by Benjamin P. Goebel
The Royal Enfield G5 brings to mind the days when there was a thriving middleweight class of motorcycle. The once-popular middleweight motorcycle had good roadholding abilities, was light in weight and had enough power to do just about anything. Versatility was its strong suit.Commuting, highway or city riding, 2-up riding and gravel roads could all be dispatched with aplomb. Alas, as time passed, motorcycles became much more specialized and focused in their intended purpose. This has brought us many amazing machines of all flavors with technology that easily makes them the technological equivalent of a modern automobile. You have to put all that technology somewhere. They’ve grown larger-taller, wider, longer, and heavier. They have become more complex and more expensive to purchase and maintain. The Royal Enfield G5 is a motorcycle that flies in the face of almost everything else being produced today.
Aesthetically the Royal Enfield G5 is certainly reminiscent of the British singles of the mid 1950’s. It has a nice amount of chrome and great paint. The tank pinstriping is done by human hand. Many parts are polished adding to the nostalgic feel. The view from the seat is very simple and clean. The Royal Enfield is a simple machine. In its simplicity, it encourages a certain non-threatening, approachability. It was amazing to see the breadth of different people moved enough by the bike, to elicit a positive response. It made people smile. More than a few times the response bordered on bliss. As many of the design details harken back to the glory days of British motorcycling, many of the bikes admirers were of a ‘certain’ age. I thought one white haired man was going to crash his car he was so excited to see this bike on the highway. The youth were also enthralled by the G5 using terminology coined in the last few years to describe the styling that is 20 years older than their parents .Everybody loved it. Instead of using their body as a human shield the Mommies would kneel down, say “mo-tor-cy-cle”, and help their brood WAVE at me as I went gliding by! This bike definitely scores a 10 on Hondas Nicest People Scale.
The seating position is head up, back straight, arms gently extended, thighs flat and forward, lower leg straight down. The position is comfortable for a very long day as is the soft but still supportive seat. Seat height is approximately 32inches although the height seems lower thanks to the shape of the seat and a very narrow gas tank that does NOT splay your legs apart like you are riding a draft horse. The Enfield is a very compact machine. Reach to bars and foot controls is very short. I’m not sure where Sev is going to sit. At 5’8”, for an alternate seat position, I was able to use the passenger foot pegs (adjustable!) as rear sets.
Compared to most other current machines this bike is light. Really light. In running order, it weighs approximately 412lbs. There are bikes that weigh fully half again as much as that. Most parts are metal and not plastic giving the bike a very solid feel. Royal Enfield recommends no more than an amazing 392lbs of payload.
Switchgear seems to be classic Japanese, complete with cool flash to pass trigger. Instrumentation is Spartan, but on this machine it is certainly sufficient. There is a speedometer, an odometer, a gas light and a check engine light. The engine is, in this particular model, one of the stars of the show. The last engine that Royal Enfield used has been on duty since the Pleistocene era. This motor has brought Royal Enfield into line with the technology of the new millennium. While still a 4-stroke, 499cc air-cooled single-cylinder, it is now fuel-injected and comes with a catalytic converter to meet new, stricter emissions standards. Under-stressed at an 8.5:1 compression ratio the new engine should be around for a long time. Just like the last one. With EFI and hydraulic valve adjustment, maintenance is less than minimal.
On continues the march of the no petcock equipped bikes. No flicking reserve when its time, just a low fuel light that blinks on the instrument nacelle. Starting is a modern breeze. Key in, wait for electronics to initialize and the engine check light to go off, then hit the starter. Should you be attending to duties in the nether reaches off the colonies when the battery dies, if equipped, you can kick start the machine. Combined with the fuel injection and a small lever called the Bi-Starter, kicking it to life is a super-easy affair. Gone are the intricate kick starting rituals of Big Single days not so long past.
Once running, you immediately notice one of the G5s’ most powerful niceness weapons: It is very quiet. Even at large throttle openings it is quite quiet. It chuffs by in both a politically and environmentally friendly manner. Without multiple cylinders to balance vibration the single has some vibration but not being a very large single it is very moderate. Comforting, almost. Not far from the beat of your heart. These vibrations and your butt are the tachometer. A single cylinder motor delivers its power in small, but thrilling little hurls as it gets you up to speed. The friendly one-lunger delivers brisk, friendly acceleration. This, with close to 200 lbs of meat on it. Long time local motorcycle luminary Marty Mataya, proprietor of the GO-MOTO Royal Enfield dealership, and gracious (as always) lender of this G5 said, “it’s really relaxed at 65mph”. And it is. Even at speed it never seems like it is in a hurry. The fine tank holds approximately 3.8 gallons of potential energy with about .9 gallons in reserve. The G5 averaged 63mpg over 500 miles, with two highway bests of 75mpg. That’s a lot of fun for literally pennies.
