|My 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet, how I love it.|
It's not true. New Royal Enfields shift on the left, the international standard. But there are some who wouldn't have minded if the story had been true. These same fans of the brand would like the iron barrel back, too, and the separate gearbox with neutral finder.
No Unit Constructed Engine (UCE) and front disk brake for them.
The topic of the good old days vs. compromise with modern times was intelligently explored in 2012 on the Ace Performance Bullets Yahoo Group.
"Kris" opened the conversation with this:
"It surprises me that there seems to be an interest for the new UCE Enfield in the West. I can understand in India, where the choice of bikes is sparse. But why would one buy a UCE Enfield in the West? It is no longer an Enfield, but a totally new design. It does not have at all the feel that one gets when driving a real classic engine. On the other hand, it is much poorer quality than modern bikes. Why not buy just a good Japanese bike instead?"
My own answer:
"Kris, I am far less qualified than others on this forum to respond, except to point out that any motor vehicle purchase past an economy car is an emotional purchase. I have a 1999 Bullet and love it, but my test runs on a new C5 UCE definitely made me feel that the company hasn't 'lost' it.
"It's still a single-cylineder, pushrod, slow turning, low compression motorcycle that (except for a few built without a kicker) I can kick start. Still slow enough to encourage me to stay off the Interstate. Upright seating... well, it goes on an on. My point is, the Bullet is still the fastest way back to 1955 you can buy in America with a warranty. If that is the trip you have planned, it's the best choice."
Kris asked why Royal Enfield didn't just modify the Bullet "with soul" to meet emission requirements, without making it modern. His guess:
"There are no enthusiasts there, just a bunch of old guys trying to make money."
And make money they do, as the new UCE Royal Enfields have proven immensely popular in India.
"Vivek" wrote a long post explaining how, with modern touches and vastly reduced maintenance, the UCE hit a sweet spot in the market. "That means they are doing something right, in terms of getting customers."
"Rattan" rejected the argument that "if it sells it must be good."
"I love the Enfield Bullet for what it stands for," he wrote. "An Iron Dinosaur that made it through the Ice Age. And going by the current prices for the 'standard' Bullet in the used bike market in India, I believe a significant number of enthusiasts agree."
Vivek, in fact, is one of those.
"Someday when Royal Enfield is rich enough, I hope they bring back the old school Enfield, but that's a long shot. My strategy is to get rich and acquire as many of those as it would take to ride out my life. As long as I have a frame and a crankcase, I'm all set!"