Advice on How to Buy a Used Royal Enfield Motorbike
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How to Buy Royal Enfield Motorbike
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Advice to Buy a Used Royal Enfield Motorcycle
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Which Motorcycle to Buy in India
If your not planning to take a passenger I would highly recommend a Honda. Honda have spread their wings in India so to speak and dealers are popping up every where. The few riders I have met touring on these bikes totally swore by them.
Being a Honda, they are wonderfully reliable, cheap to run, have faster acceleration than Enfields and probably a top speed to match, even though its only a 150cc versus an Enfield of 350cc. Thus they are lighter and easier to ride and have all the modern gadgets like fuel gauge, electric start, trip meter and disk brakes which most Enfields sadly lack.
What the Enfield is good for (and the reason I bought one) is because it is ideal for carrying a passenger and luggage. The Enfield has a heavy frame which can easily support luggage racks. Enfields are good on bad/dirt roads (and there are alot of them in India) and have good torque, thus enabling you to go chug up hills with 2 people and luggage, albeit slowly (40km/hr tops).
Enfields might look rugged but are notoriously unreliable. A few examples.
I replaced an air hose for the air filter box. The hose literally just sits there. 2 weeks later I needed to replace it again. I bought a new horn bracket, and again, 1000km later it broke.
After a long ride all the engine covers on my Enfield will leak oil, such as from the clutch plate, gearbox logo plate, tappet adjuster cover etc. Take it to a mechanic and he says "no problem, its normal for an Enfield". As an Israeli guy put it, "If your Enfield is not leaking oil, it means there is no oil in it!"
At the time of writing (Dec 2008), there really isnt much of an alternative for a decent touring bike in India for rider and passenger, with the all local companies focusing on small city bikes. Most Indians wont own an Enfield in the city, being too heavy and expensive to run. Usually its the Indians in the Himalayan regions who buy Enfields, but the larger bikes such as Bajaj 220cc and Karisma 250cc are becoming more popular.
Jim, an American friend of mine who has lived many years in India and has toured extensively on an Enfield, sums it up accurately with - "You dont buy an Enfield for the mechanics, you ride one for the romantic adventure of riding [a classic] in India". Ashwini, a local cafe owner in Mcleod Ganj, who loves riding in the mountains on his Enfield Electra 2005 Model, but is disappointed in Enfields reliability, says they are "...great bikes if you have the patience."
Enfield's come in a variety of models, namely the Bullet, Electra, Machismo and Thunderbird. Enfield is introducing some new models like the Twin Spark but I would avoid them for a few years until they sort out all the nasty problems they had with the new production run.
Personally I think the Bullet is an overpriced, outdated technology on wheels. The design almost hasnt changed since the English designed the bike in the 1950's....
It still uses the old point timing system. This means the timing of the spark plug operates manually, whereas all modern engines use electronic timing. Almost no mechanic will have a point timing device- He will just fiddle with until it sounds ok, thus it will never be set properly. Also the points system are prone to failure, and need constant maintenance as the timing changes.
Even the new Bullets still have the right hand side (RHS) gear lever. Damn awkward gearbox to use and its only a 4 speed. People tell me they often hit false neutral when trying to shift gears. Kick start doesnt fold back and gets in the way when placing your foot on the peg. Bullets typically have an older type of rear suspension system which becomes an issue if your 2-up on the bike. I wouldnt bother with a Bullet.
The Electra model does have electronic ignition and the newer models have a LHS gear lever 5 speed gearbox. Electra, Machismo and Thundebirds come with better suspension.
Machismo and Thunderbird have gone afew steps better. For starters they have an improved carburettor. (A Constant Velocity flow. Same type as all Japanese models and like most other bikes in India). This means these bikes will get better kilometers per litre, which is a consideration for some given petrol in India is expensive by Indian standards. Currently around 45Rs per litre as of Sep 2009.
These 2 models also have an alloy engine head. (again, just like any other modern engine). The other models have cast iron engine blocks and they sound like a coffee grinder, especially when they age a little. The engine of the Machismo and the Thunderbird sound like a sewing machine and dont feel or sound like its going to fall apart soon.
Front disk brakes are the best but many Enfields have drum only. In India the riding speeds are generally slow so I have found that while the drum breaks lack feel and dont give the confidence the disk brakes give, they do their job ok. (Even 2-up with luggage). However the Big issue I had with the drum brake was when I was coming down from the Himalayas. There were many stream crossings and drum brake got water logged, so I had next to no stopping power. It was a bit scary as I was coming down steep hills and it wasnt until the sun was warmer did the brakes dry. Disc brakes dont have this problem.
However Enfield does offer an after model disc brake kit to replace the front drum brake. Its a picey 5000Rs plus. (Dec 2008)
Only Thunderbird and the very new Twin Spark are modern enough to provide a fuel gauge, tacho meter and a trip meter. On all other models its a bit of guess work (or faithfully writing down the kms on the teller when you tank) to know how much fuel is left.
Some models (other than Bullets ofcourse) do have electric start but I havent seen many of them around.
350 or 500cc You dont see many people with 500cc Enfields around India. And from what I heard it can be a problem with spare parts for these bikes. For this reason I have bought a 350cc and till date never had a problem getting spares.
I would consider a 500cc if you are planning to do alot of riding in the Himalayas, with passenger and luggage. The roads in this region pass over 5000m, and a 350cc Enfield, 2-up and luggage struggles at these altitudes because all engines lose power as the air becomes thinner.
In the Himalayan region one does see alot more 500cc Enfields so I would guess spare parts for these bikes are not a problem.
However, it is possible to ride in the Himalayas 2 up with luggage on a 350cc, but some precautions should be followed. See Touring Info for details. (Till now I have ridden upto 4260m in Zanskar Valley, 2-up with some luggage and it was ok.)
Alot of people come to India and buy a 20 000Rs Enfield, which are typically 15 years old or more. This is just asking for trouble, alot of hassles and you will end up wasting alot more money than you thought you would with a 'cheap' buy. Ask yourself this question, would you buy a 15 year old vehicle in your own country..?
As an American friend of mine said "My [20 00rs 1970 something model] Enfield is like a dog. I push it out for a walk and it shits all over me..."
