By the time you’ve heard the pop of its mufflers, the Royal Enfield Bullet, like a bullet from a gun, will already be long gone. All that will be left behind is the cool silhouette of this classic motorcycle cruising off into the distance.
The Bullet’s Trajectory
The Royal Enfield Bullet has consistently been in production longer than any scooter, motorcycle, superbike, or other motor vehicle ever produced by a wide margin, with 88 years of burnt rubber under its tires.
First designed in England in 1931 with a highly reliable 350cc engine, the Bullet was quickly conscripted by the British Army and British Royal Air Force to be used in the wars that followed.
What Makes a Bullet a Bullet
Initially built as a four-stroke single cylinder motorcycle with a highly reliable 350cc engine and a unique set of center-spring girder front forks, the 1931 Bullet was already something to behold.
Shoot to 2019 and you have a bullet with a 5 speed constant mesh gearbox, spark ignition, electronic fuel injection system, and—of course—the classic 4 stroke single cylinder engine, but with an improved displacement capacity of 499cc.
Timeline of Versions with Changes and Pictures
With an 88-year-long production line, the Bullet’s tech has changed, but rarely has its general design.
- Royal Enfield Bullet (1931-1939)
The original Bullet differentiated itself from the majority of others of its time by introducing centre-spring girder front forks instead of the standard steel.
This was the model used by the English military in the Second World War.
- Royal Enfield Bullet 350 (1939-1949)
Technically, there was little to differentiate this model from the prior model, though the cab was fitted with two rocker boxes in an attempt to improve the engine’s volumetric efficiency.
- Royal Enfield Bullet (1949-1956)
After complaints that the Bullet was starting to lag behind for its time, its engineers decided to move the frame to a completely sprung design with unique telescoping forks in the front and hydraulic shocks supporting the back end.
- Royal Enfield Bullet 350 and 500 (1956-1964)
This model is when the British manufacturers and Indian manufacturers began to grow apart due to the British decision to modernize, as opposed to the Indian decision to continue supplying the Indian Army.
- Enfield Bullet (1965-1995)
Aside from the name of the bike, almost no changes were made to this “newer” model.
- Royal Enfield Bullet 350, Electra, and Machismo (1995-1997)
The engines of these models were swapped out with either 346cc single cylinder cast-iron engines or lean-burn, OHV engines to accommodate tightening emissions standards.
- Royal Enfield Bullet 350, Electra 4s, Electra 5s, and Machismo 500 (1997-2009)
British models produced during these years began to have newer five-speed gearboxes; however, the Indian producers rejected them in favor of keeping with tradition.
- Royal Enfield Bullet 350, Bullet 500, Electra 4s, Electra 5s, and Machismo 500 (2007-present)
Today, the Bullet series is available with the UCE engines for the first time in history, featuring an all new (to the line) fuel injection system.
The Bullet in the News
Unfortunately for the Bullet line-up, the biggest news expired with the end of the Second World War. Prior to 2007, news came in the form of inquiries as to whether or not the Bullet would pass emission standards or simply die out. Today, the Bullet cooly rides on out of the limelight.
The Bullet in the Media
Any historically accurate portrayal of officers in the British Army or the Royal Air Force in World War II will showcase the cool and efficient ride of the early Royal Enfield Bullets with their 350cc engines, typically hauling sacks of supplies and ammunition on side-mounted “saddlebags.”
Not Your Average Bullet Clubs
The Royal Enfield Bullet – The Longest-Running Classic
Even after almost 90 years in constant production, the Royal Enfield Bullet continues to dominate the world of classic motorcycles, superbikes, and scooters.