ENFIELD 500 BULLET (1992 - 2003) Review
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£100|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
Early models of the Royal Enfiled Bullet 500 weren't very well made and you might be better off finding a 2000-onwards example of this classic Brit single, now made in India.
There have been many variants of the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 produced by the UK importers, from cafe racers to sidecar combos, with the Clubman GT offering the most power from the Royal Enfiled 500cc motor.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
The Royal Enfield Bullet 500 runs on skinny old tyres and handles OK for something so old fashioned, equipped with such basic forks and shock absorbers. The Bullet 500 can't really go fast enough to test its chassis to the limit, which is probably a good thing.
EngineNext up: Reliability
In standard trim the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 single makes a claimed 22bhp, with another 2bhp squeezed out of the Clubman cafe racer version. The notchy gearbox takes some getting used to, but one thing you'll have whilst riding a Royal Enfield is time, as progress is leisurely, and there's no difference wit hthe Royal Enfield Bullet 500.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
Build quality improved gradually on the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 from the late 1990s onwards, as Eicher's new Indian factory took over and over 100 detail improvements have been made to the motorcycle in the last decade or so, by the factory and the UK importers. The Royal Enfield Bullet 500 is now a classic motorcycle you can use regularly.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
As a used buy, the Royal Enfield Bullet 500 makes a whole lot of sense, as owners tend to be fussy types and £1000 upwards gets you something in OK nick. As a new bike, four grand is quite expensive for a 75mph cafe racer - a decent 650 Bonnie/750 Commando could be had for the same cash and arguably worth more in the long run compared to the Royal Enfield Bullet 500.
Old fashioned drum brakes can cause a few heart-stopping moments on the Royal Enfiled Bullet 500 and many of the pre-2004 model 500 Bullets have no electric start either, so you have to master the knack of kick-starting.
The Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Trials and Army versions look like they've come straight from the set of 'Heartbeat' and have the most old school detailing.
|Engine type||4 stroke, single, 4 speed|
|Frame type||Steel cradle type|
|Fuel capacity||14.5 litres|
|Front tyre size||2.75 x 17 in|
|Rear tyre size||3.00 x 17 in|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||70 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£73|
|Annual service cost||£100|
6 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||22 bhp|
|Max torque||20 ft-lb|
|Top speed||70 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||17.3 secs|
|Tank range||200 miles|
Model history & versions
1996:Royal Enfield Bullet 500 imported in small numbers to the UK.
1997: New owners Eicher Engineering acquire factory in India.
2001: UK importer launches Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Army variant, in olive green.
2002: UK importer launches Royal Enfield Bullet 500 ES (electric start) and 500 Clubman GT variants.
2003: Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Trials launched.
2004: Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Sixty-Five (and Sixty-Five Sportsman/Street) launched; five gears, lean burn engine.
2004: Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Clubman S joins the GT.
2005: Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Sixty-Five T replaces the Trials model, Electra 5 speed models gradually replace older Bullet 500 range, except for Clubman S model.
Royal Enfield Bullet 500 Trials, Bullet 500 Sixty-Five T, Bullet 500 Sixty Five Sportsman, Bullet 500 Sixty Five Street, Bullet 500 Army, Bullet 500 Clubman GT, Bullet 500 Clubman S, Bullet 500 ES, Bullet 500 Jubilee Sidecar Outfit, Bullet 500 Manx Sidecar Outfit, Bullet 500 Stratford Sidecar Outfit.
Owners' reviews for the ENFIELD 500 BULLET (1992 - 2003)
7 owners have reviewed their ENFIELD 500 BULLET (1992 - 2003) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£100|
Annual servicing cost: £45
Great bike! Easy to work on, mines been 100% reliable. It goes nicely, and attracts so much interest as it looks like a cafe racer, and has a hand made aluminium racer tank and smiths gauges with rev counter in a custom alloy dashboard
Rides nicely suspension is Comfortable and it feels nice and solid on the road
It goes well. Just use really good oil, keep on top of carb tuning. I always use 99 ron super unleaded. It does run better.