Another great big first for Royal Enfield is the use of a one piece, or unit transmission. The new Enfield transmission has short, crisp throws and enjoys being shifted with intent. The ubiquitous LobsterClaw ™ clutch engagement is present and accounted for. If you can squeeze toothpaste on your tooth brush, the easy pull clutch will not be a problem.
As has long been known in racing, there are big dividends to be had when weight is removed. As I mentioned previously this is a very minimal machine. Minimal also, are the tires. The G5 runs a 90mm front and a 100mm rear. They front is an old style, radially grooved tread pattern. Both are 19 inch diameter. The combination of light weight and narrow, tall tires commanded by a wide, flat, leverage producing handlebar make for ether light handling. The only available suspension adjustment is 5 steps of preload in the remote reservoir-style rear shocks. Other than the radially grooved front tracking over parallel pavement grooves and the kind of squarish rear getting slightly squirrely at the far margins of lean angle, the G5 never does anything unexpected and always thrills. Why does it always thrill? Because when ridden in a normal fashion, it all gels fantastically and every speed is a thrill. Yes. Every speed is a thrill. Time and time again, while having too much fun I would get that familiar panicky feeling and quick look down at the speedometer only to find that I was doing exactly the speed limit. This machine is preternaturally synchronized to our actual riding environment. It wouldn’t be good on the Autobahn or running the Paris to Dakar but for real, everyday riding, it shines halo bright. Royal Enfield recommends not exceeding 70mph solo or 55mph with cargo/passenger.
The brakes are twin piston/single disc front, disc rear. They are also well adapted to the real world. Plenty of stopping power can be had with just 2 strong fingers at the front- almost like a sportbike. Almost-because the single front disc doesn’t produce the stopping power of a modern sportbike. But, the Enfield doesn’t have to stop much weigh so it all works out splendidly. Every time I would come to a stop I would be mentally and physically prepared to stop a bigger, heavier bike. Every time I would be astonished at how little effort it took to come to a stop. There is no need for subconscious efforts to be aware of a lot of weigh and its corresponding giggling around while and after stopping. More like stopping on a bicycle.
The Enfield’s owners manual might be one of the last manuals left that tells you how to do anything to your bike. It covers basic maintenance and even tells you how to remove the wheels! Royal Enfield has an accessory manual that could make Harley-Davidson envious. Appearance customizing, motor hop up parts, factory service tools (that don’t cost a first born) are all available. Because the Enfields’ are such a good blank canvas for customization, recently there has been a great deal of interest in the Enfield line from the custom bike building industry.
All in all the Royal Enfield G5 is a fine piece of ordnance, ready to do yeoman’s duty at the drop of a hat. With a 2 year, unlimited-mileage warranty and a retail price of $5.995, if this light weight and capable bike is your cup of tea, you can’t beat it.
by Sev Pearman
I was busy shooting pictures of the Royal Enfield Bullet G5 EFI, when I heard, “Hi! Can I ask you about your motorcycle?” I raised my eye from the viewfinder of the battered MMM camera to see an attractive 20-something young lady headed my way.
“What is it?”
“This is a Royal Enfield Bullet.”
“How old is it?”
Her jaw dropped when I informed her that the gleaming beauty was a 2010 model, fully street-legal and ready to ride. I spent a few minutes going over the bike showing her and her companion its many features: the all-new, fuel-injected, low-maintenance motor with hydraulic valve adjusters and unit-construction; the all-new electric starter and 2-piston front disc brake. She was pleased to learn that all Bullets meet current EPA and Euro-III emissions through use of a catalytic converter cleverly concealed within the exhaust.
“Its beautiful. I love the color!” Swathed in new Enfield Green with hand-painted gold pinstripes, the bike melds deep, rich paint, chromed steel and polished alloy. Fenders, toolbox covers and headlight nacelle are steel. There is a minimum of plastic on the Bullet. This adds to the G5’s street-cred and gives the machine visual heft.
The all-new engine churns out 27.5 bhp and 30.5 ft-lbs @ 4,000 rpm at the crank and is good for an honest 24 horses and 26 ft-lbs at the rear wheel. Curb weight is a feathery 412 pounds. The Bullet topped out at an indicated 75mph, lets say 71mph actual, but was happier cruising between 60-65mph. Horsepower junkies may yawn, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story here.
If an engine is the heart of a motorcycle, an engine’s signature is its soul. The signature of a four-stroke single is torque: thudding, relentless torque. Thumb the starter and the Bullet immediately fires. There is no need for 100bhp/liter here. The rotating mass and even, predictable power pulses effortlessly propel you along.
The engine and 5-speed gearbox are now unit construction. The gearbox is consistent and predictable, though lever travel may feel long for those used to metric hardware. Big Twin riders will feel right at home with the gearbox. You can’t rush your shifts. Keep your focus, let the engine speed fall before you release the clutch and you’re golden.
