An interview with Chris Harlen, managing director of the BulletWallas…With a busy life, mostly at work or on a bike, Emaho caught Chris Harlen, the frontrunner of The BulletWallas, and asked him a few questions about his kind of life. This is a sneak peek into the life of a hardcore biker: a real Bulletwalla.
What’s with the name “BulletWallas”?
The name is BulletWallas. Note the spelling – it has been plagiarized by a business in Karol Bagh sellingEnfield parts online on ebay, and imitating BULLETWALLAS, so I am somewhat sensitive about the correct spelling. Anyway, the name otherwise is as it seems – ‘Bullet Walla’, a person that works with Bullets. But collectively and in plural for all of us that own a Bullet or use a Bullet end up having to do some level of repairs ourselves, thus we are all BulletWallas and all travellers with a motorbike problem!
Which has been the most memorable ride?
Travelling-wise I have seen and experienced most of New Zealand, much of Queensland(Australia), areas of New South Wales, Victoriaand South Australia. I’ve also visited Vanatu, Papua New Guinea, Victoria, VictoriaIsland, EdmontonAlberta, and Torontoin Canada.
Sadly, India has been a slow process where work and illness have stood in the way of my goals. I have travelled on by bike through much of the lower areas of Himachal Pradesh, was living inChandigarh for one year and also in Shimla for another year, but the areas up and beyond Shimla and Manali to date have been fraught even in this season. September was looking good for theSpitiValley but too much work has come in and customers come first. The areas that I do want to visit are all the ride-able areas in Himachal Pradesh,Uttarakhand,Nepal, Gujarat, South India and eastIndia.
How often are you on the road?
When we have completed a bike I usually take it for a 500 plus km test ride, so at times I may not get out for a few months and then there will be a few weeks when every couple of days I have to head off in some direction. Soon there will be many trips of near 1,000 km up into the Roopnagar,Punjabarea where I will be taking bikes to a factory to have sidecars custom painted to match them. I am at home working most of the time. Work for me is 17/7. There are so many emails to answer and good customer service takes effort, but bears great results!
Your longest journey has been…?
The longest bike journey so far has been three weeks just riding through the lower areas of Himachal Pradesh andPunjab, just exploring in any direction that took our fancy.
Any memorable locals you’ve met on your travels?
To date I cannot comment on the most memorable locals, there are many that are just a blur, many that one would wonder at and many that bring a smile, but to date no one has stood out as being especially significant. Probably because much has been mundane on my trips, or at least previous experiences in my life have been more interesting than ones here inIndia.
What bikes make good travelling companions?
Mountainous areas such as the Himalayan region are tough on any vehicle; this can be shown by the condition of rental bikes being returned. I would be surprised if the lighter weight clip-together plastic bikes would last long at all in these conditions. The Enfields that are being rented out usually travel up to Leh five or six times in a season, I seriously doubt if any other bike could match this and still be running.
People fear travelling on bikes because accidents are very common. Do you have anything to say to them?
Riding bikes is dangerous; others on the road have not respect for how exposed you are and what can happen to a rider in an accident. The fact is that drivers inIndia are aggressive, dangerous and put everyone at risk with no care or responsibility. A bike rider has to pay 200 per cent attention if they wish to survive, it is exhausting but required. Any less than 200 per cent attention, full and absolute focus, will be potentially fatal. There are two ways to drive, one is defensively and the other offensively, bike riders have to respond to both; watch out for those determined to run you down and take the opportunities to escape the idiots that will cause accidents.
Finally, how many pairs of underwear should people carry on a trip?
Underwear? Real bikers don’t wear underwear.