Monday, March 19, 2012

Royal Enfields look sooo cool, but should you buy one?

Older Royal Enfields don't just look old fashioned. They are old fashioned.
Should I buy a Royal Enfield motorcycle? One of the old ones? Or one of the new ones?

These questions keep popping into my mailbox. Here's one that's typical, from "Stu" in Pennsylvania, who is considering a 2009 Royal Enfield Electra:

"In my discussion with the salesman, he said that if I intended to ride it on weekends and not want to work on them, that I should not buy it. That the Royal Enfields need maintenance on a regular basis, even new ones. Spoke of oil problems. Also, said I would need a wrench on a regular basis to tighten up nuts as they become loose due to vibrations. Now, I planned on riding it occasionally in the spring/summers. I live in Pennsylvania and was looking forward to this. But I am not a mechanic, and the closest dealership is 200 miles away, so I would not be able to take it to them. The motorcycles seem sooo neat!!!!!!! I appreciate it if you let me know your opinion."

Dear Stu,

I am not a mechanic, and I have ridden my Royal Enfield Bullet 40,000 miles. Now. That being said, the motorcycle keeps trying to make a mechanic out of me. Little things demand attention: a screw disappears, so you find another one in your junk drawer and put it in. The horn bracket breaks (from vibration) so you find a piece of metal in the garage, drill a hole in it, and make a new horn bracket. The clutch cable breaks, so you order the part, disconnect the broken cable and connect the new one. The valves make a rattling noise, so you open up the little door, take the wrenches from the tool kit, and tighten the valve adjusters — but not too much. The motorcycle is hard to start one day, so you put in a new spark plug. Easy. You can do it. Little by little, you learn how to do a lot.

But. Is that what you wanted to do? Or did you want to just twist the key and go for a ride?

Dealers do their best to scare away riders who aren't willing to learn how to take care of the motorcycle because they know that most of us have been spoiled by the absolute bullet-proof reliability of Japanese products. They don't want you to be disappointed.

These days, people tend to think that if an appliance needs fixing or adjustment, it's a piece of junk. It didn't used to be like that. People used to think that an Electrolux vacuum or a General Electric toaster were better because you could fix them when they broke or wore out. They would last forever — if you kept repairing them. Today, you just throw them in the garbage and buy a new one at Target — it's cheaper than getting them fixed.

In fact, today they aren't made to be fixed. That's why you'll see a warning on the bottom of the electric mixer: "No customer serviceable parts inside."

The very newest Royal Enfields, with fuel injection, automatic adjusting valves and electronic ignition, need far less maintenance because they were designed in the modern era. But the motorcycle you are considering is a machine out of a time warp: roughly out of 1965. It is not just an old-fashioned looking motorcycle. It is an old-fashioned motorcycle.

That is the experience I wanted, and I got it, believe me! But if I wanted to go for a ride with my buddies on Harleys on the weekend with never a need for fiddling.... ummm. Last time I tried that, I was the only guy who had to walk back along the road to find the bit that fell off and put it back on. I didn't mind, of course. I expected it. I thought it was amusing. I was proud that I knew how to put it back on. But you might not find that so funny.

We love our Royal Enfields but we hate to disappoint you.


  1. Anonymous3/19/2012

    Blasco ,
    Very well put old chap , a good explanation of our Enfield insanity ,'deed so .
    [You aren't quite so dim as I thought you were].

    Your servant,
    Maj Bunty Golightly MBH ,Defender of the Kickstart .

  2. Sounds like that "salesman" didn't really WANT to sell a Royal Enfield...the PROS far outweigh the CONS...I love mine!

  3. Well said David - sums up owning a bike withy character perfectly!

  4. very well said, it makes me feel so proud when my RE brakes down in the middle of a highway and i am fixing her. It is amazing feeling, everytime you get to learn new thing, everytime you become more and more closer to know how she runs. A RE is a motorcycle that builds a relationship with its owner.


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