The half-litre Bullet returns

Royal Enfield has relaunched the Bullet 500, and we get up close and comfortable with it. Hari Warrier writes. Bestselling cars, April 2013 | Automoti

What can be better than a Bullet? Why, a bigger Bullet, of course!

Royal Enfield last month relaunched the Bullet 500, which it had taken off a decade ago, and fitted with the monoblock engine that has been a runaway success. The 'Indian icon' of motorcycles has been having a grand run in recent years, despite the general slowdown in the auto world, with the standard Bullet commanding a waiting list.

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Let us take a look at what it has done with this bigger Bullet.

For starters, it has eschewed the EFI fuel injection that does duty in its other 500-cc offerings, the Classic and Thunderbird, in favour of a carburettor with a 33-mm bore: sufficient to do justice to the bigger engine without straining the mileage. There is an EFI variant, but only for exports.

The half-litre Bullet returns
The half-litre Bullet returns

The bike has twin spark plugs, a neat design that does not stray from the traditions too much, and the usual tall and upright stance that suits bigger riders. The fabled hand-painted tank has new silver decals, and everything is more or less as it has always been - which is not necessarily a bad thing. There is a new colour - forest green - which is extremely pleasing to the eye. Bestselling cars, April 2013

The big step forward that the company took under Eicher, that of integrating the gearbox and the engine block, paid rich dividends, especially since it gave them a chance to put in a five-speed gearbox. Power and torque in the carburetted variant are fractionally lower than the EFIs, but they kick in at lower engine speeds as well, making for a good ride.

Swinging the bike into action, the added power from the big engine is very much in evidence. Taking off from a standing start is a joy. Weaving through traffic is a snip, too. The first jar comes when one hits a reasonably high 80 kph, in the fifth gear - vibrations. Automotive Scrabble

Now, this is not a new thing with the Bullet, so we hope that Enfield would do something about this soon. Pressing on from 80 kph, one becomes aware of vibrations from the footrests as well.

For the traditional manner of driving the Bullet - a sedate and steady 50 kph - this bike is a joy, though the fifth gear may not come into play much. But if you are in a hurry to get somewhere, or ride an hour at 100 kph, well, you may arrive at the destination shaken, if not stirred!

The engine has enough grunt to warrant an overdrive, which would probably eliminate some of the vibrations too, but the engine mounts sure would appreciate damping.

The half-litre Bullet returns
The half-litre Bullet returns

The second major - shall we say, glitch? communicates when we are trying to stop in a hurry. The rear brake is still a drum, and feels rather spongy to handle an engine this powerful. If there can be discs in front, why not at the back as well? And if we can have gas-filled shockers at the back, why not a stronger - maybe even upside down - fork up front? Indian roads are not getting any better, and anyway the Bullet is much loved in the hinterlands where dirt-tracks are the order of the day.

The Bullet 500 carb is being launched in a phased manner, beginning with high-demand areas: Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi-NCR and Kerala.

First Published Date: 09 May 2013, 22:06 PM IST

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