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Royal Enfield Bullet 500 review
There are four motorcycles in India that have achieved cult status, and have followers so loyal, that they wouldn ride anything else. Two are from Yamaha the RD350 and the RX100 both known for their extreme acceleration. The Jawa Yezdi is loved by its admirers for the engine roar and its immaculate handling.
But even before these three motorcycles had even come into the Indian market, the Royal Enfield Bullet had already seen glimpses of a maniacal fan following. So much so, that the term Bullet became a generic term to describe any product from the brand, and the brand itself.
There are different theories on why the Bullet continues to be one of the most loved motorcycles in India, irrespective of the rider age. For some, it the dependability factor. For some, it is the ultimate workhorse. But the one thing that keeps all the Bulleteers attached to the Thumper is the quality of ride that it offers.
But now that Royal Enfield has brought back the Bullet 500, where does it fit? It not Thunderbird, their highway cruiser. It not the versatile oldschoolyetmodernmilled Classic. It is also not the entry level standard Bullet 350. The only way to find out is by riding it.
Looking at the new Bullet 500, you feel that Royal Enfield has tried hard to strike a balance between the signature design and a few modern elements. And clearly, the designers have looked both in the new garage and the old attic for parts to put this new Bull together.
It retains the overall prewar styling, complete with the upswept handlebars and traditional handlebar, console and headlamp assembly. The pilot lamps, dubbed Tiger Lamps by RE, have been retained on the headlamp assembly as well. The saddle design too, has been carried forward, although the cushioning is more comfortable than ever. The rear grab rail now gets a cushioned grip, and the tail lamp assembly is straight out of the Classic models. Though the chrome plated rearview mirrors add to the retro feel, they are practically useless as they shake a lot while riding.
The new Forest Green paint job is spectacular, and the decals on the tank, with the winged Royal Enfield badge, bring out a strong oldworld, aristocratic, warmachine character. The chassis tube out in the front does not get the body colour and is black, like the sari guard at the back and the black battery cover. These black painted parts balance out the bike visual character it could been an overdose of chrome otherwise.
Few parts, like the big front disc brake, the electrical switches and the zapper tyres instantly stand out and add the aforementioned modern and needed elements to the Bullet.
It the heart of this new Bull that makes a world of difference. Yes, it is the same 499cc 4stroke single cylinder aircooled mill, but instead of an EFI as on the Thunderbird and Classic models, and the export Bullet 500 variant, the Bullet 500 has a carburettor. This makes a minor change in power delivery.
On the road, these numbers translate into one thing this is one angry bull. The new electric ignition fires up the mill with the allsofamiliar roar, although the thump is more vigorous than ever. The good old kick start is also there, in case you feel like burning a lot of calories.
The throttle is extremely crisp and responsive; you know you cannot joke around with this. It is eager to accelerate, in spite of its formidable 193 kilos at the kerb, and shoots up to 60 in just about 5 seconds. And at the same time, the heavy flywheel and the long stroke makes the Bullet maintain a rhythmic thump at low revs as well.
The engine is mated to a fivespeed constantmesh gearbox, whose ratios are perfect for city riding. However, the quality of gearshift isn impressive at all. It a bit clunky and sticky when you need to swiftly step up or down in heavy traffic.
Intentional or otherwise, the Bullet 500 has a heady mix of new and old elements that define the riding experience. This motorcycle is stable as a rock in a straight line as it is around corners. Again, the bike defies its weight and can weave in and out of traffic with ease. You can also dip this Bull into a lean around a curve and be sure that you will come out of it. But it is necessary not to get carried away and try putting your knee down around fast corners, because this motorcycle isn designed for all that.
The best part, however, is the riding position. The regal straightback, footforward riding stance makes it an absolutely comfortable ride around town, and even for a short ride into the countryside.
The new 280mm disc at front adds a lot of stopping power, and is well complemented by the 153mm reardrum. The drum at the back is a good retro touch and is fairly responsive inside the city, but it also begs for a long stopping distance if you brake at around 90100. As for bumps and potholes, the Bullet chews them up with as much effort as Hulk would need to chew jelly. The front telescopes are pretty neat and the new twin gascharged shocks at the back make sure the ride isn either too stiff or too spongy.
There are, however, a few issues with the vibration levels. Agreed, that the ride needs to retain the vintageness of things, but things start shaking up a bit too much once the Bullet crosses the 100 mark on the speedo. The handlebar threatens to send teethshattering vibration after 120, and the footpegs get a little too shaky for comfort. So riding at around 7090, listening to the engine rhythmic thudding might be the best thing to do.
After over a couple of hundred kilometres on the odo, one thing comes out strongly about the bike you just don want to stop riding it. And coming back to the big question where is this bike positioned? No, it not meant for the highway as the Thunderbird is. It also not the versatile Classic, which is a scorcher both and off the blacktop.
It is, then, what you own for the sheer joy of riding a dependable and responsive motorcycle, which delivers on its promise of vintage styling and ride quality while making sure it withstands presentday riding conditions. The ride quality is good enough for both city and countryside riding, and the engine is powerful and dependable enough.
If you want a slice of history with a dash of power in your garage, the new Bullet 500 might just be your thing. As of now, Royal Enfield is selling the Bullet 500 in Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and DelhiNCR only, but it will roll out the motorcycle in other markets in a phased manner over time. The carburetted Bullet 500 is available for Rs. 1.37 lakh ex showroom, Delhi.