History of Royal Enfield Royal Enfield India Bikes – Sale-Buy Used Bullets…

16 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on History of Royal Enfield Royal Enfield India Bikes – Sale-Buy Used Bullets…
Royal Enfield Bullet 350 Army

History of Royal Enfield

The Royal Enfield Bullet was originally a British overhead valve single cylinder 4-stroke motorcycle made by Royal Enfield in Redditch, West Midlands of England but now produced by Royal Enfield Motors (the successor to the British company) at Chennai (Madras), Tamil Nadu of India. The Royal Enfield Bullet has the longest production run of any motorcycle having remained continuously in production since 1948. The Bullet marque is even older, and has passed 75 years of continuous production.

The Royal Enfield and Bullet names derive from the company’s links with the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield.


The Bullet moniker has been through a number of avatars throughout its many years of existence. It has traversed the whole automotive spectrum from a four-valve engine with exposed valve-gear to the latest all-alloy Unit Construction Engine with electronic fuel-injection.


Royal Enfield Bullet Manufacturer  Flag of the United Kingdom Royal Enfield

Production  1931-39

Successor  Royal Enfield Bullet

Engine  346/499cc single cylinder OHV

Introduced in 1931 as a four-stroke single cylinder motorcycle, this model was the first to feature the Bullet name. It differed in a number of ways from its successors (which are now familiar): it had an inclined engine with exposed valve gear featuring four valves per cylinder with 350cc and 500cc options. In 1933 a 250cc option was also added to the range.[2].

Its frame was also considerably different, having centre-spring girder front forks, being among a new range of models from Royal Enfield that featured them, along with a saddle-type fuel tank. However, common to motorcycles of this period, it had a rigid rear-end, necessitating a ‘sprung’ seat for the rider, which resulted in the iconic look of the motorcycle that is much replicated today, even though the sprung seat is unnecessary in modern models.

After competition success the 350cc Royal Enfield Bullet was bought by the British Army for dispatch riders and 3,000 were also supplied to the RAF during the Second World War.


Royal Enfield Bullet Manufacturer  Flag of the United Kingdom Royal Enfield

Production  1939-48

Successor  Royal Enfield Bullet 350

Engine  346cc single cylinder OHV

This model refreshed Royal Enfield’s model line-up for 1939. It differed in cosmetic details, as well as in having two rocker boxes, which resulted in higher volumetric efficiency for the engine. The basic design with front gaiter forks was retained.


Royal Enfield Bullet Manufacturer  Flag of the United Kingdom Royal Enfield

Production  1948-56

Successor  Royal Enfield Bullet 350/500

Engine  346/499cc single cylinder OHV

This was the most radical redesign yet. A slew of changes were implemented in order to bring the bike up-to-date. This model featured a perfectly vertical engine with alloy head and higher compression. The frame was also changed to a fully sprung design using a swing-arm with non-adjustable hydraulic shockers at the rear, while the front used a brand-new telescopic fork of Royal Enfield’s own design.

This enabled the introduction of a bench seat made of simple foam (no large springs). Power transmission was via the same four-speed Albion gearbox as the previous model, with a unique ‘neutral-finder’ lever the rider could press from any gear other than 1st to shift to neutral. The crankshaft continued to have a fully-floating big-end bearing.

The headlight assembly was enclosed with the speedometer and ammeter into a nacelle, which also served as the attachment of the front suspension as well as the handlebars. An otherwise similar model, but with engine displacement of 499cc, made its debut in 1953.

The prototype had done well in a performance trial and went on to win the trophy at the 1948 International Six Days Trial and two Bullet riders won gold medals.[3]. In 1952 Johhny Brittain won the Scottish Six Days Trial on a Royal Enfield Bullet and in 1953 he also won the International Six Days Trial without losing a single point.[1]

In 1949 the Indian Army ordered Royal Enfield Bullets for border patrol use and the company decided to open a factory in Madras, India. In 1955 the 350cc Bullets were sent from the Redditch factory in kit form for assembly in India, but Enfield India Ltd. soon developed the factory and produced complete motorcycles independently under licence. The 1955 model remained almost unchanged for years and Madras produced over 20,000 Bullets annually.[2]

[edit] 1956-64

Royal Enfield Bullet Manufacturer  Flag of the United Kingdom Royal Enfield

Production  1956-64

Successor  Royal Enfield Bullet 350/500

Engine  346/499cc single cylinder OHV

In 1955, Royal Enfield carried out some retooling and redesign at their Redditch plant, in the UK, to modernise the Bullet, and in 1959 some changes were made to the gear ratios. These changes, however, were not incorporated by the Indian arm due to its commitment to supply the Indian Army. Thus the British and Indian lines diverged, never to meet again.

