Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hello Royal Enfield Bullet 500

Tonight I picked up my new bike. As you know, last week over a 24hr period I suddenly decided to sell my SR500 after five years of passionate ownership and a friend shot me the cash, and I began looking around for some British iron. Now, I wanted the Brit bike experience, but it is more important for me to ride than to show off my authentic iron, so something which struck me as a very sensible option was to buy one of the British-designed Indian Royal Enfields for which all parts are easily and cheaply available (madly so!), as are English-made superior after-market critical engine parts.

An Enfield Club member had a 1995 Bullet for sale, an Enfield model which, aside from 12V electrics and indicators, is exactly the 1955 model. He was selling it for the price I got for my SR, so we did the deal.

Here 'tis:

For anybody who doesn't know the wonderful story, in the early 1950s Royal Enfield of England became overwhelmed with orders for their Bullet from India, and so made a deal with Madras Motors to set up a factory in Madras to produce the Bullet. Madras Motors kept on building the 1955 model, even though the English model changed in aspects of its design until its end of production in 1962 (the model had began in 1932), and when Royal Enfield shut shop in 1970 the story continued in India where they just kept making the 1955 model with almost no changes (until they experimented with some alternative models a decade back, and then a few years ago ceased production of the tradition Bullet for a new unit construction engined Bullet), and this applies to me new bike - it is the iron barrel 1955-year model.

Some aspects of the bike: My model has the traditional system with the foot levers back to front and upside down compared to a Japanese bike. That was a bit scary tonight as I rolled off the footpath in between two stationary cars at the lights, with my habitual act of using the foot brake for stopping...but try as I might to punch down, the gear change lever at my right foot did not stop the bike! I managed to avoiding rear-end the car by use of my boots. I have to get used to a British bike.  The brakes are interesting -- you plan ahead. There is no neutral light, but there is a neutral finder lever on which I stomp down (all foot lever work is done in stomps) and it puts the bike in neutral regardless of what gear it was in. If you want to accelerate but you are in too high a gear it doesn't matter - you open the throttle and the bike just pulsates and pulls away, with no chain snatch. It is quite unbelievably balanced and nimble. You just have to be mindful of the rigid footpegs. The headlight gives the beam of a miner's candle. But the kickstarting is quite easy compared to a big Japanese single.

The fellows in the RE club know nothing about the internals of the engine, but another Bulleteer whom I already know, and who has done about 120,000km on his Bullet and who used to be an Enfield mechanic, has ridden it for the last six months and has found it good. At any rate the blokes in the club are very actively engaged in helping fellow members.

Here's my old SR alongside a couple of Bullets:

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