ENFIELD 500 BULLET ELECTRA (2004 - on) Review
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£60|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
There are plenty of cracking classics you could buy for the price of a Royal Enfield Bullet Electra . These are the Indian-built ‘modern’ takes on the Fifties single, but to be honest even the addition of electric start can’t save this bike from being something that perhaps ought to have died out with drainpipe trousers and Teddy Boys.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
Thankfully the absence of any serious urge doesn’t test the Royal Enfield Bullet Electra's brakes too much. The ride is pleasant, but compared to something like Kawasaki’s W650 or the more expensive Triumph range it lacks polish. The heavy weight makes the Bullet feel heavy around town, too. Comfy as you like. Until the vibes intrude.
EngineNext up: Reliability
The Royal Enfield Bullet Electra's lazy SOHC single cylinder lump makes peak power at around 5500rpm, though keeping it there for any length of time will probably strain both you and the bike beyond endurance. Boasts a newer ‘lean burn’ engine for emissions purposes, which replaces the old British designed motor.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
New bikes only come with a 12-month, 7500-mile warranty. Reliability is patchy at best, with poor electrics. They’re very easy to work on and nothing can’t be put right with a little patience and a Haynes manual. Finish is poor and goes off quickly if not cared for.
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
With excellent fuel economy, returning over 70mpg, cheap servicing you can easily do at home the Royal Enfield Bullet Electra can make a frugal commuter. New bikes are very cheap and used examples can be had for the price of a shonky scooter.
There are few concessions to modernity with the Royal Enfield Bullet Electra . No rev counter, for example, the lights are poor and older model Bullets (pre-2004) have old-school right hand side gearshifts and an upside-down shift pattern. Enfield offer a massive range of tuning parts.
|Engine type||4v single, 5 gears|
|Frame type||Steel tube cradle|
|Fuel capacity||14.5 litres|
|Front brake||Single 280mm disc|
|Front tyre size||120/70 x 17|
|Rear tyre size||140/60 x 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||75 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£69|
|Annual service cost||£60|
|Used price||£2,600 - £4,000|
6 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||25 bhp|
|Max torque||29 ft-lb|
|Top speed||78 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||17.5 secs|
|Tank range||240 miles|
Model history & versions
1949: The Bullet goes into production at the British Royal Enfield company.
2002: First electric start Bullet introduced.
2004: Bullet Electra X introduced along withc onventional left foot gear shift/right foot brake set-up.
2011: Electra DL EFI released. "Deluxe" edition featuers chrome tank, chrome mudguards, pinstripe side panels and Avon Speedmaster tyres [£4,585]
Bullet Trials: Alloy mudguards, wide bars, a solo seat, different sub-frame, alloy bash plate, enduro-style tyres and upswept exhaust.
Bullet Electra Sportsman: Rear sets, clip-ons add up to a saucy café racer style.
Bullet Classic: Has a chrome-sided tank and matching chrome mudguards. There’s a Classic Solo, too, with a single seat and luggage rack.
Owners' reviews for the ENFIELD 500 BULLET (2004 - on)
8 owners have reviewed their ENFIELD 500 BULLET (2004 - on) 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:||£60|
Annual servicing cost: £100
I've had my Bullet for about 2 years here in America, and I just adore it. Ride and maintenance-wise it sort of reminds me of old Norton 750s I've owned--though it's obviously nowhere near as fast. But if you're OK with cruising those back roads in the 50s, an old "Iron Barrel" Bullet might be for you. Frankly, in view of the low cost, I'm surprised everyone doesn't have one to thump around on nice Sunday afternoons. In fact, lots of Bullets are folks' 2nd or 3rd bikes just for pleasure riding...and they are a pleasure to ride. If you're needing something a bit quicker in more of a "daily driver" role, then you could do worse than check out Enfield's new 650 twins. They're kinda like a Triumph Bonneville for very nearly half the price, and I've yet to hear anything really bad about them.
Mine has drums front and rear, but they're just fine. No better or worse than my old Nortons'.
Pulled out the famously flakey electric starter. You just don't need it. Well, I don't. None of my other bikes ever had one.
You WILL tinker, and you'll like it.
Now that it's sorted, it needs very little, but thrives on regular tinkering and grooming.
If basic is what you want, then basic is what it is. There's a speedo and an ammeter. No tach. No Bluetooth Pap Smear Readout or the like. Mine came with the factory metal ammo can style panniers...great for touring and camping or the occasional groceries.
Buying experience: Got it for a real bargain used. Weirdly, it kind of found ME.
Version: Electra X
Annual servicing cost: £30
Like riding a living thing, next best thing to an old Velocette which I can no longer afford. Adequate performance for those who obey speed limits. Up to 90 mpg. Be prepared to make a few mods. to iron out manufacturing errors. There are loads of accessories and upgrades available. Either from the UK or if you can wait a week or so, even cheaper direct from India. I have had no problem buying parts this way. Definitely recommend to anyone who loves riding for sheer pleasure and to see the countryside. If you want to roar along motorways or pretend to be a racer, forget it! Ditto if you are not prepared to ever pick up a spanner.
