Riding the 2010 Royal Enfield Bullet Classic C5

The classic Bullet gets a significant makeover.

| May/June 2011

2010 Royal Enfield Bullet Classic C5
Claimed power:
27.5hp @ 5,250rpm
Top speed: 80mph
Engine: 499cc OHV air-cooled vertical single
Weight (wet): 412lb (187kg)
Price: $6,395 ($6,695 Calif.)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 3.6gal (13.5ltr)/65mpg (observed)

From a distance, there’s not much to separate a new Royal Enfield Bullet Classic C5 from the Royal Enfield Bullet Deluxe we tested in 2005. The visual checklist includes the signature vertical single cylinder engine, spoked wheels, a richly painted gas tank with rubber knee pad inserts, a sprung solo saddle, and the cool headlamp nacelle with its little marker lights on either side. But then you look a little closer, and the differences between this bike and any Enfield that came before start coming into focus.

The fact that the new C5 looks like the earlier Bullet Deluxe is entirely intentional, of course. India-based Royal Enfield has made its fortunes in the U.S. and Europe precisely because of the vintage appeal of its bikes. That appeal, however, wasn’t by design — at least not initially.

Royal Enfield India didn’t go into business to make retro bikes, it just sort of turned out that way. The company’s roots go back to the mid-1950s, when the Indian government started ordering British-built 350cc Royal Enfield Bullets for police and army duty. Thanks to their rugged simplicity and frugal nature, the Enfield Bullets became very popular in India, so in 1955 Madras Motors struck a deal to buy 800 350cc Bullets in unassembled “knockdown” form, ship them from England and assemble and sell them in India. That deal eventually led to the manufacture of parts, and by 1962 the manufacture of complete Royal Enfields in India.

Ironically, although Royal Enfield in England folded in 1971, unable to compete in a rapidly changing world market, Enfield India (it didn’t acquire the rights to the name “Royal Enfield” until 1995) continued churning out single-cylinder Bullets. The forces that caused Royal Enfield’s collapse in England were irrelevant to Enfield India, because the Indian Enfields were 100 percent home-market products.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s, and Enfield India started to capitalize on a growing market for retro-themed motorcycles, creating an export arm and shipping bikes to the U.K., Canada and the U.S. Although export Enfields received mild upgrades like 12-volt electrics, a better seat and better brakes, they were still pretty much identical to the bikes that Enfield India had been making since 1962.

4/14/2011 6:32:56 PM

I had an '02 Bullet 500ES for a couple years. It had belonged to my dad who purchased it because it reminded him of the GoldStar he road in the 60's. While I did have the sprag clutch crap out on me. I replaced it myself without too much trouble. Two simple upgrades solved any starting issues: first, I upgraded from points to a simple (under $100) electronic ignition available from the fine folks at Enfield USA (www.nfieldgear.com, hi Kevin) and second, I upgraded to a sealed battery (again from Enfield USA). Under $150 all together and after that a short push of the starter button or one kick started it every time. I sold it in 2008 and still wish I hadn't. It wasn't a highway bike, but around town and on the 2-lanes it was magic. If you want a simple, inexpensive, fun to ride bike you absolutely can't go wrong with an Enfield.

bike on highway

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