Essential elements of a big (formerly) British Single? The “Beat,” as Royal Enfield calls it. It’s that sound that booms out as if emanating from the bowels of the Earth. It used to echo mostly through England, but since Enfield in Blighty shipped its Bullet 350 and 500 tooling to India back in the mid-1950s, that sound generally comes from a place significantly farther east than Redditch, Worcestershire, site of the old factory.
And much farther west, too, which is how we got our hands on this 2012 Bullet 500 Classic in “desert camo.”
The modernized, fuel-injected, unit-construction engine and redone frame seen here debuted in 2009 and were all-new right down to the maintenance-free hydraulic lifters.
The $6595 Bullet is not fast, but the heavy flywheel and good bottom-end power make it pleasant to ride, especially with its easy, loping gait. And there is little more mechanic-ally satisfying in this world than kicking a Single to life (e-start is there, if you must). Click into fifth gear on the road and it feels like five decades ago; cruising under 65 mph gives just enough “space” between combustion events and is one of the simple joys.
I’ve owned and maintained a 500cc British Single that dates from 1954 and have to admit there is a pretty powerful attraction to what the new Enfield offers. The character is there when you’re riding, and you get it without all that character building in the garage. But I think they intentionally left the oil drain plug just a little loose so I’d have something to do. Thanks. I feel needed.