Most 20 000Rs Enfield have had the engine rebuilt. But this causes only more problems.
One guy had to rebuild the engine again, spending another 15 000Rs because when the engine was rebuilt the spare parts were not genuine and the metal literally fell apart after a few thousand kilometers. It has destroyed even more of the engine.
Another guy just told me he spent another 8000Rs on his 1996 Bullet to have the engine repaired even though the guy he bought it off recently spent thousand of rupees to rebuild the engine.
One couple I met in the Himalayas, where they bought a 20 000Rs bike, actually sold it back to the mechanic (discounted ofcourse!) because the motorcycle kept breaking down and was thus too unreliable to ride! Believe me, getting stuck in a 2 rupee town (which will never have an Enfield mechanic) and wondering how your going to get your bike fixed is a real pisser, not at the least to say, a waste of your time.
And the problem with a 20 000Rs motorcycle is that whatever you spend on it to fix it you will not get back on resale. Its lost money. To illustrate my point more clearly with real life data, see the Running Cost Statistics section on this webpage.
My advice is to spend atleast around 40 000Rs. This should give you a year 2002 plus model. They ride so much better than the earlier models, are safer to ride and, the big thing, you will enjoy it so much more. You wont have to spend much money in repairs so when you re sell it you will actually have more money left over in your pocket than if you had a 20 000Rs bike.
Things I would look at before buying a used motorcycle. Find a friend/traveller if your not too technically minded.
Electrics -check indicators work
- check head lights hi and low work
-check brake lights work for front and rear pedal
- check horns work. Put hand on each horn or unplug each horn in turn to hear how individual horn sounds
- check battery housing for corrosion. Also check where the battery overflow hose is and if at the end of the hose it is corroded by battery fluid
Mechanics -make sure you see the bike in day light
- test the clutch by revving out the engine to 3000 rpm and slowly drag the clutch out
- test the engine by riding it and red-ling it in first gear
-when starting the engine check to see if it blows smoke
- feel entrance of exhaust pipe and see it is oily, if so it burns oil
-feel the play on the front sprocket. If it can move side ways problem in the gear box
-check the play of the chain. If it is tight in one place and loose in another time for a new chain
- pull the chain away from the rear sprocket ( 3oclock). It if pulls away more than 5 mm the chain is getting on.
- check the wear on sprockets
-check Speedo works
- check to see how much engine oil is in bike. Gives indication as to how it is maintained (ie- if it is below the recommended level, not well looked after) Also if chained is oiled and water battery level is ok, by same argument
-check air filter to see if it needs replacing
-check all air hoses, see if they need replacing.
-look at the wear marks on front/back brakes or look at the adjustment screws to gauge if brakes need replacing
-check steering arm bearings
-check swing arm bearings on rear suspension unit
-check rear wheel bearings
-check front wheel bearings
-jump on front forks to feel ride
-jump on back suspension to feel ride
-look for oil leaks on suspension front and back. Also note if oil leaks at top of front forks. Remove rubbers on front forks (if it has it) to see if oil seals are leaking
- ride the bike and go through all the gears, feel how gear box is working
- see if the bike has a proper maintenance log and if it is regularly serviced
- accelerate really slowly and feel if the engine pulls smoothly. Could be problems in carburation
- spin front wheel freely and check it is not wobbly, so that it is running true
- spin rear wheel freely and check it is not wobbly, so that it is running true
- check spokes on front and rear wheel are not loose or broken
- engine should sound smooth, listen for knocking
- Does bike have petrol filter?
Finish - check for rust on ->
* wheel rims
* petrol tank, especially on the inside of the tank
* scratches and general appearance
-tears in the seat
-Check wear on tyres, front and back. The minimum depth in the west for a road safe tyre pattern should be 3mm, about the thickness of a match head. The Enfield manual recommends the following minimum tyre treads-
Front = 1mm
Rear = 2mm
Personally I wouldnt let the front tyre wear so low before changing it. A rear wheel slide is possible to control where a front wheel slide often results in scraping the mirrors on the ground. I changed my rear tyre (MRF Nylo Grip Plus) after it had done 25154Km and it had just 1mm depth of tread left, but I could have ridden a little longer on the same tyre without problems. I changed it only because I was in a convienient place to do so.
- look for holes in exhaust pipe. Run engine and run hand over the exhaust manifold, along the pipe and the exhaust pipe, feel for any exhaust gas leakages
- look for oil leaks
- inspect welds for rust, breakage and cracks
- general paint job
- are the connection points to the bike in good condition and are they strong enough to carry the load? Check for cracks in this area, critical area
If you have a visa longer than 6 months means you can register as a foreigner living in India, and thus you can own a bike under your name. Usually this only applies to USA citizens.
Not having the motorcycle in your name is not an issue. Even in the state of Goa where the police love to check papers to collect bribes, dont make it an issue if the bike is not in your name.
When buying the bike
- Check the tax paid on the motorcycle Registration Certificate (RC), ensure the tax paid period is long enough for you. The RC is the most important document to have. If you dont have a RC, besides hassles with the police, you will absolutely not be able to transport the motorcycle on the trains.
- Check the frame number and the engine number on the bike actually match those stated on the RC document. If these are incorrect it will be almost impossible to re-register the motorcycle again in a locals name. Thus resale value of the bike drops dramatically due to incomplete paper work. Also be aware that if you buy a bike registered in the state of Deli and want to sell it in the state of Goa; you will get far less money for the bike simply due to registration problems. It costs locals alot of hassle and money to re-register a foreign state motorcycle into their name and state. (the wonderful red tape of India..) This hassle is avoided ofcourse if a tourist will buy the motorcycle from you.
- If your buying a bike from a local make sure you have a signed transfer form, other wise it is almost impossible to sell the bike to a another local again.
- Insurance, which can be bought under your name, is compulsory in India and is sometimes checked in conjunction with your license. A full comprehensive insurance starts around 1000rs for 12 months.
- Technically you need a Pollution Control Certificate (PCC). They are rarely checked unless the friendly police man is searching for a problem in order to hit you for a bribe. A PCC is 60Rs for 6 months. (2009 prices) The PCC is a bit of a joke, the last time I got one the agency didnt even bother to measure the exhaust fumes...
