Stunning Bullet Classic 500 is like riding a time machine
It mesmerises with its thumping single-cylinder sound and vintage looks
There are motorcycles that can stop bikers in their tracks. I know this because in the last three weeks, I have been riding one of them.
I - or rather my test motorcycle - received curious stares from all sorts, ranging from middle-aged men to trendy riders in their 20s.
In a world of high-tech riding aids and over-the-top performance, Royal Enfield's Bullet Classic 500 stands out for having none of these.
Like Medusa's stone-turning gaze, the Bullet Classic 500 mesmerises with its thumping single-cylinder sound and vintage looks.
The Desert Storm beige Classic 500 I rode would have been at home in a World War II movie, except that it is missing a side car and a mounted machine gun.
Its charm is being not what most motorbikes are today.
Small touches like a visor on the headlamp, springs on the bucket seat, a kick-starter and a pea-shooter chrome exhaust pipe celebrate traditional styling.
What is unique is that its chain and sprockets are located on the right side.
Also, rubber fuel tank pads add some comfort and grip while riding over bumpy surfaces.
The most retro-looking part of the motorcycle is its chrome-trimmed analogue speedometer which sweeps lazily up the rev range.
In the vicinity are a low-fuel indicator, an ignition key slot and signal light indicators.
That is it. Riding the Classic 500 is simple.
There are no multi-level traction control buttons or cornering anti-lock brakes.
Just the bare essentials, like it used to be. Even a flickering bulb near the instrumentation panel reminds you of how riding a motorcycle in the past was not as predictable as it is today.
Royal Enfield, a classic British brand now based in Chennai, India, has decided to keep the five-speed Classic 500's image intact.
Personally, I do not mind.
Its less-than-perfect performance exudes character despite the rattling of the handlebars and chrome mirrors at speeds above 100kmh.
While the 499cc motorbike's seat is wide and generous, its passenger seat feels hard on longer rides.
There are modern additions like a Keihin fuel injection, twin gas-charged, pre-load adjustable rear shocks and anti-lock brakes.
Riding the 195kg Classic 500 is similar to riding a dirtbike where the riding posture is upright, but the handlebars are set lower than on a dirtbike.
Its telescopic front forks have a 130mm travel but they protest when roads get too bumpy.
Yet, the Classic 500 still turns obediently despite having narrow tyres on its 19-inch front and 18-inch rear spoked wheels.
Granted, this is no speeding bullet. It accelerates from 0 to 100kmh in about 12 seconds and has a finger-numbing top speed of 130kmh. The Royal Enfield churns out 27.2bhp and 41.3Nm of torque.
Yet, who will argue with its ability to go 33km on a single litre of fuel?
In theory, it can cover over 400km on its 13.5 litre fuel tank.
In a less-than-perfect world, where local riders grapple with high certificate of entitlement premiums, the Classic 500's price tag of $19,100 (inclusive of COE but without insurance) may just make perfect sense.