Ridden: Royal Enfield Classic 500
London - If all you want from motorcycling is to race along at speeds likely to get you killed, then get yourself a plastic-clad missile.
And if all you want is to negotiate tight city traffic on the way to work and back, then go get a twist-and-go scooter, or one of those weird inverse trike things.
If however, for you, motorcycling is about riding a machine with all its quirks, and injecting a bit of fun and swagger into your daily business, then Royal Enfield's Classic 500 might be for you. It is not a perfect bike - its top end is around 140km/h, it has a bit of a shake before you hit 60km/h, the back drum brake needs a big push down before it bites and there are grumbles about the clearance when you lean to the right because the rear brake lever is set too low. But put these against its charms and the sheer joy of riding it, and they fall into insignificance.
It’s beautiful machine. The frame and engine are the same as Royal Enfield's Bullet, but the styling is exactly the same as when they first rolled off the production line in Redditch in the early 1950s. The engine is, however, new to meet today's EU emission standards. It now comes with electronic fuel injection, which helps it to an economical 3.3 litres per 100km.
That's not the only economical thing - it sells, new, in South Africa for R47 990. That's because this most British of British brands has been exclusively produced in Chennai in India for the past 40 years. The story goes that when production halted in the Midlands in the early 1970s there was plenty of demand in India - not least from the Indian army - to justify moving the whole operation lock, stock and barrel to the sub-continent.
One of the reasons for its popularity there is the robustness of the tough suspension and the lovely pull of its single cylinder 500cc engine, which makes it perfect for India's rugged roads. Ironically, given the state of South African roads, this actually makes it a perfect commuter bike here as well. Potholes that would bottom out the suspension on any other road bike are smoothed over by the Enfield, while its lightweight frame and high torque at low revs make it perfect for sliding through heavy traffic.
It's never going to win any drag races but there’s a beautiful sweet spot as you hit 60-80km/h, when that single cylinder powers you forward and everything is in harmony. Even the wing mirrors return to focus and the phut-phut-phut of the engine brings a grin to your face. - The Independent
Royal Enfield Classic 500
Engine: 499cc air-cooled four-stroke single.
Bore x stroke: 72 x 48mm.
Compression ratio: 8.5:1.
Valvegear: Pushrod with two overhead valves per cylinder.
Power: 20.3kW at 5250rpm.
Torque: 41.3Nm at 4000rpm.
Induction: Keihin digital electronic fuel-injection with 30mm throttle body.
Ignition: Digital electronic with dual spark plugs.
Clutch: Cable-operated multiplate wet clutch.
Transmission: Five-speed constant-mesh gearbox with final drive by chain.
Front Suspension: 35mm conventional cartridge forks.
Rear Suspension: Dual gas-charged shock absorbers adjustable for preload.
Front brakes: 280mm disc with twin-piston floating calliper.
Rear brake: 153mm single leading-shoe drum brake.
Front tyre: 90/90 - 18 tube type.
Rear tyre: 110/80 - 18 tube type.
Seat height: 790mm.
Kerb weight: 190kg.
Fuel tank: 13.5 litres.
Price: R47 990.