The Bullet 350 is Royal Enfield’s signature bike. It has been in continuous production for over 65 years, although numerous changes have been made over the years to make it a more contemporary machine, while retaining the old-school charm. The Bullet 350 doesn’t really excite on the performance front. In 2013, Royal Enfield launched a new 500cc version, which retained all the much-loved elements from the original Bullet, while adding dollop of power to the mix. We test the Bullet 500 to find out how it delivers.
The Bullet 500 still carries the same iconic shape as the first Bullets many decades ago, which is a shape that we’ve grown to adore. It is a simple and elegant silhouette that looks very charming. We think it is one of the coolest-looking motorcycles on sale in India today.
On the Bullet 500, you sit with your arms are placed apart at a comfortable width, with your feet placed ever-so-slightly forward. This posture is comfortable and offers good control. Pillion comfort is also good, although the small rear back rest feels uncomfortable after a while.
Royal Enfield has improved their levels of quality in recent times. The Bullet 500 is a testament for that. The paint finish is exceptional, and the materials used seemed of high quality. It still isn’t up to the mark though, and there are a lot of places where it still needs to improve.
Engine & Performance
The Bullet 500 gets a carburetted version of the engine used in the Thunderbird 500 and the Classic 500. Power and torque are down by a bit, but you don’t really feel it. The engine is so torquey that regardless of which gear you’re in, at the twist of the throttle, the bike just surges forward with urgency. This rush is very addictive, and makes the Bullet 500 a lot of fun to ride. On the highway, the abundance of torque it allows you to cruise comfortably all day long. The biggest drawback though is the vibrations. It feels tolerable under 100 kmph, but above that, it gets a little discomforting.
Ride & Handling
Given its design and weight, the Bullet 500 wasn’t built to be an agile handler, and it isn’t. Nevertheless, it is feels safe when cornering at speed. Things are much better in a straight line, though. It is extremely stable, and tracks true to its line even when hit by heavy crosswinds. The telescopic forks at the front and gas-charged shock absorbers at the rear combine to offer a pliant ride, one that's neither cosseting, nor uncomfortable. It absorbs imperfections well at low speeds, but as you go faster, it gets a little unsettling over rough surfaces.
The Bullet 500 gets a disc brake at the front and a drum brake at the rear. While it offers sufficient retardation for speeds under 60 kmph, it feels inadequate to bring this 195 kg motorcycle to a halt safely when braking from triple digit speeds.
Well, you don’t really get much in the way of features on the Bullet 500; it is a retro motorcycle after all, and they didn’t have any features whatsoever 50 years ago! The only contemporary additions you will find on the bike are a front disc brake, electric start, and a pass light switch, all of which make the bike more user-friendly.
Here’s a bike that was originally designed around the time India got its independence, is quite heavy, and vibrates like a jackhammer. Regardless of its flaws, riding a Bullet 500 is quite an experience. With a ton of torque at your beck and call, you can either zip from traffic light to traffic light, or cruise sedately on our never-ending highways. The Bullet 500 is for those who want a distinctive motorcycle, one that’s powerful yet devoid of any sporting intentions or electronic trickery, for the everyday commute, and for the occasional highway jaunt.
|Engine||Air-cooled, 4-stroke single cylinder|
|Power||26.1 bhp @ 5100 rpm|
|Torque||40.9 Nm @ 3800 rpm|
|Chassis Type||Single downtube, using engine as stressed member|
|Brakes||Front:Disc, dia 280 mm, 2-piston caliper
Rear:153mm Drum, Single Lead Internal expanding type
|Suspension||Front:Telescopic, 130 mm fork travel
Rear:Twin Gas-charged shock absorbers, 80 mm travel
|Fuel Tank Capacity||13.5|