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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Years ago, close friend was recounting to me the story of his latest near evasion of the police and the resulting speeding ticket. "And I gotta go back for court in 20 days.", he said. I remember saying, "Fred, you should get a bike that doesn't let you go so fast, I'm worried about you, man!" You should get one of those Royal Enfields.

He laughed and said, "What are those, 250s?"

They weren't 250cc, even back then, Royal Enfield hadn't made a bike less than 350cc, in something like 30 years. We just didn't know much about those very rare british sounding bikes. Fred wasn't interested, but I was. The older I got, the more I liked old-timey stuff, I hadn't ridden in over twenty years, but when I saw the Royal Enfield Desert Storm 500cc single on Craigslist, I went and bought it.



I found out subsequently the whole story, how Madras motors had arranged to import Royal Enfield motorcycles back in the 50s, how they had received a big government military contract from India and started assembling bikes from kits sent over from Redditch England, and then finally started building them from scratch as Royal Enfield of India. When the British firm folded they kept on making them, first as Enfield, then as Royal Enfield.

For decades the factory in Chennai, produced and sold that same slow spinning, single cylinder engine, with it's 75mm x 90mm bore and stroke, it's heavy flywheel and solid, if unrefined 4 speed gearbox. In a marketplace that puts the split between large and small at 250ccs, it was a big bike, and when Royal Enfield bored the engine out to 500 ccs, even the more impressive.

Royal Enfield is the Harley Davidson of India. Talk to the proud owner of the most expensive domestically produced motorcycle in India, and he'll tell you, ... "There's just something about it you can't put into words, ... it's the feeling, the power, the presence, the soul of the machine"



The engines of Royal Enfield and what we typically think of as a Harley Davidson engine, have some things in common as well, both air cooled, undersquare, both have pushrods, heavy flywheel, single crankpin, both start producing their torque at the low rev end of the curve. High performance fans may scoff, but there's definite value to that approach. Low revs make for an engine under low stress, that can tolerate sloppier fits, simple systems are easier to fix and keep running, and to do it with simple tools and at low cost. It doesn't hurt that it's also fuel efficient.

As India has changed, over the last 20 years, the demand for motorcycles increased, until today, when India has the most motorcycles on the road of any country, taking that title away from China just a year or two ago. This growth placed the hometown favorite, Royal Enfield in a very good position to benefit, and they did, increasing sales by something like 400% in the last decade.

In 2006, they redesigned the engines, replacing the previous separate gearbox and engine casings with unit construction. At the same time, they increased oil flow by a factor of 9, changed the bearings, the combustion chamber, increased compression, and added hydraulic lifters. The 500 got engine management systems, various sensors, ECU, EFI, O2, and all the benefits that comes with that. The 350 kept its carburetor, and is the overwhelming favorite of the Indian buyer. I suspect this preference has something to do with price, Which is currently the equivalent of around $2250, for a brand new bike, exclusive of dealer's fees.



The 500s cost more. Only the 500s, and the newer bikes are exported to the US, where, of course, the cost of shipping and maintaining a dealer network must be absorbed, but the bikes are still quite inexpensive. A showroom new, 500 single can be had for less than $5000 in the US. I got mine for quite a bit less, third hand, with only 1,650 miles on the clock. The seller told me that he had bought it from his mechanic, who was selling it on consignment for a man who "had had a scare with the bike". There's a ding on the top of the tank, left side, where a tank slapper might have left it's mark. I adjusted the bars slightly to prevent the tank from denting, should I have a scare as well. The fellow I bought it from had bought it to keep up at the family summer cabin, until her remembered that meant Uncle Ralph, and cousin Willie would also be riding it. He also already had a Harley and a Can am, so I got the Royal Enfield, very reasonably priced too.

All the parts are very reasonably priced, downright cheap, I'd say. I find everything on Ebay and Amazon. There are dealers locally, they are saying there's 100 in the USA now, but I just prefer to get along on my own. I enjoy wrenching on the bike, it's been very satisfying. All the fasteners are decent metal, haven't broken or stripped a single bolt, and the bike is quite well engineered, everything accessible and well thought out, if not fancy. I prefer functional to fancy, it's all solid steel, except for the lenses of indicators.

