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Bike Profile - Posted 29th October 2010

Royal Enfield EFI Bullet 500, Part 5
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Jonathan Roy has finished running-in his current generation big single. He's encountered very few problems, but has some concerns about the fuel-injection and rear suspension...

I've now clocked up just over 3000 miles on Ruby, my 500 Royal Enfield and the engine now feels 'run in'; it's that indefinable sense that you get as a rider that all the internals are moving more freely and have settled into a happy balance. The cautiousness I felt, which led to not using too many revs through the gears, and the concerns that tend to go with the early months of owning a new big single, are now receding; a clean bill of health (as well as the bill) at the first major service is always a good thing.

A bike of light and shade? 2009 Royal Enfield EFI Bullet 500

Two oil filters inhabit the lean-burn unit but only the one that is thankfully more accessible needs to be changed at lower mileages. If the other one needs replacement then it is probably because a major mechanical failure has taken place or the engine has reached very high mileage and needs a full rebuild. That's what I was told by the knowledgeable Chris at C&C Motorcycles who carried out the service to my machine. Before I left him to get on with the factory recommended 3000 mile service I waited to see the colour of the oil and to have a look at what was in it, as well as satisfy my curiosity about the design of the filter.

Some oil, yesterday...

The 15W/50 semi-synthetic oil that flowed out of the engine was fairly black but there were no obvious metal 'slivers' in it, just a few tiny dots like metallic grains of sand. There was a spurious coating on the corrugated paper air filter; a residue collected from riding the lanes of the Kent countryside.

Motorcycle News proves useful shock horror...

Apart from fitting the new filters only two adjustments, one to the clutch and one to get the rear brake light working properly, were needed. Another 2.75 litres (or thereabouts) of fresh Silkolene and two hours later and the RE was ready for the picturesque ride back to Dover.

These softly tuned singles are happiest on a mixture of A- and B-roads and this has meant that I've discovered back lanes all over Kent; planning routes to places that avoid the monotony and traffic volumes of the motorways and dual carriageways wherever possible. The handling through bends is predictable and the fairly simple, 1950's type frame combined with a relatively long wheelbase(1370mm) mean that the EFI is no refugee from a race circuit. Similarly, I'm no Geoff Duke or Mike Hailwood and never push it through the twistery. Mostly I use third gear for the going into and through corners, accelerating into fourth coming out. I have found the gearing suits this method best with only medium weight transfer onto the tank giving the required response.

There is a long straight section on the old A20 between Ashford and Sellinge Down, which on a completely hot engine I ran up to an indicated 75mph for a short burst. It seemed an abuse of the long-stroke single which was vibrating through the handlebars and starting to sound a little strangled, so I backed off back down to 65mph, a speed at which engine and rider both feel more relaxed.

Some industrial archeology. And a waterwheel... 2009 Royal Enfield EFI Bullet 500

One ride out was to the Hamstreet Classic Show (www.elk-promotions.co.uk) and jumble; a fine sunny day and a comfortable distance along a 'Bulletable' route. It was a matter of minutes after arriving and locking the Enfield up that two fellow 'senior' riders approached to ask a few questions about the bike. They had both owned or did still own Velocettes or Nortons but were not derisory and even had complimentary remarks about the 'look' which they said they thought was almost trad British.

I told them about mpg and the convenience of having both a kick and electric start, and managed to avoid mentioning oil leaks even though I told them what oil was used in Indian Enfields.

One change I have made is to replace the 'snail cam' chain adjusters with a pair of the more modern concentric ones from Hitchcocks which I find easier and more accurate to use. Chain wear has not been great and there have only been four or five adjustments necessary since I've had her. Oiling is more often since rust seems to appear on the outer links fairly quickly.

The front brake has remained dependable but with the amount of engine braking available I only tend to use it lightly under normal circumstances but have had to brake hard a couple of times to avoid hitting cars coming out of side turns.

I had a bit of a whinge earlier about the fuel injection which doesn't seem to allow a hot engine to idle; this still happens but is unpredictable. Sometimes I've been stationary at traffic lights with the motor sounding as though it's at 2000 or 3000rpm, a bit embarrassing. Blipping the throttle does not cure it.

Get to the next stop and this might not happen, a usual tickover returns. Could this be the technology of electronic fuel sensors misbehaving? Have other EFI owners had this happen?

My only other criticism which I have also mentioned before is the rear shock absorbers which look very capable and are gas-filled with multi adjustment. I still cannot find a 'stiffness' that suits solo riding for my 14 stone weight.

Even on the lowest setting I find they don't absorb much in the way of the type of shocks created by potholes that you fail to dodge. I'd be interested in assessing some aftermarket shocks - maybe a manufacturer would like to let me test a set?

Bullets on Right Now......

Fuel consumption (on ordinary unleaded) is averaging 75-80mpg. The 'running low' light is very useful and once lit means that the rider has 40 miles or so to find a petrol station.

The paintwork and bright bits polish up nicely and I am glad to say that my nipples have not permanently tarnished despite getting wet on occasion.

I still enjoy the muted exhaust note of the EFI, even if the silencer is a tad bulky thanks to those Euro3 regulations.

I have no plans to make any other modifications to Ruby since I don't want to add performance. I like the reliability and ease of use that I have now and intend keeping her for a long time.


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