So, I was “studying” in my first year of engineering (around the year 2002) in Nagpur and living with 2 of my seniors in a rented apartment. For those not familiar with Nagpur, public transportation was almost non-existent at that time and 95% of the people rode 2-wheelers (Motorcycles, Scooters & Mopeds), remaining 5% had cars.
I had nothing of my own and soon started to feel the heat of wanting to go everywhere but not being able to go anywhere.
I wanted to buy a bike, but the aforementioned jealous roommates didn’t want me to have one, so brainwashed my father into buying me a Honda Activa. I was desperate for anything, so didn’t argue much and greedily accepted it.
The Activa is by no means a bad scooter and it is quite handy for middle age men/women looking for a quick trip to the nearby stores or for kids who are just learning to ride. For a college freshman however, it was the social equivalent of walking around college with “dork” written on the back of his head in Bold letters.
As if the social ridicule wasn’t enough, the scooter was also not suited for a hormone ridden teenager riding around town “trying” to show off and competing with motorcycles. Inherently unstable, it caused me to have numerous accidents within the first few months itself.
Eventually, it was either continuing to ride the monstrosity or drop out of college, so I chose the former and sold it before it had completed one year.
It took 2/3 years, the manliest bike available in India at that time and a year away from college for people to forget I had one.
Yesterday I became the proud owner of a Thunderbird Twinspark, 2012 model.
Since I got my last bike around 8 years ago, which was eventually stolen, the price has gone up around 50%. I was curious to find out what improvements the company had added in all these years and how different it was from my last one. Here’re my views as of now (100km)
The colour is deeper and the texture feels smoother overall
The front disc brake seems to be the same. Feels smoother than what I am used to, but my bike was almost 60000 km old
The headlamp is brighter and now works even when the engine is turned off
The instrument console is mostly the same, with minor differences
The switchgear is much better. The indicator switch, the engine on/off switch, the push start switch all feel sturdy and softer. There’s no decompressor lever. The dipper switch which was almost unusable in the old bike is much better now. The handlebar weights are now chrome
The “Royal Enfield” decal on the tank is now embossed rather than printed on a sticker. Frankly I preferred the latter
They have added reflectors on both sides of the chassis just below the tank for better visibility when getting on/off the road
The electric start is fast and responsive
The kickstarter is largely in-effective. It doesn’t even engage with the engine till half-way down and it is clear that they have included it for exceptional cases and the electric starter is intended to start the vehicle most of the times
The real brake is more effective and has less play
The seat is more comfortable, especially for the lower back
The factory fitted horn (single unit) is terrible. I had to get Bosch dual-tone horns fitted before I dared to take it out on the road
The seating position seems to have been slightly tweaked for the better
The center stand is better designed and requires very little effort to get the bike on and off the stand
The wiring is better hidden and feels more taut
Here’re my thoughts on the engine
The engine is smoother and feels sturdier and more reliable. Would know more in the long run
The whirring noise from the engine is very noticeable. However, I know from experience that this would go down as the engine is driven in
There’s almost no noise from the Pushrods or due to Cam backlash. Again, the consistency needs to be tested in the long run
The torque and power is noticeably more, but I would know more once the engine is run in some more and I am able to rev to higher RPMs.
Gear shifting is still tricky and false neutrals though quite rare, are still there.
I did around 100km since yesterday. Hope to complete 500km in 7-10 days so that the bike can go through its first servicing.
Today is a sad day. Even though my bike was stolen almost 4 and half months ago, the reality hit my hard today. Maybe I hoped all along that my bike would be found and returned to me (even though the Police had made it clear that they don’t do any sort of investigations). The insurance company today gave me a cheque which is supposed to compensate me for losing my bike.
I booked my bike in December 2003 at Paragon Traders, the only Royal Enfield dealers in Nagpur at that time. My parents promised to buy it for me if I did well in my 3rd semester exams (everyone knows how that turned out). After a short waiting time, I was promised delivery in January 2004. I was at home in Chandigarh at that time and couldn’t wait to get back to Nagpur to get my hands on my new bike.