The bike is nimble and reasonably quick through fourth gear. Fifth is top gear and a comfortable cruise is around 60mph. My bike's top speed is about 75 in full barn door mode. My tucking days are kind of over. I use the bike for a daily driver, commuting crosstown to my job, a task at which it excels. The bike will easily break away from 95% of stop light duelists, and those that have a real need to win, reliably communicate their intentions with squealing tires, at which point I obligingly roll off on the go stick and take 2nd place. The bike has excellent low speed handling. It really doesn't seem to annoy people much as I motor slowly past the column. A nicely dressed older man, sitting bolt upright, on a machine that appears to have somehow traveled 75 years into the future, and is right now passing by their side window making a sound that seems closer to the African Queen than a motorcycle.

People seem to like it. I definitely like my 2012 Royal Enfield Classic 500.

 

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It is a nice looking bike, and a good tutorial. I noticed the owners in India liked the same thing in their bikes as their American counterparts in their American brand bikes. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Thank you for your responses gentlemen.

I have to point out, that if anyone is thinking about buying one of these UCE 500s, brand new from a dealer, in my opinion the next few months will be an excellent time to do that. Not every store is doing this, but certain dealers have marked down their 500 singles quite a bit, vs. this same point in the season last year. This, I believe, is almost certainly due to the new 650 twins sucking up most of the buyer interest. Dealers are getting above MSRP for the 650 twins, which at around $7K, are still substantially less than the cost of something like a Triumph Bonneville, which is the same nature of retro, standard machine.

As it draws near the end of the riding season up here in the slush and ice states, we can continue to expect good buys to show up.

Another thing, ... in my opinion these Royal Enfield motorcycles are going to continue to show up on the used market, in excellent condition with low mileage, at attractive prices, for years to come. The reason I say this is that I believe they are largely being purchased by older riders, such as myself, for whom the nostalgia element is a strong selling point. These same older riders tend to have garages for storage and more sedate riding styles, that contribute to the well being of the machines. This same demographic is unlikely to use their bike as primary transportation. The singles aren't ideal for US highway use, which again will tend to make them low mileage machines.

That said, they haven't been sold in big numbers, I think the total US Royal Enfield sales for 2018, which was their biggest US sales volume to date, was around 4500 bikes, so they aren't exactly common. If you see the one you want, at a good price, you might want to buy it. Another might not show up for quite some time.
 

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Another thing, ... in my opinion these Royal Enfield motorcycles are going to continue to show up on the used market, in excellent condition with low mileage, at attractive prices, for years to come. The reason I say this is that I believe they are largely being purchased by older riders, such as myself, for whom the nostalgia element is a strong selling point. These same older riders tend to have garages for storage and more sedate riding styles, that contribute to the well being of the machines. This same demographic is unlikely to use their bike as primary transportation. The singles aren't ideal for US highway use, which again will tend to make them low mileage machines.

Precisely my thinking, as well. I've started keeping a close eye on Craigslist and Cycle Trader. Have cash (well, some), trailer and will travel!:grin:
 

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Back in the early '60's a friend of mine had a 750 Interceptor. He let me ride it a few times. It felt lite, nimble, lots of bottom end torque, and quite fast for its day. Since that time, I have always wanted an Enfield. Triumph and Enfield are the 'two that got away' from me. Rode them both, but never owned one. A fella down the street from me has a 750 Interceptor. Everything is in boxes. I tried for years to get him to sell me the basket case, and am still trying. This has been going on for 30 years now. They were and still are, a beautiful machine.

When Enfield made the announcement of the 650 twin, I went out and told my wife that, that was my next bike. She rolled her eyes and asked what I was going to do with the other five bikes in the garage. I told her that I had sold two, and with only five left, the garage felt and looked bare. So, when the time is right and a used one comes on the market, there will be a 650 in the garage.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
The Interceptor made quite a stir, and Royal Enfield kept that model in production as long as they could. I read that even after the main factory was closed and sold off, they continued to make Interceptors in an underground facility they had used to make war supplies during WWII.

It seems like Royal Enfield has done a good job out of the gate with the 650s. I haven't heard of any consistent faults or complaints. We'll see how they hold up to the miles and the years.

