New 'oldness', Royal Enfield time machine.

Discussion in 'Old's Cool' started by Scooterdoodler, Mar 10, 2017.

  1. JerryH

    JerryH internal combustion rider

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    Back in 2013 I bought a new Royal Enfield B5 Bullet. I rode it stock for a couple of years, then put the shorter non catcon pipe on it, and replaced the EFI with an Amal Concentric Mk1 with a kit from Hitchcocks in the UK. It runs and sounds a lot better than it did stock. I recently went passed 10,000 miles on it. They are definitely not high quality bikes, the RE forum is just full of nightmares, from broken engines to broken frames and everything in between. I never ride mine above an indicated 60 mph, and usually at 55 mph, which seems to be it's sweet spot. It doesn't seem overstressed, and you can hear that wonderful thumping sound and feel the relaxing low frequency vibration. It has had it's share of mostly minor problems, on the day I brought it home the rear tire chewed through the wiring harness to the tail, brake, and rear turn signal lights. The header nuts refused to stay tight. The lights all burned out and the speedometer cable broke. But the biggest problem so far is the rear brake failed. It locked up solid. Fortunately I was going slow, and didn't crash. It had been making a scraping noise since I got it, but I rarely used it. I took it apart and found all the lining material had been ground off the ends of both shoes, and that the radius of both shoes was considerably larger than the inside of the drum. Right now I am riding it (out in the country) with no rear brake. I have no idea where to get shoes with the proper radius. I can order some new ones, but they could be the same as the old ones. Nobody else on the RE forum seems to have found this problem, but I can't be the only one with it. Ride these things slow, and do LOTS of maintenance, and they should last for quite some time. Definitely do not treat them like a modern bike. My guess is that the 1950s made British made Enfields were better quality than the new ones.

    Many dealers went out of business. My nearest dealer is now three states away. Fortunately Hitchcocks has most of the parts, if you don't mind paying shipping from the UK. Royal Enfield 006.JPG
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  2. Eatmore Mudd

    Eatmore Mudd Mischief on wheels.

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    Scraping noise in the rear brake since day one ? Man I can't wrap my head around it so I gotta ask, why did you accept the bike in the first place and why didn't you get it fixed under warranty ?
  3. Mista Vern

    Mista Vern Knows all - tells some.

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    Oh bliss, a rare dry day in NW Oregon so taking advantage of it and going for a ride! :clap 46 degrees and a dry day just can't go wasted!
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  4. JerryH

    JerryH internal combustion rider

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    I never rode the bike before I bought it. And I bought it from a dealer 120 miles away (closest one) For a really small fee they delivered it to me. Given the poor quality of a Royal Enfield, and the long break in required, I was not about to ride a new one on the highway for 120 miles. It took me over 2 months to break it in. I never paid that much attention to the rear brake. I was told on the RE forum not to expect much out of it. Even the front disc is VERY poor. It's usable, but an Enfield has to be ridden like a '50s British bike. It's not only a 60+ year old design, but it is made in India, which is kind of like China. It was not a really loud noise, and as I racked up the miles, it began to go away. I had almost 10,000 miles on it when the brake locked up. Several other members on the RE forum have had rear brakes lock up, but it is usually because the bolt that holds the backing plate to the swing arm came loose, allowing the plate to rotate just far enough to lock it up. So far I haven't heard of any serious crashes. And less than 3 months after I bought it, the dealer quit selling Enfields. They were primarily a scooter dealer. A couple of months ago, they went completely out of business.

    Taking it back to the dealer would have been an issue even right after I bought it. I couldn't ride it there until it was broken in, and even then I wouldn't have had to leave it, meaning I would have needed a ride home, and another ride to go pick it up. And the consensus on the forum was that it was not a big deal, that you just have to get used to riding an Enfield after riding modern bikes. It's not a huge deal since I didn't crash and neither me or the bike was damaged. I sent a PM to the guy that used to be the Royal Enfield importer (the company is a huge mess in the U.S. now, they got rid of their importer, and lost most of their dealers) and he suggested just replacing the rear brake shoes, and if they didn't fit, he would make sure to get me some that would. The bike is almost 5 years old now. Considering some of the horror stories I've heard, I consider myself lucky. I knew about the poor quality. 25 years ago I had a 1966 Triumph Bonneville, and sold it. I decided I wanted another, but could not afford one in decent condition. They now cost several times what I paid for that one. In fact I couldn't find any vintage British bike in decent condition that I could afford, so I bought the Enfield as a cheap substitute. MSRP was only $4999. They had recently dropped their prices $1000.
  5. Caesars_ghost

    Caesars_ghost Vertical twin

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    If Kevin said he'll find you a brake shoe that fits, he will do it. CMW always provided top notch service, and still do so today at their new operation in Texas. Give Baker Motorsports a call and explain your predicament and they will find parts that work. Don't assume your bike must be junk just because there are some bad stories on a forum.
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  6. Eatmore Mudd

    Eatmore Mudd Mischief on wheels.

