It’s a no hidden fact that the Royal Enfield Bullet has achieved a cult status in the Indian automotive history. Born as a usual 350cc bare bones motorcycle in 1948, nobody would have thought that the Bullet would go on having the longest production run of any motorcycle in its entire history.
It’s almost more than half a decade, and the Royal Enfield Bullet still continues to charm a many. The timeless retro looks, the torque filled engine and the characteristic ‘dug dug’ exhaust note have made the Bullet an icon which now it is. Over the years, the Royal Enfield Bullet has received a lot of changes and upgrades, the most prominent of which was the fitment of the Unit Construction Engine (UCE) sourced from the Thunderbird Twinspark. The engine replaced the age old cast iron engine, which was eventually phased out in 2011.
For the year 2014, Royal Enfield introduced a couple of changes to its flagship Bullet, the Bullet 500, owing to the revamp which the Royal Enfield’s identity took. Here’s a quick look on one of the most successful motorcycles in the history of two wheeler motoring, the Royal Enfield Bullet 500.
Going by the looks, the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 certainly belongs to the World War era – it is that dated. Though for a majority of buyers, this is the best thing which has happened to the Bullet 500, with them claiming it as a beautiful timeless machine to look at. The Bullet 500 has a gracious retro design which has beautifully aged with the passing time.
At the front, you get the very familiar round headlamp surrounded by chrome housing. The main round headlamp is then flanked with two small pilot lamps at both of its upper corners. Unlike on the Bullet 350, you get a chrome cap above the headlamp here on the Bullet 500 (like on the Classic 350 and Classic 500 models), giving it a smarter and more premium look. The round turn indicators below the headlamp unit too are bathed in chrome, giving it the much needed vintage look. The front fender is devoid of any creases or curves, and gets two supporting bars which adjoin to the front drum brake unit.
On moving sideways, the Bullet 500 still retains the traditional curvy fuel tank, but now houses the new Royal Enfield logo. The fuel tank has got the trademark pin striping job done by bare hands, one of the most special traits of this motorcycle. The chrome finished engine, triangular body colored side cowls and the absence of proper rear side body panels make you feel that the motorcycle hasn’t underwent a drastic change over the original model which debuted in 1948.
At the rear, on the no-nonsense simple looking rear fender, the rounded tail lamp is mounted, which gets assisted with the chrome finished round turn indicators. In addition, the Bullet 500 gets a small backrest for the pillion rider. On the point of view from the rider’s seat, the Bullet 350 has got a high mounted handlebar, which gives the rider the feeling of being the king of the road, with the upright seating stance. The Bullet 500 now gets the modern set of switchgear, which has been shared with the rest of the motorcycles from Royal Enfield, and also includes an engine kill switch. The round rear view mirrors are very simple in design, but are functional at the same time.
The instrument console of the Bullet 500 hasn’t changed much as well, with the all analog unit still consisting of a speedometer and odometer in one housing and a battery level indicator in a separate small round housing. The build quality and the levels of fit and finish have surely improved over its predecessors, but it is still not up to the mark when compared to other bikes at this price.
The Royal Enfield Bullet 500 of today’s day and age comes fitted with the contemporary Unit Construction Engine (UCE) which replaced the traditional and outdated cast iron engine in 2007. This four stroke, single cylinder, air cooled, 499cc engine comes with a heavier crankshaft and twin spark plugs, which have made it more efficient and reliable than before. The engine is capable of belting out 26.1 bhp of power and 41 Nm of torque.
The Bullet 500 may be a 500cc motorcycle, but it isn’t meant for quick acceleration and blazing sprints. Instead, it loves to cruise as it has got a solid mid range. The healthy torque rating gives it the capability to comfortably cruise in the speeds up to 80 kmph, beyond which the motorcycle starts to rattle a bit. Fuel efficiency has never been a strong point of the Bullet 500, with this new iteration of the motorcycle returning a decent 25-30 kmpl of economy.
As said before, the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 likes to be cruised, and that too can be done for hours. The credits to the comfortable ride quality of the motorcycle needs to be given to the nicely damped suspension setup, with the bike getting 35mm telescopic hydraulic forks at the front and hydraulic coil springs with 5-step adjustable preload at the rear.
The suspension setup is simple and traditional, and is tilted on a softer side to keep the rider devoid of stress for longer runs as well. The motorcycle does weigh almost 193 kg, which makes it a heavier bike to handle. This curbs its handling characteristics, with the motorcycle needing proper balancing around corners. On fast stretches, the Bullet 500 feels planted, which makes it a great highway tourer. The bike comes with a set of 280mm disc brake at the front and a 153mm drum brakes at the rear, which though lack the bite to bring this bulky motorcycle to a halt.
The Bullet 500 is the flagship motorcycle in Royal Enfield’s ‘Bullet’ lineup of retro roadsters, which are usually targeted as an altogether different segment of motorcycles. At Rs. 1.50 lakh, the Bullet 500 may seem a bit pricey due to its simple mechanicals and equipment, but then, the torquey 500cc engine makes up for it.
Sticking to its traditional virtues, Royal Enfield has made the Bullet 350 available in two paint shades of black and forest green.
Usually, Royal Enfield has positioned all of its motorcycles in a very different segment which targets at those people who are looking for a nice torquey engine suitable for their long highway jaunts. But going by the price point, the only competition which the Bullet 500 does face is the Bajaj Avenger.
Like the Bullet 500, the Bajaj Avenger too loves to be cruised on long highways. Compared to the dated and retro looking Bullet 500, the Avenger features a more relaxed and contemporary cruiser stance, which makes look a bit more modern in comparison. The Avenger also features a couple of additional features over the Bullet 500, making it a bit more value for money.
The Bajaj Avenger is powered by a four stroke, single cylinder, oil cooled, 220cc engine, which too comes with twin spark plugs as the Bullet 500. The Avenger does make 19.2 PS, which is somewhat lesser than the power rating of Bullet 500. Also, the Avenger’s engine makes 17.5 Nm of torque, which is much lesser than that of the Bullet 350.
In terms of ride and handling, both the motorcycles are equally comfortable, but the ergonomics of the Avenger will take some time to get used to. The optional front windscreen and rear backrest for the pillion rider gives the Avenger an edge over the Bullet 500 for long distance touring.
At first glance, the dated mechanicals and looks of the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 may not seem to be a great value for money for most of the potential buyers who want a motorcycle to fulfill their practical needs of commuting and touring. But then, this is the motorcycle which needs the decision of your heart, and not brain. The Bullet 500 has a cool retro design, which is enough for most of its potential buyers. The torquey engine with the characteristic thump from the exhaust pipe is the icing on the cake for the potential Bullet fans. The ride quality is good, with its saddle being a comfortable place to be on for long hours as well. It is the soulful character of the Bullet 500, which has created an altogether different breed among motorcycling enthusiasts – a breed called ‘Bulleteers’.