Exploring the Unknown

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Who's There? India's Iron Rider!

India's Biker Brotherhood
Photo © B Radhey 
I always wanted to own a Harley-Davidson at least once in my lifetime, preferably by the age of 40. But till few years back this remained a distant dream, as Harley-Davidson was not allowed to open shop in India. But the American giant, managed to break the ice with what is now famous as the "Mango Diplomacy". Under an agreement with the Indian government, the United States government lifted a very old trade embargo, which now allowed India to ship mangoes to the U.S.A. in return for allowing Harley to open shop in India. So after a lot of deliberations, I decided to buy my first Harley Davidson, an Iron 883 Sportster in 2013. Although this decision had everything going against it. For one Harley's were costing up to 40% more in India than elsewhere, due to the high duties imposed on them to protect the Indian motorcycle manufacturers. Two, they were expensive to maintain and guzzled the very expensive gasoline in India. But above all the Harley's were considered impractical for Indian conditions due to their lower ground clearance. But when your heart rules over the mind, everything else goes blank.


So I ended up breaking my piggy bank for a new Sportster. Few things were quite obvious on my first ride itself. Harley-Davidson was selling a dream, a culture and a lifestyle more than a motorcycle to its die hard followers. The motor on the frame would vibrate like a mixer, the suspension hardly seem to have any play at all, and would transmit even the smallest niggle on the road right up to your hands and spine, and above all, it hardly sounded like all the Harley's you see on YouTube. More expenses were on the way. A new set of front fork springs and progressive suspension was ordered on the Amazon. Pipes being the next upgrade.


But with all those shortcomings, for some reason the Harley is a complete Bad Ass motorcycle, which guarantees to bring a smile on your face when you ride it. And for sheer character and larger than life image, nothing even comes close to it.  The Iron 883 was an obvious choice over the Super Low, as it has better ground clearance of 120 mm thanks to its 19 inch front wheel. Although this meant a slower reacting steering, but it was better than having your bike bang on every little pot hole or speed breaker on the road, which the Indian roads have aplenty. But this decision was also influenced by the all blacked out exquisite colour scheme of the Iron, which made it so desirable and different in the chrome laden mob of Harley's.

B Radhey & Co.
Photo © B Radhey
The die cast alloy wheels are much easier to maintain than spoke chrome wheels. On the other hand the blacked out engine gives the bike a lot of character but is hardly as easy to maintain as the chromed version on other models. The low seat, drag style handle bar all end up making the Iron look like a really mean bike. However due to various reasons, like work, family and season, I think that people who do not buy motorcycles as their primary mode of transportation, or buy them for rare leisure rides, usually end up having them parked either in ship shape condition or gathering dust, depending on how much they care for their rides. That was the case with me as well (though I keep all my motorcycles shiny and ready to hit the road when I want).

Last week it was decided that all Harley & Royal Enfield owners who wanted to show some day light to their rides were welcome to join the Sunday Expressway ride. Expressways in India are equivalent to paid highways/freeways elsewhere in the world. The roads are world class like you would find anywhere else in the world, and are usually used by motorist who want to enjoy their expensive automobiles. Though they have speed limitations, but because of the high toll these are less crowded, giving drivers ample opportunities to experience high speed motoring.

Iron Riders!
Photo © B Radhey
Suzuki Hidden in the Midst!
Photo © B Radhey
India's Bad Boys!
Photo © B Radhey
The Joys of Good Tarmac! ;-)
Photo © B Radhey
Though we usually cruise around 70 mph on these roads, but the running in of my bike had just been completed and it had fresh oils in all compartments. So a clear patch of road which resembled a drag strip, urged me to pull the trigger and see how fast the new rubber mounted Evo engine would go. I tucked in, chin on tank and feet on my rear foot pegs, and voila the Iron hit 180 kmph. It was fairly smooth in the sense, it did not feel like it would break apart on those speeds. Although there must have been foot peg and handle bar vibrations, but who would notice that when the adrenaline is flowing in the body.

