Old motorcycles, while they may look like heaven in the fancy studio shots you’ll often see, can be right little bastards in the flesh. Their exorbitant cost, oil leaks, starting issues and inexplicable breakdowns are enough to challenge even the most even-tempered of riders…
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?’.
Indonesian custom bike building. It probably brings to mind images of hand-beating metal parts while enjoying a beer and the sun in a tropical paradise. But if it did, you’d be dead wrong. Because for Ram Ram Junuar of Bandung’s White Collar Bikes, only the latest and greatest techniques will do. So with processes that would put most Western shops to shame, he’s built this classic-meets-modern Continental GT for Royal Enfield Indonesia.
Royal Enfield is on a mission of late, to take one of the world’s oldest marques and push it back up the motorcycle food chain. Firmly in their sights is UK powerhouse Triumph with a number of key personnel recently poached for Enfield’s future expansion. However in the meantime the introduction of the Himalayan gives the company an incredibly priced entry into the highly competitive Adventure bike class. A type of machine that rarely gets modified, short of throwing on heated grips, panniers and other such purposeful yet uninspiring additions. But someone forgot to tell Brothers Rahul and Birju of Sinroja Motorcycles who have dealt their second ace to complete a pair of pocket rockets, this time a custom Himalayan for all occasions, meet The Gentleman Brat.
In a strange kind of synchronicity, Brothers Rahul and Birju Sinroja were 16 years old when their family upped and moved them from India to England. Now they’re producing custom Indian motorcycles for Brits. The first of which is this incredible Royal Enfield Continental GT dubbed the ‘Surf Racer’ – one of a pair of Enfield specials produced for the Wheels and Waves festival.
Pipeburn was lucky enough to be invited by Royal Enfield to attend the 2017 Wheels & Waves show in Biarritz. While we did our fair share of socialising and sun soaking, we were also there to document something a little special. For the 2017 show, Royal Enfield teamed up with Leicester shop Sinroja Motorcycles to make not one, but two custom bikes especially for the event.
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.
The modern retro market is booming and where once it was a niche for a few manufacturers, it is now a profitable sector across the board. There are an endless number of machines to choose from. And while they retain much of their classic styling to appease the retro loving eye, there is nothing old school about their functionality. A Royal Enfield is really the only modern machine that gives that true vintage bike feel; chunky gearbox clicks and a bike that you ride and doesn’t ride you. Santiago García of Corb Motorcycles in the beautiful Catalonia region of Spain craved just such a machine. So he created a 2003 Royal Enfield Bullet known as “The Raven 500” – a fitting doff of the cap to classic British engineering.
When you receive an email talking about a man from a small village in Southern France who used old fashion forging techniques, a crucible and sand moulds your mind starts to wander. Is this a 19th century inventor who burned his home down trying to create some delusionary dream? Perhaps a 16th century sword maker working for one of the 4000-odd aristocrats who died in duels during the reign of Henry IV? But no. It is in fact the work of Nicolas Baux, a CAD Designer by trade, who in 2016 revived some of the oldest metal working techniques to produce a staggering one hundred individually handcrafted parts for his custom motorcycle. The result is a modern machine with historic roots, a Royal Enfield Black Bullet from his new company, Motocyclette Certifiée Non Conforme.
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’.