I arrived in Goa riding a Royal Enfield Classic, after four days travelling down the Arabic coast. I arrived to the biggest bikers´meeting in India
I knew I had made great friends, all of them Indian riders who travelled along the wonderful roads parallel to the sea, crossed lovely bridges across huge rivers, relaxed onboard the ferries that took us from one river bank to the other. Finally we were closer to the ancient city, an old Portuguese colony, a city I had visited while I was travelling around the world, an isle of Occidental architecture among buddhist temples with round domes. Behind remained the ridden track, I knew this striking adventure was about to come to an end in this part of the Asian country.
Goa was one of the cradles of the Hippie movement in the sixties and, even before, one of the bastions of the Portuguese empire on their way to the world of species, as well as an obligatory path to Japan. The old city of Goa was the result of hundreds of years of Portuguese power over the different maritime routes. This control left their legacy in the architecture, the costumes and, of course, the food.
The old city of Goa is full of Portuguese style buildings, cobbled streets, different colourful façades overlooking the river and a large number of formidable churches, which gather the majority of the christian population of this part of India, sharing some rituals with other ancestral cults.
Still gaping at the beauty of Old Goa, I headed towards the great festival of Royal Enfield at Vagator beach. The biggest annual motobikers’ meeting, worshipers of this Indian brand. A small lane divided the wide prairie into two halves.
Next to one of the inflatable bridges, flags- all of them confirming that Rider Mania of Royal Enfield was celebrated right there- and grandstands announced a cross circuit at the other side of the huge parking housing over 6000 motorbikes of the Indian company, neatly parked, an array of accessories and colours among their three models: Bullet Classic, like the one I was given, Bullet 500 and the sport one, Bullet GT.
Once we left the bikes, the feeling of all the things experienced that week fulfilled the atmosphere. We hugged and slapped each other on the back in a mood of self-congratulation over the great adventure we had shared and the beginning of a coming one: to be part of that incredible celebration.
Already with our identity cards hanging from our necks and the helmets from our arms, we entered the arena, ready to experience the fabulous meeting of the lovers of these particular bikes.
Three days of short trips around Goa, incredible atmosphere in the festival, beer and lots of music was what the Rider Mania offered us. I even met two groups of Spanish riders who had travelled to Goa to experience the wonderful event.
Slow races, in which the winner was the slowest rider who rode the bike in a straight line, beer-drinkers tournaments (I’d have loved taking part but I didn’t have the opportunity), arm wrestling, cross races with Royal Enfield, together with the Royal Enfield lovers coming from different parts of Inda and others from all over the world made the three-day weekend an unforgettable experience.
Something that caught my attention was the fact that there were no other trademarks in any of the places where the festival was taking place, not even drink trademarks, sponsoring the event. This was just because the Indian brand is powerful enough to organise an event of such a magnitude on their own, festival which finishes with live music every night, some of the best music groups with whom we danced and had fun all night.
Before the end of the festival, on Sunday, I had a big surprise, the biker and traveller Tiffany Coats was interviewed for a TV programme just before me. I could not miss the opportunity and I had a short talk with her. I had met one of the pioneer women in this world of motorbike trips. It had been a great day.
Where bikes are born: The Royal Enfield Factory
I took a direct flight to the other side of the country. Chennai welcomed me with heavy rain and a two-hour traffic jam on the way to the hotel, which was only five kilometres away from the airport. I could remember these traffic jams during my trip in 2012.
This time I was invited to the very heart of the Indian company. So,the following morning a driver took me to one of the two factories that produce these bikes for the whole world. I visited the most modern one, which was inaugurated in April, 2011. Both factories have produced more than 420.000 units in one month, about 900.000 a year.
The bikes are sent to 52 countries from this place, thanks to the hard work of the 3.000 employees. The production chain is automatised and they are finished by hand. For the South American market, the different pieces are sent to Colombia, were the bikes are put together.
I was impressed by the paint cabins, full of modern German robots which are a symbol of quality. Everything is done with care and respect, like the engine revision before being fixed to the chassis, or the work done at the assembling area where special parts, such us the grid fixed to the right of rear wire to avoid dresses messing up with the chain, as women usually sit there. This is a unique characteristic for the Asian market.
However, what really caught my attention was that the Royal Enfield bikes have art on their tanks, as the lines that decorate them are hand-painted. Two workers devote themselves to finish the tanks with firm pulse, drawing perfect lines.
As I was leaving the place, I saw the chassis of the Bullet, but a longer fork and a different suspension system. I thought it was a the prototype for the new Royal Enfield, the Himalayan. Though I asked several people, nobody said anything about it. However, I knew it was a trail-like bike and it would be in the market soon.
This was the best way to put an end to this visit. A factory of bikes made to ‘enjoy the road’. These motorbikes, from 250 to 600 cc have been the means of transport of families for ages, people collect them and now we can enjoy them in Spain: three different versions of the 499 and 535cc models.
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