Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Can an Enfield be both "New" and "Classic"

I've found myself referring time and again on this blog to the "new Royal Enfield Bullet Classic 500." Well, how would you describe it?

It is certainly new, at least compared to the Bullet produced since 1955 in India. Like the original Bullet from India, this new product is a 500cc, single-cylinder two-wheeler made in India that looks like it is straight out of the 1950s. Royal Enfield says that great effort has gone into preserving the famous "thump" of the big single.

Otherwise, everything has been updated.Motor and transmission (now a five-speed) are in one unit. There is fuel injection, electronic ignition, pushrods that never need adjustment and a front disc brake. The frame is improved, the bodywork has gone to beauty school and an attractive silencer is, at least, optional.

Those who have ridden it say it is faster (relatively) and pleasant.

But is it a classic?The original Indian Bullet was built with little change, faithfully, for 50 years, because there was no reason to change it. The world changed however, becoming more concerned about safety and emissions, and India is fast catching up with the world.

Probably the Bullet had to change, too. If it was going to change, Royal Enfield seemed determined that it would change for the better. That is worthy of applause.

This much is true, however. The new Bullet 500 Classic is not an authentic motorcycle from 1955 that someone forgot to quit building. It is a motorcycle from 2009 with classic looks and classic sound. Close your eyes (briefly!) as you ride and you may well imagine it is 1955 still.

That may be just what you're looking for.

The photo above is from the Cycle World review of the new Bullet Classic 500. Click here to read it.


  1. Anonymous2/11/2009

    without the change to Euro 3 and next year to Euro 4 they wouldn't have a bike to sell in Europe from now on. Last year in 2008 the german importer had to apply for an exceptional permission from the Federal Motor Transport Authority of Germany to continue selling tho old RE's with only Euro 2 to keep the brand and its dealers on the market. But it was only granted for the bikes they still had in stock. No new imports without Euro 3 were allowed into Germany from 2008 onwards.
    The upswept exhaust as can be seen in the pic above is not allowed in Germany because it has no catalytic converter in it. The exhaust system as a whole has to be kept functionaly under Euro 4 compliance otherwise the bike is not road legal and will loose its MOT approval. There are police officers trained to identify such changes and they will act on this immediately. The driver of such a bike will face legal charges and the bike will be kept off road until its changed back to MOT approval. You can't even ride it home anymore. You'll have to call a tow truck.

  2. Thank you for a very comprehensive and interesting comment. Active enforcement of motorcycle noise and pollution standards is the exception in the U.S. Perhaps it is because so many of our police officers are motorcycle enthusiasts. More likely, the fact that motorcycles are such a tiny proportion of road traffic makes enforcement not a priority. Communities seem more concerned about big trucks and frequently post signs prohibiting noisy engine braking (except in an emergency!). I have been ticketed while riding my bicycle (intersection violation) but never riding my Bullet.


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