Finally, with a demand draft in hand, I was on a train back to Nagpur. I remember I couldn’t sleep the entire night because of anticipation. The train was supposed to reach at around 5.30 in the evening next day but I had taken my luggage and was standing near the train door since 4.30. Luckily, the train reached on time and I rushed home to drop my things and head to the dealership.
When I saw my bike, MH-31-XX-NN for the first time and was handed over the keys, I could hardly believe what was happening. It all seemed like a dream to me. The feeling I had when I rode the bike home was one of sheer pride. Everyone at the traffic lights would stare at us and some would ask the mileage or the price. In college, from far, I could see people gathered around my bikeShortly afterwards, my parents moved to Kolkata where I also moved with my bike for a year. Even though riding the bike was not as much fun as it was in Nagpur, we had a good time there.
The last 2 years of my engineering days in Nagpur were the best. All of us friends used to go on long rides to Boar Dam, Ramtek and many random places like Katol as well. The bike always performed efortlessly and reliability was flawless. I remember consistent full throttle runs which would take the bike above 120; even at those speeds it would feel smooth.
During this time, I started to fiddle with my bike and learnt basic things like opening the clutch compartment, tuning the carb pitot jet etc. I experimented with various silencers (The Electra Glass Wool one and the Standard Short bottle one). We even used to roam around town with no silencer at all, scaring nearby people.
After that, graduation was over and I moved with my bike to Kolkata. My bike didn’t fare as well in Kolkata though. The piston siezed once because the oil pump was jammed and I had to get extensive engine work done. I still remember making multiple trips to the Enfield dealer in Wellington (twice with my mom as well) to get spares.
After a year in Kolkata, I moved to Gurgaon in a bid to improve my career and financial condition. Somehow I lost my bike’s registration certificate due to which I could not take it along with me. I remember making a single day trip to Nagpur by air to get the necessary work done at Nagpur RTO. Finally, after a month I got a new RC and was able to get my bike shipped to Gurgaon.
I remember once that I had not ridden my bike for more than a month during the monsoons. Older Enfields were prone to water leakage in the clutch compartment, which rusted my bike’s clutch plates and they welded together. The bike was completely immobile. I called the only 2 Royal Enfield Service Centers in Gurgaon but they refused to come to my place and fix the bike or tow it to their workshops. I woke up 4 hours earlier than I generally did those days, went to the dealership, got a brand new set of clutch plates and replaced them myself. It was a proud day. It was also in Gurgaon once that for the first time in 7 years, my bike refused to start at all (It turned out to be a bad connector on the battery).
As I did in Nagpur, I used to park my bike on the street in Gurgaon as well and never locked the handle. Someone exploited this security hole and stole my bike on New Year’s eve. My new year was ruined and I spent it at home.
Getting the necessary paperwork from Gurgaon Police was a major headache. Sometimes they made me feel as if it was my fault that my bike was stolen. They asked questions like “Who asked you to buy such an expensive bike?”. I also had to get some paers from Nagpur RTO, which was a pain. However, I commend ICICI Lombard insurance company for a no hassle claim process. They sent me the compensation cheque within a month of the police declaring the bike as “no-trace”.
I would have felt at ease if my bike was destroyed in an accident. What bothers me that someone else is riding my bike somewhere (I hardly allowed anyone to ride my bike). The only consolation is that I might never know.
Everything good must come to an end and so did my relationship with my bike. It was one of the things I was most fond of and it will always have a place very close to my heart.
Some old articles
3 years ago my Friend Ayan wrote a blog post about this movie, how 4 guys forget who they really were and head out into the open roads forgetting wordly concerns.
But I would not write what it is about, as Ayan has already done a better job.
This is about how the movie moved me. I remember in college days we used to just start up our bikes, head over to far off places with no worries about when to return, how late it was getting and how to wake up on time the next day.
