The Royal Enfield Bullet

Published: 02nd February 2009
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Royal Enfield have been producing motorcycles since 1909. By far their biggest seller is the Bullet model, first introduced in 1931. Originally of British manufacture, the motorcycles have been made in India for most of the model's life, and they are highly regarded in India and throughout the world to this day. In 1931 the 'Bullet' arrived with a 4-stroke single cylinder inclined engine available in 350 or 500cc. The inclined cylinder and exposed valve gear made this engine unlike today's Bullet. It also had a single spring front fork and unsprung rear.

The Bullet was to prove very reliable in trial competitions, so much so that the British Army were to use the Bullet throughout WWII. This design continued until the 1949 model made its debut.

The 1949 Bullet introduced many changes - telescopic forks, sprung rears, new engine to name but few - and was very similar to the Bullet produced today. Also in 1949 the Indian Army placed an order for border patrol use, and the Royal Enfield Company decided to open a factory in Madras. The factory was originally an assembly plant, but in 1955 Enfield India Ltd. began producing fully India built Motorbikes. In 1956 the British and Indian bikes split lineage. The British bike was updated until the factory closed in 1970.

In the meantime the Indian company Enfield India Ltd. continued the original design and by 1984 were offering the Bullet back to the British market in virtually unchanged form!

The bike earned the moniker 'Raja Gaardi' (King's Bike) among Indian bikers, although this name was earned despite falling build-quality and increasing competition from the Japanese models entering India during the '90s. In 1995 Enfield India Ltd. were bought out by Eicher Motors, who also reinstated the 'Royal' moniker to the company.

The new company continued to manufacture the traditional Bullet, also introducing a new model - the Bullet Electra 350. The Electra has been the best selling model in India ever since. In 1995, there was a new engine introduced, which -although more powerful than its 1955 designed rival - proved unpopular with the public who preferred the traditional engine.

In 2007 a rather potent engine designated 'UCE' was introduced. Due to increasing emissions and bike insurance restrictions throughout the world this will soon be the only engine available. The current 'Thunderbird Twin spark' (domestic) and 500uce (worldwide) models have received excellent reviews by the press worldwide, and continue to sell well, and bikers the world over regard the 79 year old 'Royal Enfield Bullet' as an icon worthy of cult status!


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