The classic Royal Enfield Bullet 500 gets a contemporary appeal with the addition of some equipment and styling elements. Rishad Cooper has the details.

Royal Enfield has just launched a new version of the Bullet, an iconic and timeless model that laid the foundation stone for this company, and remains close to the heart of all Royal Enfield fans even after so many generations. Royal Enfield has been regularly updating technology on its bikes and adding equipment across models. The Chennai-based manufacturer also recently opened doors of its state-of-the-art production facility in Oragadam, from where it plans to boost production to shrink extended delivery queues building up at its dealerships.

The Bullet 500 is a large bike, with smooth, vintage motorcycle lines that have helped it age with grace. This macho-looker has splashes of chrome in all the right places. There’s a Bullet-typical, single-pod analogue speedometer with an odometer. The bike also gets an independent ampere meter.. The palm grips feel comfortable, even after a long stint in the saddle. The 500’s levers impart a nice, solid feel. The side panels are emblazoned with a few decals while the stylish, teardrop-shaped fuel tank gets a handsome golden-winged emblem and hand-painted golden coach lines. The cigar-like exhaust is chrome finished, with heat shielding to protect the rider and pillion. The tail-lamp is a familiar one — you’ll spot it on the Classic series Royal Enfield bikes.

The Bullet 500 shares its engine with its stablemates, the Thunderbird 500 and the popular Classic 500. It’s a four-stroke, 499cc, single-cylinder air-cooled engine that steers clear of fuel-injection — not such a bad thing at all on a true-blue classic motorcycle such as this. The carburetted 500 springs to life via the button effortlessly once warm, with its engine temperature up to normal, although cold starts in the morning sometimes call for working the kick starter.

The Bullet 500 makes 26.1bhp of power at 5100rpm, while the peak torque output is 4.17kgm, which arrives relatively early in the powerband at 3800rpm. The power and torque output are undoubtedly low for a motorcycle of such high capacity, but that school of thought holds little weight here, as Royal Enfield motorcycles aren’t built for thrilling performance.

The five-speed transmission works with smooth feel, to shift seamlessly when working your way up or down the box in its one-down, four-up pattern. All gear ratios are well matched to the engine.The 500 is in its element when cruising at speeds of 80-90kph in top gear, the exhaust proudly beating out its lazy, Bullet-typical thump. This isn’t the right choice of motorcycle for riders who want the feel of a sportsbike, but the Bullet 500 does still do the dash from 0-60kph in a brisk 4.59 seconds, and thereon rides past 100kph in 13.4secs. It can run on to a true top speed of 124kph, as tested by us, but feels a touch breathless when hustled beyond 110kph.

The Bullet 500 is no lean motorcycle, tipping the scales at 193kg, with a robust, single downtube tubular steel frame. Royal Enfield bikes are known for their comfortable riding positions, and the Bullet 500 doesn’t disappoint, with a near-straight handlebar and upright seating posture. This is a bike that stays comfortable even when ridden over long distances. The padded saddle is wide and supportive. What’s more, Royal Enfield is now providing a nifty backrest that we found comfortable for pillions. The Bullet 500 uses a 280mm front disc brake that works well to provide ample bite, with progressive feel at the lever. At the rear, there’s a 153mm drum which proved adequate too. No, this bike can’t corner as well as a modern-day motorcycle, but that’s to be expected. The 500 does well to retain its composure, always staying steady and stable, as it thunders down the road with unmatched presence.

This new Royal Enfield motorcycle is capable of returning good fuel consumption for such a large-capacity engine. During our demanding tests, the Bullet 500 returned a respectable 31.1kpl when ridden in real-world city conditions. And we got a respectable 34kpl while cruising comfortably and soaking in its lazy, Bullet-typical engine character on the open highways.

Royal Enfield has managed to retain the classic appeal of the Bullet and in addition, has introduced some changes that brings up to speed. The 499cc engine works well and although performance and fit and finish quality could definitely be better, it isn’t hard to overlook these issues.

It still has all the timeless Royal Enfield characteristic qualities and is sure to delight fans everywhere.

Technical data:

Price Rs 1,37,879 lakh (Ex-showroom, Delhi)

(L/W/H) 2140/810/1110mm

Wheelbase 1370mm

Ground clearance 135mm

Engine layout Single-cylinder, air-cooled, four-stroke

Max power 26.1bhp at 5100rpm

Max torque 4.17kgm at 3800rpm

Bore/stroke 84/90mm

Gearbox Type 5-speed,

Suspension

Front Telescopic forks

Rear Gas shock absorbers, tubular swingarm

Wheel size (f-r) 19-18 inches

Tyre size (f-r) 90/90 x 19 – 120/80 x 18 inches

Brakes

Front 280mm disc

Rear 153mm drum

Economy

City 31.1kpl

Highway 34kpl

Overall 32.6kpl

Tank size 13.5 litres