Insurance Policy Woes
An insurance agent will need to see your motorbike in order to get a frame rub. Its possible he can give you an on the spot cover note that will be valid for 3 months. For some, this may be long enough.
We were promised to get the actual insurance policy within 2-3 days. Of course in India, this doesnt happen. We tried to call our insurance agent many times who magically disappeared. After alot of hassle and trying all kinds of numbers we finally spoke with his boss who helped us get the policy. We ended up waiting for a week in a hot and noisy city (arent they all in India) ONLY to get this policy.
The second time I renewed my policy it took 3 weeks after payment to get a copy of the insurance policy.
My point is- allow time to get this organised
Tip- make sure you get the insurance agents phone number, his office number and then the head office number. For sure 2 of these phone numbers wont work!
Personally I have no faith in the insurance policy. I simply have one as I prefer to pay an insurance company money (with the small chance it might be useful) than to pay bribes to the police. Remember that if you dont have a valid international motorcycle license your policy will be invalid. (read the fine print :)
Many people ride in India without a valid International Motorcycle Drivers License. In essence its not really a problem, unless your riding in Goa. In 1 year I have been stopped 4 times by police, 3 times being in the state of Goa. Usually the police are looking for a 'retirement contribution donation' rather than actually upholding the law. Depending on how many legal things you dont have will tend to raise his wanted contribution. But its all negotiable to a point.
Until now, I have only ever had to pay 10Rs at the Goa state border because I didnt have the Pollution Control Certificate. I let my girlfriend do the talking, female interaction really works a charm in India :-)
Helmets is only compulsory for the rider in the bigger cities and on some national highways. Basically it is only enforced in the big cities, such as Bangalore, Kolkata, Deli etc and on the national highways in the state of Goa.
At time of writing, (December 2008), only in the city of Chandigarh is it compulsory for the passenger to wear a helmet. But if you have a 3 year old child and she is sitting on the petrol tank, then she is exempted from wearing a helmet...!
I heard (2009) its no problems per se for crossing with the motorcycle into Nepal.
Basically its a matter of paying so many Nepalese Rupees per day for the duration of your stay with your motorcycle in Nepal. Pay for the motorcycle when you leave Nepal again.
Visas are also available at the border.
Other Border Crossings
In essence it is impossible to get a Carnet for the motorcycle unless you are a resident in India. This makes international border crossings rather difficult.
Tom Brabers rode his 1968 model Enfield (from India) back to Holland in May 2009. Here is an extract from an email he wrote to me.
Question: Tom, did the bike have any problems on such a long journey?
Yes, we needed a lot of spare parts, most important the spare piston that we brought and had to install in Turkey. Besides that we had [carried with us] clutch plates, all the gaskets, rubbers, cables, filters, etc.
Question:Did you have troubles taking the bike across the border crossings? Did you have any special paper work from India??
Border crossings were a bigger pain then the technical stuff or the physical distance. We had no Carnet, which causes problems in Pakistan and Iran. We bribed and talked our way through but in total it caused a delay of more then 14 days. I cannot advise it to anyone. Better is to ship the damn thing and do overland trips with something else then an Indian registered bike.
Royal Automobile Club UK also received a number of enquiries regarding purchase of Enfield bikes in India by visitors and returning overland to Great Britain. Issuing clubs were advised that under no circumstances can a carnet be issued outside India for a vehicle purchased in India bearing Indian registration plates.
Regarding Enfields and riding one home (wherever that may be) from India - just go to Nepal, it is perfectly legal to buy a bike and get a carnet for a Nepalese Enfield. They are somewhat more expensive in Nepal (almost twice the price has Nepal has a huge import duty tax), but at least it's legally possible.
Maintenance, Servicing and Running Costs Statistics
In my experience I have always found that the genuine Royal Enfield Workshops to be the best. They dont over charge on labour or parts, and the mechanics are relaxed and competent. Many of the Enfield Wallahs are cow boys swinging hammers...people you just dont want to come with in throwing distance of your baby..
Although it is India and you should stay present and ensure they do the work properly and not cheat on you. (that is, not replace a part they may charge you for). Often the head mechanic (who knows what he is doing) orders one of his juniors to do the work. Sometimes I catch these guys doing things that are just bloody stupid.
For instance- The gear box oil had to be drained so that the kick start spring could be replaced. They placed the oil collecting dish under the center stand and then let the gear box oil drain. So all my oil was washing onto the dirt of my center stand and then into dish. Unlike the west, this same oil goes back into the bike... I quickly got them to stop!
When touring keep an eye out on your nuts and bolts. Regularly check them to ensure they are tight; some work loose on the shitty roads. Where possible, get the mechanics to replace the nuts with lock tight nuts or even a basic spring washer. I have seen 2 people on the road lose the exhaust pipe because Enfield doesnt issue them with lock nuts.
The rear wheel spokes also tend to break when riding 2-up with luggage. If more than 2 break on the same side of the wheel they will need replacing otherwise you run the risk of the wheel severely buckling. Any tyre repair man (Tyre Wallah) can replace them but you will have to have your own spare spokes.
Also keep a regular check on your engine oil, clutch and gearbox oil levels. Remember the engine needs to be cold to get a proper oil level reading for all 3. Surprisingly my Enfield uses next to no engine oil but there must be a slow leak in the gearbox casing as I have to regularly top up the gearbox oil.
Your rear chain needs to be regularly oiled. The rollers on the chain should always look a little grey to black, which indicates there is oil on it (see pic). If it is shiny, it may look great but your chain will wear out quickly. The bike starts to lose alot of horse power to the rear wheel if the chain becomes worn. Plus the added risk of the chain snapping.
Manual recommends 25 to 30mm chain slackness, which is measured on the bottom chain in the center of the two sprockets. You will have to rotate the chain around one full revolution and find the tight spot. As chains get old, a side of the chain will be loose and the another side will be tight. You Will need to measure the free play from the tight spot.
Be careful with some mechanics as they over tighten the chain which causes more harm to it. This 25 to 30mm play is measured when the bike is normally loaded. So if you are riding 2 up, check the chain tension by having 2 people sit on the bike for you. Also allow a little extra slackness for your luggage.
