By Guido Ebert
Minnesota’s Classic Motorworks Ltd., based in Faribault, serves as the exclusive U.S. importer & distributor of Royal Enfield motorcycles – bikes made in 2013 that look like they came from 1955.
What is Royal Enfield?
The Royal Enfield brand, today owned by India’s Eicher Motors, produces the Bullet motorcycle first introduced in Britain in 1949 as a 350cc bike and a few years later as a 500cc model.
The Bullet 350, designed with what at the time was an innovative rear swing arm suspension, earned immediate racing success and orders for the bike came in to the factory in Redditch, England, from all over the world.
Then, in 1954 the Indian government placed an order for 800 Bullets for “immediate service” on the Pakistani border. Orders of similar magnitude placed in 1955 and 1956 coaxed the British company to set up a factory in India.
At first, the bikes were shipped to India in parts and simply assembled. However, by 1956 a full factory had been established in India and Enfield India, Ltd. began producing the Enfield Bullet in its entirety.
As small displacement, hard-scrabble two wheelers are ubiquitous in India, the 500cc Royal Enfield was viewed – up until market entry of Japanese and European brands – as “the” bike to have for the well-heeled motorcyclist.
Thus the demand for the Bullet never stopped, and every year since 1956 more than 30,000 units of that original 1955 model have been built – albeit with improved metallurgy and modern machining methods and engine componentry.
Classic Motorworks, doing business as Enfield Motorcycles, offers six models of Bullet: the G5 Classic ($6,199), G5 Deluxe EFI ($6,395), C5 Classic EFI ($6,595), C5 Military ($6,695), C5 Chrome ($6,795), and the 500 B5 EFI ($5,999).
Want to further stand out from the crowd? Three “Mod Kits” also are available – the Café Racer Kit ($2,325), the Continental Kit ($2,795) and the Scrambler/Trials Kit ($2,150) – as is an easy to bolt on sidecar.
Go Moto, located on Washington Ave. in Minneapolis, serves as the Twin Cities’ dealer of Royal Enfield product. Owner Marty Mataya offered MMM use of the red Bullet C5 Chrome you see in the pictures accompanying this article.
The C5 Chrome in red features a chrome side stand, gas tank, gas cap, fenders, headlight trim, wheels, fork lowers, shocks, turn signal housings and exhaust along with polished engine casings.
Fuel injected, the big single easily pulses to life. Twist the throttle and it “blatts” away confidently with a perfect mixture of air, fuel and fire.
Up top, on the bars, there’s operating gear similar to what is used by Japan’s Big 4, an analog speedo with mileage and a low fuel warning light.
Down below, there are two generously sized rubber-mounted pegs and pedals, with the left connected to a surprisingly smooth shifting 5-speed transmission mated to a chain final drive.
The twin piston front caliper with single 280mm rotor and 152mm rear drum give an adequate amount of braking for the speeds you’ll be traveling. The rear pedal squishes a bit but accomplishes the job when used along with a normal pull of the front lever.
The conventional telescopic front fork and dual spring rear suspension work in concert with the sprung seat and 90×90-18 front and 110×80-18 rear Avon RoadRider tires to minimize road feel.
The bike’s lightweight and low-speed responsiveness translate into a package that works well in urban environments. It loves traveling around town sub 50 mph, but will easily cruise at 60 mph if called upon.
Once stopped, you have the option of utilizing a convenient center stand or side stand.
Want your main squeeze to join you for a trip around town? While our bike didn’t have a passenger seat attached, it does come included in the purchase and works as a bolt-on in a cantilever fashion over the rear fender.
Spending time on the C5 reminded me how a bike like this truly exemplifies the basic joy of motorcycling. Built to serve as a simple form of transportation, it starts, goes and stops, delivering the rider from Point A to Point B without protest.
So who is the customer? I dare say this is the perfect bike for a novice rider with $6,000 in their pocket, the perfect bike for the returning rider desiring simple two-wheel transportation, and the perfect bike for owners of bigger bikes who may want a trustworthy classic-look two-wheeler with which to commute surface streets.
Thanks to Go Moto for allowing us to borrow the Bullet C5 Chrome. Visit Marty and check out other Royal Enfield models.