It is said that time travel is no longer considered a complete fiction. To jump to the future, you just need a vehicle that can run really, really fast. However, physicists have yet to discover how to travel back to the past. Fortunately, there is something we can ride to give us a glimpse of how it was like to be a motorcyclist in the old days.
The Royal Enfield Bullet 350 is one of the most authentic neo classic motorcycles in the market today. First introduced in 1931, the Bullet is also the longest-running motorcycle model in history. The 2015 Bullet 350 retained most, if not all, of the characteristics of its version more than half a century ago. For starters, it doesn’t come with an electric starter (excuse the pun). Yet, the kick-starter has a built-in engine decompressor so practically anyone can get it going. At the heart of the Bullet is the same air-cooled, single cylinder, 346-cc engine. Its only modern feature is an additional spark plug. Royal Enfield’s Twin Spark technology enabled the Bullet to achieve the fuel efficiency of a motorcycle half its displacement. That is without the aid of a fuel-injection system since the Bullet still uses a carburetor. Nevertheless, it is able to churn out 19.8 bhp at 5,250 revolutions per minute and 28 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm.
Not fast as a bullet
Contrary to what its name suggests, the Bullet is not particularly fast. This is a bike for riders with an easy-going lifestyle who value styling and versatility over performance. The Bullet is an excellent commuter bike given its plush saddle and good ergonomics. The handle bar is raised to a comfortable height to keep your arms in a relaxed position as well as to give the rider leverage when maneuvering through urban traffic. Handling is also surprisingly light for a 180-kilogram, all metal bike. The 19-inch tires that are fitted to wire spoke rims add to the bike’s classic appeal. The Bullet is even equipped with 153-millimeter drum brakes and thankfully, they actually work.
Like most Indian-made motorcycles, clutch operation on the Bullet is light and working through the 5-speed transmission is easy even in city traffic. Yet, it is best to be deliberate and precise when operating the shifter as it sometimes has the tendency to slot into a false neutral, specifically between third and fourth gear. Be sure to take extra precaution when downshifting for engine braking. Well, it adds to its character, I suppose. On a positive note, I found that I rarely needed to shift gears anyway, especially when just casually riding around town. Just open the throttle and the big thumper will happily chug along no matter which gear you are in. In fact, it is better to operate it that way because increasing the revs won’t make the Bullet run faster – it will just increase the vibrations felt on the grips. A pair of bar ends would be nice.
So if it’s slow and it vibrates, what’s so great about this bike, you may ask? Well, the Bullet is bullet-proof (again, excuse the pun). It has outlasted all motorcycle models that have ever existed because it is extremely durable and requires minimal effort to maintain. In fact, I have ridden a 1950s Bullet during my visit to India and it ran perfectly. It still has the shifter on the right and the rear brake on the left, a common configuration of its era. The Bullet is also very versatile. Its uses varying throughout history, from military duties to milk deliveries. It is even used by adventurers to conquer the punishing terrain of the Himalayas. Most of all, each Bullet is handcrafted in Chennai. From the metal badge to the pin striping on the tank, no two Bullets are completely identical. Now, if you are willing to overlook a few minor quirks, swing a leg over a Bullet and travel back in time. To know more about Royal Enfield and the Bullet 350, visit www.royalenfieldph.weebly.com