Simon spent a week exploring India on the all-new Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650. He gave us an insight into all the fun and shenanigans that go on during a world launch. Check it out below!
There was no way I was going to say no to Jeff when he nonchalantly asked if I wanted to head out to India for the world launch of the all-new Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650. Visiting the Medieval parts of the country with the RE team is something I’ll never forget.
It was a great feeling to be offered to go to India for a Royal Enfield launch, I have to thank Jeff and the team at Royal Enfield from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful opportunity. Royal Enfield has an enviable reputation for delivering multi-dimensional launch experiences and this was to be no exception. Just like the vibrant colours, scents, spices, sights, and people of India itself, this launch was designed to showcase Indian culture as well as that of Royal Enfield and, of course, to reveal the 650 Super Meteor to an eager press.
Check out Simon’s world launch report here…
Business class flights were there for us that managed to make it through the visa process. I nabbed an entry permit literally by the skin of my teeth – five hours waiting at the Consulate General’s Office after a botched visa application that went missing and my second application was rejected through some bizarre interpretation of what I was going to be doing in India for a week.
I was almost in tears as I began filling out the visa application withdrawal form only to be rescued by two older gentlemen that were leaving the office for the weekend. They had seen me sitting and waiting all day and asked what the problem was – I explained a motorcycle launch for Royal Enfield and so on. Ten minutes of discussion in Hindi with my apparent case manager saw my visa approved right there and then, 40 minutes after the office was officially closed. Some other international guests were not so fortunate. About 20 of the invited press had visas declined or not approved in time, which is a great shame for Royal Enfield.
After landing early evening in Dehli through the crimson, almost permanent eclipse like appearance of the sun as it battled to pierce the thick haze of pollution, I was transferred to a very pleasant hotel. An unexpected late night dinner was on hand to help us all acclimatise and say hello to fellow press.
“There’s nothing like an Enfield launch, you know…” chuckled Alan Cathcart…the one and only Sir Al was on the Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650 launch and I had been dying to meet him since learning that I was representing the BikeReview team at the launch. I had been reading Alan’s works since I could earn enough pocket money to buy AMCN as a pimply young kid. He was right about the launch, too. From what I had heard, Royal Enfield goes to tremendous lengths to ensure that their guests are sorted and the launches are memorable.
Next morning was a bit of a sleep deprived dreamscape as we gathered out the front of the hotel, nodding here and there, a bit of chit-chat and otherwise smiling through tired eyes. The group, which filled two buses, went on to endure a two-hour wait in a draughty domestic airport terminal for our flight to Jaisalmer, in the middish-west of the country. It was 6 degrees in the terminal! I had no idea that it got this cold in Delhi.
Our flight was short at 90 minutes, with the landscape beneath us changing markedly from smog to greenery to rural farmland thence into a distinctly more rugged sandy desert vista. Dotting the landscape were many wind farm turbines and batteries of photo-voltaic cells. I had no idea that the idea of renewable energy in these forms has spread this wide, yet here they are.
Our quick bus trip from the airport to the hotel had us grabbing cameras to photograph the camels and cows and other life forms inhabiting the shoulders of the road and venturing forth whenever they felt like it – the creatures do own the roads here. The sun was blinding and the temp 20 degrees up from old Delhi as we saw the hotel carpark filled with gleaning new Super Meteors in their various guises.
What a sight! We were ushered into the hotel under a shower of aromatic rose petals, with minstrels playing traditional instruments in the foyer wings. We all donned a turban and received a red bindi between the eyes.
Soon it became beer time and time to acquaint myself with other journos from around the world. It is quite incredible to think that no matter where you are from in the world, there are people that absolutely love motorcycling just as we do – thank god they all speak English. The afternoon dallying quickly transcended into an evening date with a bunch of Royal Enfield department reps giving us a once-over on the Super Meteor.
This was not blokes standing in front of a few people in a room or warehouse, but a full show with bikes, images, music and video to back everything up. It was very soon obvious that brand heritage, pride and delivering a lasting experience and relationship with RE riders are undoubtedly top priorities. The Super Meteor is an important export model and one that has to deliver the goods – first impressions of the machine to all of us were very good.
