In Part I of our report of riding the 2012 Royal Enfield Bullet 500 B5 for 11,000 miles, we discussed the modifications. In Part II let’s discuss what it is like to ride the 500cc single for 11,000 in a variety of roads and conditions.
The Talking Motorcycles garage is at capacity. Our two car garage first and foremost must house Colette’s ride of choice. At present that is a full size GM 3800 V6 front driver. I seldom drive her car but I’ve actually come to really appreciate the Lucerne.
The other half of the garage is where the motorcycles are kept. The stable includes a 2017 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Milwaukee-Eight, our 1995 Harley-Davidson FLHTCU Ultra Classic carbed Evo with only 18,000 original miles, the 1958 Harley-Davidson Duo Glide Panhead in its original black and white factory paint and 54,500 miles, a Piaggio BV500 with factory saddlebags and a top trunk (excellent two up Saturday morning garage shoppping transportation or cross country, a pearl white 1989 Honda XL600V TransAlp and the Royal Enfield B5.
Considering that I do not personally own an automobile or truck, motorcycling is the way I get pretty much anywhere. The RE has become my daily rider here in Daytona and all of Central Florida and up the Northeast Coast to Jacksonville. Thanks to the Clearwater Lights it is the choice for riding up and down the coast in fog and darkness.
With the bike on its factory center stand simply turn on the key and hit the starter button. Boom. The 60’s era BSA 650 muffler clearly communicates the engines state of tune instantly. My concern was that the free flowing BSA can would create a lean condition but the FI compensated quickly and the end result is a very slight lean condition that returns 65 mpg average and a good mixture. My habit is to start every bike before gearing up when I leave the garage. I’m old school enough to believe a two to four minutes of initial warm up is good for seals, gaskets and metals. Off the stand, clutch in and drop the 5 speed gearbox into first gear. The light clutch has a nice but tight friction zone that works super well. The gearbox has a solid thunk going into first. Leaving the stop sign two blocks away from the house I go North on John Anderson. This is about the start of the famous “Loop” that is so popular during Daytona Bike Week. For the other 49 weeks per year, the loop was made for the flexible single and light on its feet handling of the Bullet. The best way that I have discovered is to simply stop looking at the speedometer and ride the motorcycle. With under 30 HP the RE is not a performance motorcycle in the way we are all accustomed. However, when compared to a BSA 441 Victor or other big British singles of the past, it runs beautifully and never marks its spot in the driveway or garage. No leaks and weak electrics are two things about vintage British singles that you will not miss with the Bullet. It did have a countershaft sprocket seal seep early on but was simple to replace and hasn’t leaked in the last 10,000 miles.
In many ways the power characteristics of the RE 500 are similar to a Suzuki DR350 single. The power delivery is very satisfying from bottom of the RPM range to the top though the top is just not a place you visit often. It has ample torque in the low to mid-range and the exhaust note is spectacular at lower RPM with a little bit of load on the engine. While I do not believing in lugging any air cooled engine, I do find myself short shifting frequently and letting the torque and hp build with RPM’s. This is fun engine.
The 5 speed gearbox shifts like butter when you understand what it likes. It likes a leisurely pace on upshifts. Just roll off the throttle, pull in the clutch and it slides right up into the next gear with a solid feel but very smooth. Top gear is just right for 50 to 70 mph speeds. As we discussed in Part I, the bike has been geared a little taller and that moves the place where the engine vibration is noticeable (mostly in the riders footpegs) at 65 mph instead of 60. At speeds above 50 mph I move my feet to the rear passenger pegs for aero reasons anyway so, for me, the 65 mph vibration is a non-factor. Before you develop preconceived notions about the vibration of a 500cc single, I recommend scheduling a nice long test ride and see for yourself.
The frame was designed in the early 40’s and is almost exactly the same frame today on the Bullet. The size of the frame is smallish but at 5′ 10″ and average weight, it fits me well. Front to rear balance is about right. If you are paying attention you can feel the front and rear suspension working at speed. It communicates just enough feedback to let you know what’s up but soaks up stutter bumps and other surface imperfections really well. Many times on Sunday afternoons Colette will suggest we go for a motorcycle ride when we are all caught up on house and garage stuff. She pretty much always chooses what we will ride. More often than not she chooses the Royal Enfield. I bumped up the pre-load on the rear shocks a couple of clicks and it is slightly firm solo and just right two up.
The single disc front rotor is clamped with twin piston calipers. The rear is drum. We are currently running Dunlop K70 Gold Seal tires. I have a set of Dunlop K81/TT100’s ready to install when they are used up. With the Gold Seals the brakes and tires provide ample stopping power. The front brake could be a slight bit more linear but the progression is good and the stopping power will cry the front tire or lock it if you are heavy handed. Personally I am a big fan of rear drum brakes. They are smooth and progressive and will absolutely lock the rear tire so what more would we ask for?
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