Royal Enfield Bullet Classic Chrome and entry-level Bullet 500 review

Author: Geoff Hill Posted: 25 Jul 2013

Royal Enfield Chrome Classic

I think in my former life I must have been a dog.

You see, a dog’s diary goes something like this:

8 am - Dog food! My favourite thing!

 9 am - A car ride! My favourite thing!
 10 am - A walk in the park! My favourite thing! 
 1 pm - Played in the yard! My favourite thing!
 3 pm - Wagged my tail! My favourite thing!
 5 pm - Dinner! My favourite thing!
 7pm – Chasing a ball! My favourite thing!
 8 pm - Watching TV with the family! My favourite thing!
11 pm - Sleeping on the bed! My favourite thing!

Well, substitute Royal Enfield Bullet, Harley Road King, Triumph Thruxton, Moto Guzzi V7 Cafe Racer, Norton 916, Ducati Diavel and a list of other bikes, and that’s me there in the background, wagging my tail.

Still, looking at the Royal Enfield Bullet Classic Chrome glittering in the sun, I could see why I come over all funny at the beauty of some motorbikes. For £4,999, not much more than a bland Japanese runabout, you get a work of art, with the chrome tank, mudguards and air box covers counterpointed exquisitely by deep red details and gold pinstriping.

The brown leather solo seat and the care taken in polishing the engine cases to a deep burnished glow all evoke a time when manufacturers took pride in what is today seen as an almost impossible luxury; taking the time to do things properly.

The good news is that these days you can have the pleasure of a classic without the pain of constant fettling; for lurking under that beautiful surface is a fuel-injected unit construction engine and gearbox with hydraulically operated pushrods, a wet multiplate clutch and a catalytic converter lurking inside the chrome silencer.

And although there is a working kick-start for verisimilitude, an electric starter brings the long-stroke single cylinder thudding evocatively into life just as well.

The power is now a useful 28bhp instead of 22bhp, and the build quality of engine and bike so good that you can actually proceed all the way to a top speed of 85mph without fear and trembling in your heart that at any moment assorted bits are going to fling themselves into the road with gay abandon.

To be honest, though, although 70mph+ motorway cruising is entirely possible, Enfields are still happiest swinging elegantly through A-road bends and humming down straights at around the 60mph mark.

Brakes, with a disc on the front instead of the drum there once was, bring you to a halt in a relaxed and gentlemanly fashion which matches the performance of the engine, and indeed the riding position: upright and manly, with chin up, chest out, back straight and moustache fluttering in the breeze.

And if you quail at the £4,999 price tag, Enfield’s even newer model is the entry-level Bullet 500, which has the new engine but standard 1950s-style tank, seat and mudguards to bring the price down to £3,995.

It even runs on British-made Avon Speedmaster tyres, so that at first glance you could easily mistake it for an immaculately restored original Enfield.

 “You know,” I said to Dan Sager of Enfield importers Watsonian-Squire as we dismounted at Ryka’s, that well-known Surrey bikers’ cafe, “I know everything mechanical about the Classic is the same as the 500, but it seems faster. Why is that?”

“It’s all that chrome. Less air resistance,” he grinned as he led the way inside for a well-earned cuppa and bacon butty.

Royal Enfield Classic Chrome and Bullet 500

Classic Chrome

Price: £4,999

Power and torque: 28bhp, 30 lb ft

Dry weight: 172kg

Seat height: 790mm

Colours: red/chrome.


Bullet 500

Price: £3,995

Power and torque: 28bhp, 30 lb ft

Dry weight: 172kg

Seat height: 820mm

Colours: black/gold, black/silver

Royal Enfield Bullet 500

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