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    Sorry to hear about your woe and misery. Sounds like you got hosed by a sketchy shiester who set the bike up wrong. Might explain why they got dropped or folded. Mrs. Mudds EFI unit Enfield has been nothing but a joy since day one. I wish you would have rented a U-Haul for the day and took the bike back and held them to task so you could've had the same experience as us.
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  7. MotoGB

    MotoGB Been here awhile

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    Jerry's tale has been repeated many times on a certain Royal Enfield forum but although there has been some issues with the rear brake locking up, he's the only one I know of who removed the brake completely! And considering Enfield are churning out half a million bikes each year , if this is a common fault they would have had to issue a safety recall and fix the problem a long time ago.

    Although I can't comment on the front disc of the B4/5 bikes, the one on my GT was very effective and the new 2018 bikes will have disc brakes front and back. It's accurate to say the quality isn't up to the standards we expect from most modern bikes, but they are mostly reliable bikes that just might need checking over more often, and not thrashed like you could with a Honda etc.
  8. Mista Vern

    Mista Vern Knows all - tells some.

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    A rare bit of good weather had me out and riding yesterday. The front brake on my bike (2014 model) is pretty darn good. As to the rear brake - let's just say I don't have to worry about locking it up. :lol3
  9. Caesars_ghost

    Caesars_ghost Vertical twin

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    Pics man, those 535 GTs are gorgeous. How was your experience with the bike overall?
  10. MotoGB

    MotoGB Been here awhile

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    I've recently traded the GT in but here's one of the dealer pictures of it:

    [​IMG]

    I sold the bike with almost 8000 miles on it and it was completely trouble free apart from what I can only assume was damp affecting the digital LCD odometer.

    Each winter it used to change from miles to kilometres and sometimes would be stuck on Trip A or B until it would return to normal once the warmer weather arrived in the spring.

    The quality of the parts such as the switchgear doesn't have the quality feel of modern bikes, but I had no trouble with any aspect of the bike other than the odometer. It handled and sounded great with the RE sports exhaust and had huge amounts of character which I think the new 650 twins will be hard pressed to come close to.

    I'll no doubt miss it but it had to go due to changes in my personal circumstances.
  11. JerryH

    JerryH internal combustion rider

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    The GTs are beautiful bikes, but I can't handle the riding position without pain. They are completely different from the rest, they have a completely new double cradle frame, better suspension, wheels and brakes.

    I haven't really had a bad experience with the Enfield considering what it is. I do have over 10,000 miles on it. The brake will be fixed. Then it will be a matter of whether to trust it or not. The other issues were minor, and I was able to deal with them. I repaired the wiring harness and rerouted it above the fender, under the seat, away from the wheel. I replaced all the bulbs with American bulbs. I replaced and lubed the speedometer cable and it has been fine since. I replaced the chain after the wheel locked up. I replaced the cheap oem battery with a Motobatt sealed battery. I replaced the prone to breaking battery cables with some I fabricated myself. The header nuts were a little more difficult. They get too hot for locktite to work. I finally switched to bolts, and drilled and safety wired the heads. That fixed the problem. The front brake is not any worse than I remember the Triumph being, though that was a drum. And I could do stoppies all day long on a Honda 250 Nighthawk with a front drum. Not going to happen with the Enfield. You have to adopt a slightly different riding style when riding an Enfield than with a modern bike. It's not retro, it's the real thing.

    First couple of oil changes I found what looked like pieces of string in the oil. I was told that the factory sometimes leaves shop rags inside the engine during assembly. I use Mobil1 20w50 full synthetic motorcycle oil in it, and change it every 1000 miles. Seems a bit excessive, but this is not a modern bike, and I want it to last as long as possible. It's probably the most fun bike I've ever ridden. I rarely ride it more than 100 miles from home, the towing limit on my road service plan, unless I have made prior arrangements for someone to come and get me if it breaks down.

