When my friend Gaurav asked me if I wanted to go on an off-road motorcycle trip with his Royal Enfield Himalayan Group, my answer was obvious. I’d be craving to get back on a bike since arriving in India, and this was my chance to begin riding on Indian roads. So, I did what any sane biker would do. I went and got kitted up!

I needed the basics: helmet, gloves, jacket, and boots (I already had my excellent and long lasting Dririder riding pants). I only knew one motorcycle store in India at that time, Royal Enfield. So I headed to the upmarket Khan Market store in Delhi to do some shopping. The Khan Market store is one of their flagships. The company’s Head of Apparel, Samrat Som, also happened to be there when I visited. Bonus! Samrat was a great guy. He didn’t mention who he was but explained to me a lot about their gear – hence why I looked up who I had been speaking too as he went above and beyond the typical employee at the store.

So far so good.

What I bought

Where locals buy their gear in India

The next day when Gaurav saw what I’d brought, he laughed. The look of slight disbelief on his face told me I’d done something wrong. Turns out, a Royal Enfield showroom is the last place a local would buy their gear. Typical foreigner mistake. Then he enlightened me. Major cities have entire markets dedicated to motorcycles and gear. In Delhi, it’s Gaffar Market in Karol Bhag. Doh!

Before our next trip to Ladakh and Kashmir, Gaurav took me to Gaffar Market to buy extra gear for the tough ride. To be fair, Gaffar Market is not for the uninitiated foreigner. You need to know the right shops to visit, and not all shop keepers speak English. Some good shops are hidden inside little alley ways inside buildings. You’ll be walking past people manufacturing motorcycle seats and accessories on your way to certain stores. It’s a bit like walking around a motorcycle repair shop, manufacturing plant, and dingy retail show room in one.

Back to the ride

The very next day, I took the new helmet, gloves, and jacket out of Delhi as we rode into the seldom visited state of Haryana. Eventually, we turned down a shady dirt road and ended up. It was like in a horror movie where the cast turns off the main road and ride into the unknown, but instead, we ended up in a traditional Haryanvi village. What struck me was that every single person was carrying a large, thick wooden stick. It’s called a “lath” and it’s used for scaring away monkeys, walking, and security and protection. Sounds handy huh?

Where we ended up. Photo © Karl Rock.
Where we ended up. Photo © Karl Rock.

Then guess who got a puncture? Yup. Lucky someone at the village had a puncture repair kit and generously took us back to his place and fixed it. Not to mention another village we stopped at taking us in and giving us tea and biscuits. That’s village hospitality for you!

The villagers house in Haryana. Photo © Karl Rock.
A villager’s house in Haryana. Photo © Karl Rock.

Review – The good and the bad

Since that ride, I’ve taken the above gear everywhere with me. Including the City Riding Gloves to New Zealand where I wore them daily for 5 months. They were the only item to fail. After 5 months use, they had had it. My finger eventually ripped through the weak seam. Besides poor durability, they also leaked a ton of dye onto my hands! When I first wore them, my hand was slightly dyed black! A light shower would make the dye run all over my hand even worse, discolouring it for a while. To try to remove some dye I soaked them in water and began pushing the dye out. That helped a bit. They lost at lot colour but the dye on my hand became manageable. Obviously, avoid these gloves!

Street Nimbus Helmet on the back of my dirty RE Himalayan. Photo © Karl Rock.
Street Nimbus Helmet on the back of my dirty RE Himalayan. Photo © Karl Rock.

The Street Nimbus Helmet and Safari Touring Jacket faired better. I even got to test them in an accident where I ran into black ice and landed on my shoulder and head then slid down the ice covered road on a frozen mountain pass in Ladakh. I received a torn left shoulder muscle from the fall. Without the gear, no doubt it would have been worse. The helmet and jacket are still in great condition too. That may have had something to do with landing on smooth ice rather than rough gravel road which grates your gear.

One annoyance I had with the helmet was that Royal Enfield does not sell spare or tinted visors for them! Once it’s scratched, you’re screwed. Their helmets are made by Shiro in Italy and no spare parts are available in India. Whereas the helmets sold at Gaffar market are fully supported with accessories.

Why did my friend laugh at me? Pricing.

Gaurav knew I’d paid too much for my gear. Royal Enfield gear is overpriced compared to what you’ll get for your money at a motorcycle market. When I went with him to buy a helmet, he got a superior model for half the price of mine. Everything is 25 – 40% cheaper at the markets. For the price I paid for my gear at the showroom, I could have bought better gear there.

That being said, if you’re a foreigner the price you’re paying at an RE showroom is cheap. Goods from the market are cheaper but they have the risk of being notoriously bad quality. A pair of boots generic riding boots I bought at the market for Rs. 5000 ($78 USD) lasted me only 2 weeks in Ladakh & Kashmir before the stitching, zips, and soles began to fail. Not so great. If you’re shopping at the market, you have to know what you’re buying and give it a thorough quality check before buying.

So neither the Royal Enfield showroom or motorcycle market is perfect. If you don’t mind paying extra, then the Royal Enfield showroom is a good place to buy decent gear (except Helmets). If you have time to explore the market and know enough to quality check the goods then you’ll get more bang for your bucket at the market.

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