RE BUL­LET TIDY-UP ....................................

Roger Slater couldn’t be­lieve the bad press that In­dian En­fields at­tract in Amer­ica. To dis­cover the truth he just had to buy one. And then… well, who can re­sist a lit­tle bit of fet­tling?

Real Classic - - What Lies Within -

Roger Slater couldn’t be­lieve the bad press that In­dian En­fields at­tract in Amer­ica. To dis­cover the truth he just had to buy one. And then… well, who can re­sist a lit­tle bit of fet­tling?

For my sins I felt I had to get my­self a ‘mod­ern’, In­dian-made Royal En­field. Why on earth would I de­lib­er­ately do that to my­self, you might ask? Sev­eral rea­sons (ex­cuses) re­ally. Top of the list is anno do­mini senec­tus. I was born in 1936 so you can work out the sor­did de­tail for your­self. With the ex­cep­tion of my lovely Nor­ton Easy-Two, I am no longer ca­pa­ble of cock­ing my right leg over the back to get on/off any of the bikes in the shed. The En­field ticks that box nicely.

Sec­ond, I am cu­ri­ous to see whether all the bad press the In­dian-made En­fields have re­ceived over here in the USA is valid. Thirdly, I wanted a real 1950s retro bike, not a make-be­lieve so-called ‘retro’ crotch-rocket cur­rently on of­fer by ev­ery man and his dog.

Aware of the media hatchet job on the En­field, I was not go­ing to dive into the deep end with a brand new one. A low mileage ex­am­ple at half the new price seemed the way to go – in case I could not get on with it. Searches on Flee­bay found a few suit­able can­di­dates but they were usu­ally 3000 miles away, noth­ing within tyre-kick­ing dis­tance. Sud­denly one popped up which was ‘only’

350 miles away in Mon­tana. It was de­scribed as a 2011 Clas­sic 500, with only 633 miles on the clock, as new con­di­tion with pan­niers and screen. I had to have it. The cur­rent En­fields are light years away from the ones we were in­flicted with when my brother and I im­ported them into UK in the 1970s. The paint­work is first class and fully up to any mod­ern stan­dard. Chrome is splat­tered all over it and of a tol­er­a­ble stan­dard, but the pre-chrome metal pol­ish­ing is some­what slap­dash. Fuel in­jec­tion works a treat, elec­tronic ig­ni­tion and petrol tap, nice low sin­gle seat: it re­ally is an eye-catcher. The all-al­loy unit construction mo­tor looks the part, is nicely done and com­pletely in­con­ti­nence-free. So I got my gen­uine an­tique 1950s ex­pe­ri­ence but with just a bit of dis­creet mod­ern tech­nol­ogy to gar­nish the whole af­fair.

Time for my first ride. Oh joy, I can eas­ily swing my leg over the back. De­spite be­ing ver­ti­cally chal­lenged, I can plant both feet on the deck while seated. What a lux­ury: just press the starter but­ton to have the en­gine fire up at once. No fid­dling with this, that and t’other, plus a long-winded kick­start pro­ce­dure. Just press a magic but­ton. With its fuel in­jec­tion, the bike sim­ply sits there idling from cold with the throt­tle closed. It will sit there go­ing duff duff duff un­til it runs out of fuel. How nice is that?

The clutch ac­tion is light with no clunk into first gear. Off we go!

I al­ways wanted to say this: ‘All the con­trol fell read­ily to hand,’ as the Blue ’Un and the Green ’Un testers used to say. First gear is low enough to pull stumps on the back forty, so sec­ond is called for within a few feet. What a lovely gear­box. Is this new five speeder? Click click click – fifth gear se­lected. Oh nice, lovely smooth vi­bra­tion-free en­gine. Light steer­ing, but the sus­pen­sion is much too hard over the frost heaves. The brakes are much the same as they all were in the 1950s, not quite ad­e­quate for mod­ern traf­fic, es­pe­cially the rear. Ac­cel­er­a­tion is leisurely, no crotch rocket here, as is fit­ting for a gentle­man’s tourer. Ex­haust note is a very nice, easy on the ear basso pro­fundo. So far so good, but wait – there’s more.

Out onto some open, traf­fic-free lanes and it’s time to get a bit of a move on. At 55mph the bars started to vi­brate. At 60 the vi­bra­tion was pro­nounced, mainly at the han­dle­bars. At that same speed the pleas­antly light steer­ing at lower speeds started to come un­stuck. The plot tended to­ward mild, twitchy in­sta­bil­ity. Push on to 70mph and the Bul­let is now def­i­nitely lack­ing in di­rec­tional sta­bil­ity. Noth­ing un­safe about it, just felt like it needed more trail in the steer­ing ge­om­e­try.

Pho­tos by Roger Slater

Roger felt he just had to own one in­con­ti­nence-free ma­chine

Big fat vi­bra­tion dampers to grip while ad­justable levers sim­ply re­place the orig­i­nals High spots on the rear brake shoes be­ing skimmed down in Roger’s lathe. They’re now up to proper Ferodo stan­dards

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