“The Enfield Bullet is a bucket of bolts with all the personality of a wheelbarrow.”
What I find most amusing (as a one time Bullet owner in the 90’s) is there are people who will actually pay top rupees for a bucket of bolts like the “Royal” Enfield. Considering it’s built by a company that has no clue how to build a motorcycle, only a genuine fanatic would part with his money for this rubbish. Its actually more of a farmers crop sprayer on two wheels.
OK, on a more forgiving note, it’s just a lovable antique that transports you to more happier, simpler times – but don’t forget to bring tools. Here’s a bike that can switch off the grin as fast as it switches it on.
As you must have figured by now, I’m not a hardcore loyalist, but a realist – aware that the word primitive comes from the Latin word ‘primivitus’ – meaning first of its kind. Quite frankly, to me the Bullet is old and has all the personality of a wheelbarrow. It’s really not meant for a real-world trips and is just a weekend warrior’s idea (i.e. a run to the shops and back) of dealing with his mid-life crisis.
Why Enfield Bullet?
1. You’re a cop.
2. You’re a milkman.
3. You want to be a cop or a milkman.
4. None of the above? OK, then you’re a middle aged chap with the time and discretionary income to recreate the bike you had—or wished you had—in your younger years.
What’s wrong with the bike.
It’s not reliable. It’s extremely thirsty, lacks range, unjustifiably heavy, bad electrics, bad rear drum brakes, chrome-sprayed, lacks detailing (bolts don’t have washers to prevent paint from scratching), bad weld finishing, lots of vibration, very noisy, mechanically suspect and usually ridden by nostalgic gits.
Riding at a sedate 65 has you in the meat of the clip-on bars’ vibration zone, which feels like a nice vibra-massage at first but can grow annoying over a distance as you feel the piston’s oscillations up the spine and into your brain.
Also beware of the plenty of false neutrals between gears. And then there’s the decompressor in some older models.
Another very unique Bullet feature is the signature puddle of oil it leaves behind on the ground. A sort of slow bleed to death.
It was first produced in 1933. That makes the Bullet the oldest motorcycle in the world in continuous production. Something along the lines of the ‘classic’ Ambassador car. And we know what became of that.
In 1967, the original British Royal Enfield company closed its plant for good in Redditch, England. But by then, its subsidiary in India had already been stamping out Bullets for years, for use not only by the Indian police and military, but for civilians (mainly farmers and thugs) as well.
Since the 50’s, there have been 3 styles of Enfields.
1. The Royal Enfield Cast Iron (CI) Engine – 4 speed gear box with left side brake peddle, a very simple design that had a bad reputation for crap quality control, inconsistant metalurgy and questionable castings. However, it’s only these pre-1985 engines that can provide the classic Bullet Thump and famous low-end torque. Also, its CB (contact breaker) points knocked less at low speeds than the new TCI (transistor controlled ignition) ones.
2. An interim all-aluminium engine called the AVL (lean burn) from Austria. Despite looking similar to the CI engine, the AVL had a 5-speed transmission, electronic ignition, electric start and an efficient geared oil pump.
3. The new Unit Construction Engine (UCE) is the modern single unit found today. It’s more powerful, more fuel efficient, with better oil circulation (rotary pump), hydraulic tappets, auto decompression, better big-end bearings, fuel injection, hydraulic valve lifters and so on. Even the company warranty reflects this. They offer a 40,000 kilometer/two year warranty on UCE bullets while they used to offer only 10,000 km/1 year warranty on the Cast iron and AVL engines. But the cost you have to pay for all this so-called technology is the lack of the famous Bullet “Thump”. A sound which must never be confused with the dull, lacklustre sound of an Enfield owners brains thumping around in his empty head.
Even Harley Davidson agrees its owners are wierd.
Harley Davidson, one of the most sacred brands imagined admit their bikes are wierd. The company CMO Mark-Hans Richer noted that a Harley “might have an engine, it might have wheels, and it might run on roads” but “we’re really not about transportation; it’s not about getting from Point A to Point B. It’s about living life in the way you choose.”
But there’s still some hope.
The Enfield Continental.
The new RE Continental GT racer – proof that Enfield is desperately trying to change its’bucket-of-bolts’ image.
Taking its inspiration from the café racing scene of the Sixties, Enfield has launched its vintage-look 535cc Continental GT model. This new Royal Enfield carries forward no parts from the original Bullet. Okay, almost no parts: Bolted solidly in four places in the Continental GT’s engine bay is the same old unit-construction EFI Bullet Single, punched out to 535cc (87.0 x 90.0mm) and now powering a lovely little Continental GT with a steel frame designed by Harris Performance, beautiful new bodywork courtesy of Xenophya Design (both U.K. companies), brakes from Brembo, alloy Excel rims with fat spokes, Paioli gas charged shock absorbers and Pirelli Sport Demon tyres, 41mm fork tubes and all the right “café racer” design elements. The red paint, thanks to the new paint shop in the new factory, looks very nice, though the silver metalflake applied to the triple-clamps and fork sliders isn’t exactly period correct.
Keihin carbs, Desno alternator, Austrian gears and Brembo brakes as mementioned earlier. Even here, the injection mapping isn’t great; but once rolling, they say there’s good torque down around 2000 to 3000 rpm.
And then there’s the URAL from Russia.
Looking for a real retro bike, check out the Ural ST motorcycle from Russia.
To sum up, Enfields are expensive, inefficient and unreliable compared to the new powerful bikes available on the roads these days. But if you’re longing for some nostalgia and some “thump” between the legs – then this bike could be all you ever need.