• Apr 27th 2010 at 11:57AM
  • 32
2010 Royal Enfield G5 Classic - Click above for high-res image gallery

*Ahem.* Said in our very best Monty Python Cockney accent: "And now for something completely different."

The last couple of motorcycles we've reviewed – namely the Ducati Hypermotard 1100 EVO SP and Aprilia Dorsoduro – have been V-twin powered machines with horsepower figures that flirt with three digits and top speeds well over The Ton. Either of these bikes can quite easily loft the front wheel (or the rear, if that sort of thing is your bag, baby), burn up the drive rubber with reckless abandon or grind their hard bits into oblivion with the kinds of ludicrous lean angles that are normally seen only at weekend MotoGP races.

However, today's review is most definitely not that kind of bike. In fact, you might say it's diametrically opposed to either of the aforementioned pavement pounders. The subject of this test is the brand-new-for-2010 Royal Enfield G5 Classic, and the question that was on our minds when we first laid our eyes and sweaty palms on the machine was this: Is it possible that a classically styled, low-horsepower, single-cylinder motorcycle that traces its heritage way back to the 1950s can be as fun to ride as a much more powerful, fully modern and well-equipped model? Read on, friends.

Photos by Jeremy Korzeniewski / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

In a word, Yes. And... no. Confused? Perhaps all will become clear in a few moments. First, let's take our usual walkaround. What we have here is a rather unique specimen in the motorcycling world. With its tall, spindly front and rear spoked wheels, long and thin pleated saddle and single large round headlight, there is simply no mistaking the Royal Enfield for anything but a retro motorcycle design. Only it isn't a retro motorcycle design. To be retro, a machine needs to purposely mimic classic designs from the past, and the 2010 Royal Enfield G5 Classic is doing no such thing.

In fact, the entire Royal Enfield lineup, which also includes a G5 Deluxe with a more healthy spattering of chrome, can directly trace its roots all the way back to 1955, when the Indian military decided that the Enfield Bullet would be the perfect machine for use by its army and police units as a suitable method of transportation. Shortly thereafter, the original British manufacturer folded, closed up shop and sold all the rest of the tooling and the rights to the motorcycle design to the new manufacturer in India. From that date until 2009, very little changed – the 350 and 500cc air-cooled, single-cylinder Royal Enfield Bullet enjoyed a run of continuous production in India from 1955 all the way until just last year. In case you were wondering, that earned the Bullet the distinction of the longest production run in the history of motorcycles. Impressive, no?

All of that changes rather drastically for 2010. Now we have an entirely new unit-constructed engine and five-speed gearbox. The reason for the change? Emissions. Put simply, it was impossible for the Indian motorcycle manufacturer to meet today's strict emissions regulations with a powerplant that can trace its origins back to World War II. With so much history at stake, though, it wouldn't be prudent for Enfield to just drop all of the connections it had to the past. So the 2010 revision brings more of the same, with a twist: the G5 still sports an air-cooled, single-cylinder engine that displaces 500cc, but in a nod towards modernity, the new engine is now fuel injected and computer controlled. A closer inspection reveals that the 2010 powerplant shares virtually nothing at all with the previous unit, save for its basic appearance and dimensions.

That, friends, is a very good thing. Though there's a rather large contingent of Royal Enfield enthusiasts who surely died a little inside with the introduction of the new fuel-injected powerplant, the rest of us get to enjoy the beauty of reliability wrapped up in a package that is nothing if not distinctive. And it attracts oodles of attention out on the road.

So, what's it like to ride the 2010 Royal Enfield G5?

Put simply, it's rather uneventful. And we mean that in the best way possible. Though the previous Bullet had made great strides in quality over the past decade, there was still a constant fear that you were pushing the machine just a bit too far past its inherent limitations while doing nothing more than trying to keep up with the frenetic pace of today's traffic. Now, with the new powerplant, you can wring the little neck of the single, overworked cylinder without fear of an impending seizure. Which is a good thing, 'cause it's a darn near necessity to push the Enfield harder than almost any other motorcycle in America if you truly desire to ride at the current stride of life.

We'll put it this way: The terminal velocity of the 2010 Royal Enfield G5 Classic, with our 200 pounds of mass riding atop, of course, is 81 miles per hour. The needle may have swung just a tad bit further to the right with the occasional downhill grade or a swift kick of the wind at our backs, but you certainly shouldn't count on that. The good news, though, is that we found the Enfield surprisingly at peace with that top speed limitation. Sure, the steering is a tad twitchy and overly light, but the engine didn't seem to sweat such merciless pounding in the slightest bit, and the front disc and rear drum brakes weren't fazed when tasked with bringing the speeding Bullet to a halt from its maximum velocity. That said, if you plan on riding for long distances on the freeway with the throttle planted firmly on the stop, you're missing the point entirely. Slow. Down. Or choose another bike.

Yes, the G5 Classic, and we suspect also the C5 and Military models, deserve to be enjoyed at a slower pace. While it's good to know that the machine isn't a ticking time bomb at freeway speeds, a more leisurely route will allow you to pick up on the finer points of riding a motorcycle that you may have forgotten all about with the impressive level of sophistication found in today's machinery. The Enfield feels very mechanical, and planting one one in your garage is likely to lead to more of a relationship with the motorcycle than actual ownership. In the two weeks we spent with the G5, we seemingly learned what the bike likes and we were more than happy to oblige by altering our riding style appropriately.

