There are few motorcycle manufacturers that maintain a presence by faithfully preserving their marquee’s past. Other manufacturers have slates of retro motorbikes, but Royal Enfield remains a player by continuing to build the same classic motorcycles they’ve always built.
It’s a matter of de facto chic; times have come around to make their unchanged bikes very hip. This is exactly why the 500cc single-cylinder Royal Enfield is so charming. Instead of chasing up groundbreaking technological advancements the company relies on its tried and true range of long-stroked motorcycles.
In India, ownership of a Royal Enfield is a sign of prestige. Despite the relatively low MSRP the machines represent a sizable investment. Evidently there’s an entire sub-culture emerging in India of successful young people who use the motorbike as a badge of honor.
Stateside the motorbikes are a kind of trophy to sentimentality and the good ole days, the increased reliability of the new metals engine translating into a more sensible mode of recreation and transportation.
And the popularity is increasingly more respectable for the India-based company, with production having reached 52,000 motorcycles in 2009. The company is targeting the magical 100,000-unit number as early as 2012.
Royal Enfield decided to graduate from the lean-burn engine by infusing their motorcycles with fuel injection and a new air-cooled Unit Construction Engine (UCE). I met the head designer last week at the vintage rally in Venice Beach, CA and he told me about some exciting new models that are in the works.
Primarily, he mentioned a new retro café racer. He was sparse with the details but his grin spoke volumes. He did say there was going to be a fairing. Clues may or may not be found in the currently available Café Racer Kit.
Having reviewed the standard C5 and G5 Bullet in the past I can attest, first person, about the thrill and absolute joy of throttling one of these street bikes down a country lane.
There’s something wholesomely invigorating about the 27.5 hp experience, tapping into the same kind of euphoria that accompanied our first experiences on a motorcycle.
With the straight pull clutch and long throw of the 5-speed transmission, it takes us back to a forgotten time of concentrating on the motorcycling basics: clutch-shift-throttle-spongy-brakes.
In a time of technological overload, of high-horsepower and electronically imbued race engines and aluminum chassis, it’s refreshing to take a step back to a simpler time. Only now we can do it with something “old that is manufactured new” that claims an incredibly green 85-mpg.
Current 500cc models available here in the USA include the Bullet G5 Classic, Bullet G5 Deluxe, Bullet C5 Classic and Bullet C5 Military.