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Sharp choice

Who said Classic is not cool? Royal Enfield’s new bike proves that it is ready to charm a new generation.

autos Updated: Jan 20, 2010 19:28 IST

A 600-km, day-long ride from Chennai to Ooty on a bunch of Bullets is an ambitious task. They may be touring bikes, but Bullets need some nurturing through a journey such as this. But Royal Enfield was calmly confident of its latest creation, the new Classic 500.

The bike retains touches from other Royal Enfields — the big headlamp housing with its twin pilot still doubles up as the instrument console housing, for example. But it is enhanced by fuel-injection technology, and sports a pass-light flasher and an engine-kill switch. The optional up-swept exhaust is a must-have for its look and for the mandatory Bullet thump. But be warned — you lose the warranty if you go for the Rs 3,000 option before the bike’s second service. Till then, you’ll have to manage with the thump-killing, long silencer.

Thumb the starter and the Classic 500 rumbles to life with ease. The new 499 cc engine now deploys twin-spark technology to meet BS III emission norms and has moved on to a unit construction design. The resulting reduction in parts has increased efficiency. A more powerful trochoidal oil pump, a re-designed piston and rings, and hydraulic tappets have improved overall reliability. The Indian Classic doesn’t have the closed-loop fuel-injection system that’s on the export models, so it isn’t as accurate as it could be. Still, the engine makes a healthy 27.2bhp at 5,250 rpm.

The peak torque of 4.2 kgm is impressive, allowing the bike to pull like a truck. Even at open throttle (at 110 kph), you can feel some pull as the speedo needle swings to an indicated 120 kph. But for highway cruising, the Classic is better off in the 80-90 kph range.

The handlebar weights minimise the buzz when cruising, but there’s a fair amount of vibration at the flat handlebar and footpegs at higher rpms. Still, there’re no characteristic Bullet traits such as mechanical failures or oil-leaks.

The run to Ooty was interspersed with pitstops only because we were sore from the shapely but numbing saddle. The ride quality was more on the firm side as the shock absorbers also had to keep the 187 kg motorcycle in check over the worst kind of conditions. Sadly, the brake pedal kept grounding on right-handers, which left you only the front 280 mm disc brake to contend with. This, an emergency application, creates a tug on the handlebar.

The Classic, like other Bullets, isn’t a sharp corner-carver, but it is sure-footed and planted. Combined with the new-found reliability of the 499 cc motor, it will give many a rider a great tool to set out on their wayward journeys.With unheard-of reliability, more usable performance, its retro-chic styling, and all the charm and the quirks of Bullets, the Classic 500 has thrown the doors open for a whole new era of Bullets and Bulleteers.

Price: Rs 1.25 lakh (ex showroom, Delhi)

L/W/H: 2,130/ 800/ 1,050mm

Wheelbase: 1,370 mm

Kerb weight: 187 kg

Engine: 499 cc, Single-cylinder, air-cooled, four-stroke petrol

Power: 27.2 bhp at 5,250 rpm

Torque: 4.2 kgm at 4,000 rpm

Gearbox: 5-speed, 1-down, 4-up

Suspension (f/r): Telescopic forks/ Twin gas-charged shock absorbers

Brakes (f/r): 280 mm disc/ 153 mm drum

Tyre size (f-r):90/90 x 18”- 110/90 x 18”

- Autocar India