The clutch is a modern, wet multi-plate unit and is controlled by cable. It has a light pull and is forgiving. Launches are easy and predictable. No slipping is required. G5 Bullets come with non-adjustable curved levers that may be a bit of a reach for those with smaller hands. A set of dogleg levers would easily solve this.
Without a doubt the best thing about the Bullet is its handling. The low mass, low center of gravity and 19-inch wheels combine to make a sweet handling bike. Direction changes are light and effortless. You can ride it all day and never get fatigued. The Bullet was a delight to navigate in town. It was easier to ride, maneuver and park than many bikes or scooters weighing less
Those 19-inch tires frightened FNG Bruce. Passenger X, driving behind me, thought they looked like bicycle tires. Skinny tires may be unfamiliar but you will love their ability to change direction.
The suspension reflects the age of the design. The fork is under-sprung and over-damped for my 1/8th of a ton. I experienced hobby horsing over highway expansion joints. The twin, preload-adjustable piggyback gas shocks fared better. I rode with the preload set at both “4” and “5” (out of 5) positions. If I were regularly commuting on a Bullet G5, I’d send the fork out to be re-valved. Most riders won’t notice or care.
Braking is superb. The front carries a single, 280mm disc with a 2-piston caliper. A 6” drum dutifully grabs the rear. I cranked out many hard stops and came away pleased. Two fingers are enough to quickly and quietly haul you down from an indicated 75 mph. The brakes are more than fine for this lightweight machine and quite capable in aggressive, commuter traffic. The brakes are another area where actual performance exceeds the model Spec sheet.
Fuel economy is excellent. I recorded 60 mpg hauling my mass on a combination of errand running, cruising and freeway blasts. Fuel capacity is 3.8 gallons, giving you a 228-mile range. The low fuel light illuminates at about 0.9 gallons. Reserve is good for 50 miles.
Designed and engineered to be a daily workhorse, the Bullet G5 has many features that facilitate regular use. An oil sight glass on the crankcase allows for fast checks. Oil and air filters are easily accessed using two or three tools from the generous toolkit. Fork gaiters protect the sliders and increase fork seal life. All Bullets come with what has to be the easiest to use centerstand in all of motorcycling.
The seat is comfortable, even after an hour. I was able to flat foot the bike when stopped with my 32-inch inseam. Its ease of maneuverability and lightweight make the Bullet G5 easy to park as well.
I do have a few quibbles. Foot pegs are non-hinged and can dig in if you corner too hard. The headlight and gauges are mounted in a very 1950s nacelle. This is a stylish feature of the bike but I nick it for lack of function. You get a speedo and odometer and, below that, a combo gauge with low fuel light, engine brain light and Royal Enfield logo that glows red at night. There is no tach, no trip meter, no gas gauge, or clock.
The headlight is adequate at best. Eventually, I re-aimed the beam and ran with it on high. Marty Mataya from Go Moto reports that all motorcycles are required by the Department of Transportation to have an adjustable headlight. Royal Enfield sells several accessory headlights that ditch the entire nacelle. Check with local laws before mounting blah blah blah.
I experienced one oil leak, a weepy gasket under the starter cover. This was quickly replaced by the dealer as a warranty item and solved the problem.
Royal Enfield offers infinite ways to customize your Bullet through their NField Gear line of parts and accessories. You can choose from over 200 pages of seats, fenders, lights, and chrome and performance parts. All items are available through your Enfield dealer as well as online. It is easy to transform your Bullet into whatever you imagine.
If it were mine, I would immediately bin the headlight nacelle for a bigger 7-inch unit. For visual balance, the desk lamp-sized blinkers would be replaced with smaller units. I like the lines and rich tone of the stock exhaust but didn’t care for bluing caused by the catalytic converter. Go ahead and call the EPA, but I’d mount one of the optional exhaust systems. If a modest power gain were found, that would be welcomed, too.
Competition? Well, if you want a classically styled street single, there is the excellent Suzuki TU-250, but you’ll give up 250cc to the Bullet G5. There are a few Dual-Sports displacing 400-650cc, but that is apples-to-oranges. There are numerous small cruisers, but they too are a different kettle of fish. If you want a high style, lightweight street single with modern performance and reliability, you have but one choice: the delightful Royal-Enfield Bullet G5 EFI.
Years ago, I discovered that the right motorcycle could be used to catch the eye of certain young ladies and the 2010 Royal Enfield Bullet draws them in. Big thanks to Go Moto in Osseo for their cooperation in writing this review. Go Moto can be reached at 763/315-MOTO (6686) or www.gomotomn.com
Wife’s First Reaction®: “Absolutely gorgeous! I love it!”
Maharajah • Style! The Bullet turns heads. • All-new motor reduces maintenance. • That rorty exhaust note, especially on the overrun.
Untouchable • Non-folding foot pegs check lean angle. • Sparse instrumentation. • Headlight has got to go.
Selected Competition: None. The Royal Enfield Bullet G5 stands alone.