Jun 8, 2014

Ownership review: Royal Enfield Bullet Electra 5s

Made like a gun, goes like a bullet. The machines that the Royal Enfield factory manufactures still reflect the legacy of the weapon manufacturer in their build quality and performance.

In 1956 Enfield India started assembling Bullet motorcycles under license from UK components, and by 1962 was manufacturing complete bikes. Since 1995, Royal Enfield production, based in Tiruvottiyur, Chennai, continues and Royal Enfield is now the oldest motorcycle brand in the world still in production with the Bullet model enjoying the longest motorcycle production run of all time. In May 2013 Royal Enfield started a new assembly facility at Oragadam, Chennai.  Eicher Motors manufactures and markets the Royal Enfield motorcycles for the premium motorcycle segment in India.

Royal Enfield Bullet Electra 5s is a famous and one of the largest selling models from the Royal Enfield family. And of course, it has the least waiting period. It is a 350 cc mean machine with 5 speed gears and UCE petrol engine.

It has been more than a year I have been enjoying riding my Bullet Electra 5s and it has been a pleasure indeed to own a classic machine. What follows is my account of the ownership review. My ODO reads 8100 Kms as of now.

7th May 2013 is the day when I finally got the ownership of my bull. The drive from the showroom to my home is around 16 Kms and during that drive, I made a decision to never part with this machine ever in my entire life. Being an MBA, I prefer going bullet-point wise when I describe my ownership review.

Handling: When it comes to handling, Electra wins it hands down.  Be it the city or the highway, you never get a feeling of insecurity at any speeds. There are minimum vibrations, and the bike moves like a breeze! The front and rear shock absorbers make sure that you don’t have a hard time. While the shock absorbers are not too hard as in the other versions, they aren’t too soft either that they will bottom out. The wheelbase is amazing and hence you get a stable ride at high speeds, but when it comes to turning, you need to be careful enough in avoiding sharp cornering. The braking power of front disc and rear drum are adequate enough to bring the 186 kg bull to a halt when needed. Well, but when it comes to the tyres, you get disappointed to see thin front and rear tyres for a bike of this weight.  You have to be extra careful on wet roads since they tend to drift easily by torque and braking. The new stepped seat is much better than previous versions, and has an adequate space which doesn’t exhaust you even after long rides. The foot brake pedal is placed too conveniently and the only downside is that when you apply the brakes over a bump, the pedal tends to touch the ground. 

Build quality and component design: Electra still retains that old school, traditional look and looks classic with that simple design. The paint is glossy and the finishing is simply great, especially on the fuel tank. However, the inner sides of the tool boxes have a tendency to catch rust very soon. The engine looks quite neat yet raw and has a great impact on the overall looks of the motorcycle. The headlamp, tail light, side lights and brake lamp are decent enough. 

Engine performance:  This is one area which has been researched too much by the company and it shows. The heart of the Bullet Electra is 350 cc air cooled, four stroke, single cylinder, twinspark engine that generates a stunning 19.8bhp at 5250 rpm and peak torque reaches 28Nm at 4000 rpm. The Electra has TCI (Transistor Coil Ignition) which is a major refinement which the earlier models lacked. The TCI system is more reliable and makes it easier to start the motorcycle than the conventional points type system. The engine is a UCE, which means the gearbox is integrated into the engine, whereas the earlier models had a different compartment for the gearbox. This makes it easy for changing oil and maintenance and since it is made from aluminum alloy, it reduces the overall bulk of the motorcycle, giving it a pretty good mileage. However, this has an impact on the exhaust sound, or the thump’ as motorcycling enthusiasts call it. The thump isn’t much powerful since the new Electra comes with a new long glass-wool fitted silencer which reduces heat and noise pollution and is compliant with the Euro III norms. The engine feels powerful and it retains the original raw power of earlier bullets. The torque and acceleration both are taken care of, thanks to the new improved gear ratio. My personal record is 0-60 in 6.5 seconds. The top speed has also increased and I have recorded 120-122Kmph on the highways. An important point to consider here is the false neutral, which you encounter during every gear shift. This means you can feel the gear shift going like 1-0-2-0-3-0-4-0-5. However, this is a trick you can master over time and finding the neutral becomes easy then. The electric starter makes it easy to start the bike and the old problems of oil leakage have been eliminated in this model.

Fuel consumption: There is no formula for a perfect mileage, and it varies due to different parameters. However, the average fuel consumption of Electra goes around 30-35Kmpl with a mixed spread of city and highway drives. With a tank of 13.5 liter capacity, this mileage is not a problem even for long rides. Anyways, you never look at mileage when you buy a Royal Enfield!

Well, now let’s look at some tips on upgrade, modifications and maintenance, purely from my experience with the bull.

-          The tyres are too thin for such a heavy bike, and I recommend you to replace them with broader ones in the market. This might reduce the mileage by some Kms, but the impact on ride quality would be remarkable.
-          For all those looking for the old school thump, unfortunately it can’t be replicated due to the new aluminum alloy engine, but fitting an aftermarket short bottle exhaust pipe will help you get close to the old school thump. However, any exhaust modifications should be done only after crossing 3000 Kms or else the torque and mileage will be affected.
-          The horn is hardly audible for a bike with such a magnificent first impression. Go for roots horn pairs with relays from day one. If you wish to reduce the braking in city, good horns are a must.
-          If you intend to go on long rides frequently at night, get a pair of fog lamps fitted in the front to increase visibility.
-          Get a front crash guard of good quality fitted on the bike even before you take it to the temple. God helps those who help themselves, and safety is paramount.  
-          Strictly follow the run-in instructions as per the manual. Even though the 350cc engine tempts you, never exceed the recommended speed limits during the run-in period.
-          Maintain the discipline of getting the bike serviced at intervals specified in the manual, since a heavy machine needs good care to get going.
-          Before commencing a long ride, pay a visit to the workshop and get the bike thoroughly checked. Getting stranded on the highway isn’t too romantic with a bullet.
-          Finally, don’t modify things so much that they cease to look original. A bunch of engineers are being paid by the company to deliver the design and specifications. They know it best.

Overall, the Electra 5s is a good rollout from the RE factory which resolves all the problems that earlier models had. The price factor is a small concern, but then there is a reason they call it Royal. The sheer joy of watching the boys on plastic toys look at you in awe at the traffic signals is priceless. There is a special connect I feel with the machine whenever I ride it, which I haven’t till date felt with any other machine I have owned. The machine loves you back.