2010 Royal Enfield Bullet Classic C5 Review

2010 Royal Enfield Bullet Classic C5 Review

I’m taking a break by the side of the road. A seasoned gentleman walking his dog steps up to me and asks, “What year is it?” I reply confidently, “2010.” He follows up with, “No, I mean the motorcycle.”

I smile and inform him that the Royal Enfield Bullet Classic C5 EFI he sees parked on a dirt portion of Mulholland Drive is, indeed, a 2010 motorcycle model.

He looks at me askance, and I don’t blame him. I insist. He furrows his brow, gives the bike a closer look, and then silently returns to his dog-walking duties. You meet the most confused people on a Royal Enfield.

While older Enfields were essentially currently manufactured vintage motorcycles, this newest version of the Bullet is gently embracing modernity. The biggest change, certainly, is the new motor.

By design, it still looks straight out of the 1950s, even though that is not the case. The air-cooled, two-valve, pushrod engine is fed by (gasp!) an undisguised Mikuni EFI system. Technology marches on.

The EFI system is there for a reason. It is the necessity of meeting modern emissions standards, including those of Europe and our EPA. For the rider, the impact of the EFI is minimal.

Instead of a choke, you now have a handlebar-mounted high-idle lever to invoke when the motor is cold. Electric starting is now exclusive-the kickstarter appendage having been lost to evolution. That is fine, as the EFI requires a charged battery to operate, so the kickstarter’s function as a backup system is rendered almost moot.

When cold, the Bullet can be reluctant to start, so be sure to keep the battery charged between rides. Once fired up, warm-up is casual and very carb-like. Be patient. The Enfield is not a bike for those in a hurry. Sit back and admire your bike’s classic styling while you wait.

Getting astride the Bullet C5 reminds you of just how welcoming motorcycles were over half-a-century ago. The bike is thin, light and wiry-you command the bike, not the other way around.

Though the swept-forward bars may look odd, the grips fall right to hand. The big round mirrors do what mirrors are supposed to do-give you a nice view of what is going on behind you.

On the Bullet, more than any other current 500cc bike you are likely to ride, the ability to see behind you is an important function. The unkind among us may be tempted to call the Bullet slow.

Being a half-full kind of guy, I find that the 27.5 horsepower motor has a deliberate power delivery that refuses to catch me unawares. Okay. It is slow by 21st century standards. If you want to ride a modern bike, I am not sure why you would buy a Royal Enfield.

Without question, the Bullet Classic C5 is more than the sum of its parts. Other than its wonderful styling, there is nothing the Enfield does that isn’t done better by any other current bike. But, that’s not the point, is it?

The true function of the Royal Enfield is to provide the vintage riding experience, without many of the difficulties and inconveniences that come with riding a truly old motorcycle.

Speed builds slowly on the optimistically named Bullet, but a hard application of the throttle produces enough thrust to keep you ahead of cars in town. Relatively short shifts are the hot ticket-at 4000 rpm the torque peaks at 30 ft/lbs.

The Enfield is a wonderful casual city bike. It is maneuverable, exceptionally forgiving, narrow, and low to the ground. Weighing in at a claimed 412 pounds dry, it feels even lighter, given its seemingly spindly construction.

The Bullet is happy on twisting rural roads, thanks to decent geometry and surprisingly good Avon Speedmaster tires. The suspension is low-tech, so learn to work within its well-defined boundaries. This is a cruiser, in the truest sense of the word.

The single front disc and rear drum brakes are modest, and are assisted significantly by engine compression braking. Obviously, smooth is the way to go, rather than cut-and-thrust. Riding a Royal Enfield is about enjoying the details of the process of riding, and watching your environment pass you by at an easily observable pace.

Royal Enfield has designed the Bullet to be durable and resistant to damage. It has to be, of course. Riding in its home country of India can be a challenging prospect. The roads are often in poor condition, and many people overload their bikes, operating them as ad hoc trucks.

One of the most eye-opening aspects of the Bullet is its willingness to tool down a dirt road-even one with no shortage of potholes and ruts. The stone-age suspension-with gas rear shocks straight out of the 1970s and forks of unknown heritage-does a respectable job of taking the hit out of the road’s sharp edges and the perfectly sprung seat keeps you unexpectedly removed from the milieu.

Would I be overselling the Bullet to call it an adventure bike? Not really. There are plenty of companies in India offering adventure tours in the bike’s natural habitat using these very same motorcycles to access destinations such as Nepal and Tibet.

If you are patient, you can ride this bike on roads you associate with pure adventure bikes, simply due to its maneuverability, light weight, and low seat height. Remember, there was a time when all bikes were all-terrain vehicles, and the Bullet C5 steadfastly recalls those days.

Royal Enfield has pulled off a nice trick with the Bullet Classic C5 EFI. The Indians updated the motor to quasi-contemporary standards, without sacrificing the bike’s essential retro/vintage appearance and appeal. The finish on the motor casings is rough. The pegs vibrate relentlessly. Quarter-mile times are measured with a sundial. It’s perfect!

Photography by Kelly Callan

Helmet: HJC AC-3 Carbon
Eyewear: Wiley X Jake La Brown
Jacket: Dainese Chiodo-TT Pelle
Gloves: Dainese X-Ile
Jeans: Shift Torque
Boots: Tour Master Vintage Road

2010 Royal Enfield Bullet Classic C5 EFI Specs

Engine…Single Cylinder, 4-Stroke, Spark Ignition, Air Cooled, OHV
Maximum power: 27.5 horsepower
Maximum torque: 30 ft-lbs
Fueling… EFI
Electrical…12V System
Transmission…5-Speed gearbox with left side gear shift
Suspension…Gas-filled shock absorbers
Brake…Front 280mm disc; rear 152mm drum
Tires… Front 90/90 x 18; Rear 110/80 x 18
Wheelbase…54 inches
Weight…412 lbs