The Bullet is a dream: For a guy to ride and a girl to pillion-ride.

“At the end of any kind of day, I'm thankful. At least, there's a ride home to look forward to.”— Ajinkya Iyer, Mumbai.

“I don't need a gun, my bullet fires itself.”— Sajeesh Nair, Delhi.

"The beast has got a character of its own."— Ambuj Krishna, Bangalore.

“If you love a Bullet, it loves you back.” — Roban Gilbert , Kochi.

"The best de-stresser, anti-depressant. Apologies to my girlfriend!"— Renjit Maxy, Kochi

The Enfield Cycle Company, the oldest motorcycle company in the world and the original manufacturer of the Royal Enfield bike, itself described it thus: “Made like a gun, goes like a bullet.”

No other bike has perhaps kindled such fierce passions as the Royal Enfield. A Google search on it coughs up an entire library of one-liners and tweets–some macho, some mushy, some sweet, some cheeky. It is a love story that has grown over the years and continues to this day. Men are still charmed by the Bullet (and many women too, by the men who ride these ‘beasts').

Unparalleled confidence

So, what makes the Bullet so hot? “It is more than just a bike,” says Roban Gilbert, who prefers to call his 1985 model metallic red Bullet 350 his ‘better half.' “It is more stable [than other bikes], less accident-prone. The confidence and comfort it gives is unparalleled,” says Roban, who has been riding the bike for 12 years. Every Bullet has a unique identity, adds the owner of three Bullets.

Sales figures show the demand for the bike across India has touched an all-time high and the company is increasing production this year. The company sold 74,600 motorcycles in 2011, a 40 per cent increase in sales. And Kochi is one of the booming markets.

Royal Enfield also plans to start a new plant in India next year, to meet the growing demand. According to an official at the authorised showroom in Kochi, currently, those who book a bike have to wait from three to eight months for delivery. But eager customers are ready to wait. "It's been a dream to own an Enfield. I am ready to wait" says Melvin W. from Fort Kochi.

Meanwhile, as the number in the waiting list is going up, the demand for the old Bullet too, is booming. Many go in search of old bikes. Roban, for instance, says his next Bullet would be a vintage model. For traditionalists, the newer models don't pack enough punch. “The old-world charm is amiss in the new models,” says Shaju N.Y., one of the founding members of Royal Machines, a newly-founded Bullet club in Kochi. “The new-age Bullets are quieter and lighter. And the new ones have the brakes on the right and gears on the left.” The 53-year-old bachelor still recalls the way he coveted the ‘89 model red Bullet Deluxe, which his septuagenarian uncle still rides.

Since 1956

Royal Enfield, which started assembling the parts imported from Britain in India since 1956, until it became a full-fledged company manufacturing and selling the premium bike in India, has improved upon the looks and efficiency of the bike. The new Classic series is considered more user-friendly as it is light, sleek and has electric start and gear-shifter on the left, and brake on the right. The styling, mileage and maintenance costs are also better.

However, old or new, the Bullet, revered for its trademark machismo, brings together people. “The motto of our group is ‘Brotherhood on Wheels',' says Shaju. From organising group tours for the sheer pleasure of riding to espousing the cause of public service and charity, several groups formed by Bullet lovers have come and gone.

“It is a rare camaraderie shared by Bullet riders. Most of us members [of Royal Machines] initially met each other at a workshop run by a veteran named Kunjumon at Cemethery Mukku and the friendship gradually resulted in a club,” he says.

Friendship, it is! Maxy, a city-based techie, says his Bullet has evolved as one of his best pals. “Whenever I feel low, all I need to do is take a long, smooth ride. That unique thumping of the Bullet is akin to a soul massage,” he says.

Soulmate

Jibin Somachandran, a media professional, agrees. He “has never thought of another mode of transport”. “Once you get used to the Bullet, it becomes a part of your individuality. The bike understands its rider”, he says.

It is perfect for long rides and offroading, too, say riders. Weighing more than 200 kilos after modifications, the bike does not topple easily nor does it shudder at high speeds.

The Harley may cause a few hearts to miss a beat, but the Bullet remains the ‘soulmate'.

Keywords: Royal Enfield