Beginner Bike Spotlight: Royal Enfield Bullet Classic 500

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Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Classic in “Battle Green”, image courtesy of Google.com

One of the greatest under-dogs in the American market, the Royal Enfield is a bike that defies every bike notion you may have. From the oldest continuous-production motorcycle company in the world, the Bullet 500 Classic is a true wonder.

The Specs (via Wikipedia.org):

Manufacturer Royal Enfield (1931–1966)
Royal Enfield Motors (1955–present)
Production since 1931
Class Standard
Engine 346 cc & 500 cc single cylinder cast-iron, lean-burn, or UCE, OHV
Transmission 4-speed Albion gearbox / 5-speed left-shift gearbox / 5-speed integrated gearbox
Wheelbase 1,370 mm (54 in)
Dimensions L: 2,120 mm (83 in)
W: 750 mm (30 in)
H: 1,080 mm (43 in)
Fuel capacity 3.5 imp gal (16 l; 4.2 US gal)

The Case For The Bullet Classic 500:

The true under-dog of the motorcycle scene, the Royal Enfield gets hate from every side except those who’ve owned them. Reviled by the Cafe Racer hipsters for its inability to hit “the ton” (100 mph), loathed both the Japanese and American cruiser/standard crowd, and unknown to almost everyone in America, the Royal Enfield has a lot of ground to cover to get a leg-up in the U.S. market.

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The Continental GT
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The Himalayan

While the R.E.’s Continental GT and the brand-new Himalayan (pictured above) are slowly increasing the brand’s visibility within the market, they still arguably have a very long way to go to truly compete with the “Big Six”. While it has had a small presence, R.E. has begun to take massive steps in bringing brand-awareness to America in general by launching the Royal Enfield of North America subsidiary earlier this year, and partnering with GM Financial to help expand their dealer network. This is great news for those people who have struggled against brand anonymity (and antipathy) and a slightly dodgy dealer support system.

 

Despite the existing issues, owners of this nearly indestructible bike laud it for its mountains of usable torque, its almost unimpeachable reliability, and its classic (some would say antique) build. This bike really didn’t change much, if at all, from its first production date in 1955 up until 1997, when they were forced to retool the Bullet to meet increasingly tighter emissions regulations in the U.S.  and Europe. In 2007 they stepped into the modern age by finally outfitting their models with Fuel Injection, thus increasing the fuel efficiency and ease-of-starting (previous carbureted models could be notoriously dangerous and difficult to start when cold or had been sitting for a long period).

The aftermarket for this bike is massive overseas, as it is the darling of its home-countries of India (production) and England (its progenitor nation). Want to make it “do the Ton”? There’s a few shops online who specialize in high-performance upgrade parts for the engine and transmission. Want to make it capable of moving a mountain worth of stuff? The guys in India have made racks for everywhere that’ll haul anything. Want to make it an off-road trials bike? There’s parts for that too. This bike can be anything to anybody.

Beginning riders find its friendly (and substantial) torque to be useful, as it means they have to use little or no throttle to get off the line, while its sturdy gearbox will happily take the fumbling inputs of a new rider and keep ticking along like they meant to be riding it. It makes you look good. Its not fast, true, but it refuses to give up and only an owner with massive levels of ineptitude can possibly break it.

For example:
I have a friend who bought a Classic 500 from a gentleman whom he could only charitably describe as “the greatest imbecile to ever be inflicted upon a motorcycle”. The gentleman in question obviously hadn’t taken care of it (it had parts from a Bullet Classic 350 model, we strongly suspect he crashed it quite badly), and had allowed his son to rip it apart ham-fistedly in an effort to make it into a “brat/bobber”. When my friend finally got it home, he was dismayed at the state of the bike and bemoaned what he had spent on it, seeing it as a nearly insurmountable task to bring the Bullet back to fighting trim, but as he dug into it (cursing the previous owner with every turn of the wrench), he began to see the soul of the bike within, and its desire to live again. It has taken him a while to do it, but his Bullet is nearly ready to roar along the roads again:

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How it looked when he got it home
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How it now sits

He informs me he doesn’t have much left to do on it, and will probably be riding it soon.

Bonus resource:
Hitchcocks Royal Enfield Performance and aftermarket parts

My Kind Of Weird:
The Musket V-Twin

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Photo courtesy of http://www.musketvtwin.com

The Musket V-Twin Production Website

From the manufacturer’s website:

SPECIFICATIONS:

NOTE: Aftermarket performance parts for the Enfield Bullet will also fit Musket crankcases.

4 stroke wet sump ohv 59 degree V twin.

Crankcase: Custom designed, cast and machined alloy ‘Musket’ cases.
Can be machined to accept either 350cc OR 500cc top ends.

Bore: 70mm/84mm

Stroke: 90mm

Cubic capacity: 692cc/998cc

Compression ratio: 7:1/6.5:1

Output (estimated): 36bhp/44bhp

Cams: Stock Enfield Bullet cams/ACE cams/Hitchcocks cams. A lift of upto .350 beyond the 1.000 base circle will drop in.

Ignition: twin contact breaker points, twin stock coils.

Oil system: Wet sump, two stock large size ‘return’ pumps, both working as feed. 2 separate circuits, 1 for
crank, 1 for heads. Oil flow rate increased 4 times that of stock.

