Caution: Long post, start up having a Royal Enfield Bullet somewhere in your heart, if don’t, this read will put it inside.
‘Royal Enfield – Since 1901’ – Yes, that’s the first thing I get to see every time I grab the keys of my Bullet; yes, half of my experience starts from here itself. Let me first introduce you to the Bullet. Maybe the fairy tale I have been living since months, something that still makes this beast way special that the 200cc beasts who share the garage space with this beauty.
‘Royal Enfield’, the oldest motorcycle brand in the world with the ‘Bullet’ being the motorcycle enjoying the longest production run of all times. Enfield India was established in 1955 and since then they are operational here in India.
What are they doing since so long?
Just one thing – ‘THUMPING’. A solid ‘Thumpp’ is what the Royal Enfield motorcycles are known for delivering since their origin, and they kept on doing so since ever. Who the Bullets are actually being made for?
So who is the buyer of Bullet? Well, let me recite a couple of words from our own ‘Bikeguru’, Mr. Dilip Bam:
“There are two kinds of buyers. ONE is the type who goes to the market to buy a means of transportation and looks for things like low buying price, mileage, quick pickup, faster top speed, attractive looks and so on. This type of buyer is looking primarily for a commuter machine with as many frills and add-ons as possible in his budget.”
“The other type of buyer is the one who goes for Bullet. He is the one who is beyond commuting.”
What does that ‘other type’ of buyer buy his motorcycle for? Simple, for thumping; thumping in cities, on highways, on hills and keep thumping all the way from the Thar desert to the frozen desert called ‘Ladakh’.
What I bought just a couple of months back is the Royal Enfield Classic 350. Now arises the key question: Is it a true modern motorcycle in retro looks or it’s still the old wine in the same old bottle (Mind you: Older the wine more is the joy) made out of some new materials? Let’s try to discover.
Let me state a few facts to start with:
- There is a good number of Bulleteers who end up pushing their broken motorcycles on some empty road.
- Bullets don’t require engine oil for ‘only’ lubrication, they store a lot of it. In fact, it can even shy a Maruti 800.
- Bullet can easily get your knees weakened but one thing for sure – they will make you ‘kicking’ expert. Not kicking the motorcycle, but kick starting it.
- The contact breaker not only breaks contact points, it breaks more people into the sweat.
- Being happy in owning a Bullet sounds impossible
- But still the owners are happy, they keep thumping around and keep on enjoying the ownership like a never ending fairy tale.
Owning this motorcycle having one long ride of 2,000 kilometers, I will try to change all these facts, except the last one. I will try to put ahead only ‘The Naked Truth’ of owning this motorcycle.
With the introduction of the new engine, the power is up by 1.8 bhp from the older CI engine while the torque is now down by a ‘huge’ 4 Nm to 28Nm and adding more to the downfall of the torque is the fact that this engine produces that peak torque at a ‘high’(for Bullet) 4000 rpm, while the older CI engine used to produce a twist of 32Nm@3000 rpm itself.
Lower torque and is now available at a higher engine speed!! This is unfair and I mean it, they have played with the feelings of the riders who enjoyed the low end torque of the motorcycle but tried to compensate the same with an engine that is more reliable and fuel efficient. Unlike its 500cc sibling, this motorcycle still gets a carburettor for fuel supply; sounds lesser for a 1.5 lac costing motorcycle, it is. Here are the specifications:
Design and Styling:
If Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru takes a rebirth today with the memories of his older birth still fresh inside him, then only two things he will easily recognize are ‘Enfield Bullet’ and ‘Mahindra Thar’. Both of these iconic vehicles have travelled long through time but are still looking the way they used to around 50 years back. So nothing wrong in calling any of them a package with “Retro Styling and Modern Tech”. The motorcycle we have here, still looks very similar to the original Bullet when it was built for the first time more than half a century back.
Start from front mud guard and reach the rear one and what you have is very clean and smooth surfaces throughout with no sheet metal trickery visible to eye anywhere. AND YES, did I forgot to mention that everything is very well put together? If not, then let me tell you that this is an Enfield and it is actually made like a gun! How? Mind me, have you ever seen a ‘real’ gun made up of plastic or fiber? And this motorcycle is also not having anything called plastic on any of its body panels; that also adds to the appeal. Wherever you see the motorcycle, touch it or feel it – you get metal (switchgear is still plastic, but which vehicle has it made up in iron?) and that simply makes this motorcycle even more special.
All in all, one may hate it or love it but always give this motorcycle, a second look. That adds to the drool factor this motorcycle has got – “Paisa Vasool” for owners it is.
