruiser with all the trimmings. After a while, the heat transmitted through the headers becomes quite noticeable, especially if you’re idling in traffic. An encouragement perhaps to keep moving on a breezy open road

As expected, the Hellcat is a head-turner for sure. Just try and ignore its raw nakedness right down to the exposed timing belt and aluminum framework. It’s a motorcycle few have ever seen the likes of and the thunderous exhaust note gets everyone else’s attention, even if you’re trying to be quiet.

Despite the Hellcat’s visual aggression, it’s a remarkably relaxed bike to ride. This is no sport bike that needs constant encouragement, instead surf the abundant wave of torque that’s right there from way down low in every one of the five close-ratio gears. That said, when the throttles are opened, the acceleration is just off the scale. Despite the very effective 190/55/17 Pirelli Rosso tyres, if the Hellcat had a joystick and flaps, it would surely take off.

Quick Bits

Hellcat X132 (base model)

Engine: X132 Copperhead; 132 cubic inches (2,163 cc); 56° Fuel Injected V-Twin; 4.4” Bore x 4.4” Stroke; One-piece Forged Crank; Journal Bearing Design

Power: Torque: 150 Foot Pounds

Horsepower: 132 BHP

Unitized case: Machined 6061 Aircraft-Grade Billet Aluminum

The Confederate X132 Hellcat Combat set the record of 172.2 mph on the Bonneville Salts, which translates to 200 mph on asphalt.


The handful of Confederate motorcycles that make their way into Australia and New Zealand come by way of Urban Moto Imports in Melbourne.

With production run numbers in the dozens only, the next to arrive are a pair of FA-13 Combat Bombers, followed by R131 Fighter and P51 Combat Fighter, the world’s first and only vehicle to be carved entirely from solid billet blocks of military-grade aluminum. By the time you read this, someone will have likely shelled out the $200k-plus, but make the call by all means.


See also WORLD Magazine feature, Spring 2017 (click to read)

03 August 2017

Harley-Davidson celebrates 100 years down under

That takes the cake, 100 years of Harley-Davidson in Australia (Josh Carroll)

Our boys were still up to their armpits in the trenches of Bullecourt and Ypres when Harley-Davidson arrived in Australia and set up their first shop at Morgan & Wacker.

 Toowoomba solicitor, Edwin Bernays, on one of the first Harley-Davidson motorcycles
to arrive in Australia. (State Library of Queensland)

Established in Brisbane in 1917, Morgan & Wacker is the second-oldest Harley-Davidson dealer in the world, the oldest H-D dealer outside the USA, and Australia’s oldest motorcycle dealership for any brand of bike.

Bill Davidson, where it all began in this country. (Josh Carroll)

Now, exactly 100 years later, Bill Davidson, the great grandson of Harley-Davidson co-founder, William H Davidson, came down under to celebrate with hundreds of devoted HOG fans and owners at numerous dealerships as part of a marathon 2500km ride from Brisbane to Melbourne via Canberra and Albury.

Motorweb editor, Rod Eime, welcomes Bill and Angie Davidson to Sydney (Josh Carroll)

Motorweb was thrilled to be invited to join a posse of select media for the ride. We joined in Sydney for a leisurely tour along the South Coast and Highlands aboard a spanking new Road King, complete with all-new Milwaukee-Eight™ 107 engine.

Our superb new Road King with Milwaukee-Eight™ 107 engine

Even though we’d ridden a Road Glide with the 107 before, this was a perfect chance to enjoy this superb touring bike on an extended test with lots of other cool bikes like Fat Boy, Road Glide and the Megatron of Harley road bikes, the Ultra.. It was a bike you can easily spend the whole day riding without collapsing at day’s end. The brand new engine retains the traditional V-Twin, big bore configuration with trademark exhaust growl, but is noticeably smoother across the rev range. The ample torque is there anytime you ask.

Plenty of great country roads. (Josh Carroll)

During the event, there was time to chat with Bill briefly between autograph signings and the he was excited to talk about his family, but also news on product development, where Harley-Davidson have have vowed to release 100 new models in the next 10 years.

It was party party party at the seven participating dealerships, with Bill demonstrating remarkable endurance signing everything from photos, brochures, T-Shirts, bikes, helmets and even body parts. Bands played, beer and BS flowed, and - of course - we were ferried back to our luxury hotels in minivans and taxis.

As part of celebrations, Harley-Davidson and premium dealer, Harley Heaven, also supported the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation to the tune of 100 grand. Two ‘ambassadors’ from the foundation overcame significant physical hurdles to join the entourage. A big effort rewarded with a similarly noble and worthy gesture.

Get down to your nearest Harley-Davidson dealer and test ride the new models for yourself.

04 July 2017

MV Agusta: Full Throttle Aria

The life and times of the iconic Italian superbike reads like a romantic opera. Roderick Eime joins the chorus.

The story of MV Agusta is like that of so many Italian motorcycle brands. Who knew that over time, there had been more 20 brands from the land that brought us Ferrari, Versace, Pavarotti and Peroni? True.

click image to read online

29 May 2017

Inspecting Kluger: Toyota's seven-seat SUV under the magnifying glass

Drive review available now.

Toyota's 2017 Kluger seven-seat SUV now delivers even more power for less fuel. We test the 3.5 litre EFI V6 on a country run and see if Toyota's claims stack up.

08 April 2017

Royal Enfield: A blast from the past

Made like a gun, goes like a bullet

When old is new again, the romance of the old English styled Royal Enfield is taking the world by storm. Roderick Eime rides into the sunset.

India has always been a place where ingenuity and necessity have gone hand-in-hand. Any visitor to this ‘incredible’ country will see numerous examples every day where industrious townsfolk, strapped for resources and facilities, will ‘make do’ by patching up, innovating, recycling and repurposing.

