Most bike firms have a model which has been their keystone down the years. It might be the Honda Cub scooter, the Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, or the BMW Boxer GS. But there aren’t many as long-running as the Royal Enfield Bullet.
The original model dates back a stunning 91 years, to 1932, when the first Bullet was released, in 250, 350 and 500cc formats. It remained a mainstay of production through the 20th century, and when the company was re-established as a wholly Indian operation in the 1950s, the Bullet was its main foundation, with millions of them sold to the emerging Indian nation as cheap, tough, reliable transport.
Anyone who’s been on one of the famous Himalayan motorcycle tours, or seen pictures of Indian traffic, will recognise it – an almost steampunk design, with the ancient engine design powering a tough, basic, go-anywhere utility machine.
But now, the firm has released a very 21st century update, with the new 2024 Royal Enfield 350 Bullet. It’s a simple enough build: the firm has taken the new ‘J-series’ 350 single-cylinder engine launched in the Meteor, and which also powers the Classic and Hunter models, and put it into a straightforward, classic-styled chassis.
The engine is fuel-injected and meets modern emissions standards, but eschews excessive tech, making it simpler and ideal for harsher conditions. It’s oil/air cooled rather than water-cooled, and has a SOHC two-valve top end rather than a fancier DOHC four-valve setup.
It has a long-stroke architecture: 72mm x 85.8mm bore and stroke, and a low compression ratio of just 9.5:1 That all reduces the maximum power output to just 20bhp: but the Bullet has never been a fire-breathing machine of course, and rugged grunt is more important than screaming top-end drive here.
The rest of the bike is built in a similarly sturdy vein: tough steel tube frame, simple conventional suspension, and single disc brakes front and rear. There’s a dual-channel ABS setup as required by statute, and tube-type wire-spoked wheels with a 19” front and 18” rear tyre.
It’s no lightweight at 195kg ready to ride, but again, that’s a function of the tough build, including the hefty rear subframe and luggage rack, chunky mudguards and solid exhaust system. On the equipment front, you get an analogue speedo with an LCD info panel, and a USB charging socket – nice – and the visored headlight surround is a neat take on the classic design.
The new Bullet 350 will be a massive seller in its home market of course, where it still remains as mainstream mass transportation. But we reckon it will do well in the UK as well. That’s mostly down to its low price: from £4,629 on the road, which is decent value for a brand new solidly-made piece of kit (though it’s actually a few hundred quid more than the Meteor 350.)
The Bullet will be in dealers at the end of this year, in two different versions. The Bullet Standard available in Black or Maroon colourways at £4629, is fitted with dual channel ABS and rear disc, finished with elegant hand-pinstriped body-coloured tanks and components as well as chrome and gold badges.
The Bullet Black Gold is a premium variant finished with a striking combination of matt and gloss black tank, copper and gold 3D badge, copper pinstriping and on-trend, blacked-out engine and components, and comes with dual channel ABS and rear disc brakes, available at £4,709.
RE has also released a full range of 28 genuine accessories, including nine designed and developed specifically for the Bullet. These include comfortable touring and low-rise seats and touring handlebars, plus a selection of quality riding gear, including helmets and apparel with detailing that echo the Bullet’s legendary pinstriping.
More info: www.royalenfield.com