Friday, August 10, 2018

Can a charging Bullet meet an epic challenge?

The Charging Bullet being prepared to run from Land's End to John O'Groats.
The notion of charging from one end of Britain to the other is probably as old as the notion of riding motorcycles in Britain. The ride from Land's End to John O'Groats became "a thing" in the early years of the 20th Century.

Royal Enfield accepted the challenge in 1964 when it introduced the original Continental GT cafe racer. Royal Enfield of India repeated the feat in 2014 when it introduced the then new Continental GT 535.

Now comes a fellow who wants to do it on an old Royal Enfield Bullet, powered by batteries.

Fred Spaven is a mechanical engineer who restores and modifies classic cars and motorcycles at Spaven Engineering in Hereford, UK.

After a test ride on a Zero electric motorcycle he decided to create his own. He already owned a battered 1961 Indian-made Royal Enfield Bullet. In an article he wrote in Vintage & Classic Motorcycle magazine, he explained why this made sense to him:

Battered and rusty, this original 350cc Bullet has been resurrected as an electric.
"So I thought about my commuting problem, my love of classic bikes and my half-restored Enfield, and I decided that the only solution is to build an electric motorcycle myself. Modern efficiency in a vintage frame..."

Friend and film maker Fin Varney offered to document the process, but only if some "challenge" was introduced. A Google search showed there are enough public charging points to ride all the way from Land's End to John O'Groats.

So, that's settled. They plan to depart from Land's End around Oct. 8.

Fred and Fin call their project the "Charging Bullet."

There's a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to pay for the project. Its FAQ section answers the question "Did you notice you are using KICKSTARTER to start an electric bike project?" These boys are not approaching the challenge without a sense of humor.

Fred Spaven test rides the Charging Bullet.
Their off-the-beaten-path route is a journey of 1,200 miles. To do it the electric Bullet will need more than the originally planned 12 Nissan Leaf batteries. Panniers will be added to carry an extra six.

A Lynch electric motor will produce 21 bhp, more than the (supposedly) 18 bhp offered by the Royal Enfield's original 350cc gasoline engine. The Charging Bullet will be geared for 55-60 mph (direct drive = no gearbox).

Even so, with stops for charging and filming, and speed limited to extend the range (maybe 75 miles with all 18 batteries), they expect to be traveling for three weeks!

Fred answered some of my questions in an email. For instance, why the Royal Enfield Bullet?

"The bike was chosen as it's a simple, open frame with plenty of uncluttered space for battery boxes, and cycle parts are readily available from India. Plus, the faster you ride, the shorter the range so it made sense to go for a 'B-road' machine, rather than something you'd want to do 100 mph on!

"The bike will have regenerative braking; as you roll off the throttle it will simulate engine braking and recharge the batteries. That said, regen doesn't improve range much on a naked bike due to the high drag-to-weight ratio; it makes a much bigger difference on something heavy and slippery like a car."

If you'd like to support the notion of an electric Bullet don't delay — go to the Charging Bullet's Kickstarter page. The goal is high and unless it's reached by Sept. 21 it will not be funded and your money is returned.


  1. Hi David! I signed up as a supporter and gave them some money!
    This is a fun project!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.


Follow royalenfields on Twitter