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Bike Profile - Posted 13th January 2010

2009 Royal Enfield EFI Bullet 500
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The latest incarnation of the Enfield Bullet uses a fuel-injected, unit-construction engine. So far, Jonathan Roy has clocked up over 1000 miles on this more sophisticated single...

Enfield (now officially Royal again) owners seem immune to the derogatory remarks made by some about their Indian-made machines. A typical comment might be; 'Is that a Harry-Hare Enfield, then?' Absolutely hilarious, isn't it?

There is bound to be divided opinion on the appearance of the latest Royal Enfield Bullet. One older motorcycling friend of mine insists that British singles, and what he refers to as the 'colonial' singles (built in India), just don't look British without having separate gearboxes. My opinion is that the 'in unit' engine of the latest 500 looks a bit like the original Redditch 'big head' model and the headlight housing or casquette incorporating twin pilot lights also echoes the earlier design, giving the EFi unique styling in the current market.

I have taken an interest in the evolution of the Bullet from the early 'Bavanar' days through to the Sixty-5 model, and then the appearance of the first model with a lean burn engine. I read about the latest model which has fuel injection and electric starting. Watsonian Squire sent me a colour catalogue with full specs; alternator electrics with 60/55W headlight, front disc brake, automatic decompression on the retained kickstart and even a low fuel warning light. The fact that this engine is designed to run on unleaded fuel is also progress and made me less concerned about exhaust valves burning out; something that I know is a concern for owners of British singles.

Cheery Red, or Ruby Marray? 2009 Royal Enfield EFI Bullet 500

After a test ride arranged with C&C Motorcycles at Yalding and an extended Q&A session with Chris, the proprietor, I placed my order for a standard Bullet roadster (less chrome) in the cherry red colour. Yes, it could also be described as being 'ruby' but I don't want to create any further 'curry' humour.

The running-in process over the first 500 miles was virtually a vibration-free experience. There was some suggestion of tingling through the handlebars when changing up and accelerating through the gears but nothing that would loosen fillings in teeth. Maybe because the engine is unit construction with the gearbox, there is less vibration? The rubber inserts between the fins on the barrel might also be having an effect.

Unit-construction motor, with electric starter and ruber inserts to quell vibration noise. 2009 Royal Enfield EFI Bullet 500 Engine

Since I have never owned a long-stroke single before, only Japanese (Honda RS250 / Kawasaki Z200) short-stroke machines, it took me a while to adapt to the torque spread which starts from very low revs and also means that fifth (top) gear can be pulled from 35-40mph without any transmission snatchiness.

The new fuel injection works very well; even from a cold start there is no lag or hesitation. Stop/go town traffic also seems to have no adverse effect on giving the engine a constant and accurate supply of fuel. The fuel injection and lean-burn engine are two of the Enfield's technical features which have been designed to comply with Euro 3 emissions. Another is the catalytic converter inside the silencer. This is one item which I think could have looked better; it's too long and doesn't look much like a British pipe. This does detract from the otherwise neat and quite authentic look of the EFi. Having said that, the exhaust note produced is a muted 'bropp, bropp, bropp' which is satisfying enough. Any possible replacement in the future would have to be a careful choice with fuel injection and a CAT to be considered.

Would you rather have an ammeter? 2009 Royal Enfield EFI Bullet 500 Speedo

At the first service, apart from changing the 15W/50 oil which contained hardly any metal shards, the only attention needed was to the chain which required only a slight adjustment. One minor bolt had worked loose; apparently the Chennai factory now uses Ny-lock threads on all of the metric fasteners which will hopefully prevent anything falling off… which has been a problem in the past. The fuel consumption during the first 500 miles worked out at 89mpg. Royal Enfield claim that a well treated and fully run-in engine can return 100mpg.

Despite the heavy-looking exhaust system mentioned earlier, the Bullet is still a relative lightweight; 187KG.with fuel and oil. This low weight makes cornering a confidence inspiring experience. The 19-inch wheels with their Avon tyres are a good combination and I've had no scary moments, even on a wet road.

Mock-Zocchi? Royal Enfield Bullet EFI Rear Suspension
Bullets on :

The gas filled rear shock absorbers (which look a lot like copies of a well know Italian make), felt harsh until I adjusted them down onto the next to softest setting. Now the rear suspension is good. The front forks don't dive if I have to brake hard but they do let the rider know about uneven road surfaces. Again, perhaps a bit too stiff - this is mostly down to personal preference!

The front disc (again, very Italian and Brembo-ish) combined with a rear drum is what I have been used to on the majority of the motorcycles I've previously ridden and I have no complaints about the braking on the Bullet. A 'modern' disc on a machine that is designed to echo the past may not appeal to some riders but the braking is improved and again this is down to personal preference/opinion.

Two piston sliding front caliper looks more Japanese than Italian to me. No bad thing... 2009 Royal Enfield EFI Bullet 500 Front Brake

As far as the electrical side is concerned, the system is modern; alternator/12V with a sensible fuse system and a 60/55W headlight that works properly. All the handlebar switches are solid and robust; they operate easily and are as good as the stuff on Japanese bikes. I've been caught in a couple of downpours and the electrical insulation seems pretty good too.

The electric starter fires the engine into life first press although I do use the kickstart to free off the clutch plates on a completely cold engine beforehand. Starting using the kick is simple too. The automatic decompressor means that just one committed swing is usually enough to get things going. This is very civilised and having a motorcycle that you know IS going to start has got to be good.

I have now covered just over 1100 miles on my Bullet EFi and I am pleased I took the plunge into Enfield ownership. If you are anything like me (nearly 50 and no speed freak) then the EFi combines old and new ideas from the motorcycle world that could appeal.

Before I bought the Bullet, I knew full well that I wasn't getting a latter-day Velocette or Norton; that level of owner involvement was not for me since I am no mechanic. What I think I have got is a more rider-friendly, modern and yes, a more sophisticated single.

Since I intend to keep my Royal Enfield for the long term, it's going to be a journey -- to some extent -- into the unknown. I'll keep you informed…

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Royal Enfield UK: www.royal-enfield.com
Full range of current models plus prices and specifications

C&C Motorcycles: www.candcmc.co.uk
Supplied the featured bike

Royal Enfield Owners' Club:www.royalenfield.org.uk
Welcomes modern Indian-built Bullets alongside traditional Brits


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