Words by Scott Hopkin | Photography by Jason Lau
It’s not everyday you receive an email asking if you’d be interested in going to India to ride Royal Enfields across the Rajasthan desert with a film crew and a professional photographer. That’s exactly what happened at the end of last year: I received an email from a guy called Matt from Nevermind Adventures. He runs organized motorcycle adventure tours all over India. Only a fool would think about it for just a second. I thought about it for two, and replied: ‘When do we leave?’.
The Royal Enfield motorcycle has long occupied the imagination of millions of Indian motorcyclists, and the company has earned a cult-like following around the world. The motorcycles earn their popularity because of their old school designs, the thumping engine, and a real hand built feel. But more than anything, it’s the bike’s ability to be customised that makes us love it so much. It has served as the chassis to build dream motorbikes for thousands of custom bike builders just like me. So here’s my story.
Go on, admit it. You’ve fantasised about your specific choice of bike for a zombie apocalypse. Naturally you can have anything you want, as you’ll be throwing a brick through the front window of the local deal once the social chaos really takes hold. So what’ll it be? A BMW R1200GS? You’d be able to carry a house on the back, but its weight and size would make avoiding the undead (and keeping it upright) tricky. Then maybe a KTM Enduro bike? You’d be much more nimble and need less fuel, but what about a seat for the loved ones? Who knew a completely hypothetical situation could be so stressful? But don’t fear, as we have the perfect candidate. Meet Royal Enfield’s very own Continental GT survivalist masterstroke. They call it the ‘Dirty Duck’. We call it ‘escape plan A’.
In just a few weeks, I will be crossing off an item on my bucket list I’ve been wanting do for a long time – riding Royal Enfields through the Himalayas. Fittingly, the ride starts in New Delhi, India, where the builders of today’s Enfield café racer are based. Bull City Customs have been building bikes in one of the most populous cities in the world for around three years now. Obviously the locals love their Royal Enfields – they’re pretty much a national treasure there and a company they are very proud of. So when a customer approached them to build a café racer with a touch of brat using an Enfield engine they couldn’t wait to get started. As luck would have it, the guys at Bull City had a ‘Brat Café’ design that had been floating around in their heads for quite a while. “It was like a divine intervention” says Reginald from Bull City.
As a professional bike builder you have all sorts of people walk through your door, from the serious customer, to the young lad that wants a custom Ducati for no more than five grand. For Krish Rajan of KR Customs there was a different client to please, his “Lady Love” Loopy who had seen the bikes he’d created and while impressed with the quality wanted something, with “beauty and elegance”. Oh and Krish not one of those “adrenaline filled, tough, macho machines!” you usually build. Many a mere mortal would be losing their hair at the thought of such a demand but with a Masters in Applied Math, an IT expert by day and the owner of Chennai’s premier custom bike shop in his spare time, Krish is a man who gets it done and keeping his partner happy is always a challenge he is willing to accept. This Royal Enfield Continental GT Cafe Racer might have been the star of the main stage at India’s 2016 Bike Week, but the real prize was winning Loopy’s heart.
When you live in the United States your choice of bike builder is almost endless, but when Greg from Tampa Florida, serving in the US Military, emailed off his idea for a build one morning it landed in the inbox of New Delhi’s Bull City Customs. This it turned out was a brilliant idea, Greg wanted a Royal Enfield and where else but India would you go and it just so happened that he’d seen the Enfields Bull City had been turning out and wanted one of his own. Based on a Royal Enfield AVL 350, head man Reginald Hilt was desperate not to let his new client down and together they come up with a concept for a Royal based Scrambler that would become known as “8”.
Written by Marlon Slack
The little two-stroke Yamaha RX135 is a mainstay of India and South East Asia. It’s often the bike you’ll see buzzing away underneath a mountain of groceries, kids and terrified-looking livestock as it picks its way through traffic. It’s simple, reliable and isn’t the kind of bike that gets much attention – beyond the occasional replacement of a blown shock or collapsed fork. But this time the brave little Yamaha has been sculptured into a gorgeous backstreet café racer by Bull City Customs – a New Delhi based workshop that specializes in good looking custom bikes that are also fun and practical to ride.
Written by Ian Lee.
On the streets of India the cycle of choice tends to be the Royal Enfield. Reliable, easy to work on, spares aplenty, there is little that is not appealing about the retro motorcycle marque. Except if you want to stand out that is. Rolling out of India’s top new custom workshop, this bike is an idea executed with the mindset of a truly different bike being created. Scratch built around a late model Royal Enfield engine, Mean Green Customs have shown what it takes to stand out from the crowd, with their stealth bike concept. In a sea of Royal Enfield bobbers, this hard tail is something else, the mechanical engineer who created this masterpiece yearning to build something unique – and a chance to put his home made frame jig to use.
Written by Ian Lee.
Royal Enfield motorcycles make a great platform for building custom bikes. Old school Brit styling, reliable single cylinder engines and factory spoke wheels. This is exactly what New Delhi based Bull City have done with their latest build, putting their skills to work on a Royal Enfield AVL 350cc, and producing something far removed from your everyday Enfield. With a build brief calling for an “old school thumper”, the Bull City workshop decided the idea has been done alot, and needs some special touches in order to stand out. That is why there is a rhino-skin inspired paintjob on the tank for instance – which I’m pretty sure is a first for Pipeburn.
Written by Ian Lee.
So you want to build a sweet ride, but you don’t want to take the well travelled route. You want something with that café racer silhouette, but you also crave something fresh. This was the conundrum faced by Aditya Green from Mean Green Customs in India, when he was trying to work out the details for the feature bike seen here today. This bike started as a thought, was turned into a sketch and then became a beautiful reality. Sleek lines, low slung and with a side profile to make you weak at the knees, this futuristic café racer is definitely something you don’t see everyday. And that’s what makes us appreciate it all the more.