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Royal Enfield Bullet G5 Classic Review

I’d probably have to get another riding jacket. I think I can make do with one of my three-quarter “copter” style helmets, and I’m pretty sure I have some British tan leather boots in the closet someplace, but the ballistic fabric, brightly coloured armoured riding jacket just won’t make it. I’m riding a new Royal Enfield Bullet G5 Classic that I just picked up from Marty at Go Moto in Osseo. This bike is more than retro, it’s more than “vintage-inspired”, it’s the real thing – a classic.

Royal Enfield Bullet G5 ClassicThe Royal Enfield Bullet was first made for British riders in 1949 as a 350cc single-cylinder motorcycle. During the 1950s, a 500cc version was introduced. In 1954 the government of India placed rather a large order for these bikes for border patrol duty. The orders kept coming and were so large that Royal Enfield built a full factory in India. Since 1956 they have continued to produce this bike in essentially the same form. Of course there have been improvements in metallurgy, machining processes and overall technology, but the Royal Enfield that one can purchase today is a direct descendant of the 1955 Royal Enfield Bullet.

Before I continue I should probably mention that my first “real” motorcycle was a BSA Goldstar, another British single, so you’ll forgive me if sentiment colours my vision from time to time.

Right, on with the testing. As soon as I got the Enfield to my garage, I topped off the fuel tank and mounted a GPS unit. I’ll answer those common three questions right away:
1. – I got 72 miles per gallon overall during the review.
2. – The GPS verified top speed was 73 MPH
3. – A new bike like this one costs in the neighborhood of $6,000.
I get asked those three questions a lot when I’m doing reviews. For this bike, I’d have to add that I OFTEN had to explain that this is, in fact, a new motorcycle. The GPS testing reveled a speedometer that is optimistic. That is to say that the speedometer indicates faster than the actual speed. In the case of the Enfield, it was a little less than 8% optimistic. At an indicated 30 MPH, the bike was actually traveling at 27.5 MPH. At the actual top speed of 73 MPH, the speedometer indicated just a shade under 80 MPH. This was on a level road with just the slightest tailwind.

The Royal Enfield G5 is powered by a 499cc single cylinder 4-stroke engine that isRoyal Enfield 499cc Single-cylider Engine air cooled. It is fed via electronic fuel injection, shifts through five speeds and gets the power to the rear wheel by means of a chain. The electrical system is 12V and suffered none of the “Prince of Darkness” problems usually associated with British electrical systems. A fork handles suspension duty up front and gas-filled shock absorbers cover the rear. There is a 3.25 X 19 inch tire on the front end and a 3.5 X 19 inch hoop in back. Front brake is a disc and a drum slows things down in back. The wheelbase is 54 inches, seat height is 31.5 inches and the whole package weighs a very light 412 pounds. Such Royal Enfield Brakesare the specifications of the Enfield. Nothing astounding or even very interesting. The Enfield is a machine that works quite well and for many riders would seem unexciting or even boring. To see the magic of this bike, one needs to go beyond specifications.

Remember, I’ve owned and ridden British singles – old ones. From “back in the day”. Generally speaking they were difficult to start, challenging to shift, leaked fluids, had weak electrical systems, and were still incredibly fun to ride. Take all of the “problems” away and keep the fun bit and you’ve got the new Enfield. The fuel injection system worked flawlessly. The G5 started easily every time. It even kick-starts easily if one is so inclined. The new fully integrated unit engine construction and transmission updates made for a bike that shifts like (dare I say it) a Japanese motorcycle. The brakes were more than adequate for the light weight of the Enfield and were easy to modulate with no evident fade. The handling was classic British which is to say good, predictable and fun. So, it’s the perfect bike, right? They call single-cylinder motorcycles “thumpers” for a reason.

The Royal Enfield G5 thumps with the best of them. The good part is lots of low-end grunt and brisk acceleration up to a point. The bad part (for some) is a level of vibration that might lead a newbie rider to think there is something wrong with the bike. If you have only ridden multi-cylinder modern Japanese motorcycles, the Enfield is going to shake you up. Literally. Of course to me the “feel” of the engine is an integral part of this sort of riding experience. It’s simple, robust and elegant.Royal Enfiled Dash Pod Have a look at the minimalist instrument pod contained in the headlight cell. Nothing but the minimum of information yet it fits the bike to a tee.

The build quality of the Enfield G5 is quite good with nice paint work and no obvious rough spots. Of course one would think that having done this since 1955 that the factory should pretty much have it down by now. The seat was comfortable and felt lower to me than it’s nearly 32 inch height. The light weight of the bike probably has a lot to do with this feel. Coming off a cruiser that weighs nearly twice as much, the Enfield seemed almost small. After a few miles of riding it seemed perfect. The G5 wants to ridden around town and on gorgeous curvy roads up to about 65 MPH. After that it’s working hard. It doesn’t want to run on the interstate for hours, but it will if you ask it to. The G5 is just that kind of bike. It likes you and doesn’t want to let you down. I rode for several days, both commuting and for fun, and found that I was growing increasingly fond of this bike. It’s just me either. I’m an old man (a pathetic old man according to my daughter) and I’m supposed to like this machine. Just to be sure, I stopped at Mill City Motorcycles/Scooterville and had the boys in the shop (none of them over 32) ride the G5 for a bit. They all liked it. A regular Triumph Tiger rider thought the Enfield was a perfect “city” bike.

You owe it to yourself to visit Marty at Go Moto and check this machine out. It works very well, looks great, rides great and feels great. I'm thinking a nice three-quarter length retro leather jacket (with armour) should be just about right.

Royal Enfiled G5 Bullet

David Harrington


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