Its well made. It takes looming after to look good. Mine is ridden and enjoyed. It doesnt look new, it just looks right in my eyes.
Very cheap parts, i do not ride it hard so service is oil, plug, filter and check over.
It looks stunning.
Buying experience: Private sale
Version: Any, 350 or 500.
Annual servicing cost: £50
MCN's review of this bike is insulting! These modern day journalists think they know it all! They state S.O.H.C. Pretty sure they are all push rod engines! most up to around the early Noughties, were made from the original moulds that Royal Enfield sent over in the fifties, when they changed from 'bolt together engine/gearbox, to the later unit construction engines. The Indian army wanted these bikes, but India wouldn't allow complete bikes to be imported, so Royal Enfield sent them over in kit form to be assembled there. These are bikes from the fifties! They are not modern buzz boxes or high revving multi cylinder bikes, they are old bikes designed to be fettled and maintained by their owners! If you don't want a bike that you can fully service in an hour, with few tools, don't buy one! People love them for what they are and it makes me sick, when smart arse journalists find fault and insult everything that doesn't come up to their 'modern high tech machines that are way too fast for today's roads and can't be safely maintained by the run of the mill biker!
These were considered a 'Mans Bike', basic motorcycling, cheap reliable transport, which were very satisfying to own. I've owned a BSA Gold Star DBD34, and a 90 bore 498cc Manx Norton, both very nice and fast bikes to ride but required a high level of mechanical skill to keep them on top form. The Bullet doesn't require anywhere near the skill level to maintain it.
If you don't like fettling with old classic's don't buy one!
The ideal machine to learn motorcycle maintenance on. If you don't like a challenge, or getting your hands dirty, don't buy one!!
Do it yourself!!
Owning a Royal Enfield single is as much of a hobby as riding them.
Buying experience: These are for the real budding D.I.Y biker, not for ' I don't wanna get my hands dirty' type!
Annual servicing cost: £200
A 5 out of 5, why, how, surely not? Well, it certainly does not deserve this based upon comments below from me, however, this is missing the point. I simply dare anyone to ride one for a day and not absolutely love the simplicity and back to bare bones fundamental motorcycling pleasures. The sound, the feel, the ‘risk’, it’s being 10 years old again, back in the 70’sor 80’s and riding for the first time. Perfection.
Get ready to drag them boots! There are some brakes, in a 1950’s fashion, they will slow you down on the day. I say they, front one will, back one is kinda there for show and not rolling off when stationery on a hill. A comfy bike though, sprung saddle on my Trials, whilst the knobblies create a very wayward ride quality / handling which is all part of the character and if you love her as I do, will get used to.
Fantastic fun and sounds absolutely amazing through high level trials pipe. Like a steam punk fantasy to behold, just wipe the oil off once in a while and it’s a work of art. Pulls fantastically well, basic in the extreme, sounds amazing, you need no more.
Ooh, some electrical issues, leaks from a few gaskets, a few nuts / bolts shake emselves loose......all good fun! Wouldn’t trust her for winter use, would feel though I was finishing her off, which it probably would do. Make sure you are happy to have as a second / third bike and that constant fettling will be part of ownership. Once you accept this, ownership pleasure will increase even more. If this basis of ownership is not for you, don’t buy one.
Fantastic on fuel and cheap on parts. However, if you use her a bit, you will be buying replacement parts cos of reliability issues.....but they will be cheap.swings and roundabouts.
Speedo, lights, wheels, tyres, seat, tank, it’s got what you need! And nothing more. Favourite feature after the. Engine is the hilarious sprung saddle.
Buying experience: Bought privately off an old fella for £2100. Only a couple thousand miles on her, she had a few elec issues which local motorcycle guru sorted easily. Think the seller was happy / sad to see her go. Amazing fun twinned with appalling reliability, old school biking! He’s parting words said it all...’enjoy the ride home, you should get there.....probably!’