Between 1956 and 1960, the British Bullet was released in several models, including a 350cc Trials “works replica” version, a 350cc “Clipper” model and in 1958 the Airflow version. This model had full weather protection from a large fibreglass fairing and included panniers for touring.

The design was developed in partnership with British Plastics and featured as a series in The Motor Cycle magazine.[4] The engines were the same and the only differences were in exhaust, seating, instrumentation, handlebars and fuel tank. Numerous technical improvements were also made, including moving to alternator charging (1956) and coil ignition (1960). The 350cc model continued in production, but the 500cc model was discontinued in 1961.

In 1962 the UK company was sold and the Bullet discontinued and in 1967 the Redditch factory closed. Finally in 1970 Royal Enfield closed down completely.[5]

[edit] 1955-1995

Enfield Bullet Manufacturer  Flag of India Enfield India

Production  1955-1995

Successor  Royal Enfield Bullet 350/Electra/Machismo

Engine  346cc single cylinder OHV

Royal Enfield Bullet 350

The Enfield India Ltd. factory did well and continued production of the 1955 Bullet design almost unchanged, re-introducing it to the British market in 1984, under the name ‘Enfield’. This was a period of stagnation for the Bullet, as the Indian owners did not make even basic improvements to the motorcycle, and the quality of parts dropped at an alarming rate.

Due to the protectionist Indian economy, however, there was felt no need for betterment, and the brand survived into the 1990s essentially as a domestic Indian commuter bike, if a rather majestic one. On a positive note, during this period the bike’s position was cemented in the Indian psyche as the definitive King of Bikes (it is often called Raja Gaadi, which literally translates as ‘King Bike’, or ‘The King’s Bike’ in Hindi).

It so hopelessly out-powered anything present in the mileage-conscious Indian bike-scene, that owning and riding a Bullet was seen as a statement of power and prestige, a feeling that continues to this day in India, even though modern (but still under-powered) bikes are available. The only bikes that were equivalent in mindshare were the Yamaha RD350 and the Yezdi. Both bikes enjoy a cult following in India, but are out of production for decades.

However, this could not prevent the erosion of the bike’s market once the economy was sufficiently opened up to allow the Japanese invasion with cheap, lightweight, unspeakably low-powered but miraculously fuel-efficient motorbikes. Chronic low quality and mismanagement, coupled with the bike’s relatively low mileage (although the Bullet engine is very fuel-efficient, its main competition was with bikes whose engines at 100cc were less than a third in size) caused a descending spiral of sales until the company, near bankruptcy, was bought out by Eicher Motors, a tractor and commercial vehicle manufacturer.

[edit] 1995-1997

Royal Enfield Bullet 350/Electra/Machismo Manufacturer  Flag of India Royal Enfield Motors

Parent company  Eicher Motors

Production  1995-1997

Successor  Royal Enfield Bullet 350/Electra 4s/Electra 5s/Machismo 500

Engine  346cc single cylinder cast-iron or lean-burn, OHV

Under the newly appointed CEO of Enfield India, Mr. Siddhartha Lal (himself a passionate biker), Eicher undertook major investment in the ailing firm, intending to put the Royal back in Enfield. This was literally done with the purchase of trademark and intellectual property rights of the defunct British Royal Enfield firm, thus changing the name of the company from Enfield India Ltd to Royal Enfield Motors.

A slew of management and production changes were made, with the production process being streamlined and excess capacity redistributed. Without the large-scale Army/Law Enforcement orders to bail the company out, there was only the individual sales route in which the company had to perform if it were to survive at all. The company also faced the difficult task of catering to a very diverse market.

The Bullet had buyers and fans from all walks of society, whether they be prosperous farmers or wealthy landlords from the villages, or young middle-class people who wanted a serious road presence and were tired of the anonymity of Japanese-clone bikes, or upper class individuals into classic British bikes. To preserve the Bullet’s nature and reputation as a classic British bike, as well as the Raja Gaadi, as well as to attract youngsters away from the newly appeared (though still under-powered) ‘performance’ bike segment, the Bullet marque was split up into two.

