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Old 12-26-2011, 08:31 PM   #1
Bellinghamandegg OP
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Renting and Riding Enfields in India 2011 ... General Observations


My girlfriend and I were going to ride last winter from Bellingham WA to Chile, and prepared for months for the upcoming trip. About 3 weeks before departure, my girl basically said she wouldn't go, as the continued violence in Mexico was bumming her out, and making it no fun. So literally we changed gears completely, and went with Plan D, which had never existed. We applied for Indian visas, and flew to Dehli on a whim, with our riding gear, International Drivers License, and credit cards.

We ended up riding from Dehli to Kerala, through Rajasthan, Gujarat, Pakistan border, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, etc, etc. Our blog for our journey is found at http://chasingsouth.tumblr.com/ ..... it starts at the end. On "riding" days, we probably averaged 250 kilometers. We returned the bikes to Dehli by way of train from Goa. A pretty easy and established way to transport bikes as well. Just make sure you get on where the train starts. After returning the bikes to Dehli, we flew to Sri Lanka, and rented enduro 250s for 10 days. .... another adventure, though way more laid back in every way than our tour of India.

When planning an Indian motorcycle trip, bring one set of riding gear, good boots, a good bag for storage, a good map of India, some bungies, and buy your helmet in India. In my experience, the quality and selection of riding gear, maps, and motorcycle accessories are universally poor in India. Outside of helmets, it is sort of like shopping in one big “99cent” store and the goods are still overpriced. Whether or not you bring a GPS is your choice. There are many times we wish we had one, but I know we had much more “adventure” without. Being forced to ask directions 10 to 20 times a day sometimes….. a typical road sign below



Buy a phone in Dehli/ Karol Bagh before you leave.... it is cheap and everyone expects you to have one. It also increases the safety factor immeasurably. Make sure you are on a plan that won't stop after you get out of the "state" you bought it in. Our first phone plan did that, so we got a different one. You buy minutes as you go, and it is dirt cheap relative to roaming your own phone ... a couple rupees a call in India, and 15 cents a minute to the States.

We purposedly did not make a deal with any Delhi bike rental shops on line , before we arrived, though they wanted us to. When we got there, it was obvious that was the correct decision, at least in the winter \ spring time. In the late summer \ fall time period, I have heard that the better rental shops have all their inventory prespoken for. We had an idea of the 2 or 3 shops we wanted to deal with after internet browsing, and email exchanges (like this one and http://www.bcmtouring.com/forum/index.php ) .... and basically after spending a day in the Karol Bagh section of Dehli, walking amongst the shops ( fascinating in it's own right) we narrowed it to Lalli Singh and Rajesh of Tony Bike Centre. We stayed right in karol Bagh which was another very good decision.




We decided to rent Enfield Machismos from Rajesh of Tony Bike Centre in Dehli though I think we would have been just fine with Lalli Singh as well. Lalli singh's bikes were more expensive, though I think mechanically they may have been better as well. If we were to do it again though, it would be hard not to deal with Rajesh again.

Renting bikes in India is inexpensive…. Looking just at my Enfield 500 machismo - two months rent… putting on about 6000 miles, I have about $1200 invested. That includes absolutely everything, fuel, insurance, rent, probably 10 punctures and repairs, 3 rear wheel bearing failures, new chain, new front and rear sprocket, new rear suspension, new battery, new helmet, new gloves…. etc. etc. Our original trip from Washington State to Chile we had budgeted about $2500 per bike just in shipping costs, across the Darien Gap in Panama, and back to Seattle from Chile by boat. So we have always felt we were getting great great value for our motorcycle money in India. I think overall, our trip to India was about a third of what we hoped to spend on travelling to South America by bike. That includes the plane fare.

Even after all the mechanical issues we encountered, I would rent an Enfield 500 again ….. or maybe because of them. I feel I have learned a great deal about the 1950s engineering that is the Enfield. Every day it was easier than the previous one, having a little more knowledge of the bike we were riding. The 500 Enfield also provides a margin of safety, most of the bikes in India don’t. We can pass slower traffic faster than almost anything else. When facing the oncoming chaotic traffic, it is an advantage to be able to change your situation as fast as possible. That also means you can get in trouble fast….. I like the extra power though. As to the 500 or the 350, all 500 parts, OUTSIDE THE ENGINE, are interchangeable with the 350 ... so I would get a 500 again

Riding out of Delhi is tough (a complete and utter panic nightmare) as the first real riding day, but doable. Start early, and follow a rented tuk tuk if you can. With a couple days of riding Indian roads, you are mostly breathing normally on the road, though still on extremely high alert. For me, after 8 weeks of the best India could bring at me, I was totally at ease on the road….. Yelling at slow hesitant drivers (just like the states), universally hand signalling my displeasure when it felt warranted, on the horn without hesitation, splitting a narrow lane between a bus and tuk tuk (going different directions) with aplomb. Its actually scared me how comfortable I became…. My girl Vanessa was way more rational, and careful, and never really became “comfortable” with the Indian road. That is the safest way to drive for sure.