I remember many trips to Ramtek, Boar Dam and other places far away from the city. Most of the times, we didn’t even have an idea of where we were going. I remember many journeys on the Wardha Road, going hundred kilometers at a time, only turning back when the money in our pockets and the fuel in the tanks got low. Also, we travelled on the Koradi road heading up the hills many times just to get away from the city.
Still remember when heading back, there’s a point where you are still some way up the hills and you can get a good view of the Industrial Area, chimneys bellowing smoke in the backdrop of an amazing sunset.
No, in those days I didn’t have to worry about SLAs, attendance was the biggest joke, exams were a mere inconvenience and oil stains on my jeans were a part of life. Money was something Dad provided and I had no idea where it came from.
In Nagpur, wearing the helmet was forbidden, cars were a novelty and the long awesome flyovers were always free of 4 wheelers and you could test the max-speed of the bike whenever you wanted.
Of course, all that has changed now. My current life would be understandable from the fact that my bike is 5 years old, has 50,000 kms on it, 40,000 of it from the first 3 years.
Now I know if I take my bike out, I would be stopped at least twice on the way from here to CP and looted dry by the police; who due to some reason seem to have a personal enmity towards bike riders. Cars have the right to have dark windows, screech tires into oblivion and ride over pedestrians. No one heard of a biker killing anyone on the road, still they are the ones who must suffer. Wild Hogs, no more. Domestic Swine most likely.
I feel like the guys in the movie feel. Only difference being they were in their late 40s and I am in my mid 20s.
I need a month off, a full tank of gas and the road spread out in front of me.
A week back, when I was about to leave for office, I noticed the perfect weather. No rain, a cool breeze blowing, I decided to take my bike out. I started my bike and as soon as I pulled in the clutch and engaged into first gear, the bike jumped forward and stalled. It’s as if the clutch wasn’t even there. I tried a few more times but the same. Since the bike was immobile, I called the service centers for help and kept calling for a week, but they won’t send someone here or let me pick someone to repair my poor bike. A week went by but nothing happened. Meanwhile, day after beautiful day was being wasted with me travelling in the car. After a few more days, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I got a set of spanners, a set of allen keys, a new set of clutch plates and pressure plates and decided to open it up. First comes out the left foot rest which is held together with a nut, then the gear lever using an allen key. If you’ve a big enough bowl (as big as the clutch compartment) to catch the oil, just loosen the big nut at the center, tap the clutch compartment cover with a spanner and the oil will splash right down. If not, just unscrew the small nut on the bottom left and the oil will flow down slowly in a trickle (as pictured).
Notice the yellow colour? That’s an indication of water in the clutch compartment. The water rusts the components when the bike is still, when it’s in motion, the rusts scrapes off, gets mixed in the oil resulting in the strange color.
Next the clutch plates and the pressure plates come off. Start with loosening the three nuts on the center. Loosen them one at a time so that the thing comes off uniformly. Below it you’ll find 3 springs. 3 attached to the lid that just came off and 3 the the upper plate.
Use a screwdriver to bring out the plates. Note that in my case, the plates are stuck to each other.
This is because the plates welded together due to the enormous heat caused by friction without proper lubrication. They do come off if u stick a screwdriver between them and pull, but they are useless now.
On the left is the alternator, on the right last pressure plate left in the clutch compartment. In my case it was stuck to the back wall so had to get a sharp instrument to wedge behind it and take it out. Use plenty of petrol to splash the innards clean of the remaining rust. In my case, it took quite some time and I had to use a brush to scrape the grime off some tough spots. Spin the wheel, pouring petrol simultaneously to get the remaining crap off. Put the new clutch plates in, one by one. First come the pressure plate, then a clutch plate, then a pressure plate, then a clutch plate, then a pressure plate, then a clutch plate, then a pressure plate, then a clutch plate, then a pressure plate, then a clutch plate, then the top pressure plate (in my case, I salvaged my old one).
