Round-the-World on a Royal Enfield

Two years ago Franck had never touched a motorcycle. Today he’s ridden 50,000 miles all over the world on a Bullet. Franck shows us how anyone can have an adventure on any bike. You’ve just got to go for it…

Royal Enfield motorcycle travel the world
By Franck Lafontaine

By Franck Lafontaine

Franck is a motorcycle adventurer from France and travelling the world on his Royal Enfield Bullet.

Chasing Dreams

I turned 54 years old, sold my company shares and decided to chase my teenage dream to travel the world. 

First I tried a 10-month recumbent cycle ride through South America and Asia, second was a 5-month cycle ride from Alaska to Mexico. And then I backpacked through Colombia and Brazil. But something was missing…

And I only figured out what that was two years ago when the idea of getting a motorcycle licence crossed my mind as I walked past my local riding school. I signed up, failed four times and then walked out with a pass certificate. Two months later and I was on a flight to India, I rented a Royal Enfield and travelled 4,500 miles.

Looking back, it was probably a little crazy, but I came out alive and learnt quickly that the school lessons weren’t as important as extreme concentration on traffic and a lot of luck. I loved India for its beautiful landscapes, rich culture and kind people. The first few days were terrible as I adjusted, but past that stage, people either love it or go home.

Luckily, I loved it. And I loved riding that Royal Enfield so much that I finally realised how I wanted to continue my travels. Mongolia on a motorcycle entered my mind. It’s a mythical route and I’ve always dreamed of the Silk Road. Once back in France, I knew I needed to look for a bike suitable for the challenge.

Choosing the Enfield

I was a beginner biker. I knew nothing about mechanics, had only just passed my test and only ridden in India on old Enfields. I thought KTM would be a good place to start. I visited a specialist store owned by a guy who had ridden in several Paris-Dakar rallies. I went up to the sales assistant and said: “I’m looking for a motorcycle to ride to Mongolia on and my budget is £4000.”

The salesman looked at me as if I was mad. His eyes said that he didn’t want to waste any time on me so he spent three minutes with me and then returned to whatever he was doing. Goes without saying, I didn’t buy anything from him.  

I think all Japanese motorcycles are alike and the BMW GS is too expensive. I was looking for a simple and reliable bike without complicated electronics. While surfing the Internet, my eyes kept fixating on Royal Enfields – it seemed to answer all my criteria, but I couldn’t find any information on people travelling the world with them.

I wanted to buy my bike from a passionate dealer and found a guy whose main business was selling lawn mowers! Three years ago, when I bought the bike, the Royal Enfield distribution network in France wasn’t mainstream. Since then it’s become “trendy” and showrooms are now popping up everywhere.

Once I saw the retro styled Royal Enfield Bullet Classic EFI 500 in Desert Storm colour, I knew that was it.

France to Mongolia and Back, 16,000 miles

The distance from France to Mongolia and back wasn’t going to be a problem. I was only concerned about my mechanical abilities and inexperience. I set to work riding 1,500 miles across France to test the bike. I only had a few aches due to being so tense in my riding. So, I set off in search of Central Asia, Mongolia and the legendary Silk Road. The ride to Mongolia through Central Asia was absolutely epic. The great vastness of it all, the wonderful people and hundreds of riding lessons I inevitably picked up along the way made it very special. 

My biggest day was 450 miles from Moscow to the Latvian border. But 200 miles per day was my average because I like to arrive in the afternoon and explore. I loved meeting other bikers with more experience than myself. Their advice on equipment and mechanical tips were invaluable. I give more importance to talking with an Iranian family for example, who offers me breakfast on the side of the road than visiting a museum. So, I took it slow and enjoyed the little things that make travel so great.

And the Bullet always helped start those conversations with bikers and locals, especially because it’s not the “standard” travel bike. I was asked a thousand times if my bike was built during WWII. They were always disappointed when I said it was a 2017 model. I suspect people expected it to break down more, perhaps they remember the company’s reputation from 10 years ago.

But I sincerely believe that I didn’t encounter more problems than any fellow bike travellers with specially kitted out adventure bikes. Indian roads are generally very bad, yet the brand is an institution in India. It’s economical at 3 litres per 60 miles (90mpg) and even drank 80 octane gasoline in Uzbekistan without a fuss. It works like a Swiss watch. I quickly realised that the Bullet can go anywhere and do anything… just not quickly. 