Only just recently we’ve seen the demise of the venerable Ambassador, a run-on derivative of Britain’s stalwart Morris Oxford II that launched as a joint venture in 1954 and was built from scratch in West Bengal.

Soon after WWII, the Mahindra brothers imported the famous Willys Jeep from the US and continue to manufacture the world’s most recognisable 4WD to this day in a shape that still harks back to its wartime ‘CJ’ guise.

Similarly, the historic Royal Enfield motorcycle company can trace its roots back to the first motorcycle manufactured under the ‘Enfield’ brand in 1901. But by 1970, the British firm was defunct and declared bankrupt, leaving a joint venture set up in Madras in 1955 to supply the single cylinder 350cc Bullet to government agencies like police and military.

Anyone travelling to India will have marvelled at this array of delightfully anachronistic vehicles, setting the scene for a ‘time capsule’ scenario that blends curiously with the old British colonial architecture in places like Old Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. But now in the 21st century, India’s massive industrial machine is rapidly modernising, gaining momentum and supplying its prodigious output of cars, tractors, trucks and motorcycles to diverse international markets.

The distinctive Royal Enfield, now a unit of India’s Eicher Motors, has hit a chord with heritage lovers and retro geeks resulting in the manufacturer rapidly expanding its production capacity and opening new double-shift plants around India, including Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, to bolster output from the original plant at Chennai. Total production is now regularly in excess of 50,000 units per month, placing it neck-and-neck with America’s legendary Harley-Davidson. Demand is such that new owners are often waiting weeks for their specially ordered bikes to arrive.

The Line-Up

Royal Enfield motorcycles in our market are based around four models: Classic, Bullet, Continental GT and the all-new Himalayan adventure bike. All bikes are learner approved, so a Royal Enfield can easily be your first two-wheeled experience.

The Classic is incarnated in various thematic guises including the quasi-military Battle Green, Desert Storm and Squadron Blue plus shiny two-tone Chrome and base Classic in both 500c and 350cc, the latter incorporating cool retro features such as carburettor and kick start (as well as electric start). The Classic is characterised by its sprung bicycle-style rider’s seat with a removable pillion seat as an option.

The Bullet is claimed to be “the longest running model in continuous production” with styling that originates in the 1932 model that was also available in a very quick - for its time - 500cc version capable of close to 100mph. Today the Bullet can be recognised by its one-piece, contoured rider and pillion seat along with more subtle touches like hand-painted pinstriping, and unique headlamp nacelle, housing speedometer and ammeter. It’s only telltale modern features are the 280mm front disc brake and regulation indicators.

The Continental GT is an archetypal cafe racer and the lightest, fastest and most powerful Royal Enfield in production thanks to its fuel-injected 535cc single pot with 29.1hp and 44Nm. A lighter flywheel and improved power-to-weight ratio endows the Continental GT with extra responsiveness, punch and agility. The rider sits in a crouched but comfy position and the tuned exhaust emits a characteristic sporty note.

As you read this, the first on-road/off-road Himalayans are reaching showrooms. For many years, adventurous riders have used Royal Enfields for two-wheeled expeditions across deserts and mountain ranges and in response, the factory has now produced a motorcycle expressly for those whose road is ‘no road’. The sturdy Himalayan comes with higher ground clearance, rugged suspension and a special 411cc single cylinder, air-cooled, 4-stroke, SOHC engine.

And in breaking news, dealers are also hoping to see the all-new British-designed, engineered and built 750cc naked retro motorcycle called the Interceptor some time this year.

In the Saddle

Royal Enfield Classic 500

Over a period of several weeks, we tested every available model, clocking up hundreds of kilometres in both traffic and open road conditions.

The universal impression among our small but experienced team of testers was that Royal Enfield has produced a fun and stylish bike that is both practical and easy to ride. Our older riders recalled the sometimes rough, awkward and vague characteristics of the vintage models, while these new variants left them totally renewed in their enthusiasm for the brand. Gone are the clunky gears and reluctant acceleration. This is a whole new bike.

The ride is tuned mainly for leisurely commuting, as 90 per cent of bikes will be used for. Softish springs and firm dampers can get bouncy on uneven surfaces and it does ‘tingle’ at higher revs and speed. All of these characteristics can be mitigated in consultation with the dealer and the bike can be easily worked to accommodate your own riding style and preferences.

After just a few laps around the block, you’ll find a very pleasant, economical and effortless bike to ride around town and on shorter tours without any modifications. Smooth power delivery, useful torque and agile road manners, means you are not at the mercy of dynamic traffic conditions either. The front disc brake is immediate and confident and the softer rear is ideal for balance and control, rather than urgent stopping.

In short, any of the modern Royal Enfield models will delight riders who want to enjoy their ride rather see their scenery in a neck-snapping blur.


Royal Enfield Classic 500

Type Single Cylinder, 4 stroke, Twinspark
Displacement 499cc
Compression Ratio 8.5:1
Maximum Power 27.2 bhp @ 5250 rpm
Maximum Torque 41.3 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Ignition System Digital Electronic Ignition
Clutch Wet, multi-plate
Gearbox 5 Speed Constant Mesh
Chassis Type Single downtube, with engine as a stressed member
Kerb Weight 187Kg
Fuel Capacity 14.5 Ltr (3.83 Gallon)
Fuel Economy approx. 3.0l/100kms highway cycle

Read the full story in World Magazine - Autumn 2017

03 April 2017

Muscling In

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April 2017


There’s nothing quite like having almost a half-tonne of American metal beneath a comfortably cushioned saddle, the rhythmic rumble of an overly large V-twin engine punching through the buffeting breeze and a highway unfurling to a distant horizon ahead. Not for nothing are the most popular and revered of American motorcycles known as “cruisers.”

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