At its best on winding A & B roads and country lanes. A relaxing ride means stops are dictated by fluid intake of rider and fuel needs of bike. Excellent front disc. However the rear brake needs a simple modification to get it "adequate" for the performance. Rear suspension somewhat hard but with our potholed roads that is perhaps not a bad thing. Have regularly bottomed out when on my other makes but never on my Enfield. Cornering fine.
Easy starting, reliable slow tick-over. Smooth acceleration. Some people complain about vibration but I've owned British big twins and know what real vibration is. To me, my Enfield just shakes a bit to let me know he's alive. Not enough to blur the mirrors. But then I never go over 50-60 mph.
No rust or deterioration after ten years. Leaks a little oil from behind the clutch.
Dead easy to service yourself. Regular cost just oil and a filter. All parts easily available.
Headlight could be improved, I have yet to try a better bulb. Other electrics as good as my Hondas. The plastic lever for the valve lifter is useless. You must fit a proper lever (a bicycle brake lever serves well). Good solid solid prop stand. Rolls onto centre stand easily, even more so if you fit a cheap lift handle. Many people fit an Amal carb which is a great improvement Electric starter can be delicate. Certain care must be taken when stopping as well as starting engine. If you are going to ride one of these animals, join a club or forum and get to know its idiosyncrasies first. Favourite feature? That one big cylinder.
Buying experience: Bought s/hand £2,000
Bought new in June 2015. On delivery had peeling chrome and bad paint blemishes. Warranty claim rejected. At 1800 miles a rear wheel bearing collapsed and mirror stems rusting. Poor after sales.
Cheap to buy and run, but I'd rather pay more for decent quality.
Shoddy build overall.
Nothing wrong but it just needs to be made properly.
Buying experience: Dealer, 4500.
Version: Electra (X)
I own several bikes but this is the only one with a soul. If you are looking for a B road bike that is easy and fun to ride this is it. If you want to race, go to a track and race, if you want to head out in to the country on some interesting B roads get this bike. If you are comparing the Enfield Electra's performance to far more expensive and fashionable modern bikes you are missing the point.
The Electra seems to me to be in perfect balance. The engine suits the frame and the the brakes are just right. Enough to pull you up nicely without locking things up. This isn't a twitchy white knuckle ride of death.
The engine is a throbbing, low revving single that feels as if it's alive and breathing. Uphill it manfully grunts its way up and downhill on the overrun it pops back occasionally. I don't know why that gives me so much pleasure but it does.
The build quality is obviously inferior to, say, Triumph but then again the Enfield is half the price; what do you expect? It has never let me down or failed to start. When you take this out you don't feel the need to have an organ donor card on you.
This bike was designed to be owner maintained with hand tools in a third world shed. Parts cost pennies and arrive the next day from Hitchcocks. The lean burn engine means the mpg is incredible (i.e. 80 mpg).
All a bit basic but that's the idea. There is an assumption that the bike will be owner maintained - and that's how it's designed. It comes with a tool kit that includes tyre levers. The manual recommends taking a puncture repair kit and a pump with you on longer rides.
Version: Classic Battle Green
Very economical fun bike. Puts a smile on my face. Negative, it dumped a full tank of fuel on my legs and the engine/exhaust after a week of ownership. Loose jubilee clip. Spanner check it yourself before you ride. Could have been a fireball.
Torque is great but idle is so slow between piston expositions that you have to wake the engine before setting off.
Buying experience: Dealer has been very poor. Had to chase them for test ride etc and still waiting for replacement cover that was damaged when the bike was new.
Fit and finish from factory or importer/dealer poor.Very economical 80-90mpg.Guarantee patchy on certain items.A load of rubbish really but i like it.Sounds good with character.Be prepared to talk to people when you turn up on one.A lot of pig iron for the money.Go and ride one.
After nearly 100 bikes I have finally rediscovered the enjoyment I experienced when I started biking nearly 40 years ago. Yes I could have bought some faster slicker or conventionally more desirable bike for the money, but would I be riding around with a silly grin on my face all the time? I doubt it. Adding a less restrictive silencer and pipe transforms the feel of the bike and it still returns unbelievably mpg. Handling is more than acceptable and spares are dirt cheap: A reliable classic bike with brakes that you don't need to book in advance.
I love singles, so this goes with my Jawa 650, which I have also reviewed. It's lighter and easier in town, but really can't handle motorway speeds. Economy is incredible at over 80 MPG. Parts are easy to get and there are tonnes of add ons to make it just the way you want. I've got the louder pipe, better mirrors and leather panniers. If you are happy ploding along at 60 mph listening to the exhaust note you'll like this. Latest Avon tyres are way over specification for this bike, so it gives huge amounts of confidence in corners. On paper the 25 bhp seems too little, but the engine is just so flexible for an every day ride to work bike it really is enough. Strengths: How it looks, narrow in traffic, electric start. loads of aluminium to polish. A bike to love and be proud of. Weaknesses: Looks dirty, really quickly. No one believes it's new. Useless rear view mirrors.