For example, one person sitting on my bike tightens the chain by 5mm. So when I set the chain, if the free play on the center stand is 25mm then it is to tight, because when I sit on the bike the free play will reduce to 20mm. Thus I loosen the chain by one notch. Better a little loose than too tight.
After setting the chain you will have to check your rear brake, because tightening the chain will tighten your rear brake. Make sure your rear brake is not locked on like a hand brake due to the adjustment of the chain. When I was new to the Enfield (September 2007) I had the chain tightened by a teenage mechanic. I rode quite a few kms before I noticed that the bike was running slow, and when I stopped the rear brake was smoking...
Enfield Mechanics recommend oil changes at 3000Km. I find this too quick, as the oil is still in good quality, its expensive to replace and unhealthy for the environment. My manual recommends 6000km. These days I aim for about 4500Km oil changes. I would recommend changing the gear box oil once every year.
Labour is cheap in India, about 150-200Rs for 2-3 hours work. The oil, like petrol, is expensive.
The Enfield manual recommends the following minimum tyre treads-
Front = 1mm
Rear = 2mm
However I changed my rear tyre (MRF Nylo Grip Plus) after it had done 25154Km and it had just 1mm depth of tread left, but I could have ridden a little longer on the same tyre without problems. I recommend changing the front tyre before the tread wears down to 1mm or less, as a slipping front wheel often results in bangs, bruises and deflated egos etc :) See also Tyres and Suspension in the Touring Info section for information about tyre pressure and tyre combinations.
A Service, with no parts to be replaced will approximately cost (based on 2009)
-Engine oil (2.5 litres) 560 Rs [for Castrol GTX oil]
-Oil Filter 30 Rs
**Total 740Rs (add 80Rs for 1/2 litre gear box oil)
Common Spare Parts Pricing (based on 2009)
-to fix a puncture at a tyre wallah, around 30-40Rs
-Air Filter (paper type) 150Rs
-Battery from 600Rs to 1000Rs
-Cable clutch 120Rs
* Clutch cables tended to break after 10 000Km
-Cable throttle 80Rs
-Chain link 20Rs
-Chain (o-ring) with front & back sprockets 1100Rs
-Clutch plates 275Rs
-Clutch seal 75Rs
-Clutch springs 42Rs
-Drum brake pads 130Rs
-Front fork seal 22rs (need 2 per fork)
-Front fork oil 90rs (for both forks)
-Gearbox gasket 10Rs
-Head lamp 20RS
-Head gasket 80Rs
-Horn Bracket 30Rs
-Kick start spring 15Rs
-L-shape carby hose 40Rs
-Petrol Cap 120Rs
-Rear wheel spokes 6Rs each
-Rear wheel bearing 90Rs
-Rear wheel tube 220Rs
-Rear wheel tyre 1600Rs (MRF Nylo Grip Plus, size 3.50.19)
-Spark Plug 55Rs
-Valve oil seals 100Rs
Running Cost Statistics
My 2006 Enfield Machismo 350cc
(8 months old, 6510km on the guage)
I had my Enfield Machismo from August 2007 (6510km on the Tachometer) to November 2009, a total of 650 days in India, and I have toured 18 783Kms on it.
In that period I have spent a total of 19476Rs in maintenance/repair costs (excluding petrol). That works out to be-
1.04Rs per Km or 30.0Rs per day it costs to maintain the motorbike.
However in that period I been 45 times to see someone for the bike (or do essential repairs myself, such as a new clutch cable); such as a mechanic, a welder for the luggage rack, seat repairs etc.
This means I have had the bike looked at (mostly a mechanic) once every 417Km or once every 2 weeks (14.4 days). As I have said before, Enfields are not reliable, and this was an 8-month-old bike when I bought it; a mechanics dream....
As I maintained the bike well I managed to sell it for about the same price I bought it. Thus in terms of buying and selling the bike it didnt cost any extra Rupees. But if I consider the exchange rate movements of Euro to Rs in the last 2.5 years then I lost a little on the resale of the bike in terms of actual Euros spent. (ie- the bike costed more in Euros to buy than what I sold it for in Euros)
A 1996 Enfield Bullet 350cc provided by Paul Read
Bike was bought in October 2008 for 25000Rs and was sold again in February 2009 for 12500Rs. During the 75days of ownership it was ridden 6735Km.
During that period a total of 12 756Rs was spent on the bike (excluding petrol), meaning the bike sold for less than what was spent on repairs.
Thus- 1.89Rs per Km or 170Rs per day it costed to maintain the motorbike. If we include money lost on resale (the motorbike was sold for less than half of the purchase price); this works out to be 3.75Rs per Km or 337Rs per day it costed to use the motorcycle.
In that period the bike had been brought 15 times to someone for repairs. This means the bike has been looked at once every 449Km or once every 5.0days. (and the bike had alot of major work done in that period, see log book for details)
To read Pauls personal overview of riding a Bullet, with a detailed cost break down, follow this link.
Here is a list of preffered Enfield Mechanics in various cities, thanks largely to the contribution of Murdy Murdooch.
Lalli Singh, c/o Inder Motors
1740-A/55(basement) Hari Singh Nalwa Street,
Abdul Aziz Road, Karol Bagh,
New Deli 110005
New Auto Emporium (Spare Parts Sales)
29/1557, Basement, Naiwala,
Karol Bagh, New Deli
Ph- 28752015, mb- 9873000250, 9312920075
New Deli Motor Cycle House (Spare Parts Sales)
1698, Arys Samaj Road,
Karol Bagh, New Deli
Ph- 28759733, mb- 9811959588
Bonny and Sonny Motors
Assagao Road, Mapusa
also in Manali and Deli
Himchal Pradesh Manali
Anu Auto Works
Just below Vashisht on the Vashisht Road, Manali
Jogibara Rd, Mcleod Ganj
Follow the short cut road from Mcleod to Dharamsala, past Boom Booms Cafe. It is the SECOND Enfield mechanic on the left.
mob- 94181 94418
Jammu and Kashmir Leh
On the left had side as you leave Leh towards Manali on the Leh-Manali road.
This information is provided by Phillipa, who runs organised Enfield tours through India (www.saffronroad.com).
