The legendary Bullet gets a makeover to keep up with the times and we were excited to take it back to a part of the world where it was born to ride and do our extensive Royal Enfield 500 Review.
The oldest memory of me as a child and being around a motorcycle goes back to the early 90s. I must have been around 8 or 9 years of age and I remember that there was a big motorcycle parked at the back of my driveway. It had belonged to my cousin from Lucknow and for some reason he left it in Delhi. It just sat back there and suffered the ills of time. The person who sat on it the most was probably me as I climbed on top of it and visualized my imaginary adventures while shooting at bad guys chasing me. The bike was indeed a Royal Enfield Bullet, much the same as the bike I rode recently through the lower hills of the Himalayan mountain range. As a matter of fact, the Bullet marque is also a lot older than me as it has been in production for more than 75 years, making it the longest continuous production run of any motorcycle on the planet.
The Bullet is also an icon – it is the stuff that legends are made of. In India the Bullet has been at the forefront of every motorcyclist’s dream, and anyone and everyone can connect their motorcycling memories with this heroic motorcycle – much like I can. Royal Enfield is not about to give up on the Bullet and so they decided to give it a new lease on life. The Bullet has just gotten some fresh updates that will prolong its story in the Indian motorcycling community. The biggest change is the larger 500cc UCE engine that is borrowed from the Classic Royal Enfield Bullet 500 – the same engine that has shown us Royal Enfield’s growing engineering prowess. It is a rather nice engine with good amounts of power and, as confirmed by our Royal Enfield 500 Review, it works well on the new Royal Enfield Bullet 500.
Aesthetically the new Bullet has gotten some upgrades as well, and once again most of them have been taken down from the Classic Royal Enfield Bullet 500. The tyres, the suspension, the front disc brake, halogen headlight and taillight are all borrowed from the Classic Royal Enfield Bullet 500, while the only thing that stays true to the original Bullet design is the teardrop shaped fuel tank, straight exhaust and the handlebars. On a closer inspection you may notice the newly designed winged RE badge on the fuel tank, 19-inch wheels, and a new seat with a pillion grab rail. I think it’s about time that Royal Enfield put some modern advances into work and improved this legendary motorcycle.
The bike we had for our Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Review was quite a beast on the road. The single downtube chassis is typical RE and the bike holds well together on this. The Royal Enfield Bullet 500cc engine has been tuned to be more efficient, and because of this, power now stands at 26bhp – 1bhp less than the Classic Royal Enfield Bullet 500 – and there is also 41Nm of torque. The engine does very well and power delivery is linear and smooth, however on the highway once you go past 90km/h you can feel the pistons moving as fast as they possibly can, and the engine really doesn’t like to be taken over 100km/h. I had started my journey very late and tried my best to push the Bullet to its limits, but as I reached 110km/h it felt as if the engine would blow and I ended up just burning all my fuel.
The 5-speed transmission mated to the Royal Enfield Bullet 500cc engine works well and gear changes are smooth, but the gear lever is a bit oddly placed and it sticks out away from the body of the motorcycle more than I liked. On some occasions I had problems downshifting, but it was just a matter of getting use to the positioning. Speaking of positions, the riding position is very comfortable. You sit upright with your feet placed comfortably in front of you and the handlebars are stretched out enough for you to feel very relaxed. The seat was also surprisingly comfortable and there is a tiny dip that acts as a lower backrest. The ergonomics are nice and easy to adapt to, and the instrument panel continues to be as ‘old-school’ as ever.
Once I hit the lower foothills of Rishikesh, the Bullet showed its true colours. The trademark loud thumping engine gives you good boosts of power and going up the steep curvy roads was a gratifying experience as the Bullet is also very easy to handle – you can take on sharp turns with speed and lean through an entire hairpin bend, then downshift to second and you’re off like a bullet. It really was a joyous experience. The front disc brake works decently well, but the rear drum needs to be seriously improved. The suspension is typical RE so you can’t expect a smooth ride on every kind of terrain and the vibrations from the bike can take a toll on your body after a long journey.
The new Royal Enfield Bullet 500 is a good and a long awaited improvement. The bike does have its strong points, but it still has some issues as well. The main issue RE should address is the quality of their fit and finishing and further refinement of their engines, just like they did with the Thunderbird 500. RE claims that their motorcycles are built like a Gun, but for some reason they always seem to be falling apart. The main reason could be that they are trying to blend new-age materials with components that have been unchanged for decades, and that just shows they still have quality issues. Nonetheless the brand remains strong and their motorcycles are still tough in their own right – and you still won’t meet a motorcycle enthusiast who doesn’t have a secret crush on Royal Enfield.