WHY A BULLET?
Royal Enfields have always had an ardent fan following, sometimes bordering on obsession. There's something about these motorcycles that no others currently in the market can offer, Harleys aside. These big singles have stood the test of time, retaining their core old-school engineering and aesthetics. Simple mechanicals ensure that maintenance is pretty much DIY, if you have the inclination and basic tools.
WHICH VERSION SHOULD I GO FOR?
Well, there were plenty of versions of the cast iron Bullets, but the two main variants were the 350cc Bullet and the 500. Some Bullets were available with a 5-speed gearbox, with the more conventional left foot gear change, while the purists prefer the 4-speed Albion gearbox with the changer on the right.
Some of the older bikes (pre-1980) have heavier crankshafts than the later models, but the only benefit is a better ability to lug at low speeds and a deeper thump. They do guzzle more fuel though, and acceleration is slower than the newer models.The 500cc Bullets sold in relatively smaller numbers and hence, they are harder to find. Spare parts are pricier as well.
Keeping that in mind, if you're looking to cruise at 60 kph all day, the 350 cc Bullet should do you just fine. Anything more and the 500cc is more your thing.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I PAY FOR ONE?
Ever since the production of cast iron barrelled Bullets ceased a few years ago, their prices in the second hand market have risen steadily due to increased demand. In Mumbai, a ’90s 350 should set you back by about Rs 50,000. The 500s go for between Rs 80,000 to a lakh. Early ’60’s models sell for between a lakh to about Rs 1.25 lakh. The mag-dyno models from the ’50s can easily fetch in upwards of Rs 1.5 lakh, for a fully original, pristine specimen.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR?
Bullets, despite what you might have heard, age gracefully if they are well cared for and have been ridden keeping their old technology in mind. Riding a stock Bullet with its throttle pinned to the stop is akin to entering your grandma in a 200 metre sprint. Like nana, the Bullet too won’t fare too well in such a scenario.
Regular oil chances, periodic check ups and service schedules go a long way in keeping a Bullet in fighting fit condition. However, these motorcycles seem to have delicate bottom ends, and the floating bush on the big end of the connecting rod is the first one to go. A typical thudding sound when you accelerate is a sure sign of such an affliction. Watch out for piston slap too .
The older front drum brakes were virtually useless, and the larger twin-cam ones are a tad better. Investing in a disc brake kit is a good idea, but you might have to change the fork legs in order for the setup to fit.