I met Phillipa in the Himalayas (2009) when she was on tour and she is very experienced with India, Enfields and traveling (she still writes columns for travel publications)
"My personal recommendation for where to purchase a reliable Enfield from a reliable and honest source:
Lalli Singh, Inder Motors
Hari Singh Nalwa Street, off Abdul Aziz Road,
(super honest guy who employs great mechanics)
He is also a Recommended Mechanic, see his contact details here.
Failing that (equally well-maintained bikes, but you need to watch the negotiations): Soni Motors
also in Karol Bagh (in the parallel ally way off Abdul Aziz Road)
Ph: +91 (11) 5154 8958.
Pawan Soni, who owns Soni Motors (and used to work for Lalli) is a lovely guy, but his son, Sunny is a typical young Delhi-ite; more interested in wheeling and dealing than getting on with running an honest business.
Having said that, both businesses can arrange international shipping if somebody wants to take their bike back home. I bought my bike from Soni and had it shipped to NZ. To his credit, Sunny organised everything (shipping, insurance, customs clearances etc), but I had to keep putting a bomb under him."
This information was copied down from the notice board in the work shops. All prices quoted in Indian Ruppees.
Royal Enfield Paid Labour Service by Jaycee Motors, in Amritsar (in 2007)
-bike lamination 300
-bike polishing 20
-tyre shining 20
-replacement any cable 25
-overhaul of engine 1500
-overhaul of gearbox 300
-de carbonising of engine silencer 150 -cleaning and tuning carburettor 50
-replacement of piston rings 250
-replacement of CB paint 50
-ignition timing setting 50
-replacement timing gears 70
-replacement of primary chain and sprocket 125
-cylinder head reconditioning 200
-replacement inlet or exhaust rocker 70
-timing cover assembly overhauling 125
-clutch oil seal adaptor replacement 150
-replacement of drive sprocket oil seal 150
-alternator checking and refitting 100
-front control cover assembly replacement 40
-replacement of wiring harness 175
-complete electrical check up 75
-replacement of main switch 25
-battery charging 30
-replacement of rr unit 40
-replacement of horn 25
Royal Enfield Service Centre Jaipur ( in 2008)
-replacement any cable 25
-overhauling of engine 1500
-overhauling of gearbox 300
-decarburising of engine and silencer 250
-cleaning and tuning of carburettor 50
-replacement piston rings 200
-replacement of o/s piston rings (excluding boring) 200
-replacement of C.B. point 50
-replacement of timing gears 100
-ignition timing setting 50
-replacement of primary chain and sprocket 125
-cylinder head reconditioning 150
-replacement of inlet and exhaust rocker 50
-timing cover assy overhauling 100
-clutch oil seal adapter replacement 125 -replacement of drive sprocket 150
-alternator setting and refitting 75
-foot control assy replacement 75
-end cover assy replacement 75
- replacement of frame 1500
-overhauling of steering 175
- replacement of rear swing arm bushes 150
- replacement of front fork seals 120
-tuning of front fork 100
- replacement of front fork oil 25
- replacement of handle bar 70
-replacement of shock absorber 40
- replacement of chain and sprocket 150
-alignment of secondary chain 25
-cleaning and lubricating chain 50
-truing of wheel rim (each) 110
-greasing of front and rear wheel bearing 50
-cleaning and adjustment of rear brake 40
-cleaning and adjustment of front brake 40
-replacement of air filter 25
-replacement of cush rubber 50
-cleaning of fuel tank 30
-tappet adjustment 25
-HT coil replacement 25
-kick start spring replacement 50
-replacement of wiring harness 150
-complete electrical check-up 100
-replacement of main switch 25
-battery charging 30
-replacement of RR unit 25
-replacement of horn 25
The plains of India is pretty straightforward with petrol & help widely available; any guide book worth its weight in salt will give you a decent run down. Although the very north of India (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir) is not exactly remote, after all, 1.2 billion people does cover a large area, it is remote in terms of medical facilities, mechanics, spare parts, tyre wallahs, petrol stations and so forth. Hence the following information taken from my 2009 June-September trip should be helpful.
Information in this section is based on traveling alone plus luggage on a 2006 Enfield Machismo 350cc. All km quoted are based on the odometer reading from the Enfield. Please note the following abbreviations-
H.P. - state of Himachal Pradesh,
J&K - state of Jammu & Kashmir
** Before You Go **
Will a 350cc Make It Through the Himalayas?
From my own experience the 350cc Enfield loses heaps of power above 3800m (less oxygen available to the engine at higher altitude). The main problem is when you have to almost stop to avoid rocks, trucks etc on a slope. Because ones momentum is so slow, it takes quite a lot of clutch slipping before the bike can pick up enough speed where the engine is comfortable in supplying enough power. If it is difficult with one person, surely twice as hard for the engine with 2 people.
I have met people 2 up + luggage on an 350cc Enfield touring through the Spiti Valley and the Manali-Leh road. They admit it is a struggle and for sure a huge strain on the bike.
In essence it is possible 2up + luggage on a 350cc if it is in good working order, But I STRONGLY recommend the following-
* lighten your luggage to the bare minimum. Where possible leave the spare luggage in a hotel such as in Manali, Dharamsala etc.
* Highly highly recommend changing the chain drive ratio to a lower one- by either putting a new front sprocket with one less tooth on it or a rear sprocket with 2-3 extra teeth. This last measure for sure would make your journey a happy one.
Tyres and Suspension
Many people advised me to put a rear tyre also onto the front. I rode with the standard MRF "Rib" 3.25.19 front tyre with a MRF "Nylo Grip Plus" 3.50.19 rear tyre. I didnt have any problems in the dirt, mud etc and whilst I have no experience with a different set up my experience is satisfactory with the standard tyre configuration.
As a tip, dont over inflate the front tyre, a softer front tyre helps to absorb the impact on the rocky roads and thus easier to steer the bike. Manual recommends the following tyre pressures
- 18 Psi single
- 20 Psi with passenger
- 28 Psi single
- 30 Psi with passenger
Similar, a softer rear suspension minimizes the bike bouncing around (and more comfortable). Make sure though the suspension is still hard enough to support the load. My Machismo has the modern suspension with the expansion chamber; I ride on the 2nd softest setting.
