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Royal Enfield Electra EFI
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The new unit construction, fuel-injection Enfield Bullet will be launched in just a few weeks. Steve The Toast has sneaked a ride on one already...

Just when you thought it was all over – you get a surprise. I really thought that the tougher, Euro3 emission regulations would be the death of some of my favourite bikes, and so it was. One bike to escape the death knell was surprisingly, for me, the Bullet. Chuffing around since ’49, heading for sixty years of infamy, those cunning devils at Enfield HQ refused to let the old girl pass on quietly. Which, in a way, was a shame, because we all want the Interceptor re-incarnated instead. But, I give in…

Hence, soon to be lapping at our shores – the all new Royal Enfield Bullet EFI – or Effy as I am sure she will be affectionately known. Already so much history for our European cousins, it will be officially launched on the good people of Blighty at the NEC show in November. Those jolly fine chaps, Neil and Sarah at Classic Bike Provence in France, have one on their rental fleet, and offered to let me have a blat in return for doing the washing up and walking the dogs. How could I refuse?

I took out the older Bullet first (Neil has both), to remind myself what I was in for. Superb fun, loud exhaust, real low-budget tarmac ripping fun. Then over to the EFI…

Too many fins make the bike look squashed... 2009 Royal Enfield Electra EFI

The very first thing you’ll notice about the Effy is… It still looks like a Bullet, exactly like the Bullets we have had for the last so many years. Sure, peer long enough through squinty eyes and you’ll notice some new bits on the outside. The most obvious thing is the drive chain. It’s on the wrong side! No, I haven’t been partaking of the cheap Rosé bottled so close to Neil and Sarah’s house. Well, not that much.

Look closely and you’ll also note remote reservoir rear shocks, an exhaust silencer that is longer than a World War II torpedo, the clutch cable which attaches to the left side of the unit-construction engine, and, my goodness, along with a distinct lack of a decompressor for kick-starting, the carb’s jolly-well gone walk-about too, replaced by a strange looking contraption instead. Reassuringly, the choke lever is still there. No, really, it is – so, not a sophisticated injection system, I take it?

Some new gubbins, yesterday... 2009 Royal Enfield Electra EFI Injector Unit

First things first – I want to ride it before I know how it works; always the best way – ignore the instruction handbook and take off. Usual pre-flight checks complete, ignition on and fire up the beast. It starts easily enough, the spring-loaded choke is dropped off almost straight away, and off I go on the loose gravel outside the house. It pulls pretty-much like an old Bullet, but the disc brake – as found on the Electra – is far superior to the old drum. Once out on the road, there is a good deal of punchy power from the motor; the injection is not really smooth until it is fully warmed up, having the odd misfire when the throttle setting is changed, but once good and hot, it picks up quite cleanly through the range.

The extra power on offer is apparent too – acceleration is much improved, and hitting eighty-odd miles an hour is no problem – 120km/h (75-ish mph) in fourth comes up quickly enough and 135km/h in top is easy too but you need a longer road than I had for more. It holds it well enough up hills too; I was quite impressed with the punchyness of the motor. One thing that is apparent from the outset is that everything works so much, well, smoother; clutch action, gear change, it is almost - well, dare I say this – Japanese quality?

The rest of the silencer is pictured on page94. And 95, 96, 07... 2009 Royal Enfield Electra EFI Engine

Handling is everything I’d expect from a Bullet – light, flickable, easy directional changes but still quite flighty at top speed. Braking is the best it has been since the disc was added. This is essentially a refined Bullet, hewn from the original block of monkey metal we have been used to since the build quality improved notably since around 2000. Sure, there are a lot of changes in the engine – from the starter drive, hydraulic tappets that never need adjustment (what joy for some), electronic ignition also not needing fettling, one oil (modern semi-synthetic) for the entire engine (hah! No more grease in the recalcitrant old Albion gearbox), neutral warning light (gosh! No neutral finder, either – how will we survive?), automatic primary chain adjuster, more plates in the lighter-to-operate clutch, higher oil pump output from the new Trichoidal pump, fully-automatic decompressor…

That patch of oil was already there, ok?... 2009 Royal Enfield Electra EFI - from the other side...