(The clutch plates are the ones with the grooves, the pressure plates are the smooth ones) Put on the lid with the springs and tighten the nuts, just past the tightening point. (pictured)
Start the bike, pour some more petrol while its spinning and operate the clutch lever, slowly tightening it till the desired tension. I did realize later that sparks from the alternator may have lit up the petrol but that didn’t happen. Close up the clutch compartment and pour the oil in from the top hole (400ml).
The most common points of entry for water in the clutch compartment are
1. The place on top where the alternator wiring goes in 2. The clutch compartment seals themselves 3. The gear lever joint
Now I make sure I seal all these parts properly and work my bike every once in a while to prevent rust. Hope this was helpful.
DISCLAIMER: If after reading this, someone burns his engine valves or manages to get the pushrod off it’s rocker, please don’t come to me to claim damages.
This is one of the things that have been plaguing enfield owners from over half a century. The feature that gives the bullet it’s distinctive thump is also one of the performance bottlenecks of the engine and also a source of racket. Unlike other bikes which use a chain drive to open and close the valves, the enfield uses pushrods which are simply 2 rods which move up and down due to the motion of the cam and in turn open and close the valves. The most common drawback of the pushrods in a bullet is that if they are loose, the produce a lot of racket which only gets worse as the engine warms up. Quite frankly, I was tired of all the racket and even more tired of all the mechanics that “try” to adjust the “tappets” but the noise just doesn’t go away. The last straw was when the last mechanic loosened my pushrods even more and it was almost impossible to ride the back. It was time to take matters into my own hand.
Firstly, “adjusting tappets” is a wrong term because you don’t actually adjust the tappets, you just adjust the pushrods which in turn reduces tappet noise. I had tried my hand on this once before and even got a good setting but I forgot to tighten the locking nut and before I knew it, after revving the engine for a few seconds, the pushrod came off the rocker and I was left with a dead engine.
It took me almost 1.5 years to get my courage back and try this myself one more time. This is a step-by-step guide on what you need to do.
1. Bring the piston to TDC. On the cast iron engine, work the kick starter with the decompressor and wait for the moment when the Ampere meter shows 0. On the AVL engine, work the kick starter with the decompressor pressed till the time the decompressor is fully free. Open up the tappet cover while the engine is hot. 2. Feel both the pushrods and try to rotate them. They should just be free enough to rotate using some pressure from the thumb. If they don;t rotate at all, they are too tight. If they rotate too freely, or move up and down, they are too loose. 3. There are three nuts in each pushrod. The top HEX nut, the middle locking nut and the bottom adjusting nut. First unscrew the locking nut a little while holding the HEX nut in place with a spanner so that you can rotate the adjusting nut. 4. Increase or decrease the length of the pushrod by rotating the adjusting nut so that there’s no play and you can just rotate the pushrod with some pressure. Do this while holding the top hex nut with a spanner. 5. When you feel the setting is just right, hold both the hex and the adjusting nut in place with 2 spanners and slowly tighten the locking nut. This is the trickiest part because it is difficult to hold 2 spanners steady and adjust with the third one. It took me around 2 hours myself to perfect this part. 6. When you are done, just check if the adjusting nut is firmly tightened and if the pushrod setting is right. If you’re a newbie to this, it will take a few more tries. 7. Do the same with the other pushrod.
It is necessary that you do this while the engine is hot. If the engine cools appreciably while you’re doing this, your adjustment will be fine for a cold engine but the racket will start again when the engine warms up. This is what happened with me and I adjusted the pushrods too tight to compensate for the cold engine. After I had put the tappet cover back in, I realized that the kick starter was completely free and the engine didn’t have any compression at all. This was because I had adjusted the inlet pushrod too tight and the inlet valve wasn’t closing completely. I had to open it up again and start all over again by warming the bike. Just check that the kick starter should meet some resistance at a point on it’s way down. Also, adjusting them too tight may burn the valves, so be careful.
