The legendary Bullet 350 need no introduction. This classic machine has kept place with advances in engineering and ergonomics without diluting its impeccable pedigree. A long wheel base and bigger tyres provide increased stability and road grip, making it ideal for long distance travel. It also features a neutral fider for easy shifting to neutral. Its aristocratic black & gold livery and thumping engine beat remind passers by that they are in the presence of automotive royalty.
If you have still not got the entire picture, let me debrief you. Since Royal Enfield motorcycles available in Europe, U.S, India, Australia and Japan are all air cooled aluminum engines with EFI like many other regular thumpers except that the styling is purely from the 60s. In India however, there are two other models The Electra (not the one found in other parts of the world) and the Bullet 350 came in cast iron engines. Of the two, the Bullet 350 had all the characteristics of the 50s motorcycles. From the left foot brake to CB points, it had all. I don’t think the new generation would understand what a CB (Contact Breaker) point is. And how many of you have actually heard about a bike with two separate units for a single motor? The Bullet 350 had a unit for the gear box and a separate unit for the rest of the engine. Just like a bike from the 50s. The first ‘Bullet’ came out in 1948.
First came TCI in place of CB, then came the right foot brake, then came the AVL lean burn engine, then came the ‘Unit Construction Engine’, then came Electric start, then came EFI spilling over various models but the Bullet 350 was always there. Part of it was because of the legendary image it carries, the heritage and also because people ‘wanted’ the Royal Enfield to be Bullet 350.
What is so great about the bike? Absolutely nothing. It so hopelessly out-powered by any moving 2 wheeler half its engine size, at anything north of 80kmph, it vibrates as if there is no tomorrow, to start off the big engine on a cold morning sends chill down your spine, it is very very moody and it will suddenly stop for no reason. You will make all efforts of igniting the engine, but it won’t even budge and then after pushing it for 2-3 kms to the nearest garage, it will start on half a kick when the mechanic starts it. He will then just smirk at you when you know inside his mind he is laughing at you saying, ‘God Knows now a days just about anyone thinks he can ride this legend’ and all you can do is swallow your pride. Then reaching home you see your pants are smeared in oil and Mobil from the 1001 leaks available free on the engine. Next day morning when you have to rush to office, you see a young man on a puny Yamaha 150cc bike easily passing you and you think, this is the last day you will be riding this old fossil guzzling dinosaur and you will settle for the mode practical sub 200cc bikes with better fuel efficiency and with 1/10th of niggles. Really there is absolutely nothing good going for it. You are riding at a leisurely pace at 70kmph and all you notice and feel is the rock steady engine, the silken smooth machine not making even a mention of the potholes and the superb straight riding posture and this reminds you about the time when you were riding solo on the Himalayas or the long 7 hour journey on the national highway with pot load of goods all around the bike carrying probably more than 200 kgs and it doesn’t even bother to winch and then you think, ‘I am not that dumb that I will settle for anything else’ and so the Bullet 350 stays with you for some more months till the next time another breakdown happens and the same cycle is repeated.
The Bullet 350 is dead! Long Live the Bullet 350!
Engine: 346 CC, Single Cylinder, 4 Stroke, OHV, SI Engine, Air Cooled
Bore x Stroke: 70mm x 90mm
Maximum Power & Torque: 18 bhp @ 5000 rpm & 32 Nm @ 3000rpm
Transmission: 4 Speed (right foot gear shift)
Ignition Contact: Breaker Point
Carburetor: Micarb VM 24
Ground Clearance: 140 mm
Width: 750 mm
Wheel Base: 1370 mm
Length & Height: 2120 mm & 1080 mm
Front & Rear Tyres: 3.25 X 19", 4/6 PR (both)
Electrical System: 12 Volts
Head lamp: 35/35 W
Front & Rear Brakes: Drum 7" Dia. Twin Lead & Internal Expansion & Drum 6"
Maximum Speed: 100 Kmph
Front & Rear Suspension: Telescopic With Hydraulic Damping.
Rear: Swing Arm With Standard Shock Absorbers
Well all is not that bad either for the hardcore Bullet 350 lover. Royal Enfield is bringing it back with the exact same look that has mesmerized fans all over for over half a century. Catch is that even this bike will have the AVL Aluminum UCE. At least in terms of looks it will be more or less the same albeit we will miss the legendary thump. Royal Enfield showcased their Bullet 350 with the new engine at this year’s Auto Expo in January at Delhi. There is also the beautiful Café Racer in the pipeline, but that is coming to production in late 2011 or early 2012. Cross your fingers!