Royal Enfield motorcycle travel the world mongolia

South America, 20,500 miles

The motorcycle travel bug bit me hard after I returned home from Mongolia. While away, I felt a little flutter every morning as I got on my bike, similar to what a parachutist feels before jumping into empty space. I miss that feeling so much when I’m not traveling. The only way I could fix it was by putting the Enfield in a container and shipping it to South America.

I unloaded the bike in Montevideo, Uruguay and rode to South America’s southern tip, Tierra del Fuego, and its Alaskan looking landscapes. I headed back north along the mystical Carretera Austral route in Chili to Argentina and to the Salta and Atacama Desert, which now sit among my best memories. I have never seen such beautiful colours in my life. I went in search of the place Che Guevara spent the last hours of his life in Bolivia, examined the geoglyphs of Nazca in Peru and rode through bucolic country roads and rolling green hills sprinkled with cows in Ecuador. With the Bullet I roll with a feeling of freedom and happiness rare in the life of a man.

Eight months and 25,000 miles on my Royal Enfield in South America later and I’m back in France dreaming about the next journey.

What’s next?

I’m thinking of leaving in January for the African sun. I’m only planning on a three-month trip this time because I want to be home for when my daughter gives birth. I have a hard time realising I’m going to be a grandfather, but that’s life.

It won’t be long before I pack up the Bullet and head off again. It’s been an incredible tool, helped me achieve these wonderful adventures and I’m glad I picked it. Since I started travelling, I learned not to listen to others – especially those who have never travelled but have plenty of ideas on the subject.

I learned to change a wheel in Iran, to change oil in Turkey and to wait 15 days for an electrical repair in Bolivia (my fault for using a jet wash to clean off the salt from Uyuni Lake). You don’t need to be an expert rider to have an adventure. And you don’t need to have whatever latest bike everyone else is riding either. I met a German guy in Mongolia who was returning home on a moped and a 52kg Swiss woman on a 125cc! As Mark Twain said, “They did not know it was impossible, so they did it.”

If you don’t, you’ll never know. So, pick a bike you love and go have your adventure.

Royal Enfield motorcycle travel the world Tajikistan

Follow Franck’s Journey

Follow Franck’s adventures on Facebook: Franck Lafontaine

Have a read of Franck’s Royal Enfield Bullet Classic 500 Review here

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If you liked Franck’s Round the World on a Royal Enfield story leave a comment below! 

33 thoughts on “Round-the-World on a Royal Enfield”

  1. Ahh, If only i could grow old enough already, P.s., Nowadays Indian roads have faired up, Especially the highway and most of the roads in the south are beautiful too

    • Hi! Yeah, you’re right, the roads are a lot better than they used to be! But of course, still a shock for most people from the West haha!
      Haven’t been to the South of India yet, but are particularly looking forward to it! Cheers

    • I made a wonderful trip to Africa exept my return where I was forced to leave my bike in Marrakech for 6 months because of the Covid !!!

  2. I don’t know what i love more about this story, Franck’s decision to travel the world or the fact he’s doing it on a RE. Great read, great trip and looking forward to reading more. Safe travels

  3. Impressed. Inspired and feeling charged. We are a couple entering 60s gracefully and passionate about riding and seeing the places. We do it on our Classic 350. Did 24000 kms largely covered south india. I was just looking around to know if classic 350 can do a little longer tour across some neighboring countries and browsing. Came across this inspiring travel log. I feel more confident that our pet 350 should be able to handle those challenges. Frank sir, have nice long ride experiences. To know that you are using an RE and you are able to do that inspires us a lot. On the same note, I have never faced any problem ( other than changing a clutch wire once and a flat tyre) in all these 24000 kms on our RE. We are old school type drivers and drive within the performance envelop of the bike and the road conditions. Wish you very happy riding.

  4. What a fantastic story and so inspiring thanks for sharing Franck.
    I semi retire in a year or so and India it is.
    I have an Enfield and a Thunderbird. I lived in Les Gets for a couple of years and was going to ride from Scotland to the alps on the Triumph you may just have changed my mind and I will thanks the Enfield.

  5. Loved your story Franck. I’m in my mid 30’s n ride a beautiful old 1983 RE n I’m gonna fix it n take it on trips within India. I’ve done smaller trips n nothing make me happier than sitting on the bike n going places. If you’re ever in Mumbai, let’s meet up.

    • Thank You Rufus, I hope for you lot of pleasure as I got. I would like return in india but when ????!!! I am at home waitting for my next trip , may be France to Australia orverland …. with a new Royal Enfield, Interceptor ?? bye

  6. Hi Franck,
    fantastic story. And you did it with a wonderful Enfield Bullet.
    Keep on riding.
    Best wishes
    Willi from Germany

    @Sam: Hello, I love to read all your articles. (hope your gearbox is still doing well) and give my love to Birgit.