The best guide for bulleteers who want to maintain their own bike is Gurunandan’s website. This guy is an ace whom many people look up to for their bike queries. He’s very helpful and replies to your queries by mail(As long as they are valid).
Or, you can just go ahead and buy Pete Snidal’s bullet manual which is now for sale in India as well.
This weekend, I did what I wanted to do since many years. I wen to Chandigarh by bike, alone. Had slept very late friday night (in fact Saturday morning), still woke up at 8 to beat the early morning traffic. Wasn’t feeling very well(was suffering from cold and allergy) so went to the neighbourhood doctor who jabbed a syringe full of some medicine in me and I was up and running in half an hour. Left at around 9 in the morning and was out of Delhi in under an hour. Let the throttle open and did a constant 80-90 kmph till Karnal for 2 hours where I stopped for some coffee and Kathi Roll and to stretch my legs and wash my face. Reached Chandigarh around 2 in the afternoon and hung out with friends and boozed after many years. Slept like a log till next morning and after roaming around a bit more, left around 4 in the afternoon and once again, stopping only once at karnal for 15 minutes. The bike performed admirably even when I didn’t rest it for hours and didn’t drop my speed below 80. Reached gurgaon at around 9 at night. Waking up in the morning today, it all seems a dream but my aching back and neck are proof all that happened.
Poor zapeedo, my trusty steed was recently struck down recently in the midst of his prime from a faulty connecting rod and crank. Now it’s at the greedy bloodsucking company service center waiting for a complete engine overhaul. Though it would be gone for a week now, and even after that I wouldn’t be riding it hard for quite some time, I couldn’t resist one last ride of thrill on him.
Yesterday I discovered a new kind of thrill. I had just left office and was on my way home when it started raining. Not just a drizzle but a heavy downpour. Too lazy to go back or take shelter somewhere, I decided to go on. Upon reaching the long flyover on my way home, I decided to go really fast. So I twisted the throttle of my bike open and raced ahead. The thrill and excitement I experienced was beyond comparison. As the bike gained speed, the wet clothes suddenly stuck to my skin and it was a feeling as if someone had just sunk me in freezing water. Heartbeat increased fast as I went faster still. One reason I had never experienced this before was that I never used to wear a helmet before and it’s impossible to go at even moderate speeds in the rain as the rain drops try to kill my eyes. It was almost invisible up ahead as the helmet visor was completely wet. Add to that the headlights on high beams from oncoming vehicles. Above a speed of 100 kmph, the rain drops started to sting any exposed bit of skin(the throat and chest) like needles. Anyways, after driving like mad and thanking my stars that the cops did not see me, I stopped at the traffic signal ahead of me. There I noticed that everyone was staring at me. The reason being that the raindrops falling on the hot engine had made a cloud of vapor which had surrounded my bike. It was a sight worth seeing and a feeling worth experiencing.
My bike would be 4 years old in January next year. So I thought it’d be appropriate to write a review. The bike named zapeedo and later re-christened to silver lightning has never let me down. It has been through thick and thin for more than 40,000 kilometers. Except for a few specks of rust, it still stands strong and graceful. Here are a few pros and cons I have noticed with the bike till now:-
One major engine repair which was due to a noisy cam shaft. Was rectified in a few days but engine had to be opened.
Few specks of rust at the handlebar ends and rims but that’s more due to the humid atmosphere of Calcutta.
Clutch cable tended to break but the design was rectified by the company.
Poor design of the decompressor cable lever which has led to 6 replacements till now.
Tappets remain a little noisy even after adjustments.
Performance is still amazing. Amazing pulling power at high speeds and top whack still goes upto 120. Pulsar riders, you may bow..
Engine has steadily become smoother and less noisy.
Disc Brake pads provided by pricol still going strong in spite of heavy use.
Strong chassis which has not let me down in spite of a few accidents.