Outside of Goa, and the Himalaya area, westerners riding Enfields in India are an oddity deserving a long look. When we first took off on our trip, I felt a bit like a rock star with all the attention we received. Now I know it is much more similar to an animal reserve, where we are the exotic beasts, allowed to roam in the free range called India. When we were still or feeding, naked observation and picture taking was apropos … this is all fine actually, though tiring when it is relentless, but….. Vanessa, riding her own Enfield was an absolute exotic oddity. In two months we never saw another women ride anything but a scooter. She paid for that uniqueness with an interest in her, bordering on “way way way too much, to scary, to criminal”. By the nature of our trip, we spent a good 95% of our time and nights in the more remote areas (much less western traveled areas) and though we found real satisfaction travelling there, sometimes the interest in us and especially in Vanessa was overwhelming….. I’m not sure what we could do differently next time, but we would be more mentally prepared……


Don't even think about camping in India .... leave the tent at home. You will realize why, in a few days riding, and trying to find some privacy.

Just to be clear, we loved our travels through India, and the fact we will always have that shared unique experience. It is not for the timid though ...
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Old 12-26-2011, 08:44 PM   #2
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Great post. Thanks.

Just as a matter of interest, do you know how much a good second hand 500 would cost to buy?
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Old 12-26-2011, 09:23 PM   #3
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Buying instead of renting

We were told may times we should have bought instead of rented, and I think with $500 to $1000 we could have gotten a decent Enfield ... but in our case time was money as well, and it was so convenient to just pick them out, depart Dehli, have the "right" paperwork to show the authorities, and drop them off at the end of our ride. We would have spent alot of time buying and selling our bikes that just wasn't worth the few bucks saved
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Old 12-26-2011, 10:42 PM   #4
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I'm of two minds about rental vs buying vs taking my own. Last year, I bought a bike in Vietnam.... less than a year old, did the deal in a matter of minutes... then gave it to a charity at the end of the ride. Cost was next to nothing... $400 - and I didn't have to worry about getting the bike back to the origin point.... but it wasn't what I'd have preferred to ride.

This year, I've taken my own bike to SE Asia - and I'm loving having my own bike.... one that I fit and know. I'll probably end up renting bikes in places like Jakarta and Bangkok when i get there - if only to save wear and tear on mine.

I reckon that if its only $1000 to buy, I'd do that and either sell it quick, easily and cheaply - or give it away again.... but its nice to know that the rental option is there and works well.
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Old 12-28-2011, 10:19 PM   #5
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I did North India/Raj this year, and I'm lost on why anyone would rent an old Enfield if they are not some Enfield/antique aficionado.

In recent years, much better options have been introduced to the Indian markets. Bikes like the new Pulsar 220 offer much better riding experience, performance and are very reliable and still very cheap. I guess if you ride in the urban jungles, it's not much of a problem when the bike breaks down, but it is often a substantial and prolonged delay for many heading into the mountains. Presumably, anyone who is on a schedule should be doing things to increase their chances of success, and riding a junker Enfield is the opposite of that.

I used a GPS when I was there and it was great, especially in urban areas. Once you check into your hotel, you just set your waypoint and you can just ride around the whole town without any worry/stress on finding your way back. It's great.

Yes, many Indian guys are pretty creepy towards women. Did your girl get her butt grabbed? I've met even 50yo women that had. They are pretty creepy towards their own women too, with Delhi metro having designated women cars and women seating so they don't have to put up with the BS.

Lastly, there is a reason why Indian roads are at the top of the fatalities/mile world rankings. Even native Indians that "are used to it" end up dying in huge numbers. As visitors, we are in an even bigger disadvantage. But yeah, foreigner hippies and weirdos that do these trips probably don't know or think about it or have huge risk tolerance. Like you said, it's not too bad and one can get used to the conditions quickly, but a little extra worry and carefulness is a good habit for visiting bikers.

I like your writeup because it touches on many important aspects of riding in India and it's right on point. It sounds like you enjoyed riding "down there" and it's different than the standard Himalayan route.
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Old 12-29-2011, 12:54 AM   #6
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Thanks for the reply, excellent points ..

I guess I started the post with the assumption someone had already decided they were going to rent Enfields. But Enfields are definately not the only choice, and on the road, outside of Leh\Ladakh\Himalaya (so I've heard) they are not at all common. Probably because they are unreliable, and much more expensive to buy and maintain than the knock off Japanese bikes. Those type of bikes are absolutely everywhere. We, and especially her, were determined to do India, the old school classic way, so we never seriously considered anything but Enfields. After our experience, I'm glad we did, because the struggle gave us a sense of achievement, but if I had known how much struggle was going to ensue beforehand ..... I don't know if I'd have the courage ....

