Ernesto “Che” Guevara, popularly known as Che was a passionate motorcyclist. Guevara was also a prolific writer and diarist, and his book, The Motorcycle Diaries, is a best-selling memoir about his youthful continental motorcycle journey. Guevara’s admirers display their love and respect for him in various forms. One such unnamed fan approached custom motorcycle builder Emperor Motorcycles, owned and operated by industrial designer Bimal Menon to design a 1978 350cc Royal Enfield.
Menon had a task of designing a 1978 350cc Royal Enfield motorcycle to the needs and specifications of his client. The client was particular about his needs. He wanted a very unique look but, at the same time, retain the visual identity of the iconic thumper. A matte black colour, wide fuel tank, fatter tyres and raw appearance is what the owner wanted to incorporate in the design and Menon surprised him with some visual treat.
This special job also needed a special name. Since this bike was a mix of old world and new world charm, it had to have a name related to that. Chrononaut was too direct, and lacked any feel what so ever. The name of the motorcycle is as interesting as the custom job itself. This custom built Royal Enfield is named as the “Retro-Naut”. Part of the name is sort of associated with astronaut, cosmonaut, aquanaut terms.
The legendary Argentine was the inspiration for this build. Before departing for Bolivia, Guevara altered his appearance to stay under cover and go unrecognised. But despite this makeover, Guevara still imposed his strong, resilient and indestructible appearance. The idea was to custom build this motorcycle to reflect the same ‘Sophisticated Rebel’ look but without adding any design element that reflected Guevara directly. Perforated steel mesh applied on the gear, kickstart and brake pedal to reflect the design of heat shield found on rifles and the brass from bullet shells. The block tread pattern dual purpose tyres is a reminder of the “off road” life of Guevara.
Menon, as a designer, is a fan of vintage cars and bikes and that reflects in the design of this motorcycle. The Leather strap on the fuel tank, along with aesthetics, also serves a purpose. The fuel tank has been split into two and now bolts to the chassis from only two sides which are located on the sides of the chassis
Menon was concerned that the riding conditions in the country may cause fatigue induced crack at the mounting points after a few years of usage. There is a loop at both sides of the center piece of the tank on which the speedometer is fixed. The belt passes through the loop and wraps around the tank. The leather belt holds the tank to the chassis making it an integral part. While the owner of the motorcycle suggested matte black colour, Menon preferred metallic dark grey color with semi matte clear finish that gives this custom job a certain gun metal look.
Speaking about this build, Menon said, “Honestly speaking, it is literally impossible to point at one element as the inspiration source. I don’t restrict myself to any particular style. I want to explore the possibilities. Custom bikes are in a sense a piece of art. It is like a sculpture, painting or music. The finished bike shouldn’t be just a pile of metal. It should be artistic. It should generate thoughts in the minds of the beholder.”
Emperor Motorcycles is based out of Kerela and you can connect to Menon through the company’s Facebook Page. Here are some more images of the Naut. Do share your views about this custom build with us through the comments section below.
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