Copious amounts of Indian food and other delicacies were on hand to round the experience off. After chatting with various people, including Royal Enfield personnel, there appeared to be a contagion of sorts with excitement for the brand that seemed like an aura. It really was quite incredible to feel this commonly shared enthusiasm – really heart-warming.
The lights and the smiles, the bikes and the beer and the naan and the rice and spinach and paneer and curry and wine eventually wore off and it was time for bed. Next morning was a smorgasbord of brekkie and not so brekkie foods for all that were willing. The Aussie crew, including Spencer from InfoMoto, Dylan from BikeSales, Phil from JustBikes, Paul from Bike Rider Magazine In NZ, Tom from UMI and Matty on the lenses convened and it was time to head to the impressive Jaisalmer Fort and palace for a few photos. This sounded like an excellent plan as you could see the formidable structure from a distance away – an ideal place for photos…
Not exactly. The place was teeming with families, vehicles and animals. And, the ole cobblestones were rather slippery, too. Oh yeah, it was also extremely hot and blistering in jacket, gloves and lid. Whose idea was this? The time started to melt away as we each tentatively went up and down the main thoroughfare of the 900 year old citadel at a snail’s pace, not wanting to be the first person to drop a Super Meteor, with thumb constantly poised over the horn and feet ready to prevent toppling. The images were stunning, though. Being mindful that we had to be ready for the first official ride in under two hours, we started rushing a little (or so I thought) and so opted for a secondary stop at a semi-dry lake for no real reason.
Of course, a keys locked in car incident would be appropriate now, so was granted. This delay was a reprieve for me as in order to rally the troops back as quickly as possible, I hopped on the back of an official RE rider’s bike and headed back to the hotel, getting a first-hand glimpse of how you handle Indian traffic on a bike. Interesting – no aggression, but merge and blend in, blend and merge in and keep your senses on alert. As I found out later, hesitation can be dangerous.
Our first official ride was, as it turned out, to be in searing heat that quickly plummeted into chilly digits once the sun dropped south of the horizon. This trip was a quick blip over some reasonable B-roads to visit an abandoned village and later a fort under repair. Both venues were well patronised by Indian tourists as well as outsiders, which is a healthy sign of the local economy.
The next couple of hours were spent on the limited photo-ops we had available. During the very prolonged stay at one place, it became evident that there is no noticeable sense of time nor reason to rush. It seemed frustrating to us foreigners as we slowly cooked in the heat, but in all honesty, it’s a more relaxed way of dealing with life.
More dinner. Lots of it and then some, and drinks. I got to meet Siddhartha (Sid) Lal, CEO of Royal Enfield. A very affable man indeed and a true embodiment of the love I am feeling from people with this brand. His speech, demeanour and friendly handshake spoke volumes about his personal care, passion and enthusiasm for Royal Enfield. I now understand why RE has evolved into an iconic brand over the last 20-odd years. It has absolutely everything to do with Sid and providing an experience to customers, not just a bike.
At some point during the evening and after the world’s largest rum shots, myself and Spence got talking to Anuj from Royal Enfield. We discussed philosophy, motorcycle religion and probably geo-politics for some time and again I was reminded of the internal love affair that seems to be prevalent in RE people.
Next morning was again a world of international breakfast delights. But not for all, with a couple of pallid faces amongst us, as we convened in the car park for the major ride – about 300km north-east to Khimsar. The morning air was quite desert chill and I kind of felt good about not having an open-face. Boom. Start the twins and warm-up then off we go…getting out of town seems to be a little bit less organised than yesterday, and it’s a bit of an effort to keep pace through the various roundabouts and assorted fare of humans and domesticated creatures. It seemed that this ride, now everyone had had a ride, was going to be more fun than yesterday.
The open road soon beckoned and it became evident that the numbers on the tin signs at the road edge really had no actual meaning. Flat stick. Absolutely. It’s something you perhaps only do away from home because you feel somewhat anonymous behind an NRMA issued international licence that is printed on old blue school project cardboard. Opening the taps and enjoying what were actually very good highway conditions seemed perfectly natural to do here. I was keen to say that I’d hit about 175km/h on the screened Meteor at our first stop.
