Even today I fail to understand why the Royal Enfield
Bullet continues to be the most loved motorcycle in the country. So much so
that even today mass psychology dictates that the Bullet separates the men from
the boys. I personally am surrounded by Bullet aficionados, be it my Dad, my
Ed, my big brother, my senior photographer, even my mother is a fan to this
world war relic.
And now there is a new Bullet 500 which I was asked to
test ride. I have ridden Bullets in the past and to be honest, I enjoyed them.
But I always wondered what is that ‘connection’ Bulleteers always talk about.
My earliest memory with the Bullet lies ages ago when my dad used to take me
along for rides on his 1983 Bullet 350. Then I got to ride some a few years
back and came back from the ride pleased, not charmed.
THE WAY IT LOOKS
The design is typically old school Bullet with subtle
modern touches. The signature Tiger headlamp and the saddle design and the
handlebars all look right in place on the Bullet. Another design feature that
has been retained is the pin striping on the tank with the Royal Enfield logo
in it. Modern touches include the addition of the 280mm ventilated disc brake
at the front and the new MRF Zapper tyres. Also the rear grab rail now gets
cushioning for the pillion comfort. That said the seats are fairly comfortable,
perhaps the most comfortable on a Bullet yet.
Another styling touch is the chrome plated rearview
mirrors which look brilliant. However when it comes to function they fail as
they vibrate and become useless as mirrors. But the best change is the new
Forest Green paint on the Bullet which adds huge old-school charm to this retro
motorcycle. All this combination of the old and the new add up to make the
Bullet 500 a fantastic looking thing.
THE WAY IT GOES
Herein lies the biggest change. Royal Enfield has
replaced the classic iron block with the new Unit Construction Engine (UCE).
The new Twinspark engine displaces 499cc and pumps out 26.1bhp of maximum
power. That does not sound much but the torque figure is an impressive 40.9Nm.
The Bullet 500 now only comes with a carburettor, be it domestic or global
markets. This does provide minutely less power and torque than the
fuel-injected version, but the performance is same on tarmac.
Crank up the engine, slot it in gear and gently slide
through the gearbox, the thrust is addictive. You never get bored of the
mid-range torque this slow revving engine provides. It is very relaxed and calm
till 70-80kmph. You can push it to 130kmph but the engine dislikes it. Our
recommendation is to keep it near the sweet spot and reap the benefits. Despite
a kerb weight of 193kg the handling is quite impressive. The motorcycle is
stable through bends and in fact likes to be thrown into, but you have to have
muscles to wrestle its weight to your desire.
The MRF tyres perform very well on the Bullet 500 and
play a vital role in the motorcycle’s stability and handling. The only let down
is the braking. Despite having a 280mm disc up front, there is no feel or
progression as expected. Make no mistake, the brakes work fine, but just that
it needs more bite than there is.
Well my ride is over. It feels good to have spent a
couple of days riding an icon on whose tank I spent my childhood on. If I were
an aficionado I would say, and most of them would agree with me, some of that
ancient charm is missing from the new one in exchange for some much needed sophistication.
As a motorcyclist, I would say the new Bullet 500 is a very capable
mile-muncher. It just feels a bit better than all other motorcycles on the
road, more mature, more accomplished. You feel like you have graduated from
being a boy racer to an admirer of motorcycling. You have found freedom! As for
me, I am still a boy racer back on my screaming parallel twin.
2013 ROYAL ENFIELD BULLET 500 SPECIFICATIONS
single cylinder, Twinspark, air-cooled
Brake: Front/ Rear
Fuel Tank Capacity
Tyres: Front/ Rear
130mm travel/Twin Gas charged shock absorbers, 80mm travel
Disc / Expanding Drum
R19 120/80 R18
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