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Royal Enfield C5 Bullet - great learner bike!

Discussion in 'Bike Reviews, Questions and Suggestions' started by mattb, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. I’m sitting here feeling that pleasant feeling you get when you’ve just ridden a great bike for the first time. Except that the feeling is heightened because the bike is learner / LAMS bike; is one of the cheapest of bikes; and is so character-filled that it is well capable of being the bike that you keep for good. I think I’m in love and I want to preach the good news to anybody thinking about their first bike.

    I went into my favourite bike shop today, Motorcycle City in the Melbourne CBD, to arrange some work on my W650. I always go there because aside from being friendly and enthusiastic they’re straight up honest and I can talk in detail with the staff and mechanic about any issues or questions (the day they talked me out of buying a new chain off them - because, after coming out and checking mine, they said I could get 5000km more out of it and I shouldn’t just throw away money - cemented my faith in them). As I walked in one of the salesmen who knows me grinned and said, "I suppose you're gonna want to test ride one of the new Royal Enfield C5 Bullets - go grab a key from the front desk!"

    I had only ridden the old pre-unit Bullet (the 1950s designed Bullet that they kept making, called a "pre-unit" because the engine and gear-box were old-fashioned seperate units), not the newly designed G5 or C5 Bullets (that is, the Bullet with a newly designed engine that is much more reliable and more powerful). That older bike makes made me smile like no other bike ever has. But I couldn’t bring myself to own one because they have a tendency (as some of the more honest owners who actually ride will tell you) of blowing up. I have recently scoured some of the international Royal Enfield internet forums and am pleased to see that people are getting higher kilometres out of the newly designed C5s, with no problems.

    I was worried that the C5 would have lost some of the older Bullet's charm, and was very happy when I started it up and was greeted by a proper thump-thump with a nice note from the stock exhaust. Next I was very pleased at how comfortable it is to sit on.

    I went for a test-ride out of the city and through Carlton. The traffic was heavy, I was filtering to the front much of the time, and the next pleasant surprise was how well the bike pulls away from traffic. It’s perfectly adequate. Now my Yamaha SR500 also pulls away from the traffic quite well, for an older big single, but the important thing about the C5 was that it combined this ability with something that the Japanese design lacks – old-fashioned torque. The C5 maintains that 1950s heavy-flywheel motion that feels like the engine is moving in slow-motion. Subjectively, the feeling of the bike is completely relaxed, lazy, and old-fashioned, even while objectively you are moving with adequate speed. The power is low compared to most modern bikes of course – it is a retro motorcycle after all – but the learner will find the power both controllable but good enough for their long-term needs, presuming they’re into the sort of riding that such a bike invites. For the experienced rider who knows what they’re getting into, the power was better than I expected.

    The bike is also exceedingly nimble while being very well-balanced. This would be great for a learner in terms of confidence, both for feeling safe, and for learning to lean a motorcycle, and I’m sure it would be fantastic in a set of 80kph twisties. The bike also has mod-cons and more, including not only EFI, but hydraulic valve lifters which reduce servicing costs and labour considerably and, I presume, lengthen the life of the engine (compared to the many bikes whose valves get ignored too often).

    The big thing about this bike is that you are buying a technically very competent motorcycle that will meet all your first bike needs (and, as I say, will for some people be a keeper), but which is in my opinion the coolest LAMS bike available. Feel is the most important thing in motorcycling, and riding this bike feels fantastic! It’s essentially the experience of riding a vintage or classic vehicle, without the hassles. It gets lots of looks if that matters to you, and certainly when you stand back you can enjoy looking at a work of art (rather than functional moulded plastic!), and in my opinion you’re sitting on a bike which is as fine as anything that pulls up alongside you. Today the sun was shining, for protection I was wearing my white BSA-emblazoned pudding basin helmet and nothing else beyond the requisite checked shirt – I was enjoying pure exposed motorcycling – and I didn’t want to stop. I put this bike down on my list of the best bikes I’ve ever ridden. If you like vintage and retro / classic machines then you should definitely check this out. As I found out, Motorcycle City have a test bike available for riding. They also have a line-up of all the models (out the back, just ask to see them). They sell the base model which I rode, for $7.9k ? If you buy it, definitely buy it from them. I’ve heard regular grumbles about other sellers, but I can vouch that the Motorcycle City staff, who have all been there for years, are top people, knowledgeable about bikes, and will stand behind their product. They also have a large selection of affordable protective gear (yes, I'm a fan, but it's based purely on my customer experience over a good number of years).

    The C5 gets my vote as best LAMS bike for discerning ladies and gents.
    • Like Like x 3
  2. Nice review.

    And hey - if this is what you want from a bike then it sounds like this is the place to get it!

    Nice one OP (y)
  3. Might not be the worlds best motorcycle, but will always be an iconic motorcycle.

    I plan on getting one for a relaxing ride every time i feel like it.

    Will always be a great, if relaxed ride.
  4. I'm not sure actually but I assume not, given that $7.9k plus ORC is the standard price as listed on the supplier's site.
  5. Awesome review, Matt. :)
  6. Yeah they're approx $9.4-6 ride away from Eurobrit which is who i use
  7. I never doubted the appeal of these bikes while they run, but the persistent comments about breakdowns, need for 'getting involved' with this bike on a mechanical level, and poor quality of Indian metallurgy are enough to put me off, no matter how much fun they are to ride.

    In my fantasy world one of the Japanese manufacturers buys the whole business stock lock and barrel, and moves production to Japan... I'd get that "Imperial Enfield" in a flash, and I'd happily pay extra thousand or two for the truly modern reliability as opposed to 'good compared to the previous model' Indian one.
  8. Then you would end up with a Kawasaki W800 with an Enfield badge, and there's nothing wrong with that.
  9. Well, W800 is a 773cc twin rather than 500cc single, but yeah. BTW, I've pretty much decided W800 will be my next bike once I get the cash.
  10. You won't be disappointed. The more I ride my W, the more I can't think of a better bike.
    From what I can see on the Vicroads website it is not LAMS approved, which is a shame. But then: learner's on an Enfield, open on a W800...la vita bella!
  11. My sense is that Royal Enfield really have made a change with this new engine. Sure, they're still an Indian product and they don't match the exacting reliability of many (and far from all) Japanese bikes, but as a conservative buyer I'd be willing to give these new Enfields a go, based on the long-term American experiences I've read of on US Enfield forums. And in a world of Chinese and Korean bikes I suspect the new Enfields will prove to be quite decent, reliability-wise. Already people are clocking up 50,000km without hassle. And how many learners exceed that?

    The older Enfields are a different story (strangely, I'd rather the old pre-unit model. But I wouldn't recommend the old models to the average learner who just wants to get on and ride).