Expect tyre punctures and thus carry the tools needed to repair one. Loading the motorcycle on the next available truck to the closest town is a right hassle, and the friendly tuck driver will help to substantially lighten the load of paper notes in your wallet. See Recommended Spares & Tools to Carry
Air Filter and Carburetor As oxygen is hard to get above 3800m it would help if you air filter is very clean or replace it before you start the trip. A clean air filter looks like the colour of cardboard, see pic ->
A simple, quick and easy task to help compensate for the lack of oxygen is to open the air/fuel mixture screw on the carburetor. On the modern carbys, the air/fuel mixture screw is on the lower left hand side of the carby. I turned mine to 3 and half turns out (normally its on 2 turns out) and it did help to compensate for the altitude. <- see pic The older carby models found on Bullet models etc have a separate air screw and a separate petrol screw. You should turn the air screw out..ask someone who knows where it is on this type of carby.
Speed and Dirt Roads
I was a bit slow to discover this but sometimes riding a little faster (5-15km/hr) on a bad road is smoother than riding slower. Experiment a little with this. Also, 10km/hr faster, say from 25 to 35km/hr, saves heaps of time when the road is 120km long (such as in Zanskar)
Sunscreen, Sun Glasses, Gloves and Medication
Despite the height the region is hot in the day and because its above 3000m the UV radiation is much stronger; thus easy to get sun burnt and cracked lips. Sunglasses are must for this reason and also for the dusty roads.
Over the passes, especially over the 4000m passes warm ski gloves or even better, motorcycle winter gloves are a must. I passed over 5000m at 7am before the sun rose over the peaks; my hands were burning with pain from the cold despite wearing the ski gloves.
No pharmacy in the region except for Recon Peo, Manali and Leh. Stock your medical kit before you come.
** Places **
Kinnaur and Spiti Valley (H.P.) (Recong Peo to Kaza) Will need a permit to continue past Reckong Peo or Kaza. Permit is 150Rs in Recong Peo and I believe its free if you are in Kaza heading to Recong Peo. Expect to lose a good 3 ours getting a permit in Recong Peo.
The last ATM is in Recong Peo, then its either Manali or Leh.
Between Recong Peo and Kaza there are no petrol stations. My Machismo averaged 38.3km/litre over the 407km I rode (includes side trips).
Recong Peo has a reasonable mechanic and the next one is in Kaza. The mechanic in Kaza carries next to no spares so pray you dont need them by then.
Lahaul Valley (H.P.) After Kaza the next petrol station is either Manali, or 10km before Keylong in Tandi. My Enfield averaged 37.1km/litre on this leg, from Kaza to Keylong, riding 239km (includes side trip to Chandra Tal, Moon Lake).
From Kaza towards Keylong you go over the Kunzum pass at 4551m. The grade is a bit steep sometimes and I had to seriously slip my clutch to get moving once I had slowed right down for a truck, rocks etc. Once over the pass towards Keylong, you reach Battal. From Battal to Chhataru (35km) its the worst road I have ever ridden on. Streams washing over heavily rocky roads. Actually to call it a road is unfair. More like an outdoor off road adventure park..
Possible to sleep in Dhabas in Battal, Chhataru and hotels in Lossa. An option is to stay overnight in Battal an do a day trip to Chandra Tal (really beautiful lake).
Manali to Leh (H.P. to J&K)
The Rotang Pass (3978m) can be a killer because of the truck convoys, especially army, causing long traffic jams and turning the road into a mud bath. A Manali Enfield mechanic advises people to leave Manali at 4am. I have met riders who didnt leave Manali too early and burnt their clutch out getting stuck behind the trucks in the mud. The Indian Times newspaper have pictures every year of traffic jams on the Rotang Pass that can be over 10km long.(LoL)
I came over the Rotang Pass from Keylong towards Manali around 8:30am. Going in this direction there is far less traffic; so crossing it a little later wasnt a problem.
I would recommend the following route to Leh.
* Day 1 Manali (2060m) to Keylong (3550m). Keylong is quite a nice town to sleep over and some people stay an extra night here to altitude acclimatize.
* Day 2 Keylong to Pang (4625m). Sleep in Dhabas here (see pic), expect some altitude sickness here, especially headaches. 193km distance and it took me 8hours with breaks.
* Day 3 Pang to Leh (3505m) 188km distance and it took me 7hr 45min with breaks.
From Keylong to Leh my Enfield averaged a surprisingly good 39.1km/litre, thus I only used 9.8litres of the 14litre tank, over the total distance of 381km. (thus didnt need to carry extra petrol).
Surprisingly allot of the road to Leh is nicely paved and the gradients are not steep. There were no river crossings just an occasional stream washing over the road on the first day. Every 1-2 hours there are Dhaba tents along the road; food, chai available and always possible to sleep there if necessary.
First petrol station is in Karu, 40km before Leh.
There are 3-4 Enfield mechanics in Leh but most charge Leh tourist prices. I found Mohan Sharma to be fairly priced and a very competent mechanic. He is on the left had side as you leave Leh towards Manali on the Leh-Manali road. Leh has a very good spare parts motorcycle shop, near opposite the hospital on the main road.
Around Leh (J&K)
Permits are needed for certain areas around Leh. Once you get a permit keep one copy in good order. When you want to do another trip, liquid paper the dates, re-write new dates and then photocopy the permit. Presto a new permit! This will save you 150Rs per person... But you didnt hear this from me :-)
Nubra Valley (J&K) You cross over Indias highest pass, Khardung La, which is not at 5602m as signed posted but around 5379m; thus it is not the worlds highest road. The ride to Panamik is great (150Km from Leh, 7.5hours with breaks) especially after the pass.
Hunder has really touristic prices, for eg- a tent with 3 meals cost upwards of 2000Rs per person.
Permit needed to visit this area. Petrol available in Diskit.
Pangong Lake (J&K) Leave early as the river crossing is impossible to cross in the afternoon. I left Leh at 4am and crossed the river at 10:30am with out problems. They are starting to build a bridge but it looks like it will take a few years yet.
164km from Leh to the lake, and then another 8km to Spangmik, which is further along the lake with homestays. This trip took me 7hours with breaks.
To Pangong Lake you pass over the Changla pass (5200m +) and there is an army base there that offers free hot chai. Bloody brilliant as it is cold in the morning at this altitude. From Leh to the lake my Machismo averaged 40Km/litre.
