Regular readers will recall we’ve been painting northeast Kansas red-and-chrome with a 2005 Royal Enfield Bullet Deluxe, loaned to us by North American Enfield distributor Classic Motorworks, who’s pitching the Bullet as a “retro classic custom.” This spring we decided our Bullet was ready for some upgrades, so we thumbed through the parts book, ordered some goodies and started to fiddle and tweak.
Beefing up performance was top priority. To that end, we replaced the stock carburetor with a 30mm Amal MK2. The new carb kit costs $318 and includes an aluminum manifold, rubber inlet and cone-shaped performance air filter to replace the original airbox and filter. The conversion was straightforward, but the wider slide cap on the new unit rubbed up against the gas tank’s rear mounting bolt. Turning the bolt around gave us a little more room, but we still had to put a slight bend in the rubber inlet hose to make things fit. In conjunction with the shorty muffler we’d installed earlier in the year, the carb is a nice power enhancement. After the swap, associate editor Landon Hall cranked it up to 80 to pass both editor Backus on his Laverda and a Cadillac, nearly bringing tears to our eyes.
We were cosmetically compelled to dish the stock seat in favor of a deluxe solo perch ($199). Surprisingly, the seat is less comfortable than the original, and the stiff springs push you to an awkward forward lean. But nostalgia overrides comfort in this case, and on a deserted, dusty road with nothing but wheat and silos in sight, it feels like 1955 is back again.
We also added a chrome distributor cap ($7.95) and replaced the stock mirrors with chrome bar end units ($15.95 each), which are sweet, though they tend to move around a bit due to the thumper’s considerable vibration. Overall, it’s still a blast around town and a little more punchy at a green light, and we like how she cleans up. Our main complaint thus far is the seeping head gasket (with just over of 1,100 miles on the counter). We can’t figure out if we should be concerned or if Royal Enfield is just that good at re-creating the classic British bike experience. — Andrew Perkins
Fun, but can it be a commuter?Until recently, I’d limited my rides on the Enfield to short jaunts around town, so I decided to see what it’s like to live with the 500 Bullet as a daily rider.
My daily commute covers 60 miles, most of it via secondary back roads, and a couple weeks of riding the Enfield proved a few basic points.
First, it’s relatively frugal, returning about 55mpg. Second, the new Amal carb has transformed the Bullet. It fires up instantly, settles into an idle quickly, and responds crisply to twists of the wrist. It’s no powerhouse, and never will be, but it seems vastly more inclined to get out of its own way than it used to. Third, as Perkins noted, the solo saddle looks cool, but it’s too firm. I find it downright uncomfortable. Fourth, the Bullet was made for the back roads. In the brief sections where I have to share the road with metal boxes hustling along at an average of 70mph, the Bullet is out of its element. It’ll do it, but it’s hardly big fun. But get it on a lonely black top, puttering along at 50-55mph, and it’s lovely. The exhaust note is quite audible, the single-cylinder pumping out a melodic tune through the shorty muffler.
Better yet is how it works for short jaunts around town, where it’s the perfect bike for running quick errands or making the scene at the local brewpub. It’s a nimble handler that corners well and is easy to maneuver. I love the exhaust note, and you can’t believe how many thumbs up and smiles the bike gets from riders and non-riders alike. Whether they know it’s new or not, everyone notices the Enfield.
It may not be fast, and we’re a little concerned about the oil leak at the head gasket, but its old-school charm is so complete it’s easy to forget any of its shortcomings and just go out for a ride.