There are rumors and reports that Royal Enfield will be developing two new and bigger cc bikes by 2023. They bought Harris performance in England in 2015, and they are are not adverse to hiring engineering talent. It will be interesting to see what they produce next. The singles are also rumored to be due for a rework, probably to meet BV-6 and Euro 6 emissions standards. The 650s are reportedly already meeting BV-6.

They were showing this V-twin concept bike at this spring's IMSA show, but I've seen no reports that their execs have made any suggestion it's under development, nor any pictures of the machine actually being ridden.
 

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I can't tell from that picture if it might not be the bike in this link. But there is some interesting info confirming what you stated there, Johnny.
 

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The 650 got a good review in Cycle World issue 3 2019. They did a comparison test with the Kawasaki W800.
Worth a read for Enfield fans.

UK
 

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Belated welcome to the forum from another Illinois resident!! :D Awesome bike and I love the educational history. My bike buying philosophy is everything has to cost $1k or less. Despite that I've found some awesome bikes like my restored GL1100 to even a cheap Genuine Stella in near perfect shape.

I really really hope to at the very least ride an Enfield one day. That style is so right up my alley. :) Maybe if I can kick off this motorcycle journalism thing.

Side question: Do you ride through the winter?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Hello Miss M.

I won't ride in snow, or slush, if I can avoid it, but I don't have hard and fast rules about avoiding winter. Two years ago I put the bike up the first week in December, and brought it out in mid April. Last year I rode until early February and had it out again by mid March. This year I have a windscreen and a set of those handlebar muffs to put on, and I'm planning to rig some military style lower covers to the engine guard as well, so I should be good well below freezing.

The bike prefers it warmer though. Sometimes on a really cold damp morning, it takes three kicks to get it started, instead of the usual one. Gotta love EFI!
 

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Just watch that slightly above and below freezing temps. There can be unseen ice called black ice hiding in shaded areas. So just be careful. If the humidity, something we have to watch for here, is low, you should be okay. But just be careful.
 

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I don't know about where you are, but in New Jersey, at the first HINT of snow, they salt the hell out of the roads!
I got caught in a snow storm just once on the BMW I used to ride. That salt ruined the appearance of all of the aluminum.

Never again.

Salt is bad enough on cars. On bikes it can get into places that you'll never get it out of.
At the first sign of road salt, my bikes go away for the winter.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Yes, I've met black ice. There was a big patch in my employer's parking lot last winter, that looked to my morning brain like a wet spot. I approached cautiously, and went all the way down in a quarter second. The tilt sensor killed the bike in another second and a half. Luckily I was going super slow, and wisely, I had installed a crash bar as my first accessory item. There was no damage to me or the bike, only a small mark on my jeans. Our maintenance guy looked at me funny when I complained, perhaps because I didn't mention the fall.

The salt situation here in Chicago is nasty, and I do avoid riding in wet for a few days after I know salt is down, but I've decided to not be precious about this bike. I'll take care of it, do all the maintenance, but I'm going to get my use out of it, and if the experience starts to show on it's face, that's life. Most folks here adopt your policy, I won't see another rider on the road for months, except for the day they run the Toys for Tots ride.
 

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Wot OC said.
Any bike you want to keep clean and shiny, should get parked. If you do happen to be on the winter roads, then wash the bike after use. Not always easy.
I only use my 79 XS1100 and my 83 XS400. The 79 most often has the side car attached. The rust and corrosion, even on my Island, is amazing. Both of these bikes will need to be stripped and sand blasted, and repainted. The aluminium alloy casings are also a huge problem. So are the forks and seals, wheel bearings and seals.

Should add. The swing arm shaft and bearings can turn to rusty powder. Old style bronze bushings and grease works.
The bearings and installation of them, on my Made in India sidecar, was a disaster.

UK
 

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Ah yeah, last year I bought a winter beater 250cc scooter to ride through the winter. No way am I exposing my vintage and/or minty machines to the salt Illinois lays down. I rode it up until that blizzard and subzero temps hit, then I retired the scooter until the weather stopped having a fit. :D Usually a windscreen and multiple layers are all I need to stay comfortable.

This year the winter beater scooter is a Vespa I found for $200. :)
 
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