Surely these speed mean nothing to the crotch rockets, but in the end, no matter which motorcycle you ride, they are always fun when they are near the end of their power band...............and I think all would agree with me on this? Though the Iron of my batch had some issues of fishtailing and high speed wobble, due to incorrectly installed swing arm bearings and fasteners, but mine had no such issues. The bike was going dead straight, and stable like an arrow at those speeds, perhaps by the virtue of its bigger wheel in front. It usually returns a very respectable 21 kmpl of mileage but after this trip it came down to 17 kmpl due to my happy right wrist.

Gotta Love the Front License Plates!
Photo © B Radhey
The Royal Enfield Fits in Beautifully...and is quite beautiful don't you think?
Photo © B Radhey
The Harley's are surely only for those riders who have grown up on long stroke engines, like the Royal Enfield's in India, because be it character, shortcomings or larger than life persona, these two brands of motorcycles echo each others virtue. However riders who have grown up on Honda's and the likes should better shop somewhere else because they may be disappointed to see their brand new US$ 12000 bike, not able to walk correctly in first gear, let alone the vibrations, and hard tail suspension which could loosen the teeth fillings in no time.

Everything said, I am keeping my Harley for some more time and will add a pair of Vance & Hines on it. Till then I am working on how to modify my stock exhaust to make 'em louder to announce my arrival.

Ciao !!
Himanshu Bansal (alias B Radhey)

10 comments:

  1. Hey Mario,

    I feel like a novice writer whose first work has just been published. Gives me great sense of gratification to see the little write up on your blog. Thank you so much for sharing it with your audience.

    Radhey

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for sharing! Its refreshing to actually hear about Harley-Davidson from another perspective. Sportsters are taken for granted in North America. For better or for worse, I still think they are the best bike's that Harley-Davidson have in their lineup, particularly as they have pretty much obliterated their dark custom line leaving the Iron 883, the Forty-Eight, and the Street Bob the only one's left to fend for the line. Thanks again!! :-)

      Delete
  2. That was a good read... thanks for postin this...

    Sounds like HD has some friends in Washington, DC..

    "Mango Diplomacy: Under an agreement with the Indian government, the United States government lifted a very old trade embargo, which now allowed India to ship mangoes to the U.S.A. in return for allowing Harley to open shop in India."

    Yer friend writes an honest review from his perspective...

    Big Pond

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    Replies
    1. They did have, but not the current administration. Harley has been in India for a few years.

      Yooper

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  3. Excellent post, as is usual from you! Very interesting read... a mango for a Harley?
    Sounds like a good deal to me!

    Road King

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  4. well, I wasn't interested in the HD, but I will say that's a good-looking young man astride the 1400!

    steveinsandiego

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  5. The 883 will me a monster motor to the people of India. Anyone ridden a Royal Enfield? They got nothing. I could outrun one with a bicycle.

    shreveportSS

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  6. Yeah, I have. And no, you couldn't. The one I test drove was a slow thumper, but I could get to 65 MPH with no problem... except the huge amount of time to get there. And that was on level ground. There is a dealer in Manitowoc, Wi that gives test rides. At least they did 2 years ago. I happened to be going by and saw the Royal Enfield banner in their parking lot. The bike really reminded me of a 500cc BSA.
    Nothing I was interested in, but hey... a free test drive.

    Yooper

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  7. Well, I test rode one in downtown DFW and yes I could on my Cannondale road bike in stop and go traffic. I bet I could take one in a 1/4 mile race easy.

    shreveportSS

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  8. Having owned a Royal Enfield Bullet Classic EFI once broken in these bikes are every bit as capable of reaching speeds of 80 miles per hour as any other bike. The new engines are a real treat. Companies like Blazing Trails use them regularly for tours.

    That being said, it isn't a Harley, for certain. It's actually more comfortable than a Harley! LOL... Seriously, never even changed the stock springer seat on mine when I bought it. The Nightster, on the other hand, I went through three seats! Had it not been for the Mustang seat I would have sold the Nightster the same month I purchased it.

    ReplyDelete