Royal Enfield Bullet 500 motorcycle test


Indian classic

Virtually unchanged in 50 years, the Royal Enfield Bullet is the epitome of the motorcycle in its simplest form: two wheels, handlebars and a 499cc single cylinder with air-cooled vacuum carburetor..

Royal Enfield Bullet 500

Become Electra, then Machismo, the Bullet is characterized by simple and accessible mechanics, easily repairable by any mechanic equipped with his basic tool kit. It has everything of an old one, including in its manufacture, even if it leaves regularly on the Indian production lines. So, modern classic or outdated model ?

Royal Enfield Bullet 500


The Royal Enfield has everything of an old line level, right down to the hand painted tank.

Royal Enfield Bullet 500

Without frills or details, it offers the very essence of the motorcycle: a handlebar, two spoked wheels, fork gaiters, a saddle, an accessible engine. On the braking side, there is a basic drum brake at the rear and a single disc at the front. Air cooling, vacuum carburation, the engine is also all there is basic, even if it has benefited since 2004 from an electric starter, completed with a kickstarter (Royal Enfield is releasing an injection model this year. ).

Royal Enfield Bullet 500

By approaching, we discover on the headlight cap the speedometer (graduated to a presumptuous 160 km / h) incorporating a totalizer and an ammeter, as well as 3 indicators for neutral, turn signals and full headlight. This is also where the contact is. The commodos are up to standards.

Royal Enfield Bullet 500

In the saddle

The position is straight, natural. The very wide handlebars spread the arms well. The knees properly tighten the tank. The saddle is long enough to find the best position.

Royal Enfield Bullet 500


The latest models have an electric starter. It was removed on this one, which therefore starts with the kick. This is a kick to take, which can take several days of practice to get there on the first try. A little blow of the decompressor, the hand on the throttle grip turned a few millimeters (but without the grip rotating), we lower the kick slightly to find the hard point, then we give a sharp kick. The big mono snorts with a big pom-pom both serious and hoarse. It must be said that on this model, the baffles have been removed and the exhaust is mainly there for aesthetic reasons. The whole bike is shaking, and especially the front wheel which seems to jump in place. Well adjusted, the machine seems alive. The sound of the engine really takes guts.

Royal Enfield Bullet 500

First passed from the heel, thanks to the double selector, the Enfield soars vigorously. The second goes quickly, in fact from 20 km / h, even if it accepts to go up to 40 km / h (but in a noise and infernal vibrations).

In the city

The wide, straight handlebars make it easy to steer the bike in traffic and squeeze in everywhere. With a fairly small speed range, we move regularly between first and second, passing third only in rare cases..

Royal Enfield Bullet 500

The gearbox requires you to disengage the clutch well and slowly to change gears with a powerful movement of the foot. It is under these two conditions that the gears shift correctly. Otherwise, we invariably fall into a false neutral point between each gear. As soon as you try to change gears too quickly in town, you get caught coasting. In fact, the Bullet requires winding on the torque while avoiding too low revs.


The Enfield sets off vigorously in the first gears, with a second at the switch at 70 km / h, then a third at 90 km / h and the fourth at 110 km / h; the fifth report bringing nothing more than an additional reduction. But from 100 km / h, the machine laboriously increases in speed. The 110 km / h can therefore only be obtained with a good momentum, and it is difficult to reach 120 km / h (maximum speed) without taking into account that at this speed, the motorcycle vibrates everywhere in a deafening din. . But above all, on big curves, the bike already lives and dances significantly. We therefore gladly lower the pace below 90 km / h … already very fast for the machine.

Royal Enfield Bullet 500


It is therefore with real pleasure that the Enfield rediscovers small and departmental roads. She agrees to wind on the last report at 40 km / h and climbs the towers with great blows of poum-poum and big sympathetic knocks. A simple release of the right handle and the bike slows down with an explosion, really nice, even intoxicating, to the point that we take pleasure in playing on these acceleration / deceleration..

As soon as the pace picks up, the toe clips start to touch in the turns, with surprise the first time around and a little apprehension, because they are fixed on the frame. With a little experience, the bike accepts the treatment quite well.

If the departmental becomes more path or loses the smoothness of its asphalt, the speed engaged in the annoying habit of falling back to a false neutral point. But with practice, we take the automatism to re-engage quickly. That said, it seems after trying another model that it was mainly my model that suffered from this defect..

Royal Enfield Bullet 500


The rear brake is hardly a retarder … no real surprise if we refer to its ancient drum. It is mainly used to lightly seat the bike before a curve. Even at low speed, and especially at the limited speeds of the Enfield, it struggles to have any efficiency. The front brake on the other hand and a real disc brake, unique, but powerful and very effective. So much so, that it alone provides a bowl on sustained braking. It therefore requires taking it with two fingers instead, which is sufficient most of the time. With this precaution, it rather offers a good feeling and real power, but without progressiveness. The front fork is rather firm and limits diving, even on hard braking.

Royal Enfield Bullet 500


The rear shock absorbers with separate gas cylinder ensure rather good comfort, even on long journeys, aided by a fairly thick saddle. The condition is much worse in duo, especially when the condition of the road deteriorates. The duo will therefore be reserved for well-paved roads, unless they have a sporty passenger, capable of being very dynamic on the footrests..

Royal Enfield Bullet 500


With its 20-liter tank (17 liters for the original model), the Enfield allows a range of 450 km or even nearly 500 km in some cases, with an average consumption ranging between four and five liters per hundred..

Royal Enfield Bullet 500


The motorcycle benefits from its two crutches, lateral and central. The side set low requires a real effort to put the bike straight, and requires to press well on the opposite footrest to get there more easily. The control unit is comparatively easy to put on and allows the motorcycle to be firmly anchored on the ground.

Royal Enfield Bullet 500

Interesting detail, the motorcycle can be driven with its side stand unfolded! Yes, unlike the safety devices found on most motorcycles, there is no safety circuit breaker in the event of the stand unfolded with gear engaged. I must admit having made the mistake of forgetting the kickstand while driving, and not having been the only one in this case. Fortunately, there is often a Good Samaritan to point it out.

The tank cap prevents the use of a tank bag, plus the painting is done by hand. There is still the possibility of harnessing a saddlebag on the long saddle.

Royal Enfield Bullet 500


Limited top speed, laborious times, reduced practicality, the Royal Enfield does not have a priori many positive points. And yet, we quickly get attached to this bike, for its noise that does not only look away but really takes the guts with an endless treat. Handy, comfortable solo, it is a machine that goes everywhere as long as you agree to wind at a reasonable pace. And then, when we start on exceptional old machines, we also buy a part of dreams and history, which far exceeds all rational considerations. The heart then has its reasons that reason does not know, even at 5650 euros the end (import price in France).

Strong points

  • maneuverability
  • engine sound

Weak points

  • occasions
  • gearbox
  • non-folding footrests


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