Permit needed to visit Pangong Lake and there is no mains electricity there.
About 10hours with breaks from Leh to Kargil (246Km). Kargil is a soulless city and a mosque is guaranteed to wake you at some ungodly hour and ironically tell you just how great god is..
From Kargil to Rangdum its possible to do it in 6hours, 130kms. 3 Dhabas in Rangdum serving rice & dhal all day long. Can sleep there in a J&K Tourism guest house (200Rs, maybe hot water), also possible to stay in a homestay, ask a relative at one of the Dhabas. No mains electricity here.
From Rangdum to Padum its 117km and possible in 5 and half hours.
No petrol in Zanskar valley so you will definitely need to take some with you. I needed 2 litres. I did this trip 2 up + some luggage and averaged 36km/litre passing over 4260m at Penze La. This is the highest I have been with my Enfield 2up + some luggage, and at this height it was no problem.
In Kargil, Pashkyum, Rangdum and Padum it is possible to stop for food in these places. Any where in between there is nothing available so I strongly suggest packing a lunch, water and snacks for this trip.
Its a really bad road and I would have to say the most grueling I have ever ridden on, simply because its 500 kms return of crap road to ride on. (To be fair though, there is some compensation as there are some amazing glaciers in this valley. But for sure I will never do this trip again).
Remember to check regularly for loose bolts and nuts etc on this trip.
My Pick of the Worst Roads
1 - Battal to Chhataru (35km), by far #1 (see Lahaul Valley H.P.)
2 - Kargil to Padum 240km of total crap road (Zanskar)
3 - Rotang Pass, allot of 1st gear riding (H.P.)
4 - Jalori Pass 3223m, between Kullu and Recong Peo (H.P.)
5 - Pin Valley, from Sichling to Mud (H.P.) and getting caught behind a 20 army truck convoy on the Leh Kargil road and literally blinded/chocking on the dust they generated.
My Pick of the Best Roads - Pangong lake, especially after the pass except for the river crossing. Paved roads meandering along the valley (J&K)
- From Recong Peo to Nako (H.P.) Paved road, spectacular views and no no traffic!
- Sections of the Keylong to Leh road (H.P. and J&K)
- To Nubra Valley, Panamik, especially after the pass (J&K) Awesome views.
- Dharamsala to Mandi and Mandi to Manali road (H.P.) Paved road, lots of corners, green valleys cut by rivers flowing in them
Enfields are really under powered for the size of their engine.
My manual optimistically claims it will do 120km/hr top speed. An Indian motorcycle review magazine pitches it at 100km/hr, which is what my speedo claims. 2-up and with luggage I scrape about 95km/hr.
Having said that, its quite rare to get an opportunity to ride at these speeds. Firstly the Enfield doesn't like to be ridden above 75 km/hr, I can feel the engine is starting to strain. Secondly the engine is not great for quick acceleration. If you want your Enfield to last then better ride it like the age it was designed. The 1950's.
Thirdly, and most influentially, the roads and conditions are totally crap. Pot holes, flood waters, roads washed away etc make for slow riding.
In the Himalaya regions I average about 30-35 km/hr. (Even less as you get higher)
On the plains about 40km/hr.
That is not to say I sit on 40 km/hr. There are sections of road where one can speed up to say 70km/hr, and suddenly hit a traffic jam, or the road is under repair, or the road hasnt been repaired since it was built etc. Thus bringing down your average distance covered per hour. So I use these averages when planning my trip. Then I add breaks.
So a 200km ride is about a 5 hour ride on the plains and then I add 2 hours for breaks. After all, got to sniff the roses along the way. So its a long 8 hour day. Then you have to remember you want some day light to find a decent hotel. In some cities this can take upto an extra hour.
Touring on the plains is really tiring. Too many trucks and buses slowing you down, allowing you to drink their fumes. You dont cruise in India; I am in a constant state of alertness , its almost impossible to find a relaxed riding rhythm.
For example- turn a corner and farmer Joe has let his cows wonder all over it, or a truck is parked right in the middle of the road with a flat tyre etc. On dual carriage high ways there are trucks driving against traffic! So many times 40km/hr is too fast.
Antidote A traveller told me recently he was travelling by bus in South India when it suddenly stopped at the side of the road. He was told they had to wait for the bus to be repaired.
The horn wasnt working...
Indias only concept of road safety is a deafening loud horn, used at every, and I mean every, possible opportunity.
To keep the Enfield running it requires constant attention and fiddling. I am amazed at how often I have had to use my tools, especially the spanners and screw drivers; mostly to adjust the brakes, clutch, chain, carburettor, and tighten the loose bolts after bumpy journeys.
Prices quoted are based on the year 2008/09.
Tools Carried Following are essential to have.
1 Phillips & Flat head screw driver comby (medium/big) 20Rs 1 small flat head screw driver (for carby) 25Rs 1 pair of pliers 35Rs 1 spark plug remover 1 paint brush (clean carby & petrol filter) 15Rs 1 roll of good quality black electrical tape 11Rs 1 WD 40 spray can (actual brand I bought in India is Zorrik 88) 70Rs OPEN Spanners- 6mm to 19mm + 22 & 20mm 125Rs 1 * 10 & 13mm 1 * 24 & 26mm (24 to remover back wheel) 55Rs 1 * 30 & 32mm (30 to adjust chain tension) 65Rs 1 * 5mm Allen Key (30Rs) ** Check if your bike has allen key bolts and make sure you take them with you. I got caught with out them and it took me 5 hours of bus ride to the next town and back to get one allen key (groan)
If possible get some cable ties
Spares Carried Following are essential to have. 1 Chain link small amount of grease 4 rear spokes 1 clutch cable 1 front brake cable 1 throttle cable 1/2 to 1 litre of engine oil for topping up. For prices see Spare Parts Pricing.
Going into the Himalayas If your planning a trip upto Leh or other remote parts of the Himalayas I would recommend the following-
Tyre levers (x2) 70Rs Inner tuber repair patches 20Rs Tube patches glue 10Rs Sand paper for tube repair 5Rs Foot Pump 100Rs
- Ear Plugs! With out them the ticking of the Enfield engine gives me a headache on longer trips. Also helps to keep me sane by damping the noise of all the bloody car/truck horns. Difficult to get in India so bring some from your country.
