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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Work In Progress Update!

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Finally got the ignition switch, tank lock, and seat lock set in, and installed everything today. Its nice to have a working set of locks again. I also painted the upper triple-tree clamp while it was off the bike because why not? I want to paint the entire frame in that color, but that comes much later.

The dreaded wiring work comes next. My friend and I will be stripping, soldering, heat-shrinking, and wrapping everything to neatening everything up to ensure proper operation. Once that has been accomplished, the bike will be tested to ensure it finally runs!

Brakes are also on the list, as I like stopping and being alive.

More updates later!

The Great Wiring Battle: Part 1!

Today was the first day in the great battle for the Wiring Harness. Today’s work focused on the rear half of the bike, sorting wires, connectors, and items according to the wiring diagram and my own wiring break-down. I traced everything I could, unwrapped electrical-taped jumbles, and labeled everything in sight with identifying tags for later soldering work.

The rear tail-lights are aftermarket, and as such have an inexplicable third wire I have to figure out. (I think its a “always on when the bike’s on” wire)

Add to that splices everywhere, bridges where wires were cut for no apparent reason and patched back together, and wires put together that had no business going together according to the diagram. This thing was a mess!

Fortunately I had the wiring diagram to go by, so I instantly had something to refer to when seeing a wire that seemed out of place.

Sometime later I’ll do continuity testing to ensure no wires are cut elsewhere, but for now its soldering, heat-shrink wrapping, and other clean-up work next.