I saw those Pulsar 220s, and many times, especially towards the end of our journey, I questioned why we were on Enfields. Until I got there, and rode for awhile, I think my mistaken impression was that a 220 would not be able to adequately move my big bottom down the road.

Doing it again (and especially if never having done it the first time) ... I would take a long hard look at the Pulsar 220, or similar type bike before I rented an Enfield. I have invested considerable time and brain cells to learning the naughty bits of the Enfield, so I would be slightly more comfortable going that direction again. Speaking of comfort, I would say the Enfield is an all day comfortable bike. Something that turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The difference between riding the different style bikes might be described as;
Quote:
riding a bike that forces you into the adventure that is India on an Enfield, or riding a bike that lets you see the adventure that is India.
As to the danger presented by Indian roads ... words fail me when trying to describe what it's like. Nothing like I had ever seen, a complete suicidal hooligans fantasy, To be honest though, my riding experience is limited to North and Central America .... with a dash of Italy


As to Creepiness towards western women in India.... wow, another subject that I can't describe. It really wasn't that bad, or even that noticeable when we found ourselves in "tourist" spots like Jaipur, or even Delhi, but on the road less travelled .... it was usually right in your face. Especially the few times she ventured out by herself. A seemingly constant source of tension outside of being in the hotel room, or on the bike with helmet on. That, more than anything else by far, ground us down every day. It still baffles us, and really we have no answers, nor do we understand it in terms of a foreign culture. Many times it just seemed downright wrong ... One thing it did produce though, was that we were going to avoid Goa originally as it sounded too western for our tastes, but after being forced to travel through by our West Coast route we had chosen, ... we ended up staying there 2 different times for a week each, just so we could breathe easy again. We found Southern Goa, specifically Algona Beach, to be the perfect nonIndia place in India
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Old 12-31-2011, 10:29 AM   #7
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Thank you very much for posting. I've been wanting to go to India for years. I like that you and your girl " ended up " there. Most of my trips are from following the flow of life and are not planned that well. Good to read your honest sounding experiances with your chosen bike. I know I would have to ride an Enfield for a few days there but I think the 220 or such would be better for traveling distance for me. I'm usually time poor.
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Old 01-24-2012, 11:21 AM   #8
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I did an organised tour here in Himal- Prakassh and Kashmir a few years ago and would love o go back for a trip around the south but by myself.

Did you book ahead for hotels or could you just motor into town when it got dark and find one? I like the flexibility of not booking ahead, but it can be an issue.
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Old 01-25-2012, 11:05 AM   #9
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We did not book hotels ahead ... except for the first 2 nights of our stay in Dehli. It was not a problem, though twice we were burned, as we started to look for a place to stay too late in the day and ended up riding in the blackness. Riding at night, on the Enfields, was definately out of our comfort zone
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Old 01-27-2012, 07:25 PM   #10
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Nice to know that you enjoyed your Indian adventure. On the route that you did, camping is quite ruled out. It's in the places that are far away from the highways in the interiors that one can find good camping spots. Even then, the locals will be extremely curious and inquisitive - which is the case all over the country.
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Old 01-28-2012, 11:20 PM   #11
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This will sound screwy, but the situation that a woman rider encounters in some cultures( India) may require disguising her gender. A false beard or some sort of face mask may be enough to avoid undesired attention by the locals.
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Old 01-28-2012, 11:42 PM   #12
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I can assure you, it's nothing to do with just being a woman.

I've been to places in India where we've been surrounded by hundreds of people - and we were all guys.

It's basically an innate curiosity that's found in places that don't see many travellers. If you visit places that have many foreigners, then no one will give you a second look, whether you are a man or a woman.
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Old 01-31-2012, 08:16 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by doniv View Post
I can assure you, it's nothing to do with just being a woman.

I've been to places in India where we've been surrounded by hundreds of people - and we were all guys.
Yup, in smaller towns that don't get many westerners, you will often be literally surrounded by the locals. They are just curious, and are basically courteous observers.

But when a woman is part of the Western crew, it's also fair game to grab her ass. Why do you think they have things like Women-only metro cars in Delhi, etc.
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Old 02-02-2012, 07:02 PM   #14
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Yes, if the woman rider is gonna get off her motorcycle an into a bus then she's a candidate for an ass-grab.

The general image of a motorcyclist, in riding gear, is that of a tough cookie and usually people don't want to mess with tough cookies.
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Old 03-04-2012, 12:00 PM   #15
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In the process of setting up my trip to India Mid May 2012.

Thanks for the post and the information. Always hard to know exactly what to prepare for and which bike to select. Still in that process right now as well as talking to a couple guys who want to go along!

Thanks for sharing your experiences. Might PM with Questions as I get myself situated.
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