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An Egli product it is not but the effort is commendable and the cafe racer is fun to ride

 

Text: Shahwar Hussain

Photographs: Ramesh Pathania

 

In a country where the roads witness bumper-to-bumper traffic and where the average speed in the stop-go traffic seldom exceed more than 45kph, it is rather surprising that someone should build a café racer out of an Enfield Bullet 350. Riding a normal motorcycle in the maddening traffic and in the bad road condition can give you bad back, so just imagine how uncomfortable a café racer would be. A café racer has a low seating position with even lower clip-on handlebars. But on good roads and with relatively lesser traffic, a café racer is a pleasure to ride.

Whatever your impression about this particular type of motorcycle is, you simply can’t deny the fact that it is a visual delight. There is this friend of mine who simply hates motorcycles. To a certain extent he can stand them but just as long as they are in their stock form. The simplest of modification and yuck! he can’t stand them. I must confess that a huge majority of these motorcyclists who modify their motorcycles do such outlandish jobs that they are imminently avoidable. Guys riding Enfield Bullets with twin exhausts and BMW emblems on their petrol tanks are definitely, a case for sore eyes. I wonder where the other exhaust emerges from. Then there are those who have such fertile imaginations that they turn their bikes into something straight out of the movie ‘Easy Rider’. Some of these bikes have impossibly high handle bar and stretched foot pegs. I rode one of these bikes whose owner must have been immensely impressed by the Mad Max movie ‘Beyond Thunderdome’. One ride around the India Gate made my calf muscles ache due to the stretched foot pegs and modified gearlevers. A few days later I met the same biker again and noticed that he has toned down the flamboyant style of his bike (he had flames painted on the tank), the handle has come down to more acceptable level and the foot pegs have come back to their original positions.

Well, even though this friend of mine has such revulsion against motorcycles, he was highly impressed by this particular café racer.

 

Captain Raj Kumar, who conducts motorcycle tours all over the country, is the man behind this particular café racer. This is the first time that Raj, has attempted such a project. The project had cost Raj well over a lakh of rupees and he had undertaken the project only because he had a specific order from Belgium. Well, at a cost of around Euro 3000, it is one of the cheapest bikes in Belgium. But in India a Bullet café racer that costs well over a lakh of rupees will sell the day pigs fly. I believe that the price of this bike has shot up because this was the first time such a project was undertaken and most of the expenses went into R&D. In fact, it was only after the fifth try that the tank was finalised.

This racer is an Enfield Bullet Machismo 350 with an AVL engine. The standard 350 engines would have been better but then the client wanted the AVL engine and the customer is God and Raj wasn’t ready just yet to annoy God. The frame and the engine were not tampered with at all. In fact, without the necessary technical expertise, any modification in the frame could send the handling of the bike out of the window. The only modification carried out that has any connection with the frame is the relocation of the rider footrests.

 

The wide and low seat is actually pretty comfortable. The café racers that are seen on the streets of England, US and other European countries have a single seat and only a microscopic minority have any provision for a pillion rider. But our man here thought that a small and thin pillion seat would make the bike a bit more practical and he is right.

Café racers around the world generally have clip-on handle bar. These handle bars in reality are two separate pieces, a little longer than the size of the throttle grips and they are fixed on the telescopic front suspension near the headlights. With clip-ons, the riding position becomes rather low. There has been a small deviation from the clip-ons and this racer sports a specially made one-piece handlebar that is not quite as low as the clip-ons but gives you the feeling of a racer any way. Low seat and low handlebar always gives one a feeling of speed. The petrol tank got the full chromium treatment with copper base and has lettering in gold that looks just great. The tank is completely new and has been made from one single piece of sheet metal and only the base has another piece of metal. 

 

Because of the low handlebars and the low seating position, the position of the rider’s footpegs had to be altered. They were shifted backwards from their standard position. But shifting the footpegs was easier said than done. In its stock form, the kick pedal comes down from behind the footrest but here since the footrest was moved back, it interfered with the kick lever. A separate bracket was made from a thick blob of steel and into it was incorporated the foldable footpegs from the Hero Honda CBZ motorcycle. Now every time you want to start the motorcycle, you have to fold the footrest.

Due to the repositioning of the footrest, the gap between the footrest and the brake pedal had widened far too much. Since this is a Bullet Machismo, the brake pedal and the gearshifts have been interchanged with respect to the standard Bullet, which has the brake pedal on the left side and the gearshift on the right side. The rear brakes on a Bullet are weak enough and the shifting of the brake pedal, with its three linkages, on the right side has not helped matters in

anyway. In fact, it has done more harm than good. And it is almost nonexistent in the café racer. Moreover, to re-position the brake pedal, it was just bent and brought near the footrest. Does not inspire much confidence I must say. It would have been much easier to modify the brake pedal in the standard Bullet.

 

The heel-toe gearshift on the left has been worked upon and has now become, for all practical purpose, a toe shifter. The gearshift is sleek and the repositioning does not affect the operation one bit. The exhausts have been reworked and now look its part. Instead of the curve it now comes out in a straightest manner and the silencer box goes on all the way from the joint with a little pipe protruding from the end.

Riding the café racer feels great. The low sitting position, low handle bar and the overall classic racer’s position gives you the kick. I took the bike out of city limits on a Sunday and was able to open up the throttle all the way and touch the three figure mark. But being a Bullet, it is hard to sustain the speed for a considerable length of time and the AVL engine sure creates a racket and every time I let go the throttle, the free flow exhaust would let out gunshots.

 

This café racer handles fine and even at high-speed turns, it held its line. But I must say that I was lucky that I never came across any big potholes or big stones in my path. Had I encountered any of these, I surely would have gone for a toss and the roads are not exactly made of rubber. The low handlebar does not allow abrupt maneouvering and to ride the bike at high speed on Indian roads is madness. It’s alright to pull that kind of stunts on the European roads where the traffic is well managed and comparatively less and the roads are good. It is a pain in the neck, literally, to ride it in the city with its stop-go traffic. Highways are the places to take it.

Even though a few grey areas remain, it is still a very well finished machine. The cost of the product will definitely go down if it is carried on a standard Bullet or a used bike instead of a brand new one. Well, expensive or cheap is a matter, best left to the manufacturer and the buyer but as for me, I thoroughly enjoyed riding the café racer. I guess it will be a long time before I get to ride a Royal Enfield Bullet café racer again. This one is being shipped to Belgium and I don’t know when Captain Raj will fulfil his promise of building another café racer. Till then I will have one hell of an itchy palm.