Just above the big round headlight are placed two poorly fitted parking lights which RE calls are inspired by ‘Tiger’ and hence are called Tiger lamps. And it never actually looks like a Tiger, that means either I am wrong, or RE or wrong or both of us are wrong. No matter who is wrong, what matters is the fact that they do illuminate quite well and perform their duty even better (should that be called ‘weller’?). The main headlight is strong and is having a good throw for night riding, definitely a thumbs up, but we wish it was a projector like in TBT. Turn indicators are well placed and equally well illuminated, thumbs up for them.
Ergonomics and Switchgear:
This is a Bullet and it has everything same as it was before except one change; a major one indeed. The gear lever is now (now==10 years or more I guess) on left-hand side (under left foot) and no prizes for guessing where the brake lever has gone. What has this done to Royal Enfield? Nothing ‘big’ but just increased its sales by a fold or two or maybe higher. Many people could be seen getting away from RE motorcycles only because of this odd placement of gear and brake levers(maybe Japanese are odd because they entered the market later, but ‘stupidity’ in masses can’t be ignored either)levers as it was not only uncomfortable for them, more it was dangerous. Don’t agree? Then just imagine yourself doing 100 kph and you require to brake and you are pushing the gear lever very hard and thinking “Why the hell on this earth isn’t this motorcycle stopping”?
A very thought out and fine detail is the grab handle that is provided beneath the saddle. Don’t get fooled thinking of it as a grab handle meant to be grabbed while riding or while riding on pillion seat but this handle is provided at its place to facilitate the process of putting this heavy motorcycle on its center stand. The operation is simple, just put your foot on the center stand engaging lever and press (stand if you weight as much I do), hold this grab handle and pull it up and you will be surprised to see how easy this motorcycle actually is to put on its center stand. What’s the trick behind this? Simple, the grab handle is placed at the right position. Good is that you need not to stretch to the rear end of the motorcycle like on P220, ZMR etc to reach the grab rail and lift it up while engaging the main stand.
The console is the most disappointing part of this motorcycle, looks like RE simply tried to get away skipping even some of the basic instrument by calling it ‘Classic’. Nothing but a big letdown it is. All you get on the console is a speedometer with an odometer and a battery ampere indicator. The trick behind this battery ampere indicator is simple: kick start when the needle is biased towards ‘+’ and if it is towards ‘-‘ then keep kicking slowly(without applying gas, else your knee is gone)until the needle gets biased towards the ‘+’ mark. Getting back to the point, what you will badly miss on this console are a tachometer, trip meter (not even one, P220 has two of them) and above all – a fuel level indicator. Oh c’mon RE, this isn’t a good way of making owners aware of the FE as well as the range their RE can cover in a single full tank. In fact, what will happen if the FE of any motorcycle dips suddenly for some reason? The poor rider will keep on riding innocently until he is entrapped in the middle of nowhere. Sounds more of “Retro looks and Retro instruments and Retro situation of ‘modern’ rider”, it is, indeed.
If you think that the RE classic 350 doesn’t vibrate then you need to have a look into its RVMs when the motorcycle is on the move. The RVMs are nothing but a BIG letdown. They vibrate more when the engine is at lower revs and the vibrations subside a bit once the motorcycle is properly on move with engine revving in the mid range or the top end of the powerband. The RVMs vibrate so much that they can put even the ones of a Pulsar 220 on shy. That said, although they give a fair idea of what’s behind but relying 100% on them can be a bit dangerous. I’d recommend looking twice into them and then also cutting lanes or turning slowly with the ears open for any horn/sounds coming from back as getting a fair idea of the speed and distance of the vehicle approaching from back is tricky looking into these RVMs.
The seating position is comfortable, the rider sits relaxed with everything in the reach; in fact everything can be easily and comfortably reached. The rider sits in a way that neither his back is kept just straight, nor the rider has to lean down any more than required for a comfortable seating. RE, I forgive you for everything else on this motorcycle after I ride it. The seating is spot on with the handlebar is rightly placed and is of the right size and the footpegs with gear and brake levers are also near perfectly placed. The saddle is equally comfortable too.
The sprung saddle is a comfortable place to be on and offers good padding for riding comfort. That said, this makes the pillion feel cheated as the overtly soft pillion seat on offer from RE is nowhere as comfortable as the rider saddle is.
The biggest let down on this motorcycle is the thing that most of the buyers buy a Royal Enfield for. The ‘SOLID Thump’ of the older Bullet is still missing. Here is a quote from Mr. Dilip Bam:
eh? What’s that?
That’s the definition of Bullet! The prime reason for buying Bullet is the soLLidd ThummpPp!
But this one is not THUMPiNG like the old one! What’s a Bullet without the soLLidd thummpPp?
Ya Troo=true. But why thumpPp is weak in this one?
Bkoz of the bluuddy L-o-0-O-0-o-N-G silencer. Imposed by Bharat Sir Caar ! Nissan Sunny is a CaaR, but Bullet is not a CaaR, so please don’t squeeze us SirCaaR (govt)! Plz XQZ=excuse us!
