Like others my age, I also yearned for the opportunity to ride a bullet during my teenage years. A fan of Sholay, my fondest memory of the movie is the 2 friends riding and singing away to glory on their bullet. Scenes of superstars riding the Royal Enfield bullets in style made many movie buffs like me envious. Since we belonged to the middle-class in a tier-2 city of 1970s and 1980s and could not even dream of buying one, it made me feel inferior as well. However, I was not alone. Everyone I knew dreamt of buying a bullet, but lacked the means or the ways to buy one. In many ways, probably the bullet was the driving force behind my aspiration to succeed in life; even as a teenager I knew I could not buy a bullet unless I was rich!
In that pre-internet era, we lacked ways to gather information about the bullet bikes despite our avid interest and fascination. Hence, bullet bikes were like the objects fairy tales were made of, we only read about them in books, saw them in movies. It was late ‘90s when these dream machines became a staple on the narrow streets of my city. And I was one amongst the privileges few bullet fans who could finally realise their dreams and buy the machine that made them feel like superheroes. Of course I had to take a huge loan, and survive on bare essentials for the next few years, but considering this was the dream I had chased for almost 2 decades, the price I paid was well worth it.
In India, bullet bikes are synonymous with a single manufacturing company – Royal Enfield. In 1955, a British company – Redditch and an Indian company – Madras Motors formed a partnership to assemble 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle. Initially, the 350cc Bullets were assembled in Madras (now Chennai), and available only to the police and army personnel. The company started manufacturing 500 cc version of the bullet bikes by targeting export markets, and it designed 500 cc bikes with varying colour schemes.
The liberalized economy of India gradually made many professionals and entrepreneurs prosperous, and enabled them to ride bullets. At present, Royal Enfield sells bullet bikes in more than 50 countries. 2015 was a milestone for the company – the company celebrated 50 years in production and to mark the occasion, Royal Enfield launched several new models of its flagship bullet bikes with modern features like improved brakes, electric starter and coil ignition. This was also the year the global sales of Royal Enfield surpassed that of Harley-Davidson.
Today, customers can choose from several bullet models with the latest technologies and appealing looks. The diehard fans can also personalise the Royal Enfield Bullet as per their preference and riding style. For instance, you could opt for the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 to protect the environment with lower emission, if you are a techno-freak you could go for the Royal Enfield Thunderbird and if you love burly and macho bikes, you can buy the Royal Enfield Bullet Electra.
The passage of time has done nothing to diminish the shine of the Bullet, nor the fascination it has for bike-lovers worldwide. The Bullet I bought almost 20 years back is still as awe-inspiring as it was on that first day, I still feel like a super hero when I ride it. And I can still see the starry dreams in the eyes of the neighborhood kids. For most Bullet-lovers, it’s not just a bike, it’s a dream that drives us to aspire for a better life.