- A can of spray chain oil. Cant buy them in India and engine oil flys off so quickly. For this reason I bought a small oil container for oiling the chain. I Velcro it to the inside of the air filter box. See pic for more details.
-At an Enfield dealer ask for the Indian Royal Enfield Dealer listings. Its a book with all the registered Enfield dealers in India with their contact details. I found it useful because if I needed a spare part or the bike serviced, I could know where the nearest dealer is, and also call ahead to see if they had this part.
- Card board, painted black on both sides, to cover the gap on top of the front sprocket (use black tape to hold it in place). Stops the chain oil flicking into the engine air vents (bloody hard to clean then) and also on to your leg and the rest of bike. Thus helps to keep things looking good. See pic for more details.
-A mobile phone with a local Sim card is really handy. Good to call ahead at busy towns to enquire/book accommodations, to call Enfield dealers if they have a spare part, to register your insurance with your contact number, to call some one if your stuck on the road etc
- carry a small piece of wood for lifting the rear wheel off the ground when it is on the centre stand. Easy to oil the chain then too.
-Come to India and bring a tyre gauge (the small pen ones). Many tyre pumps dont have a tyre gauge. (Pic as example)
-The Enfield has a tendency to kick back on the kick start. A good way to avoid hurting yourself is to first turn the handle bars hard left, and then jump up and down on the kick start. Thus if the kick start does fly back, thus shooting your right knee up, your right knee wont connect with your right hand or even the handle bars.
-Becareful when parking the Enfield and getting off it. The header exhaust pipe from the engine is very exposed which means there are times (due to the angle of the ground) that when you park the motorcycle your right leg calf could brush the exhaust pipe. I have been kissed twice by my girl; the last time leaving a faint burn scar behind. (a real hot kisser to say the least :)
-If your going to be spending a long time in the Himalayas or caught in the monsoon season a water proof bike cover is ideal for stopping your baby from rusting. I bought a 9 x 9 feet (2.52m x 2.46m) plastic cover (222Rs) and folded in over in position over the bike. Over the folds I simply hand stitched it myself. Most people I have seen with pre-bought bike covers are too small for an Enfield, especially if you have luggage racks. Ideally you should write (or paint) the motorcycle registration in permanent ink on the bike cover to deter it from being stolen. See pic for details.
- Plastic Bags: really handy to keep some spare with you. They are especially needed to wrap all your valuables and clothes in them in your carry bags. Back packs are generally not water proof, or at the very least, not water proof on a motorcycle riding in a 1 hour monsoon rain shower. (I Found out the hard way :)
- At petrol stations be very sure that the guy/girl (but lets face it, in India, its always guy) resets the counter before filling your petrol tank. Sometimes they try and scam you by not zeroing the counter and thus charging you extra for petrol one didnt buy.
A train is a great option to do really long distances.
Go to the Parcel's Office at the train station, which is usually somewhere near the back of the train station. You will need to check the motorcycle in 24hours or less before departure. At the very least do this 3 hours before your train leaves (gives you enough time to pack the bike, fill in the paper work, find the right platform etc).
You will need to take the mirrors off the bike and you must empty the petrol tank (although ours wasnt completely emptied and they dont check). When filling in the paperwork you must already have a train ticket and a photocopy of the Registration Certificate or the bike will NOT go on the train.
We paid 50rs in Calcutta for the packing guy to cover the bike with a plastic hessian bag and straw underneath it. Covers the head lamp, tank and the entire seat. Make sure they pack the exhaust pipe too.
Train from Kolkata to Chennai December 2007 * 1805 train fare at 1662Km's * 37 booking * 400 (value of bike at 1%. We wrote down 40 000) total= 2242rs
We thought this 400rs was insurance and when we arrived in Chennai and discovered the exhaust pipe was damaged we were told this 1% was more like a stamp duty and no one was really interested in helping us make a claim! Better to write down a low price; so the next time we wrote 10 000Rs.
When we collected the bike the porters wanted an unloading tax. (just a scam) Another porter had already warned me earlier and told me not to pay more than 10rs to these guys. Which is what I gave.
Train From Margao to Jaipur March 2008 * freight charges for the bike 1745Rs * packing charges in Margao 350Rs - Which is 7 times higher than Calcutta but we couldnt negotiate it down. We were at their mercy...
Comments Can only load or unload the motorcycle at a major train station. That is, where the train will stop for more than half an hour.
If the cargo carriage of the train is full then they will send it on the next train. We were stressed by this when we caught the train to Jaipur as the train runs only once a week, which meant we would be in Jaipur for a week waiting for the bike to arrive from Margao. Ofcourse they cant say how full the cargo bay will be until the train arrives. (Turned out the cargo bay was empty :-)
Heard stories where a guy paid the cargo loaders some cash to ensure the bike was on his train. When he arrived at his destination the bike was not there- it was off loaded! For this reason I waited at the station until the cargo bay was sealed shut (the door is locked just before departure) to ensure this didnt happen to me.
Motorcycling is a favoutire hobby of mine and I have had a number of bikes over the last 10 years. My favourite being a Suzuki RF900R when I was living in Holland.
When I was studying my engineering degree I use to work part time for my Dad at his Engineering Fabrication Shop. This gave me some great experience with tools and machines. I quickly learnt to appreciate not only if a machine looks good but also if it works good as well. Beauty + sound engineering.
From December 2006 to November 2009 I had lived in India (almost 3 years :) with the usual 6 month visa runs to Nepal or Thailand. I was getting really annoyed with India but this all changed dramatically after August 2007 when I bought the 350cc Enfield Machismo, 2006 model.
Before I had the bike I tended to meet Indians who would constantly lie and hassle me. After I had the bike I met a whole new kind of India and Indians. I would arrive in places where no tourists come and Indians rush up to me who simply wanted to talk and offer me a chai or some food, instead begging for money as was often the case in the past.
I had visited really beautiful areas in Indian I thought I would never see (especially around the Himalayas) and stopped randomly at small road side chai huts enjoying the wonderful views.
Motorcycling through India can be wonderful, as long as you have the time to do it and are not in a rush.