Riding the 2005 Royal Enfield Bullet

Test riding the new Royal Enfield Bullet proves time-travel is possible

| November/December 2005

  • Royal treat: Motorcycle Classics' 2005 Royal Enfield Bullet test bike
    Royal treat: Motorcycle Classics' 2005 Royal Enfield Bullet test bike.

  • Royal treat: Motorcycle Classics' 2005 Royal Enfield Bullet test bike

In late July, Motorcycle Classics took delivery of a 2005 Royal Enfield Bullet for a six-month test. The bike was provided by Minnesota-based Classic Motorworks, the United States distributor for Royal Enfield, and was set up by Vespa Kansas City. Here’s an update on our staff’s long-term test.

Richard Backus, editor-in-chief: Whoever says you can’t go back in time hasn’t ridden a new Royal Enfield. Slow, quirky, and displaying some questionable quality issues, the Enfield Bullet is nevertheless a gas to ride, and an instant reminder of just how far bikes have come since the Fifties.

True, this bike does have an electric starter and a five-speed transmission, features unheard of when the Madras factory in India first started churning out Bullets in 1955, but other than that it’s an absolute time capsule. From its lavish use of chrome (at least on our Deluxe model) to its rich, deep-red paint, our Bullet looks every bit the proper British single-cylinder. Which makes sense, of course, given the original Bullet was designed, manufactured and sold in England in 1949.

In spite of its relative lack of power (or maybe because of it), riding the Bullet is a blast. It’s light, agile and easy to handle, and other riders can’t help but notice it, unsure if it’s a super-clean resto or perfect original classic. Riding down Main Street in Sturgis, S.D., at this year’s Blackhills rally, the Bullet elicited more smiles and thumbs up than the thousands of hogs packed around me.

At $4,795 our Deluxe represents affordable transportation, made even more affordable thanks to the 70 miles it returns for every precious gallon of gas we put into its tank.

We haven’t put enough miles on yet to know how our Bullet will stand up over the long term, but so far we’ve experienced a stubborn choke lever, a sticking carburetor float needle and an occasionally sticking throttle grip. Minor annoyances, really, serving only to further my memories of years of riding old British iron, and making the Bullet that much more endearing.

2/21/2020 12:14:21 PM

The Iron Barrel Bullets are an excellent entry point for the aspiring vintage machine owner. Parts are readily available as there was literally a 50 year model run, and there are millions of these still in India. As an enthusiast raised on Japanese machinery, I enjoy the affordable opportunity offered by these machines to explore the riding experience of my father and his generation. Unless you are restoring a 50's era machine, there is also no reason to not customize one of these to suit your own tastes. My I.B. sports an LED headlight, tail light, turn signals, a single seat and 3.50 x 19 K70 Dunlops front & rear. I am converting it back to right side shift, and have been amazed by the antediluvian mechanical intricacies of the shift internals. The kickstart mechanism has required new pawls & a "gear wheel", probably from the last 7000 miles of Japanese bike trained owners learning about kick starting a big "Brit" single the hard way. At 7000 miles the rings are done in, so I am planning on finally installing that alloy barrel & new piston I bought from Hitchcocks last year. The Bullet requires you to participate in it's innards, just like it's 1940's contemporaries, but does it at an affordable & achievable level. Fiddling with it's bits is part of the allure; if you find you don't like wrenching, the Bullet will allow you that bit of self-discovery without killing your bank account. For myself, tweaking the valve lash & adjusting the points ( in 2020! ) and sensing for other impending flaws, just the same as our forebears did in the "wayback", is part of the enjoyment of the experience. I enjoy making this old bike work well within it's operating 22 BHP window. It chuffs along happily enough at 55-60 MPH on flat ground. It is flickable in the corners even by today's standards, very pleasantly carving twisty backroad corners at 25 - 45 MPH. I enjoy the very slow idle speed, very much in stationary engine territory, and that heavy flywheel and 6.5/1 compression ratio allows it to "plonk" around without stalling at ridiculously low speeds - a revelation to those of us brought up on Japanese iron. If you've been thinking about trying a classic bike just get yourself a used Iron Barre and a copy of the Snidal Bullet manual and join in the fun.

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