    As I've said many times on the other forum, I wish the Japanese would build an Enfield. Not a bike that resembles it, but an EXACT copy, only using quality materials and modern manufacturing techniques. It would be just as fun to ride, would not break down, and should last forever. The Japanese seem to have a problem with long stroke engines. If Yamaha had made the SR400 a 500, and given it the same bore and stroke as the Enfield, it should sound and feel the same.

    Shortly after getting it, I put British flag stickers on the sidecovers. Just happened to find some that fit perfectly. I'm still planning to get one of those old style British license plates that go on the front fender RE Flag 001.JPG
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  12. Mista Vern

    Mista Vern Knows all - tells some.

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    Good on you for hanging in there, JerryH. :thumb
  13. BeezaJohn

    BeezaJohn Adventurer

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    I see Beetle and Winnie are still going strong over 4,000km in 12 days.
    The PAM riders have a couple of tough days ahead of them temperature today and tomorrow over 40 degrees.

    Winnie gets a service.
    20180105 1.jpg
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  14. Mista Vern

    Mista Vern Knows all - tells some.

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    Thanks for the update! I had to go to a converter to see 40 C is 104 F. Yup that hot is hard on man and machine both. Continued good luck to Beet!
  15. Gazman

    Gazman Zen equals camping

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    Hes still going. Tough young fella that Beet

    Farking hot in northern victoria and new south wales today
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  16. ddavidv

    ddavidv So money, but doesn't know it.

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    @JerryH thank you for the realistic report on your Bullet. I follow this thread because I love what these bikes are about and the history. I seriously considered buying one but wound up with my Triumph because it was better suited for some of the highway riding I need to do around where I live. Still, the RE beckons.

    Now, I know Jerry's experience may or may not be typical, but here's the thing: even as a guy who does his own wrenching and believes occasional tweaking adds to the ownership experience I'd have to really question why I would purchase a RE over a used Triumph or Guzzi V7.
    "I want a new bike with a warranty". Warranty is useless if there is no dealer within an hour's drive.
    "I wouldn't trust a used bike". But I'd be afraid to ride my new RE more than my tow service's 100 mile limit.
    "The brakes and/or the chain may lock up". :eek7

    I'm not picking on Jerry but I do think he is a typical buyer of a bike like a Bullet. He wants the classic bike 'experience' without the restoration price or worn-out nature of an unrestored Triumph/Norton/BSA. Only his experience indicates he actually got quite a few of the negatives despite buying a new machine.

    For the price of a new RE single one can find a Hinckley Triumph twin. Yes, its heavier and less nimble. But it can also go way over 70mph, has brakes that actually work, bolts that don't fall off and chrome that won't corrode if left outside overnight.

    The point of my criticism isn't to try to convert everyone to buying a Bonneville like mine but to point out that RE needs to step up their game if they ever hope to make it in the USA. They now have a modern factory and from what I've read about the Himalayan they can build a bike with good quality. I hope the new twins exhibit this, I really do. As much as I love the Bullet though I find it very difficult to pull the trigger on one unless it is a ridiculously cheap used one (and I did pass up a lovely Classic for $2500 recently). Even as the tinkerer that I am the RE isn't quite enough bike or unique enough to have me tolerate its shortcomings.

    Could be worse; they could charge $15,000+ for an even bigger pile of misery like Ural. :lol2 The difference there is they offer a fairly unique product (sidecar).
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  17. Mista Vern

    Mista Vern Knows all - tells some.

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    Good post. I bought my 2014 Chrome Classic simply because I wanted it more than any other bike. I like big singles and I like the look. Knock on wood, I have had no meaintence issues and I applaud Jerry for sticking with his bike through thick and thin.

    I agree that a Hinkley twin or a V7 makes much more sense to own especially if you need to ride at freeway speeds and there are indeed times that I wish I had another bike better for long distance. But as it is for my situation at least, I am very happy with the RE. I guess I think of it as a time machine of sorts taking motorcycling back to its basic element. But I am dreamer that way. :ricky
  18. Caesars_ghost

    Caesars_ghost Vertical twin

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    Truthfully, the Bullet is pretty unique. Where else can you find a long stroke big single, with classical British styling, without going (very) vintage?

    There's the Nuovo Falcone, pretty vintage itself, cost about $5-7000 it seems, and likes to eat valves, or at least not immune to mechanical foibles. Also very unique in a different way.

