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.

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