A couple of weeks ago, we gave you a quick look at the Ace Fireball 535 Cafe Racer. Some of you may not have noticed the long comment by Chumma who built the bike, telling the story of how it all came about. Not only is the story quite interesting, but Chumma took a couple of hundred photos of the build process and the final outcome, a bike anyone would be extremely proud to have in their own garage.
If you look through the build photos, one of the things you immediately notice, something you've seen before on The Kneeslider, is how a motivated builder can turn out very impressive work in the kind of workspace many of you already have. You don't need thousands of square feet and expensive machine tools, an average garage and the usual selection of tools will do just fine. Perhaps the Royal Enfield is just one of those bikes that lends itself to this sort of thing, lacking high tech wizardry, it's just a basic bike with a simple engine, a bike that can be modified and customized without breaking the bank.
I'll include much of Chumma's comment here for those of you who missed it and a few photos from his Flickr account, but you'll need to check those photos out yourself to really see what was accomplished. Pretty amazing work.
Well, It’s been a busy week for me outside of motorcycle related stuff so pardon this late reply. After years of toiling, prototyping, and eternal wrenching, it’s damn satisfying to read comments from fellow motorcycle enthusiasts.
This article really came as a surprise to me. As happy as I am about being featured in The Kneeslider, which I feel is the coolest motorcycle publication around right now, there was some miscommunication on our part which led to key information being absent in our initial email to Paul about the build. The entire story is a truly interesting motorcycling story that I think you all would love.
First of all I must stress that this is not my bike, though this was one of those special builds that I long to somehow be able to keep. Ironically, as readers of The Kneeslider, you’ve already seen this bike before- just in it’s past form. It was the bike that lost to me in that impromptu drag race featured in the first ACE Fireball article. The owner of the bike, Chuck, is a friend of mine whom I had initially met on a Royal Enfield forum.
Chuck and I got to become casual friends as the fireball project was nearing it’s initial completion. When my bike (fireball 1) was ready for testing, he happened to join another friend and I at an old abandoned airstrip in Brooklyn (Floyd Bennett Field) where the first fireball videos were shot. It was the first time we’d met face to face. His candid comments and quirky jokes gave the video a raw human character and made it an unforgettable day for me.
Chuck’s a truly unique individual. An avid cyclist and ex bicycle racer in his late 40s, born and raised in Brooklyn with the most witty positive outlook on life… Something very rare for a New Yorker to possess, especially a blue collar city worker as himself. Most of us fall into that usual caustic trap and too often find ourselves constantly seeking out petty opportunities to spit fire at any given moment. He’s one of those dudes who is able to balance an old soul’s disposition with a child’s love for adventure.
After decades of exploring city streets via pedal transport Chuck finally bought his first motorcycle, A 2006 model Enfield ‘sixty-five’ purchased in 2008. In 2 years he quickly put 24,000 miles on the odometer, every mile of which was done within the confines of new york city streets. It wasn’t hard to realize this man really loved his bike and the new found freedom it allowed him.
Fast forward to sometime last August… It had been a while since I’d seen or got in touch with Chuck when one day while randomly browsing I saw his bike on craigslist for $2000 with a very odd sounding description… the kind of description that accompanies a bike that the owner really doesn’t want to sell. “great bike with a greater soul, owner must treat it kindly, give me a call within the hours of 1 and 1:05pm etc”
I gave him a call and asked him whats up. He sounded very distraught. Kept on saying he doesn't want to do it and may regret this for a long time. We agreed to meet the next day at a local pizzeria where we managed to spend hours discussing bikes and life.
He mentioned several bikes he’d gone and test driven and what he liked and disliked of each. He said he’d really miss his Enfield forever and how selling it might be a decision he’d regret for life but he needed it to be “more bike” to allow him to adventure beyond the city and onto the winding country highways upstate.
We then took a walk to Indian Larry’s old shop which is now inhabited by his old employees who still build custom bikes under their own names (Keino and Paul Cox). Another resident of the garage is a guy who restores vintage Italian bikes. There were a couple old Guzzi’s and Ducati supersports which he kept pointing at asking questions about. I got an idea of what his perfect motorcycle would be and I explained it to him what I could do and we rambled on about “a dream Enfield.” He wasn't sold on the performance of the Fireball so I let him test drive my bike after which he came back with a huge smile and said ‘just do everything you’ve done to your bike to mine and add everything else we talked about before’.
