This is one bullet that can get you places
Peter Thoeming Volkswagen built 21,500,000 of the classic Beetle.
Royal Enfield is still a bit short of that number, but if company boss Siddhartha Lal has anything to do with it, the Indian company is set upon the path to one day match that number, and match it with a range that will still include the classic Enfield Bullet.
Although the original Beetle finally hit the wall (the new one is being dropped, too) and “classic” cars in general are not setting the tarmac alight, classic-style motorcycles are doing nicely, if they’re done right.
Ducati might have missed the mark with its Sport Classics, but it’s made up for that since with the Scrambler range, which is creating the biggest success story in the company’s history.
Triumph is banking it with its ever-expanding Classic range; BMW is having fun creating more and more outrageous versions of the retro R nine T; Kawasaki is dipping its toes in the water again with the pretty Z900RS after the so-so reception of the W series; and Harley-Davidson has dumped the upto-date V-Rods and is cleaving to its roots with the new Softails.
Meanwhile, one motorcycle manufacturer keeps turning out what is apparently the same motorcycle in its 500cc and 350cc forms.
The modern Bullet is not really the same as its precursors, of The Enfield Bullet has been made more environmentally friendly. course. Today, the company has an R&D centre in England and its bikes are being upgraded steadily to meet the demands of both the modern customer and the European legislator. But at a casual glance, the Bullet is still the Bullet.
The boffins at Royal Enfield R&D are obviously up to the modernising task they have been set. It is not easy to meet the latest European automotive standard, namely Euro 4, with air-cooled engines.
Even Harley-Davidson has taken the first step towards the water for its traditional V-twins, with the partial liquid cooling of its bagger range. But the new Royal Enfields I rode recently met Euro 4 standards with nary a radiator in sight.
Euro 4 is only part of a broader European directive called Regulation (EU) No 168/2013.
This lays out the requirements for new bike approval, including a definition of types of bike.
It also contains a requirement for anti-lock brakes.
The Euro 4 part of it tells you not just how clean the bike’s exhaust gases have to be, but how much naturally evaporating fuel it’s allowed to emit.
As well as producing less toxic exhaust gas when the engine is running, bikes also have to pass an evaporative emissions test, run onboard self-diagnostic systems, and come with assurance from manufacturers that the bike will still pass the tests after a specified mileage.
To meet the emission standard, the new Enfield engines have remapped electronic ignition (which they claim also makes the engine smoother, and I think they’re right) plus a complete evaporation control system.
That means a vapour vent pipe on the fuel tank, a purge valve, a canister and a throttle body with a purge port. Bosch ABS takes care of that requirement, with disc brakes front and back.
Even the swing arm has seen some attention for better stability and the standard tyres are Pirelli sport demons. Vibration is down and the controls feel crisp.
I was impressed with all the bikes I rode at the launch, from the venerable (in name only) Bullet 500 to the various Classic models to the Continental GT.
Given their quality and price range, these machines are damn good value and a lot of fun. Obviously, there are limitations. If you’re a weekend scratcher, you will stay away from the marque, except maybe for the GT.
With some judicious after-market changes, this makes a terrific hoon bike. It’s light, nippy and handling is quick but still positive.
The drawback is that it still has relatively limited power, but that isn’t going to matter around town unless you decide to do a runner when the constabulary is on your tail, and we don’t recommend that.
I would like to see a couple of truly minor changes to all the Enfields. Lights on the dash definitely need to be brighter.
Are the Euro 4 Royal Enfields better bikes than before?
Yes, they are. Making them environmentally friendly has actually improved them.
This makes me all the more keen to sample one of the new twins.