  7. Thank you, I am happy you liked my experience. Unfortunatly I am stocked in France but I keep a new project in my bags. I hope to ride in 2022 from Alaska to Cap Horn and finish in French Guyana if Omicron leave us in peace !!!!
    take care,


  8. Hi Franck
    It nice to read about your Adventure on royal enfield. We will like to know more about the bike if you had any mechanical problems on your epic journey. Your blog will encourage many bikers to take up this adventure on a trusted bike – made like a gun – Royal enfield

    • Hi Richard,
      I’m not sure I had more mechanical problems than the others. I generally drive with caution. however I changed some important parts of the engine in Colombia after 65,000 kms
      Safe trip

      • Hi Franck
        Thanks for your reply
        I keep reading your article many times and also pass the link to my biker friends.
        Many are surprise how you completed this challenging journey of 80,425 km (50,000 miles).
        I am 60 years old and did many small trips on royal enfield Thunderbird 500 cc.
        You are a inspiration to all bikers especially to Indians as the bike is made there in chennai.
        be safe.

  9. Hi Franck,
    I just made a first attempt to write to you but obviously my message was not sent.
    We met in the United States in 1980 and I have a photo of you with the 4 of us.
    I have traveled a lot since then and by chance I bought myself a 500 Bullet after renting it several times in India.
    Let me know if you have this message and a link for me to send you a photo.

    Salut Franck,
    Je viens de faire une première tentative de t’écrire mais visiblement mon message n’a pas été envoyé.
    On s’est rencontrés aux États Unis en 1980 et j’ai une photo de toi avec nous 4.
    J’ai beaucoup voyagé depuis cette époque et hasard je me suis acheté une 500 Bullet après en avoir loué plusieurs fois en Inde.
    Donne moi de tes nouvelles si tu as ce message et un lien pour que je t’envoie une photo.

    • Hello Francois,
      Life sometimes holds funny surprises, 42 years later!!!! I’m super happy to hear from you, and I perfectly remember your invitation to Valognes too. I would be very curious to see the photo of 1980 again!!!! I’m sorry you couldn’t reach me but I suggest you contact me on FaceBook and we’ll arrange for the rest. I’m leaving for a new motorcycle trip on April 17 from Vancouver.
      Awaiting your news

      Salut François,
      La vie réserve parfois de drôles de surprises, 42 ans après !!!! Je suis super content d’avoir de tes nouvelles, et je me souviens parfaitement de ton invitation à Valognes aussi. Je serais bien curieux de revoir la photo de 1980!!!! Je suis désolé que tu n’aies pas réussi à me joindre mais je te propose de me contacter sur FaceBook et on s’arrangera pour la suite. Je pars pour un nouveau voyage moto le 17 avril à partir de Vancouver.
      En attendant de tes nouvelles

  10. Dear Frank,
    Thanks for telling us the story of your motorcycle travels on a Royal Enfield. Your story could be inspiration to many motorcycle riders who are sitting on the side lines because for one reason or another they have not taken a long or even a short trip.
    I still like to ride motorcycle but at 75, I have not done any long rides. My friend Sampuran Singh in India who is 86, still rides his Honda everyday and enjoys it.
    I salute your courage and tenacity to do some of the difficult rides.
    SC Sharma

  11. Thank you very much for your very nice message. The passion for travel and motorcycle does not weaken over the years, we are the proof!
    I am travelling in Argentina now with a Kawasaki KLR, but I regret my Classic 500, It’s was another world…

  12. Wonderful Story! Really enjoyable read and great pictures. I hope you have a few more life adventures and can share them with all of us! I just might get myself an Enfield.

      • Exactly this motorcycle was a real passport to meeting great people throughout my trip. I often miss it!!!
        TRANSLATED –
        Exactement cette moto a été un veritable passeport pour faire de belles rencontres tout au long de mon voyage. Je la regrette souvent !!!

    • Thanks Cory,
      I hope you have as much fun as I did with your Royal Enfield. My Classic 500 now has too many kilometers to take another big trip, but I still miss it…
      Merci Cory,
      J’espère que tu auras autant de plaisir que moi avec ta Royal Enfield. Ma Classic 500 a maintenant trop de kilomètres pour faire un nouveau grand voyage, mais je la regrette toujours un peu…


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