Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Will the 650 twins spoil you for your old Royal Enfield?

Two photographers take photos of two motorcycles on a cliff top.
Photographers capture the new Royal Enfield twins on the coast of California.
The other day I had a new experience thousands of people in India are about to have. I went out to ride my 1999 Royal Enfield Bullet, with its classic retro styling, 500cc single-cylinder motor, crunchy four-speed gearbox and drum brakes.

Nothing unusual in all that. What is unusual was this was my first ride on my own Royal Enfield Bullet since riding the new Royal Enfield 650 twins at the U.S. launch in California.

Obviously, I couldn't help but compare and obviously, too, my old iron-barrel Bullet would suffer by that comparison.

And how.

You can imagine for yourself the vibration of the 500cc single compared to the turbine smooth 650 twin of the new motorcycles. You can imagine how much more slowly I would travel on my 20-year-old Bullet and how much more careful I would have to be about braking in time to stop.

Most American riders will not be able to appreciate how far Royal Enfield has come since 1999 because most Americans have never ridden a vintage Bullet. But plenty of people in India know what it's like. This was the motorcycle India continued to build, while leaving it largely unchanged, since 1955.

Indeed, one of the things I like about my old Royal Enfield is how it shows me what riders of 1955 had to put up with. My motorcycle not only looks vintage it is vintage. Kick start is not a back-up for electric start on this bike. It is the only way to start it.

The new Royal Enfield INT650 and Continental GT 650 are modern motorcycles, with overhead cam, four valves per cylinder, six-speed gearboxes and anti-lock brakes. They look a lot like the British motorcycles of the 1960s, but they are vastly superior to them.

Motor writers who rode the new Royal Enfields in California liked them. Probably, when they get to India, so will the many thousands of Royal Enfield fans there. They are in for a treat.

As for me, instead of riding my Bullet on the glorious coastal mountain roads of California, where I experienced the new 650 twins, I was on the rush-hour city streets of urban Florida.

It wasn't fair to the old Bullet.

So I don't know yet. Will I learn to be satisfied once again with the Bullet?

We'll see.


  1. The attraction of the older, single cylinder Bullets for me is that they remind me of my Redditch Bullets of the 1960's and I love the steady beat of a big single.

    The new Enfield twins will have to compete with other modern makes. They won't be for me, in spite of their perceived excellence, because I have never, in 65 years of motorcycling, been able to take to vertical twins and never owned one. (Although I kept a BMW R100 flat twin for 27 years)

  2. My 57 year old Interceptor will suffer in comparison but that is ok because riding the old lump is only part of the fun. The other part is the glorious morning fettling the many adjustable components, my new splined clutch, brakes, trying new sealants to quell the leaks, and even a rebore with new pistons.
    None of that with the new Interceptors. Heck the new one will be like my current appliance, the W650. Nothing much you can do to it either.

  3. Nah... I've got a Fireball!


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