Monday, August 6, 2007

Cafe Racing to New Deli.

From the IndiaTimes Network By Shahwar Hussain

"NEW DELHI: In a country where the roads witness bumper-to-bumper traffic and where the average speed in the stop-go traffic seldom exceeds more than 45 kmph, it is rather surprising that someone should build a Cafe Racer out of an Enfield Bullet 350. Riding a normal motorcycle in the maddening traffic and in the bad road condition can give you bad backache, so just imagine how uncomfortable a Cafe Racer would be.

A Cafe Racer has a low seating position with even lower clip-on handlebars. But on good roads and with relatively lesser traffic, a Cafe Racer is a pleasure to ride. This particular Cafe Racer was build by its owner Captain Raj Kumar and it cost him over Rs 1 lakh which included the price of a brand new Enfield Bullet AVL 350.

The cost had exceeded the estimate somewhat because some parts needed reworking a number of times. For example, the petrol tank had to be handcrafted four times before the craftsman finally got it right.

The frame and the engine were not tampered with at all. In fact, without the necessary technical expertise, any modification in the frame could ruin the bike's handling. The only modification carried out that has any connection with the frame is the relocation of the rider's footrests.

The wide and low seat is actually pretty comfortable. The Cafe Racers that are seen on the streets of England, US and other European countries have a single seat and only a microscopic minority has any provision for a pillion rider.

But our man here thought that a small and thin pillion seat would make the bike a bit more practical and he is right. Cafe Racers around the world generally have clip-on handle bars. These handle bars in reality are two separate pieces, a little longer than the size of the throttle grips and they are fixed on the telescopic front suspension near the headlights.

With clip-ons, the riding position becomes rather low. There has been a small deviation from the clip-ons and this racer sports a specially made one-piece handlebar that is not quite as low as the clip-ons but gives you the feeling of a racer any way. Low seat and low handlebar always gives one a feeling of speed. The petrol tank got the full chromium treatment with copper base and has lettering in gold that looks just great.

The tank is completely new and has been made from one single piece of sheet metal and only the base has another piece of metal. Because of the low handlebars and the low seat, the position of the rider's footpegs had to be altered. They were shifted backwards from their standard position. But shifting the footpegs was easier said than done. In its stock form, the kick pedal comes down from behind the footrest but here since the footrest was moved back, it interfered with the kick lever.

A separate bracket was made from a thick blob of steel and into it was incorporated the foldable footpegs from the Hero Honda CBZ motorcycle. Now every time you want to start the motorcycle, you have to fold the footrest. Due to the repositioning of the footrest, the gap between the footrest and the brake pedal had widened far too much.

Since this is a Bullet Machismo, the brake pedal and the gearshifts have been interchanged with respect to the standard Bullet, which has the brake pedal on the left side and gearshift on the right side. The rear brakes on a Bullet are weak enough and the shifting of the brake pedal, with its three linkages, on the right side has not helped matters in any way. The rear brake is almost nonexistent in the Cafe Racer. I had to depend on the front disc all the time. Moreover, to re-position the brake pedal, it was just bent and brought near the footrest.
Does not inspire much confidence I must say. It would have been much easier to modify the brake pedal in the standard Bullet. The heel-toe gearshift on the left has been worked upon and has now become, for all practical purpose, a toe shifter.

The gearshift is sleek and the repositioning does not affect the operation one bit but he gear shift looks a little crude I must say.

The exhausts have been reworked and now look its part. Instead of the curve it now comes out of the barrel in a straight manner and the silencer box goes on all the way from the joint with a little pipe protruding from the end.

Riding the Cafe Racer feels great. The low sitting position, low handle bar and the overall classic racer's position gives you the kick. I took the bike out of city limits on a Sunday and was able to open up the throttle all the way to touch the three figure mark.

But sustaining the speed for a considerable length of time is asking for too much. And every time I let go the throttle, the free flow exhaust would let out gunshots.

This Cafe Racer handles fine and even at high-speed turns, it held its line. But I must say that I was lucky that I never came across any big potholes or big stones in my path. Had I encountered any of these, I surely would have gone for a toss and the roads are not exactly made of rubber. The low handlebar does not allow abrupt maneuvering and to ride the bike at high speed on Indian roads is madness.

Itâ's alright to pull that kind of stunts on the European roads where the traffic is well managed and the roads are good. It is a pain in know where, literally, to ride it in the city with its stop-go traffic. Highways are the places to take it. Even though a few grey areas remain, it is still a very well finished machine. The cost of the product will definitely go down if it is carried on a standard Bullet or a used bike instead of a brand new one.

Well, expensive or not, the Cafe Racer had me hooked. I am on my way to that garage where I saw a used Bullet. A real cheap one."

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