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Riders Of The Storm

In Bangalore, the heavy-duty Bullet spawns a cult among the youth

Riders Of The Storm
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553
Rohan manages his family's printing unit. Arvind is pursuing a diploma in mechanical engineering. Shivakumar,after securing his degree in architecture, is working as an engineer. Bunch these twenty somethings together, get them to ride across town to join more of "their kind", and they are transformed into four-stroke hunks with a one-point programme: have fun on bike. Not just any bike, but only the ferocious Bullet. They constitute the 'Bullet Club', India's first biking club kick-started in Bangalore last December.

With 34 members and an accelerating spirit, matched only by the collective roar of their sten-machine engines, the Bullet Club is born out of a mixture of machismo, the thrill of adventure and the increasing need to get away from it all. A brain-child of Royal Enfield Motors Ltd (REML), Madras, makers of the macho machine and part of the Rs 600-crore Eicher group, the Bullet Club is an effort of "like-minded people to derive the most from their bike". "The basic aim of the club is fun and leisure," says R.K. Ghose, deputy general manager (marketing), REML.

And the club plans to fulfil this aim through regular activities which the members are itching for: treasure hunts, picnics, long-distance trips within Karnataka, across-the-country rides, and possibly even international trips. "We regularly got requests from adventure enthusiasts to sponsor across-the-country and international trips. The Bullet Club was therefore conceived to promote such activities in an organised manner and on a regular basis," says Naveen Malhotra, assistant manager, REML, Ban-galore, and promoter-member of the club.

"We're basically Bullet lovers who like to freak out on our bikes," says V. Anand Kumar, 25, whose family owns one of the two authorised Bullet service centres in Bangalore and who first rode a Bullet when he was 15. "I basically look forward to spending my weekends with the club and, once in a while, take off," adds Rohan, who bought a 350cc two years ago. For Arvind who bought a 1978 model for Rs 19,000 only six months ago, becoming a member of the club is a major kick. Says he: "I had to save and borrow to manage the amount as my parents don't like the Bullet. But you sit on it, you ride it, you feel like it is all that one needs." Add to that membership incentives such as free bike check-ups, complimentary service, discount on spares, and life for the Bullet Club member is one big joyride.

Inspiration for the Bullet Club, however, came from American motorbike manufacturer Harley Davidson. Overtaken by an onslaught of sleek Japanese mobikes in the early '80s, the American company formed Harley Davidson clubs to inspire brand-loyalty among its clientele. Faced with a similar situation in India after its volumes were affected by the Yamahas and the Kawasakis, REML too is looking at infusing brand loyalty even as its sales are looking up. The company hopes to add 24,000 machines on the roads during 1995-96, up from the 17,000 bikes sold in 1994-95.

At present, over 20 bikers gather for a meeting every month, where talk centres on "mileage, silencer lengths, pick up and long distance trips". Establishing camaraderie doesn't take long considering the specific member profile REML framed: young outgoing Bangaloreans, with a bent for adventure on the roads. Of course, they need to own a Bullet besides paying a membership fee of Rs 500 and covering their activity expenses. Though membership is open to applicants, Malhotra says the club has decided to close at 60 members as managing larger numbers would be difficult. While the functioning of the club is the responsibility of the executive committee, Ghose says REML would gradually withdraw and hand the club over to members.

And Bangalore is just the beginning. In mid-January, Pondicherry saw the launch of the second Bullet Club with 28 members. Goa is next on the map, to be followed by Chandigarh, Delhi, Bombay, Madras and Pune. And the response is enthusiastic, going by the attitude of the likes of Shivakumar: "Owning a Bullet in itself is a matter of pride. To become a member of an exclusive Bullet Club is a greater pride." Which translated means, the Bullet Club is set to zoom off in top gear.

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