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1995 Enfield Bullet 500
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Life with a classic bike isn't always straightforward. Steve Hickling has more than his fair share of problems with his Bullet (and it's not even very old)...

When he passed his bike test in 2002, Steve Hickling decided that he'd like a traditional motorcycle, one which 'looks like a bike should, with a kick-start and right foot gearchange.' So he bought a 1995 Indian-built Bullet which, if we're being honest about it, doesn't come from a period when the factory's build standard was particularly high. Bullets from this era are infamous for needing considerable owner input. And Steve knew next to nothing about bike mechanics. But the Bullet appeared to be unmodified and in 'very good' condition. And it cost less than a grand!

The first issue was minor but tracking down perished carb rubbers 'caused this biking virgin a few problems'. The Amal concentric was 'too complicated and temperamental.' However, a clogged carb was the least of Steve's trouble - his learning curve suddenly steepened when the piston disintegrated while travelling down the A11. 'I started doing the work myself but quickly realised it was beyond me. So the engine was rebuilt by Dave Wicks in Norfolk.' Good thinking, that man!

Great photo. Even the little kid being dragged off by his mum is impressed... 1995 Enfield Bullet 500 and Proud Owner

Steve also needed to call upon Hitchcocks Motorcycles 'for their fast service, because I've had quite a few emergencies' and Haywards of Cambridge 'for their friendly and good quality service.'

In over 25,000 miles he has needed a fair bit of assistance but 'the faults have mainly been with the owner, not the bike! The Bullet can be fine for months and then several faults will appear at once. It's reliable 99% of the time, but a real pig for that other 1%.

'However, the Bullet is ideal practice for when you buy a proper old bike. It's so much like a 1950's British bike and spares are cheap. Plus you don't have to be too precious about it.'

Riding the Bullet for work and pleasure, Steve has made a few mods from standard to suit his lifestyle. He says that the single seat 'looks good but does funny things going around bends', while a Boyer electronic ignition has been a great boon; 'just fit and forget - very good for mechanics of my skill level!' He's also added Army-pattern pannier racks 'which pack enough for two to go camping.'

Steve regularly uses the Bullet for weekend trips and reckons one of the best was a journey from East Anglia to the Glastonbury Festival. 'It ran fine, all the way, and bikes get the best, most secure parking at the Festival. Nothing went wrong all weekend and when I got home only the tappets needed adjusting.'

We met up with Steve at the 2007 Royal Enfield Open Weekend, where he won the Best Ridden-In Enfield award (mainly because we were so impressed with his cheerful commitment in the face on inescapable adversity). The Bullet was running smoothly then but, as usual with Steve's fortune, the wheel soon turned…

'On the Tuesday after the Watsonian weekend, I went to a local VMCC meet and got a puncture in my front tyre. I fixed it on the following Saturday, ready for a ride out to the Kemble steam rally, again with the VMCC. I was leaving the steam rally to ride home, with my better half on the pillion, when the back tyre had a blow out coming up to a very busy roundabout. We skidded about, out of control, all over the roundabout and miraculously managed to stay upright.

'Two punctures in five days and I've never had even one before! Perhaps the VMCC has jinxed me?'

Bullet stuff on eBay.co.uk

And it was all going so well... 1995 Enfield Bullet 500 and Dismayed Owner

In fact, Steve recommends that anyone else who's considering buying an old Enfield would do well to join their local VMCC or Royal Enfield OC. 'Local contacts who can help you with any problems are worth their weight in fivers!' he says.

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The 2008 Royal Enfield Open Weekend is on 14th and 15th June at Watsonian Squire, Blockley, Moreton in Marsh in the Cotswolds. The weekend provides visitors with a chance to view the current range of motorcycles and accessories, take a test ride on one of the fleet of demo bikes, enjoy a sidecar ride and home-cooked refreshments. See www.royal-enfield.com

The Royal Enfield Owners' Club are at www.royalenfield.org.uk

The Vintage Motor Cycle Club is at www.vmcc.net



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