24 months and counting... Manas Dewan recounts his childhood fascination with Royal Enfields and his experience of covering 12,000+ kilometres on his Desert Storm.
Like most people growing up in the India of yesteryears, a 'Bullet' held a special place in my heart too. As a young child, it inspired wonder and awe every time I looked at it -- the towering mass of the bike, the bulbous fuel tank, bold headlamps and the unmistakable thump.
Nothing could have made a greater influence on my impressionable mind as the 'Bullet'. Years later, I became the proud owner of one -- a 1974 vintage Royal Enfield -- and I would roam the streets on my bike, almost commanding the world to make way for me.
Like most Royal Enfields, she was a moody bike -- cankerous and stubborn.
The engine would frequently leak, living up to the reputation as the 'Royal Oilfield' and on a cold winter morning, it took a lot to get this lady in a mood to run.
It was in 2011 when RE launched the Desert Storm 500cc that I saw a potential contender to the bike in my garage. A year later I was the proud owner of the Desert Storm.
As I begun my acquaintance with the Desert Storm, I realised that much had changed -- and yet, much remained the same in the Royal Enfield.
The Desert Storm carried the aura that is quintessential 'Bullet' -- flowing mudguards, teardrop shaped fuel tanks, chrome tank cap and knee pads -- all of it lends an old world charm to the motorbike. The mixed tyres, gleaming spokes, the trademark RE headlamps and the upright seating remained true to the Royal Enfield DNA.
Yet, despite the retro looks, the Desert Storm had the trappings of modernity. The twin spark electronic injection system, the voluminous naked engine, the front forks mounted to the axle, the longer swing arm, and a bundle of other small and large measures made it a contemporary motorbike, offering greater efficiency, reliability and stability as compared to its predecessors.
The Desert Storm moves effortlessly and breaking the 100km/h barrier is a breeze.
When you cross the 110km/h mark the vibrations on the bike become palpable and I felt that the bike was unstable for sustained riding at speeds any higher than 110kmph.
The journey till the ton is however mostly smooth with the five-speed gearbox doing a neat job.
The 499cc engine delivers 26bhp and 40.9Nm offering decent riding and overtaking possibilities; the combination of rear disc and front drum brakes offers good stopping power to this 187 kg machine, thereby positioning it an affordable everyday bike in its segment.
It is now 24 months that I have lived with the Desert Storm and the odometer reads 12,000+ kilometres. The past months have been a breeze -- punctuated by rides that frequently brought a smile to my face -- not only for the sheer joy of riding the machine but also for the adulation and road presence that the Desert Storm commands wherever it goes.
The hours spent on the saddle have also made me aware of the issues which RE needs to address.
The suspension of the bike is much on the harder side; the seat design makes for upright riding -- but the spring mounted seats and the compact seat foam do not go friendly on your buttocks especially if you like long rides.
The matte finish of the sand colour paint makes it a challenge to protect -- and everyone from the morning 'bike cleaner' to the authorised service technician have to be advised against polishing the matte surface.
While the engine sophistication and suspension is a definite improvement, the past 24 months of courtship with the Desert Storm has also been a constant, often helpless fight against paint and rust issues.
In conclusion, the Desert Storm has oodles of presence, sophistication and ruggedness. It turns heads and hearts wherever you go -- but despite its rugged looks and styling, there are quality issues that may require constant attention and care from the owner.
1. Road Presence
2. Retro styling
3. Sand Colour Exclusivity
1. Ride Hardness
2. Paint and Rust Issues
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