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Common Tread

Weekend matinee: Video explores India's affection for Royal Enfield.

Feb 21, 2016

I rode a Royal Enfield once and the most positive emotion I felt was relief when I finished the ride without crashing the borrowed bike or running over an innocent schoolchild because the damn brakes considered my desperate tug on the lever to be merely a suggestion, not a demand.

I only mention that to point out that I am nearly the last person who should get all warm and nostalgic watching “Chasing the Bullet.” It’s not my cantankerous, fluid-leaking cup of inherited British tea.

And yet…

This documentary by American filmmaker, bike builder and bartender Chris Zahner focuses on the people in India who love, nurture and carry on “the ‘English motorcycle’ that got stuck in India,” as Zahner described it in an interview. He wanted to explore how the old Royal Enfields became such an essential part of the fabric of India.

The documentary is 22 minutes long, which makes it better for a bit of leisurely weekend viewing. That’s why I’m posting it today. What makes this film worth watching for a person like me, who is less likely to buy a Royal Enfield than a llama, is that toward the end, we see these riders try to explain why they love a machine that doesn’t excel in performance, will inevitably break down, and is likely to refuse to start just when your friends are watching. It doesn't make sense. But then, riding motorcycles doesn't make sense. We love it just the same. That's something we can all relate to.