I could go on and on (as I usually do) but what does it all mean to a prospective purchaser? I’ll tell you. And I’ll tell you why some people will buy them, and why some people won’t, too.

For must-haves… We revel in a slightly cleaner carbon footprint, but it is ever-so slightly better. We have a bike that will be easier to maintain, too, there is very little to adjust other than the drive chain and rear drum brake. We have a new instrument dial next to the speedo, with a warning light for the engine that will no doubt come on as the bike breaks down and grinds to a halt, should anything go wrong; I’m sure that will prove essential. Also included in that dial, as well as an illuminated Royal Enfield logo (lest we forget what we are riding), is a petrol warning light; the reserve tap lives no more, I guess. Too complex, perchance? Or, too old hat?

So your pseudo classic biker, maybe an older gent who is tired of having to adjust tappets too often, will love this new addition to the planet. Also riders with the mechanical capability of a preying mantis will love being able to blap around and not have to worry about anything between service intervals, like our Japanese cousins have managed for thirty-odd years or so.

For the ‘won’t bother, thank you very much’ crowd: the total lack of anything to fettle will be a major inconvenience, I’m sure. No reason, nay, no opportunity it drag it into their beloved’s kitchen and get her tea towel covered in grease so they can later celebrate successful adjustment of the grunge-whistle codling grinder down the local Sally Army with their mates and seek succour for having to deal with ’er indoors over a greasy handprint on the kitchen table… No, really, it’s all a bit too disinfected.

Also, the price. The basic model is a sniff under four grand, for which, as Neil of CBP put it; ‘you are getting cheap keg bitter when you could have the real-ale of biking, and buy any of a number of real classics.’ He suggested a Trident (£2650), 750 Norton Commando (£3500), Velo Clubman ($4600) T140 Bonnie (£3300) – from RC’s own classified adverts. He makes a valid point.

Bullets on eBay.co.uk

Grumbles? Well, only a couple, and, strangely, exactly the same ones I’ve been making about Bullets since I first started writing about the darn things when my love/hate relationship started. The seat; why is it just so uncomfortable? I rode this bike all day, covered a couple of hundred miles, and jolly-well knew it in the nether regions. Ok, I may not have the superbly reduced proportions of our very own sylph-like FW, but I’m not exactly enormous – perhaps, maybe, just possibly, even, a little increased after a week of Sarah’s cooking and French cheeses… but, why is that seat still so awful?

Vibration – yes, it is a single, and you know it, especially at sustained speed, which not many will trouble with, but the seat and handle-bars do tingle a tad. Even the bar-end weights fail to nullify it completely. Also, it is too quiet – but I am sure after-market ‘silencers’ will sort that out. It should sound , well, more ‘blappy’…

And finally, you good people at Royal Enfield manufacturing – please, please, please, will you now move on and resurrect the 750 Interceptor that we have been waiting and whinging about for so very, very long? This Bullet is great, you’ve all done very well, give each other a jolly big pat on the back; but we want the 750 over here in dear old Blighty, don’cha know? So, be a spiffingly good bunch and get on with it? Oh, and please bring the seat up to date too, if you don’t mind!

Photographer Toast must have one leg longer than the other; all these photos needed tweaking by 3 degrees to get their horizons straight... 2009 Royal Enfield Electra EFI - In the sun!

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THERE’S MORE about the Electra EFI in the November issue of RealClassic magazine. Click here to order a copy

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The Royal Enfield UCE EFI Electra will be in UK dealers from November 2008. See www.royal-enfield.com

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THANKS TO Neil and Sarah of Classic Bike Provence for the loan of their EFI Electra. They have an entire stable of classic bikes waiting to be ridden in the South of France, should you want to take a winter break away from the chilly weather. See www.classicbikeprovence.com

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