One highly UNeducated cop told me the max allowed noise on roads is just 18 dB (db=decibels). But 18 dB is not enuff for me. I have only 0ne Ear! But Kya Karen?
Kaannoon is Kaannoon! If Dilip Bam does not have Kaan, then it is noon (=none?) of the govt’s
Kya Karen? Turant (=immediately) silencer change Karen. Fit a 40 cm long FF silencer=best
thummpPp! Anything longer than this is going to reduce the thump to reducti0-el-absurd0 !”
So what Mr. Dilip Bam has to say is: “Go and get a good 40cm free flow exhaust for your bullet instantly” if you want to experience the ‘THUMPP’ that this motorcycle has on offer.
Engine, Gearbox and Performance:
This engine displaces 346 cc and since it is a single cylinder engine, hence it has got a really ‘BIG’ cylinder. So what? KTM Duke 390 is also a single cylinder engine displacing 375cc, that makes it 29cc bigger than this RE engine. And the KTM engine isn’t lazy like this one and yes, it produces 45 bhp of power!
So what is special in this engine? It is slow revving, 350cc and produces so less power that even a 150cc tech-laden motorcycle can rival those figures. This is an engine which is just air-cooled(What!! No liquid cooling on a 1.5 lac costing motorcycle!!) and is producing very modest figures BUT there lies a trick. This is a long stroke engine with slow and low revving characteristics. Now, what’s that?
So this engine may be slow revving and may have less tech, but is blessed with a smooth and uniform torque delivery – the most important ingredient for making a perfect cruiser. Relaxed engine and flat torque curve, exactly what is needed to make a perfect motorcycle for long
Carrying a lazy engine, this motorcycle is not meant for 0-60 or 0-100 sprints. What this engine does at its best is cruising at relaxed speeds and that is where it will keep you satisfied. The gearbox also doesn’t help either. The gear ratios are set keeping the relaxed nature of the engine in mind. Don’t get fooled by reading the word ‘lazy’, this is still a 350cc engine pulling a motorcycle and hence the performance is apt for overtaking or maintaining 80-90 kph for day long on highways.
The BEST part ‘KITNA DETI HAI’:
So this motorcycle has got a 350 cc engine. Can we expect 25 kpl? Na na, 25 is way lesser; here are the figures we got using thankful to thankful method under five different riding styles:
- City Riding(Relaxed): 34.33 kpl
- City Riding(Spirited): 29.711 kpl
- Highway Riding(Relaxed): 41.66 kpl
- Highway Riding(Spirited): 36.977 kpl
- Mixed riding: 37.2 kpl
Since we managed to get 37.2 kpl overall while doing the mixed riding, so we can easily expect an overall figure of 40 kpl under relaxed riding. Sounds impossible, right? Buy one to verify!
Suspension, Ride and Handling:
One reason Royal Enfields have emerged to be the favorites of riders is the ride quality, this motorcycle offers. The suspension of this motorcycle is softly setup, in fact, it is so finely tuned that you get an exceptionally flat ride. Slight pimples or undulations on the road surface don’t even get filtered to the occupants and only something really big can disturb the composure of this motorcycle.
This isn’t a point and shoot motorcycle. In fact, put aside the shooting part, even quick pointing is also tough for this motorcycle. But then, are cruisers supposed to do point and shoot? In fact are they supposed to do ‘point’ and ‘shoot’ individually?
Doing duty up front is a 280 mm disc of double floating type, while at the rear is a 150mm drum brake. The disc up front is good at shedding speeds and provides a good feedback too but it is all limited to lower and moderate speeds. Once the speeds are higher (say 80 kph or above) and you will notice that the disc is good but the tyre isn’t able to do justice to the braking performance. Well, if the tyre loose grip then the braking gets tricky and on this motorcycle – it gets worse and that is ‘The Naked Truth’ about the braking performance. Yes, under hard braking this motorcycle gets handful to control.
Let me conclude with just one line:
“Bullet is a Bullet and if you really want something different then this is the motorcycle to own. Other motorcycles are owned, but this one is possessed and this possesses you in turn”. This motorcycle has got a fantastic ride quality and it has got a solid ‘THUMP’ to keep you happy.
Speed is not what this motorcycle is made for, it is made for cruising. Long distance of cruising and long term of ownership is what this motorcycle is meant for. That’s all!
What we like:
- Retro styling and paint quality
- Comfortable seating position
- Ride quality
- Fuel economy
What we dislike:
- Even basic equipment is missing
- Still it lacks power
- Needs more grip
- No alloys and tubeless tyres
- Negligibly less storage space
Own a RE and Thump it, it’s a thing with no match found!