    GB500 or Honda Ascot? By all accounts they're higher revving and far more refined, probably more similar to a Velocette (with most of the quirks removed.) Uncommon.

    SR400? Cool and by all accounts a fun, well made machine, but it's a short stroke design, and speaking of design, that angled tank and seat are fugly. SR500 is longer stroke but now uncommon and still has that 70s semi-chopper brokeback look.

    TU250? Looks decent, bulletproof... but it's a Japanese 250. Totally different character and feel to the Enfield, even though they make similar power from the factory. Yes I've ridden it.

    Ural Solo, Guzzi V7, W650, Bonnie, new RE 650s, Sportsters, are all classically styled, fairly old school ethos bikes, but they're twins. Probably better for longer rides at speed though.

    Buell Blast? It's pretty overlooked and was reviled in its day, not great looking, but it IS a 500 street single that's effectively half a sportster engine.

    DR650/KLR650/etc are dualsports, with counterbalanced short stroke engines. Great bikes, but totally different look and feel to the Bullet.

    Honda CBR250R, KTM Duke, etc. See above. They're singles designed for everyday riding, but that's about the only thing they have in common with the RE.

    As far as I know the only bikes that compare to the RE singles are the ones that were contemporary with its design. Which means an old Matchless, BSA, Norton, or Ariel. All nice bikes, but hard to own. Because they're all 50-70 years old now, time and $$$. If you can even find one, which is not easy in the US, since the Brits mostly exported their big twins and kept the less speed-happy singles in Old Blighty.

    So although l would never, never advise anyone to own an RE as an only bike, if only because the build quality can truly be dodgy at times and they are likely to need a good amount of sorting out, they are the easiest and most straightforward way to get the Brit Single experience in 2017, and I'm very glad I have one -as a second bike. (But oddly enough I'd sell it last.)
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  19. ddavidv

    ddavidv So money, but doesn't know it.

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    Some of my jaded view may also be because I don't have any particular affinity for singles. I appreciate their simplicity but most all of them are challenged by US driving needs.
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  20. JerryH

    JerryH internal combustion rider

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    I bought the Enfield because it is a 1950s design. I would have loved a mid '60s Triumph. I had one decades ago, and seriously regretted selling it. I would have also been ok with a BSA, AJS, Velocette, Norton, or a few other British bikes of that era that parts could be obtained for. Either a single or a vertical twin. None of those bikes can really be trusted to ride cross country on without a plan in case it breaks down. None of those old British bikes were all that reliable, but they are beautiful, and have tons of character, something missing from pretty much all modern bikes, with the exception of Harley, and I also have a Sportster.

    I seriously looked at the "new" Bonneville when it first came out, but despite a resemblance to the original, it was completely different. Way to quiet, smooth, heavy, the tank looked bulbous, there was that kink in the exhaust, and the engine didn't have the fine detail of the original. It had a "fat" look to me. The Kawasaki W650 looked far better, but it too suffered from "modern bike syndrome" Too smooth, quiet, and refined. Not "mechanical" enough for me. I do have a couple of bikes that can be ridden long distances fairly reliably. I wanted a vintage bike just for the experience of owning, riding, and working on it.

    The Enfield fit the bill fairly well. The engine made a lot of vibration, and it just needed an aftermarket exhaust to get a beautiful sound out of it. I'm not a believer in electronics on bikes, and the UCE Enfields came with Keihin EFI. I got a kit from Hitchcock's in the UK to convert it to an Amal carb, like a proper British bike should have. Those two modifications transformed the bike. With the carb you can set the idle lower, so you get the proper thump thump thump at idle, and the throttle response is much more crisp. It's unfortunate about the lack of reliability, but that kind of goes with the territory. I know it is possible to build a bike that would provide the same look and experience as the Enfield and yet be reliable, but I doubt anybody will ever do it. I doubt there would be a market for such a bike. The Yamaha SR400 already isn't selling because it does not have an electric starter, and it is smooth and quiet. Vintage bikes are not for everybody.


    As far as the Enfield not being suitable for American roads, that's true. At least not freeways. I won't ride mine over 60 mph, and usually keep it around 55 mph. I didn't buy it for speed or performance, I bought it for the riding and ownership experience of a vintage British bike. I ride it for recreational use only. I have other bikes. I would not recommend an Enfield as an only bike, especially if you depend on it to get you to work or school etc. reliably every day.
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