The Bullet Standard 350 featured all the increased manufacturing quality and reliability but was maintained in the traditional Bullet look, even available in only one colour—black. A new model with refreshingly garish colours and lots of chrome, a facelift, TCI ignition (instead of the traditional CB-points system), a CV carburetor and gas-filled shock-absorbers at the rear, but with the same engine and gearbox as the Standard was launched. This model was christened the Bullet Electra 350.

The Electra 350 went on to become the best-selling Royal Enfield model, accounting for around half the company’s sales.

Alongside these developments, Austrian engine firm AVL was contracted to produce an all-alloy engine suitable as a drop-in replacement for the cast-iron block original engine (with design dating from 1955). The first bike with this engine was launched as the Bullet Machismo 350. This engine proved to be a failure in the Indian market, as it was perceived as lacking the characteristic ‘thump’ of a Bullet.

It would be ultimately successful in the Thunderbird, a chopper style cruiser from Royal Enfield that represented a completely different domestic product line. Also seen was the introduction of a disc-brake on the front wheel as a factory option as well as an after-market kit.

[edit] 1997-2007

Royal Enfield Bullet 350/Electra 4s/Electra 5s/Machismo 500 Manufacturer  Flag of India Royal Enfield Motors

Parent company  Eicher Motors

Production  1997-2007

Successor  Royal Enfield Bullet 350/Electra 4s/Electra 5s/Machismo 500/Classic

Engine  346/499cc single cylinder cast-iron or lean-burn, OHV

Ever tighter European emission norms forced the Bullet Standard 350 to end 2007 as its last model year in the EU, so when on-hand stocks are all sold the British-design engined Bullet will no longer be available. All new models will exclusively feature the AVL ‘lean-burn’ engine. However, in the domestic Indian market things were a lot more interesting.

The introduction of a 5-speed gearbox meant that Royal Enfield could ‘fix’ one of the long-standing quirks of the Bullet design—the foot-brake is on the left side while the gearshift is on the right. Accordingly, the Bullet Machismo 350 was equipped with this gearbox.

However, the ‘left-shift’ gearchange provoked a backlash from Indian Bullet customers, forcing the company to not only continue the Bullet Standard with the traditional system, but even on the Electra it was offered only as an option, leading to the Electra 4-speed (traditional) and Electra 5-speed (left-shift) variants. Sales figures indicate that Indian Bullet customers have shunned the new gearbox, foregoing even the attraction of 5-speed transmission to keep the gearshift traditional.

However, customers outside India took to the new gearbox with pleasure, as a result it is a standard fitment on all motorcycles Royal Enfield exports. New developments included the addition of electric start, at least as an option on some models, while as default on others. In 2007-08, a limited edition, heavily accessorised 500cc lean-burn Machismo 500 was launched as the ultimate touring bike. Due to extremely limited production and high price, this was kept as an exclusive bike.

The Machismo 350 was discontinued.

[edit] 2007-present

Royal Enfield Bullet 350/Electra 4s/Electra 5s/Machismo 500/Classic Manufacturer  Flag of India Royal Enfield Motors

Parent company  Eicher Motors

Production  2007-present

Engine  346/499/500cc single cylinder cast-iron, lean-burn, or UCE, OHV

As a result of work spanning several years, a new set of engines was introduced. These were the Unit Construction Engines, or UCE’s. The 350cc UCE found use in the domestic model Thunderbird TwinSpark (in a configuration with two spark plugs per cylinder) with integrated 5-speed left-shift gearbox.

It has not been featured on any Bullet, domestic or otherwise. Given the tremendous fan-following the cast-iron engine and traditional gearbox enjoys in India, it is doubtful if that powertrain will ever be replaced (unless legislated out of existence like in the EU), but if replaced, then the AVL engine (intended as a stop-gap until this engine arrived) will most probably make way for this one.

The 500cc UCE features fuel-injection, and has greater power than any Royal Enfield 500cc motor. With the integrated 5-speed left-shift gearbox, this behemoth powers the new Bullet Classic. This motorcycle’s looks hark back to the original Bullet, complete with the ‘sprung’ solo seat (which is strictly unnecessary), creating a motorcycle that has a 1940′s look, but can smoke any careless competition on the road, a true modern classic.

This bike has been getting rave reviews, and from 2009 will be the only engine available in the EU to satisfy emissions norms[1]. It remains to be seen when/if this configuration is launched in India.

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