Video Vednesday: Chasing the Bullet and the Royal Enfield paradox

By | February 15, 2016

Shut up, I know it’s not Wednesday, but this couldn’t wait.

It’s no secret that I don’t understand REs. I’m sure a lot of people don’t understand REs, but somehow I’ve ended up being the fucking brand ambassador. My article about why I’d never buy an RE was aimed squarely at putting my point of view out to the world, and waiting for intelligent discussions that could help demystify the paradox for me, a paradox that gets weirder the more you think about it. Needless to say, it’s a been a spectacular train wreck.

In any case, here’s my definition of the Royal Enfield paradox:

Why does a company known for not giving a single shit about its customers, known for producing sub-standard motorcycles for decades in the name of “tradition”, known for shamelessly selling the “brotherhood” bullshit for pure economic gain, keeps growing like a teenager’s pubic hair? 

Some people might think that I keep pissing on the RE beehive to create controversies and gain more traffic, and I couldn’t care less about them. It’s one of the most basic infections that plagues the human condition, that we need to know the unknown, we need to explain everything, we got to have the answers. I want to know what attracts sane homo sapiens to what can only be described as a joke of a motorcycle. I want to know what motivates RE owners to travel farther and wider than most other riders. I want to know what it feels like to put yourself in unnecessary trouble for no apparent reason, just to prove a point.

Chris Zahner is an American who last year traveled to India to create a documentary called “Chasing the Bullet“. I don’t know Chris, or why he decided to do what he did, but we were introduced by Sabyasachi Biswas of Madras Motorcycles. I have never met Sabyasachi, but we’ve spoken over the phone once, and chatted a few times. I like him, he likes REs, but he isn’t the normal, deluded kind of Bull rider that you normally headbutt into.

Chris probably wanted to get different perspectives about the RE culture in India, so he messaged me on Facebook in April 2015 to understand my point of view. Here’s the conversation.

Chris:

Hey Akhil,

Sorry for the delayed response. Hanging out with your friends here in Chennai has been great fun filming, talking bikes, writing, etc. They told me about your healthy, yet unrepentant disdain for the Royal Enfield and it is an angle in looking to cover for this film in producing.

I was hoping that you could fill me in with a little bit of back history as to why and how you got to your disposition concerning the Royal Enfield and what your relationship/history with the royal Enfield has been. Saby already informed me that you’re quite a character and should translate well to film. I have been contemplating rolling through Hyderabad and I’d like to see if maybe you could sit down for an interview.

I’m on a pretty tight schedule and I’m headed to Bangalore next — probably by the middle of this week. I need to rush back to Delhi, but I could probably squeeze Hyderabad in for a couple days, I’m also on the lookout for other stories within Hyderabad itself if you know anything.

Looking forward to your response.

Me:

Hey Chris. If you are looking for a Batman story of some guy on a Bullet killing my parents, and I vowing to avenge them by making it my life’s work to hate Bullets, that didn’t happen. I guess I hate Bullets for the same reason why Bullet-ers love them, who knows! I haven’t ridden any Royal Enfield much either, never craved to buy one ever.

The roots of my hate must start from my time spent in Punjab, especially Chandigarh. People in that city know of only 2 bikes, Bullets and everything else. The first thing they do when they get their bikes is modify the exhaust to make it sound like a firing range on two wheels. It’s a common thing to find these morons riding through city streets in the middle of the night, revving the shit out of their bikes, making loud exploding noises.

The more I got involved into the Indian biking scene, the more contempt I felt for RE owners. It doesn’t really affect me if a bloke wants to ride around the world on the motorcycle equivalent of Windows 95, but what pisses me off is their arrogance and the way they look at other bikers as plastic dildo lovers. This doesn’t mean that all Bullet owners are pompous bastards, but that’s what I’ve come to identify the community as.

Not sure is Saby told you about my article or not, but one fine day I thought I’ll just write what I feel about Royal Enfields. Here it is: http://riderzone.in/never-buy-royal-enfield/

You can go through the comments and you’ll see what I mean when I say that Royal Enfield is like a religious cult. Not only do they believe that their bikes are the only true form of 2 wheeled nirvana, but also that all others are cheap, lying imposters who deserve to rust and die.

I would love to meet up and talk to you, but I think you’ll find that I’m a much less impressive person in reality than I sound in writing 🙂

Chris:

Let me dissect this for a bit 😉

Me:

Sure, there are plenty of Bullet clubs over here that I’m sure you’ll find interesting!

I never heard from him, obviously.

The documentary is finally out today, and you can watch it here.

There are many observations that I have after watching the documentary some 4-5 times.

  1. I don’t like REs, but people who I massively respect like Vijay Singh and Vir Nakai do. Either I don’t know something that they do, or they don’t know something that I do.
  2. The more you watch the video, the more you realize that all the people in it completely understand how unreliable their bikes are, yet they truly believe that it’s part of the charm.
  3. These people have no problem buying a vehicle that could very well have been fucked up from the start because the guy who built it didn’t get his breakfast blowjob. They have no problem buying a vehicle whose maintenance process is as much of an enigma to the owners as it is to the mechanics and the manufacturer. 
  4. The biggest reason why they feel REs are popular is because REs are popular. The whole rationale behind the culture seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy, autofellatio if you will.
  5. Most RE riders seem to have an oral fixation with cigarettes.
  6. Bobbee Singh is the Salman Khan of Bullet movies.

In short, I have more questions than answers after watching this thing. It’s a very well-made movie, no doubts about it, but for me all it seems to do is blow some more sand over the ruins. I believe that I understand motorcycles, and it really irritates me that one of the most popular brand, with probably the largest collection of loyal followers, is like a Latin translation of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.

One thing that I have realized over the years is that I am not a true biker, not in the juvenile sense that most online trolls seem to use it in, but in a more literal way. Royal Enfield owners, at least the ones in the video above, give much more importance to their motorcycle than the actual adventure. In other words, they don’t go to Ladakh on a motorcycle, they go on their Bullet to a place. The final aim of an RE enthusiast is not to see a new place or meet some new people, it’s to ride the damn motorcycle.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand REs, and I think I should stop trying.