Drinks and refreshments were on hand the whole way, but it seemed that everyone was ready to get to our destination, as quickly as possible. The only thing you really slowed down for were animals. Especially cows. Everyone else was, as you are, simply a road user and you share the road pretty much equally. We enjoyed stretches of minutes on end of top speed shenanigans, interspersed with speed bump hooliganism as we circumvented toll gates. Managing to achieve “air” over speed bumps became an order for the day, with several of us launching the 650 well into the air.
Sid Lal was easily identifiable by his red shoes. I made it a thing to get by him. It’s funny to think that here I am, throttle maxxed, trying to get past the actual owner of the motorcycle company and having an absolute ball on his bike at the same time. What a hoot! I cut Sid up big time leaving a toll plaza for a little slightly dangerous fun. I apologised later, but Sid laughed it off as being just part of the fun of bike riding. What a nice bloke.
Our final destination was a fabulous hotel in Khimsar that has been built over the ruins of an old fort – I had no idea that forts were such a thing here. A fantastic place – the facilities majestic and olde-worlde, with much subtlety to the architecture. You could imagine boasting over safari adventures whilst sipping gin and tonics at this place and chowing on venison in the colourful radiance of the stained glass windowed dining room. We sit down and have yet more lunch after arriving with broad smiles and feeling nicely buzzed by the last leg of the trip. Almost bussed for me as I very narrowly missed being collected by a school bus turning right as I was overtaking it. Remember, do not hesitate…
Four beers in, more food and chatting in the sun I am feeling very relaxed. Better check my hotel, nay, fort-palace room out – crikey, it’s bigger than my home and very lavish. I hear someone knock while I am in the shower and call out you have to be ready soon. We just got here… Not long after panicking to get ready, we found out that there was a delay for us – no real rush, man, this is India after all. A ridiculous battle ensued to prise a handful of beers over the bar to help us pass the time, but perseverance won the order of the day. Soon after, we were in a jeep of sorts to head to the “dunes” as the evening began setting in, not at all sure of what lay ahead.
We entered the sand dunes through a narrow corridor to see the sands and vegetation lit up in rich, vibrant colours from numerous lighting rigs. There was a big stage, again more food and bars as far as you could see. What the hell? This was amazing and a total surprise that I don’t think anyone saw coming. We indulged in the entertainment and heard Sid Lal talk about Royal Enfield, the brand and the Super Meteor and, I reckon, we all came away feeling a bit of his love for his motorcycle company. There is really something iconic about it – just seeing the smiling faces of people just as we rode past them during our rides.
The dunes party was epic, culminating in literally everyone on stage and dancing to curious modern Indian trance music that you could not help feeling a groove for that included both DJ, vocals and musicians with traditional instruments. It really was a joyful finale to an incredible launch effort by the Royal Enfield team. In another attempt at being the last men standing, the ANZ journos grabbed more drinks and we dragged ourselves up a dune to talk nonsense and enjoy the cool desert air and soft, soft sand under our backsides.
What a day. What a last four days. There was some ridiculous talk about riding a Meteor up one of the sand dunes. To this end, there was one Meteor on offer, left out in the open with keys in ignition…we buried it a bit by spinning her up, but not in an attempt to climb the sand dune.
The next day we endured a lengthy, slow bus trip to the local airport to head back to Delhi. The flight was under an hour, which was excellent as I was starting to get quite knackered. Other faces were showing similar signs of wear also. As the launch reached its climax Journos from around the globe began departing, I felt a tinge of sadness that this Indian fantasy was quickly drawing to a close. But, what a memorable time! The Royal Enfield team had absolutely come up trumps. Not just with the Super Meteor itself, but by giving us all a fantastic taste of Indian culture, its warmth and hospitality, history and vibrancy.
On the flight home, a Flight Attendant asked me how the flight was going. I whinged about being unable to sleep. His recommendation was a Bloody Mary (might have been 2AM at the time). I said yes, please and we began chatting. As soon as I mentioned the purpose of the trip, this fellow’s eyes lit up. Turns out he has a Continental GT 650, a 350 and his mum has a 500cc RE, with granddad’s in the garage. Bloody hell!
Later, I ended up leaving the plane well and truly last after more enthusiastic Royal Enfield talk and scrolling the images on my phone with the flight crew. This is testament, I reckon, to a brand that is really resonating with its customers and truly transcends age and gender and a fitting end to this great interlude. If only the entire world was like club Royal Enfield… My heartfelt thanks goes out to absolutely everyone involved.
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