Book 1, Chapter 2

London.

I’m always surprised when I land at a new place to find that nothing’s different. Always a little disappointed... I don't know what I was expecting. Some sort of metamorphosis? Nope.

I'm still me.

It's still 'now'.

Doesn't matter where I am or where I go, that never seems to change...

I unpack my stuff to see what I've remembered...

Not socks, apparently.

Only got two pairs.

Amateur hour.

Importantly, I packed my helmet. It's probably the only thing I couldn't forget...


I buy socks. And a motorbike.

A fucking gorgeous Royal Enfield.

My dream bike.

Picture something out of World War II. Something Steve McQueen would ride...

They used to make them in England, but they went broke, so now they're making them in India, of all places...

Practical? Fuck no...

That's not the point...

Everyone thinks I've gone mad: I have a perfectly good touring bike back home in the shed (a BMW 'adventure' bike, 'the right machine for the job') and yet, here I am, shelling out for perhaps the most impractical bike that I could possibly buy.

Do I give a single fuck?

Nope.

Not one.

The Enfield floats my boat. Bigtime. Everyone can go get fucked.

I feel like I've won on the haggle too. Not much of an arm wrestle, really... Anything I asked for got thrown in to the deal: A set of crashbars, change the speedo to kilometres per hour (none of this imperial shit), first service for free, a copy of the Royal Enfield workshop manual, a back seat plus 'saddle bags', and a waterproof cover to put over the whole bike.

And a badass new leather jacket...

I ride out of the dealership like I stole the thing.

You couldn’t slap this grin off my face.

I’m brutally happy.

Happy as a pig in shit.

This was a great choice...


Disaster.

We lurch.

The Enfield's powering down like someone turned the key off...

I wring the throttle on and off. Nothing... It keeps winding down...

It's only been a few hundred clicks. Day one's not even in the books yet!!

The red 'engine warning light' has flashed onto the speedo...

We decelerate slower and slower...

What the fuck's going on here? This is a new bike!!

"Piece of shit!!"

The Enfield roars back into life again, full power, accelerating.

"What the fuck was that??"

The Enfield just carries on like nothing happened...

Jesus.

I've made a big mistake. An expensive mistake...

Fuck. Why didn't I just buy something German, or Japanese?

Fucking idiot...

I pull over and call the dealer for a 'please explain'.

They say it's likely an electrical fault...

They assure me that if there's oil in the sump I can't break anything important... They'll fix the fault at the free service that I wrangled, due in five hundred clicks.


They look surprised to see me...

The fuck-up was yesterday. I've already chalked up the distance.

I think I've broken a record...

We do the service, which is fairly straightforward.

I made it a condition of the purchase that I get to do the service myself.

They thought it was an odd request, but I need to learn stuff. I've even read 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance', which was neither about Zen nor motorcycle maintenance...

False advertising.

Anyway. The service part is basically just a changing of the oil and filters and stuff. Pretty straight forward, with supervision...

Disturbingly, the oil and the filters are full of chunky bits of metal... Apparently that's 'normal'...

Once the 'first service' stuff is out of the way, it's time to get down to fixing that 'fault'.

My mate Kev the mechanic reckons it's a clogged 'injector', which, he explains, is the thing that sprays fuel into the cylinder.

We get to work.

The injector's a bitch to get at. The whole fuel tank has to come off, and then it's fiddle city, with cables and hoses and wires all in the way of prying fingers.

Once all that's out of the way, the injector unscrews out and the new one goes in, and it all has to be put back together the way it came apart...

Takes an age...

I'm in the final stages of the job. I've been attacking an infuriatingly tricky electrical plug for the last five minutes, when I see that another plug's been unclipped... I don't remember doing that...

"Hey Kev?"

"Yeah"

"Come have a look at this... Nah, in deeper... Can you see that plug? Did you unclip that?"

"Ah, no... Not that one" Kev scratches his head.

"Me neither." We spend a moment in silence...

Click

Kev and I share a look. "Enfields are quirky..."

"You're not wrong, Kev."

I put it all back together, I shake hands with Kev and the boys, and peel out.

At the first crossroads I pull a small compass out of my pocket. It points north. Sounds good to me...

Oblivious | Luke Gelmi