Filtration: Stock Enfield Bullet UCE paper element cartridge.

Carburetors: Stock Enfield Bullet Mikuni licensed Mikcarb VM28.

Crank: Stock flywheels, machined to rebalance, custom crankpin,
side-by-side stock conrods.

Drive side ball bearing: 25x62x17mm (6305)

Drive side roller bearing: 25x62x24mm (2305). 41% wider bearing,
upgraded from stock 305 bearing.

Timing side roller bearing: 25x62x17 (305) upgraded from stock 205
bearing (25x52x15)

Clutch: Stock Enfield Bullet 500 clutch with 5 plate kit and custom
clutch spring plate that holds 9 springs for 50% increase in pressure.

Gearbox: Stock Enfield Bullet 4 speed box OR later 5 speed box can be
fitted. Right side shift OR left side shift is possible.

Final drive sprocket. 700cc: 20 teeth. 1000cc: 22 teeth.

Final drive ratio. 700cc: 4.25  1000cc: 3.86

Frame: Stock Enfield Bullet frame with stretched top tube.

Wheelbase: With top tube stretch only: 1525mm (60″)

Weight (with fuel and oil): approx. 428lbs.

I cannot properly convey just how awesome this bike is. This guy built this engine kit BY HAND.

The bike’s appearance on Jay Leno’s Garage:

The awesome interview

Final Thoughts:

I love the Bullet Classic 500. It tickles my fancy for a classic bike, while sparing my wallet the threat of “collector” vintage bike prices. It is on my list of bikes I will own, and I recommend you try riding one; you just might want one too.

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Beginner Bike Spotlight: Buell Blast

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2008 Buell Blast, image courtesy of Harley Davidson of Brandon, FL

Used on every Harley Davidson “Riders Edge” training course in the naughties (2000-2009) and beyond until the arrival of the new HD Street 500 & 750, the Blast is a sturdy little bike with a determination that may just make you smile.

The Specs (via Wikipedia.org):

Manufacturer Buell Motorcycle Company
Parent company Harley-Davidson Inc.
Production 2000–2010
Class standard
Engine 492 cc air cooled OHV single
Power 34 bhp (25 kW) @ 6,500 rpm
Torque 30 ft·lbf (41 N·m) @ 6,500 rpm
Transmission 5-speed manual
Suspension Front: telescopic fork
Rear: swingarm with single coil-over-shock unit.
Brakes Disc/disc
Tires Front: 100/80-16M/CTL 50T
Rear: 120/80-16M/CTL 60T
Rake, trail 25.0° / 3.4 in (86 mm)
Wheelbase 55.0 in (1,400 mm)
Dimensions L: 77.8 in (1,980 mm)
W: 29.3 in (740 mm)
Seat height Standard: 27.5 in (700 mm)
Low profile: 25.5 in (650 mm)
Weight 360 lb (163 kg) (dry)
399 lb (181 kg) (wet)
Fuel capacity 2.80 US gal (10.6 l; 2.33 imp gal)
Oil capacity 2.0 US qt (1,900 ml)
Fuel consumption 64 miles per US gallon (3.7 L/100 km; 77 mpg-imp)

The Case For The Blast:

Praised for its friendliness for beginner riders and reviled by Eric Buell himself, the Blast occupies a bizarre little niche in the beginner rider scene. Tough as nails, the Buell can take a beating and keep on running. Generally chosen (at the time it came out) by beginning riders for being the only other American bike available aside from the Sportster offered by Buell’s parent company, Harley Davidson. Often the “gateway drug” bike for the rest of the Buell line of American sport bikes, the Blast is a rough-and-tumble starter with no apologies.

Some people criticize the bike for its “built down to a price” feeling, but for what you’re paying for it, it’s remarkably good for beginner riders because it can take the ham-fisted inputs of complete novices and somehow still manage to make the rider look good. I’ve personally sat on one and found it to feel tiny beneath me, and that seems to be a general feeling of most average-sized American male riders. It shakes, vibrates, rattles, and putters around town without any real drama, however it does lack the style and flair of most other beginner bikes, but for what it is, it’s not too bad at all. 

Despite the love/hate relationship most people have with this bike, it holds its value quite well, generally staying between $1,500 to $2,000 for one in good condition, with battered examples going for much less. There’s a host of recommended modifications to help civilize the bike a bit more, like a Buell intake breather, altering the stock exhaust, beefing up the suspension, and a host of other mods that are recommended for optimum performance or rider enjoyment.

Bonus info, links to Buell forums:
Buell XB Forum
Bad Weather Bikers Buell Sub-forum

The Blast really is a case of “it is what you make of it”. If you treat it badly, try to repaint the polymer plastics (don’t do this, paint won’t stick very well to it; buy alternate colored plastics), fail to maintain it, or in general treat it like crap, you’re going to have a bad experience with it. If you accept its limitations, treat it nicely, and take care of it, it will last you a very long time indeed.

It’s a Loveable Little Oddball:
Custom Blasts

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Buell Blast Review video by “TwoWheeledTon”

Final Thoughts:

I personally like the Blast. Though it feels tiny beneath me, I like what it’s trying to be: a no-frills beginner bike made in America. It’s not perfect, true, but put it against some of the other competing bikes and it will definitely surprise you.