Annual servicing cost: £200
Best being. It’s basic, fundamental make up, the sound of the machine as a whole, feel, simplicity, looks....it’s a real motorcycle. Worst being. I think she’d suffer badly in a uk winter and nothing to do with the bike, but, 99% of the British public. Very sadly, she doesn’t ‘fit in’ with the insane, manic and irresponsible approach of most drivers nowadays. eg. You are enjoying your pleasurable ride at a happy 50ish mph max and wherever / whenever, you have a car driver desperately trying to get past as they can’t mentally handle driving along behind an ‘old’ machine. It appears to offend their perception of their ‘status’. A bit like being on a 500cc with ‘L’ plates on it. But the bike is ideal world motorcycling personified.
Back brake is kinda there, front ok when used with foresight and ride is hilarious fun. Again, yer missing the point if looking at numbers. Do you want enjoyment? Stick amazing brakes on her and you’d lose the involvement of riding a real motorcycle.
Looks lovely, amazing character, plenty of torque, sounds divine.
Simple but things will go wrong and she requires constant care and maintenance. Just as it should be!
See above, it’s relative, how many miles do you do? Very, very cheap parts though.
The little running lights either side of the headlight are cute, a Bullet mainstay. Exhaust on my Trials sounds divine. But ‘equipment’, nah, doesn’t have any of that unnecessary malarkey.
Buying experience: Bought it off an old fella, he loved her but I think had concerns re reliability. She did have a small elec issue which local old bike guru sorted in a couple hours. I went along, decided to buy it, bought it, job done.
Annual servicing cost: £100
It is a great fun machine even though it is not fast
If you do not mind a few vibes
Single Cylinder creates a great sound, good pulling power
It is hand built what can I say
Depends on mileage
Very basic but that is what I wanted
Buying experience: bought it new from dealer using credit card everything was done and he delivered it in a van
Version: sixty 5
Annual servicing cost: £40
gets you where you want to be and gets you home again
braking is a bit slow but I have a chair on
does what it says on the tin very reliable
solid as a rock
easy to service
Version: Deluxe - chrome tank and mudguards, RHS 4 speed box and kick start only
Annual servicing cost: £60
Bought Sept 2000 and now done 39000 miles without failure. Used almost daily for work and holidays. Buy one and smile with your mates, booming down the road.
My 500 runs smoothly and without undue vibrations (unlike my mates bought the year before mine?) In standard gearing it is happiest at 55-60 mph and once did 10 hours straight up to Scotland, and yes I could still walk straight and without tingling extremities. For daily travel to work I upped the gearbox cog by 1 tooth to raise top speed to 70 after three years. To help the acceleration and braking I ditched the double seat and passenger foot rests, along with other cosmetic bits.
Bomb proof (what more can I say). A regular oil change and filter check is all this beauty needs! Over revving will make your bits tingle but it will never blow up.
Be prepared to keep it clean or watch it corrode and review or service on a monthly basis. The clutch cable used to snap at the lead ball in the gearbox selector every 6 months until I changed supplier (to Hitchcocks). If your are a old school spanner man you can you'll be ok with this bike, but if not a specialist shop may be required. The only major problem I have had was a cracked frame weld courtesy of a north Yorkshire pot hole aspiring to be a cave!
I do my own servicing so the £60 is an estimated average over the last 15 years (for annual oil and filters, brake pads, odd cables, bulbs, tyres, etc.).
As standard my bike was great for me but the favourite bits were those I dumped for more speed/handling/braking. Also, dump the square edge rear tyre and cornering becomes effortless at all but "screwing the balls off it" speed. Avoid every bolt-on or stainless steel add-on or a purist will take the piss and don't go mad on the mods or the local plod (or MC) my get a bit too interested.
Buying experience: The former dealer at Saxilby in Lincolnshire, from whom I bought the bike new, was so nice he went out of business. (Really miss your free cups of tea and biscuits Keith)