Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Beginning

I have a new motorcycle.

New from the showroom floor.

I have never done such a thing, spent such money, and have never conceived of doing so for a bike whose reliability is a gamble. But there you have it. Motorcycling is emotional.

I need a bike that evokes the wonderful things that give reason and life to riding.

I had thought to get a late BSA twin, but I love British big singles. However I need it to be highway capable. And I need parts to be readily available.  Hence outside my door is now a new, 2013 model, Royal Enfield Bullet.

Readers of this blog will know that I own a 1995 Enfield Bullet 500 (currently for sale) -

That is a marvellous bike, but is too slow for my needs. I need something that is highway-capable, while feeling good at slow speeds on back roads. The old Bullet only does the latter well. My new Bullet has a unit construction engine,in production since 2009, which retains the same long stroke and heavy flywheel of the original motor but produces more power, enabling all-day highway riding. It is also more robust. I will continue to use my Kawasaki W650 for commuting and highway touring, but my Bullet will take me up the freeway quickly and then into the countryside where I can slow to 90kph.

We are about to enter 2015 and the bike is a 2013 model, so it was on sale. I was uncertain about spending so much on less than stellar reliability - my W650 cost me the exact same amount (used) but it is engineered to perfection - however when I consider all the riding that lives deepest in me it is on bikes with sketchy reliability and much character.

I view this new acquisition as akin to buying a new British motorcycle in the 1970s. One cannot expect Japanese perfection, but the memories it produces will glow brighter in years to come, while in the present it warms the heart so much more than bikes of superior engineering and build but less character.

I love the W650 and I hate debt, but this decision was motivated by the fact that the W is too sporting for my tastes. That might seem an odd thing to say in 2014 about an air-cooled, 40hp twin, but the W is essentially a replica of a '60s Bonneville and it rides accordingly: it begs to be opened up, to be pushed through the hills testing the speed limits. My riding is always influenced very much by the character of the bike. On the W I get impatient when stuck behind cars. I constantly have to tell myself to slow down. I anticipate that the Bullet will be pleasurable at slower speeds, inviting me to do 90kph all day, which is perfect.

This blog will serve as a diary of doing bigger miles on a Bullet.  I look forward to it, beginning with a trip around Tasmania in two month's time.

As an aside, I saw one of my favourite bands last week, Augie March. I was at TAFE with these guys, studying music, and they went on to become quite popular. Their sound is quite different in the albums from their best years, but I was reminded of their first EP and found it on Youtube. Have a listen. Their later music has accompanied me through all my riding adventures.

I am also halfway through Richard Flanagan's Booker Prize-winning novel, and it is wonderful. It is easy to make comparison's with David Malouf's The Great World, a novel which was moved me like few others, and there are moments when a close reader of Malouf's poetry will recognise what may be a borrowed image. Ultimately however the writing and story is Flanagan's own. Its setting - at times a 1940s dusty Australia - is good imaginative fodder for an owner of a new Royal Enfield.

On a final note, here is an advertisement for my model of motorcycle, the Bullet, for sale on the same street where I purchased my motorcycle last Thursday. However this advertisement was placed 63 years ago.


  1. Congrats, Matt. Interesting decision. You must be one of the few males that don't need testosterone enhancement by bike.

    An Enfield for going slow, and not to get impatient. More power to you! You know, that's my motivation to ride my Harley on trips. The Sporty is not made for rushing and with that limited lean angle certainly not suitable for cornering, but it keeps me calm and levelheaded. I am looking forward to your Enfield trips. Safe riding!

  2. I have a Yamaha MT07 which I am going to trade in on a sr400 for the same reason as you 😊

    1. Good choice! Two years on and I'm loving the Bullet. I've decided to go down to one bike and I am going to sell the W650, not the Bullet, even though the W is better in almost every way...the character of a beautiful, thumpy big single is so deeply satisfying.