Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bikes I'd Like To Ride: Royal Enfield Bullet 350

When I started riding motorcycles they all had point/coil ignition that could barely keep a spark plug hot enough to prevent fouling, skinny rock-hard tires with nail-attracting tubes in them, and wet-cell batteries you had to refill as often as the gas tank or they’d boil dry and die.

This combination of sub-par systems meant you never really knew if you were going to get where you were going on time—or at all. You don’t get that with modern bikes, and that takes something away from the adventure that is riding motorcycles.

But every time I look at a Royal Enfield, the possibility of getting stranded and having to push it home is the first thing that enters my mind. And for some perverse reason that makes me want to swing a leg over it and tempt fate.

The Bullet 350 has pushrod-operated overhead valves, and puts out a claimed 18 horsepower at a leisurely 5000 rpm. The spark is lit by points, and top speed is 62 mph. Even at that the 7-inch front drum brake and 6-inch rear are probably overmatched.

There was a Royal Enfield dealer in a city about 125 miles from here, and I used to stop in when I was in the area to look at the bikes. The first time I saw one I spent 10 minutes looking it over and discovered maybe five things that looked like they’d break or fall off in the first 100 miles. Every part on it appeared to have been designed with the phrase “more or less” in mind. It appeared not to have been manufactured as much as carved; it wouldn’t surprise me to discover anvils on the factory floor.

So why would I like to ride a Royal Enfield Bullet 350?

To once again feel that old thrill that attracted me to bikes way back when. To once again feel like I’m part of the rider/bike equation, and not just another accessory the engineers had to accommodate.

To see if I really get where I’m going.
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Canajun said...

I agree. While it's nice to be able to hit the button and go, the challenge of a one-kick start (and all the tuning that entailed), the ability to repair the thing yourself - usually on the side of the road - with a handful of tools, and just the "coolness" factor will always attract me to these bikes.

Jerry Smith said...

It would also be fun to have a bike that would allow me to take part in these:

Charlie6 said...

What a coincidence your mentioning wanting to ride an Enfield. I just posted a review of a book where the author rode an Enfield Bullet 500 from India back to Great might want to read his commentary on the motorcycle's performance and such.



Anonymous said...

there's a new royal enfield bike that's been highly reccomended in the march 2009 issue of cycle world (in an 8-page article). it's a full new engine with EFI and a 1940's look. you can see it at

David Blasco said...

Great article. I would like to post a link to it on my blog,
Here's a link to the post I wrote about why I chose to ride buy a Royal Enfield Bullet.
All best,

Jerry Smith said...

Okay on the link, David. Thanks.

david said...

I came late to the discussion, but re
what Jerry Smith wrote, there's no way they'd let you
into the MotoMelee with a bullet that wasn't really from the 1970's. I've asked.

david said...

...and they're loking for bikes that are older than
that. Pre '71 have 1st priority.

Jerry Smith said...

You're right, david. Serves me right for not reading the event rules all the way through before I post a link to the website.

Even so, it seems like the Enfield ought to be allowed in under a "spirit of the law" exemption.