The lure of the open road is irresistible for people who combine wanderlust with a love for machines. Not just any machine will do, and in our corner of the world the true biker opts for the Bullet. Just ask the Himalayan Enfielders whose rallying point is a workshop in Lazimpat set up by six Bullet enthusiasts. They come here to discuss the finer points of their machine, tune up their "babies" and find ways to share experiences through their common passion for riding.
The Peace Ride 2003, an event that combines all those elements for Enfielders, will set off 15-18 March on an 800km tour across the country, riding for peace. A bike tour may not hasten peace in the country, but the spirit that exists amongst Enfield riders-they number over 100-is the biggest motivation behind this event. They believe that if a group of people brought together by a common passion can make an effort for peace, then it cannot go to waste however small the effect on the larger scheme of things. Proceeds of this event will be donated to charity and the bikers hope to raise enough to make a positive impact from doing something they enjoy.
The appeal of the Bullet lies not only in its reliability and robustness, but also largely part in its aesthetic appeal and uniqueness. Originally manufactured by the British company Enfield, the design of the Bullet has not changed much since the first of its kind rolled out of the factory in Chennai nearly half a century ago. Since then there have been minor modifications and improvements to its design, but its heart, a rock solid 350cc four-stroke engine (with later 500cc and 535cc variations) has remained the same.
Proving its robustness and reliability in driving conditions in the Indian subcontinent, it has a following unmatched by any other motorcycle in South Asia. The looks are retro-cool, like something out of an old Marlon Brando movie. The Bullet predates aerodynamic engineering, and one look at the generously curved bodies explains why their owners have given so many bikes feminine personas. Its distinctive sound ranges from a reassuring thump while idling to a powerful animal roar while accelerating and the ride quality is different from any other modern motorcycle. It's a bike with character, and sets against the other slick and standardised motorcycles in the Nepali market-with names ranging from the familiar to the largely unpronounceable-one can begin to understand the appeal of a Bullet. Enfield enthusiasts say the pleasure of a Bullet is not about commuting, convenience or fuel efficiency-it's about an experience once had is always appreciated.
Being a unique it attracts an interesting breed of riders. Past events organised by the Himalyan Enfielders have seen noticeable camaraderie between riders despite their varied professional and personal backgrounds. With an attitude geared towards sharing, the bikers are far removed from the stereotypical outlaw biker gangs. Family members will go along for the Peace Ride and the event is open to anyone who wishes to join. The bikers will be the outriders for a group of dedicated VW Beetle drivers who will also be taking part in a parallel event on the same route.
So if you see a posse of bikers cutting a swathe through the Pokhara highway early next week, be sure to give a wave and honk.
(To join call the Himalyan Enfielders at 428650 and 981050432.)