He wanted something sporty and responsive that would remind him of his bicycling days but not an outright boy racer – something more versatile enough to take long rides upstate with girlfriend in tow. A classic, timeless, urban roadster with subtle displays of craftsmanship which made sense to me after seeing the walls of his apt… which are lined with at least 10 pristine but well ridden immaculately beautiful 1970s-1980s bespoke bicycles. Lean, sleek, mean, machines with delicate practical use of contrasting metal. Stainless steel, high grade alloys, 1970s titanium, exquisitely wrapped leather grips etc.
Born out of that day came the bike in this article. It is fireball #10. Teardown happened in mid October and the photograph you see on this article was taken on Sunday. Despite Chuck giving me full artistic ‘carte blanche’ (to a set budget), There were easily 50 long emails and 100s of phone calls between us picking each other’s brains over minor details. His eager love and appreciation for his vehicle pushed me in my craft. The end result became a full restoration on steroids. Trimmed and muscular, the bike is 80lbs lighter than when it first rolled in. Countless essential parts from the crank down to the wheel bearings, brakes, and hub spacers were replaced or modified/improved upon. I’ve got Chuck constantly teasing me about when our next drag race will be… which I certainly will lose.
This bike was designed to perform better than it looks and it delivers. Performance is nothing short of breath taking. As the years have gone by, I’ve gotten a better grasp of my tools which allowed me to true Chuck’s crank to within .0005″. The rewards of which are obvious. There is not a hint of high frequency vibrations anywhere. As we say here.. it rides smooth as butter or better yet: ice cream in the microwave. 90mph feels like 50mph. The bike effortlessly motors past 100mph with a slight flick of throttle while cruising on 80mph while displaying no vibrations at redline in each gear.
Chuck’s been antsy, I still have the bike for 1 more week which I’ll spend on final carb tuning and sorting out. After these 300 miles of break in which includes a couple oil changes, brake adjustments and a head torque; Chuck will have the bike all to himself with a full 10k/2yr parts and labor warranty. I don’t doubt he will put an easy 15k miles on it the first year alone. I’m really gonna miss this bike.
Hopefully I haven't put everybody to sleep with this post but I've been asked by others via email to leave a short bio on myself so here goes:
I’m a late 20 something, born in Birmingham UK (birthplace of BSA, Norton, Enfield, Vellocette, etc) to parents of Indian descent and raised in NYC/NJ. During family trips to visit family in India I learned how to ride on a 250cc 2 stroke Jawa at age 10 and was hooked. I became the youth in the family constantly begging his relatives to ‘park their bikes in the garage’ via the long way . I rode my first Enfield 2 years later and also witnessed and played a hand in my first RE engine build.
After high school, I studied engineering and, like Aniket, always dreamed of bringing an Enfield back from India and testing out the various engine design philosophies being taught in my school’s internal combustion engineering classes. Soon after I started my tinkering, I read the posts of Tom Lyons on various Enfield forums. We became great friends and started collaborating together on various aspects of what is now the Ace fireball kit.
After years of grassroots r&d, long waits for prototypes, and days/nights spent in the garage we are where we are now. I can not thank Paul more for the platform he provides and motivation it gives to me and other “small guys with dreams” out there. I also met Aniket through this site and we have since become the best of pals with many many juicy motorcycling related endeavors in the works. All of which we will keep you all posted on as they come into fruition. Jim, if you’re still reading … you’re on the money man. Those CAD programs are in full flux. Long nights have been great nights…
Well I’m really gonna miss this bike. As there is nothing much left to do to it I find myself going through a withdrawal phase of what’s next. If anybody out there has a vision and would like my help in creating something, feel free to get in touch. The core iron barrel Royal Enfield bikes have unlimited potential and can be found very cheap. I recently picked one up, untouched, with 1600miles for $1400 which I’d love to use for another build. My mouth salivates at the thought of building a full trials style machine…
Thanks, Chumma. You can probably tell, I really like this bike and the whole process of how it came together. Be sure to check out the build photos! If some of you aren't already considering a Royal Enfield build up in the not too distant future, you might want to give it some more thought. This is an affordable way to make something unique and fun, not only in the riding, but in the building and learning that goes along with it. If you already have a Bullet, contact Chumma or Tom Lyons and get a 535 Fireball kit. It just strikes me as one of the coolest kits out there and the performance boost will be immediately noticeable.
Fireball build photos on Flickr
Yahoo group for the ACE Fireball 535
Previously on The Kneeslider:
Royal Enfield Ace Fireball Cafe
ACE Fireball 535 Royal Enfield High Performance Kit