Royal Enfield: Fun and Affordable Motorcycling

Story by Ray Seidel

Click here to see the full article in our digital magazine

I have to admit, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Royal Enfield Bullet. The Bullet is actually the longest lived motorcycle design in history, and the company itself is tied with Indian as the oldest, circa 1901. Though of course, Harley-Davidson has been operating uninterrupted since 1903, an important distinction….anyway, much like the original VW Beetle, changes are slow in coming and when they make good sense, rather than planned obsolescence. The addition of an electric starter is a relatively recent concession to modern times.

Enfields have been available in every State except California until of late, as The Golden State has its own unique rules on designer gasoline and emissions standards. Enfields have caught up at last with Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) to pass California requirements. The company has a few different models in its stable to choose from besides the famed Bullet. For me, I like not only the bullets looks, but at $4999 it is also the lowest priced. I can see this as a viable option for new riders who want their first bike without the uncertainty of buying a USED motorcycle and wondering what issues it may have had to end up in the used corral. With a 500 cc engine, it’s not only good for commuting and buzzing about town, it has long enough legs for getting on the Interstate. There are only two nit-pick items I’ve found on this particular model and Enfields in general over the years. The Bullet has the longer seat for a rear passenger, which is raised above the driver. For someone of my height of 6’ 2” and accompanying long legs, the hump pushes into my tailbone, which I can do without. Other models have the single seat (which fits fine on me) or a more level dual seat. The other issue is almost every Enfield I’ve been on has a mushy rear brake pedal with excessive travel, sometimes almost pointing south. I prefer firm, instant braking once I touch that pedal. I HAVE found on one bike at the manufacturers display at the annual Long Beach International Motorcycle Show where the pedal did not have excessive travel before engaging, so possibly this is an adjustment issue for the dealer in setup, or the owner to tweak to taste.

From 1955 to 1959, Royal Enfields sold in the USA were painted red and rebadged as Indian motorcycles. Several models were offered (700, 500, 346, 248, 148 cc), some pretty nice actually. Eventually the rebadged bikes lost favor with Americans, so in 1961 they were sold as what they actually were: Enfields.

By 1970 the production of British Royal Enfields ended. However a plant had already been created in India to make Enfields, under license, by 1955. They’ve made the Bullet ever since, and many other models, sold world-wide.

A good value:

For an extra $500 bucks you can get into one of the other Bullet-like models, but if you think a café racer is more to your liking, $1000 more will get you the Continental GT. Rear controls, stretched out riding position, very racy looking.

Price at a random Enfield dealer broke down as follows for the Bullet, for a 2016 bike in stock: Mfg list price 4495, freight 325, dealer setup/prep 395, document 74, TOTAL 5290.00

  One might argue a poor man’s Triumph, getting a British marque at such a low price, but Enfield and the Bullet has held its own for far longer. Might be worth a look.