Royal Enfield Trials EFI first ride

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Royal Enfield motorcycles are true timewarp motorcycling – unlike the Austin Mini and Volkswagen Beetle which eventually morphed in to expensive fashion vehicles, the Enfield Bullet remains as an authentic slice of British motorcycling.

But even Royal Enfield can’t ignore modern regulations, so the 2009 models are now fitted with a brand new unit-construction (all-in-one casings rather than separate engine/gearbox), fuel injection for emissions compliance and an electric start in addition to the still-present kickstart.

All versions of the Bullet get the new motor – including the just-introduced Trial version, which MCN has just tested for the first time.

The Trial evokes the look of classic 1960’s off-road bikes – wide chrome bars, a single seat and an upswept exhaust. There’s also a neat luggage rack – a throwback to times when bike had to be useful too.

This is how it rides:

Open the throttle a touch and push the Royal Enfield’s starter button (or swing the kickstart if you’re feeling confident) to get the big single going, and instantly the whole bike moves as the chunky vibes pass through the chassis.

Unless you spend hours and hours flat out, the vibes are part of the charm.

The Enfield makes a modest amount of power, but delivers it from low revs through the mid range in a relaxed manner.

It’s happy cruising at 65-50mph, and the bloody-minded abusive types will see a touch over 80mph in the tow of another bike.

The Enfield’s chassis is still stuck in 1960’s, weak disc brake aside. Cornering has to be approached smoothly and gently – enter slowly and winding the throttle on gently loads the crude chassis without tying it in a knot.

You get the hang though, and the trial tyre’s soft rubber grips enough to scrape the centrestand and brake pedal. The brakes would be underpowered on anything else, but somehow they’re appropriate – just ride with a safety margin and they’re good enough.

“I used to have one of those…”
Inevitably the Enfield attracts old boys that used to own original British bikes, who miss the modern injection and starter on the first pass. But it grabs attention from everyone, especially in a period-style open face helmet.

Other motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists alike stare and smile as you thud past – if everyone rode one of these, there’d be far less anti-motorcycle sentiment in the world.

The Enfield is technically one of the worst bikes you can buy – but oddly, it’s one of the most enjoyable. It has a simple man-and-machine appeal, there’s no pressure to ride fast, wear race leathers or even go anywhere in particular.

You can go out on the Trials and simply enjoy the thrill and freedom of being on two wheels in the same way first time riders do – it’s a brilliant place to be.

Chris Newbigging

By Chris Newbigging