The king of displacement
A single-cylinder thumper, Brit style. With a 500cc heart and electric start. How does it measure up?
Every hardcore biker lives for large capacity motorcycles. Yet, in India this fraternity is starved. Strike up this subject with enthusiasts and the pet argument will be the complete absence of a true-blue big bike.
Yet, one motorcycle company does try and cater to this breed with a variant that at least attempts to fit the bill Royal Enfield's new Bullet 500 ES. While the Bullet 500 is visually identical to its 350cc brethren, it does employ a dazzling new clear lens headlamp, and obvious 500cc badges on its flanks. This Bullet twinkles out a chrome lover's treat under the sun and trademark 19-inch rims endow the motorcycle with authority. While the instrumentation lack a tachometer or trip function, it does include an amp meter for those interested.
The `ES' in this Bullet's name stands for Electric Start much-needed on a bike with a kick-back as violent as an angry Mike Tyson. The fuel tank is a teardrop shape, while switchgear and levers are adequate tackle. Overall quality and fit and finish remain at the same drab levels anyone familiar with Bullets will have learnt to live with.
Run of the mill
The engine is single cylinder, twin-valve, air-cooled and displaces 499cc, while overhead valves carry forward obsolete technology by being push-rod actuated. Even the ignition system for the Bullet 500 ES continues to use the good old transistor coil system, while yet another area that Royal Enfield can look into is the heavyweight clutch, which lacks feel.
A four-speed gearbox shifts with the lever on the right side. Shift action itself is poor with an archaic and peculiar one-up, three-down pattern (Jawa and Yezdi had it too!) and false neutrals liberally sprinkled in between each ratio. We rode this bike hard and felt a bit let down. While the 500 ES touches 60 kph from rest in a slow-n-steady 5.6 seconds, it does manage a 120 kph top speed. However, vibrations in this territory are heavier than really desirable.
However, sitting on the Bullet 500 ES is a fine experience, with a comfortable riding posture that helps make long rides a relaxed affair. Gas-charged dual shocks provide comfortable cushioning at the rear. Besides, ride quality does not diminish even with a hefty pillion. Another praiseworthy Bullet feature retained on the 500 is unrivalled straight-line stability.
Cornering is adequate, though we couldn't find the courage to indulge in sporty riding. A 280 mm front disc and a drum behind give the 500 ES decent braking capability, while fuel economy hovers around the 30 kpl mark.
A price to pay
Sure, this Royal Enfield flagship might be desirable to Bullet lovers. It's as retro and as macho as any other Enfield, and still goes faster and thumps louder. The big letdown though is a price tag not justified by its performance. At just below Rs 1 lakh on-road, this bike is a bit too expensive to find a mention on our `must-buy' list.
Send this article to Friends by