Royal Enfield Bullet

Royal Enfield is a type of motorbike that conjures up a bunch of bitter-sweet memories only a black and white family photograph with faces so familiar, yet so distant in time, can possibly bring to one’s mind.

This motorcycle isn’t a flashy looker, and no, there is not a whole lot of them running around on the nation’s highways and byways. Yet - pretty much the same way that the old weathered photograph brings up memories of times when the grass looked greener and the sky was bluer – the old bike, a bulky old metal monster bearing the marks of times past, looks at the rider with its rounded headlight, in a gentle understanding kind of manner, as if saying: “ c’mon kid, you know I’ll always be here for ya. Just jump on once more for old times’ sake”. And I ask you, what red blooded rider could ever resist a call like that?

The Royal Enfield Bullet is the type bike you used too see the local superhero – in whose shoes you secretly imagined yourself – ride, when you were a kid. The healthy respect you got for the bike lives on to this very day deep down your heart and when you get a chance to ride something like this it’s like a childhood dream come true.

The bike itself more than deserves respect. It served faithfully and has proven itself for over 45 years of its history, and what a history it’s been. The first Bullet rolled off the production line in 1949, in Britain, at Redditch factory, the company’s production plant, and it featured a 350 cc engine. For a while they made 500cc variants as well, but both were soon discontinued and the whole company eventually closed down in 1970.

The Bullet however, was saved. In 1955 the company sold its design to Enfield India, a subsidiary, because of large government contracts involving the bike. The company keeps producing bullets pretty much the same way they were in 1955, with only a few minor modifications.

The Indian company started exporting them back to Britain, Canada and the U.S.( in 1995)

I find this little bit of incursion into the bike’s history quite necessary, as this is basically what this bike is. A touchable piece of history on two wheels. Nowadays, with all riders used to electric starters the good old bullet can be a handful when needed to kickstart. I’ve heard complaints about the foot-shifter being somewhat stiff, and the fact that the bike was generally a high-maintenance machine with lots of tinkering needed on its different components, the one I’ve had the pleasure to roll with, had no problems whatsoever with the shifter and I guess I just didn’t spend enough time in its company to assess whether it needs any roadside tampering or not. The bike was a 2000 year model Bullet fitted with a 500cc engine.

The engine wasn’t particularly impressive (compared to my sport-bike it wasn’t) but I found that keeping up with American highway traffic wasn’t a problem for it at all though it did seem to be a bit jerky at high speeds. The scorching heat of Arizona seemed to matter little for the vet (veteran as in looking like one), but that comes as no surprise to me as I’ve seen it photographed in probably harsher surroundings than that. I’m not going to go into details regarding the bike’s technical specs, but I do have to say that the “grandpa” as I got to nickname it during our short encounter, performed flawlessly. I was told by its owner that the bike had been fitted with a “Super Bullet” kit though, thus probably being able to outperform regular Bullets in terms of horsepower.

Bottom line is – while in terms of performance nothing really impressed (engine, clutch, shifter, brakes) - I did manage to draw quite a few stares with “ grandpa” on my way to town.

This bike definitely needs a special kind of person as an owner but through its charm, finding this special type of person is not much of a challenge. I found it brought out feelings in me I long forgot about. I suppose there’s only one thing I can say: “thanks grandpa, will you take me for a ride again soon?”