Paradoxically, slowing things down a couple of notches actually made the bike seem faster and more robust. The old saying that it's more fun to ride a slow bike fast than a fast bike slow may never be more apt than with the 2010-and-newer Enfield. When ridden at 7/10s, everything falls into line – the deft handling could be described as flickable, the acceleration is relaxed, but completely acceptable, and the braking performance is admirable. Listening to the beat of the single lung directly below becomes soothing and the vibration you feel through the footpegs becomes little more than a reminder that you are riding a motorcycle. A real motorcycle. It has a reason for being. And you actually have a desire to ride the Enfield within its limits, not because it can't push its boundaries, but rather because it is simply better not to.

Perhaps you've noticed that we've neglected to give any real specifications for the Enfield. That was intentional. They really really don't matter, but if you insist... The manufacturer claims about 27 horsepower and 30 pound-feet of torque from the engine, which employs a 90-millimeter stroke coupled with an 84-millimeter bore. Compression sits at 8.5:1 – much higher than the previous engine's 5.5:1 ratio, which surely helps with the ultimate power output. Rake is 27 degrees and trail is very short at 3.2 inches, and that's the figure that most obviously accounts for its light handling at mid-level speeds. Again, though, poring over the spec sheet is completely useless with the Royal Enfield.

You see, it's simply not possible to compare the Royal Enfield G5 Classic with a motorcycle from today that was designed to excite the senses with every twist of the wrist. And, surprisingly enough, it's all the better for it. As it turns out, something completely different isn't necessarily such a bad thing after all.

Photos by Jeremy Korzeniewski / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      A guy in my neighborhood rides his Endfeild everyday. He put some custom pipes on it. Its loud, fast and retro looking. Pretty cool.
      • 5 Years Ago
      awesome review. thanks. sounds like a nice weekend rider. it's dangerously close to yuppie territory but it sounds like a nice bike to tinker with and savor.
        • 5 Years Ago
        And since you're humoring us with this retro bike, might i request you take a look at the Honda Super Cub next? :D
      • 5 Years Ago
      I can't deny it. I think I really want one of these.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have wanted one of these for years now. The Bullet is definitely one of my favorite motorcycles, along with some of the vintage BSAs. I do love the old British bikes.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm glad to hear that they updated the engine. Hopefully it doesn't leak constantly like the old bike. I wanted an Enfield as my first bike but they were just too unreliable. The bikes were very well made in England but the transfer over to India was not very kind. The different climate caused a lot of problems with the fitments of individual parts leading to massive leaks and power losses. The switchgear and plastic components are also very low quality for a $6000 bike.

      They are undeniably cool because they are actually a real bike from the WWII era. You can actually ride one and have the same experience as your grandfather. Kind of like buying a Ural. The issue is that you were buying a bike from the WWII era and having the same experience as your grandfather. For the most part almost nobody today has the same technical knowledge of a guy that bought a motorcycle 70 years ago. When you bought one you knew you were going to be fixing it.

      Still any motorcycle enthusiast should ride an Enfield at least once to experience it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      For $6,000 you can get a perfect Norton Commando plus a parts bike, or two decent daily riders. Though the Indian Enfield is a cute story an actual vintage Brit bike is a better investment since the vintage bikes are not likely to depreciate.

      It'd be interesting to hear about quality, since Indian cars will be sold here sooner or later.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Lots more character than a modern bike.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Shame you have to spoil a perfectly good review with ancient history, and inaccurate at that ... the P ython line was never spoken with a Co ckney accent.

      (spaces to foil the idiotic rude word filter)
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am, as the name indicates, a little late to this series of comments; however, after reading the article and all of the comments except the "flame jobs," I think I can respond to the comment about how "small" the engine in the Royal Enfield Bullet G5 appear to be. The article clearly states in the specifications that the stroke is 90 mm, with a bore of 84mm. You've got to admit, given those specs, the engine actually is quite large, considering the displacement. Now, if it had an 84 cm bore and a 90 cm stroke . . .
      • 5 Years Ago
      Nice article. Surprised to find it here. Quite an eclectic bike that has a-la Harley Davidson fan-club following in India. Never ridden it, but traveled back-seat on it.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "The last couple of motorcycles we've reviewed – namely the Ducati Hypermotard 1100 EVO SP and Aprilia Dorsoduro – have been V-twin powered machines"

      Don't forget the piece of garbage review (writing not the bike) done on the Honda Shadow.

      Jeremy - make sure YOU do the motorcycle reviews from now so we can leave the editorial comments of the "other blogger" out.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Looks pretty cool.
      Is that a kick-starter I see in the pics!?

      That's awesome!

      Frankly the super-moto bikes which proliferate are invitational death traps.
      You can build all the capability into the bike you want... a regular highway is still not a race track and you still don't know what is actually in/on that next corner.
        • 5 Years Ago
        IOMTT, if your supermotard's special capabilities have saved your bacon "a few times", it's very likely you're a poor rider regularly venturing beyond your safe riding abilities.

        Beyond that, much of the appeal of a more basic bike like this one is that it can make you realize that your kind of hoonage simply isn't necessary to enjoy riding a motorcycle. It's easy to learn to live with what it offers. Don't let the styling fool you; although modest, the handling, braking and suspension are all modern.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Well, I ride a Supermoto (Suzuki DRZ 400 SM). It is not one of those overweight overpowered V twin "super moto" bikes. Let's see, compared to the Enfield, it has a better riding position to see what is around the next bend and actually has a capable chassis,suspension, brakes and tires to do something about it. Not to mention it weighs 325 lbs. I actually like capability as it has saved my a** a few times. I have no problems with the Enfield, but it does not sound like you ride much or at all on back hollow roads when you make that assertion about capable motorcycles.
    • Load More Comments