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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Will the new Classic divide Enfield riders?

The answer is "no." The new Royal Enfield Bullet Classic 500 will not divide Royal Enfield motorcyclists into two camps.

But why not? It is described as faster, more dependable and relatively maintenance free. Most parts will not interchange with older Bullets. It also is not the motorcycle that has been so famously produced virtually unchanged in India since 1955.

Some old-style Bullet owners could dismiss the new Classic as just another modern motorcycle. Classic owners could be prone to ignore the old thumpers falling behind in their rear-view mirrors.

Not going to happen, at least not in the United States. Royal Enfields of every age are so rare here that riders will do the fist bump when they meet. There will be a lot to admire in each other's bike. Stories to tell. Lies to swap.

One story: awhile back I was introduced to a fellow who had owned Royal Enfields back in the day. He cast a not-too-friendly eye on my 1999 Bullet. All I could think to ask was what his experience had been with Royal Enfields.

"Not too good," he allowed, still staring at my bike: "We always had trouble with the chain cases distorting and leaking."

Imagine! My elderly Bullet, with its "modern" cast alloy primary cover was a monumental improvement over the tin chain cases of pre-war Royal Enfields! I certainly felt like a spoiled poseur.

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