Words by Brando Rosales Photos by Erwin Dela Cruz
Bullet proof – It is a term in the automotive industry used to describe something that is impervious to wear and damage despite above normal use at a certain length of time. One the best examples is the Royal Enfield Bullet 350. The Royal Enfield and the Bullet names are derived from the company’s links with the Royal Small Arms factory in Enfield, London. In addition, the Royal Enfield Bullet has arguably the oldest production run of any motorcycle to this day. And when the Indians domesticated the production of this bike back in the 1950’s, only very little had changed. This motorcycle is still very much the same bike that first rolled out of the assembly line in Redditch, West Midlands, London in 1931.
This thumper (slang for single cylinder) is powered by a 4-stroke, 346cc long-stroke twin-spark single-cylinder engine with a 5-speed constant mesh transmission. Nothing can get any more “old school” than its 29mm carburetor and kick-start-only to crank the engine. Max torque is 28 Nm @ 4000 rpm. To give you an idea, we went up to Marcos Highway to test the bike, and after Cogeo where there is less vehicle traffic, I never had to downshift at the steep inclines and kept it on fifth gear even as slow as 30 kph! This bike just kept on crawling. Talk about low-end torque! I also fell in love with its sweet exhaust note at low revs. Compression ratio is only at 8.5:1 so engine knocking will not be an issue even if you fill her up with 81 RON (Research Octane Number) gasoline that is still widely available in the provinces.
One of the very few updates this bike received was the frame redesign that made the engine as a stressed member, making it lighter than its predecessors. The suspension system has 35mm telescopic for the front with 130mm travel and twin shock absorbers for the rear with a 5-step adjustable preload and 80mm travel. We travelled with two other test bikes on this episode. Those two bikes, however, happen to be dual-sport bikes. The longer 1370 mm wheelbase and larger 19-inch rims coupled with 3.25 size tires versus the previous models are more than capable of proving the Bullet 350’s off-road capabilities at the backroads of Antipolo to Tanay Rizal.
Surprisingly, the drum brakes still worked fine even after being submerged in the rivers that we crossed. Although I still prefer disks over drum brakes, the drum brakes on this bike not only look classic, but also gives the rider that classic feel you only get from the old motorcycles from 3 or more decades ago. And since it packs on low end torque, you’ll probably travel more than 550 kilometers on one full tank. That’s Manila to Baler and back in just one fill.
I also like its stock H4 head bulb that gives the rider plenty of light during nighttime jaunts. The panel was kept to a very minimum: speedometer, turn indicators, and voltmeter only, which adds to the bike’s nostalgic appeal. The gold and black color trim also invites many fanboys wherever I parked the Bullet or during traffic stops. Even the local police manning a checkpoint couldn’t resist taking pictures and began admiring the beauty of this thumper when I voluntarily stopped to verify documents. In fact, they didn’t ask for any documents at all as they were engrossed with taking pictures and asking questions about the bike.
But like any dream, it came to an end. The couple of days the Bullet and I shared was over. I wish to thank Jimmy Barinaga and Spike Maguigad of Harcore Brothers Custom Motorcycles, Inc., the exclusive distributor and dealer of Royal Enfield motorcycles in the Philippines, for this opportunity to experience the magic that the Bullet brings to its rider.
Some people may wonder why Royal Enfield, despite today’s advances in technology, kept the Bullet as it is, just like the first one that rolled out of the factory 83 years ago. My answer would be that it would no longer be a Royal Enfield Bullet if they went and changed the existing, tried and tested Bullet that is still produced today: Made like a gun. Goes like a bullet.
The Royal Enfield Bullet 350 stood the test of time. It is indeed “bullet proof.”
Engine: Air-cooled, carbureted, single-cylinder twin-spark, 4-stroke
Displacement: 346 cc
Max Power: 19.8 bhp @ 5250 rpm
Max Torque: 20.65 lb ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed constant mesh
Seat Height: 800 mm
Fuel Capacity: 13.5 liters
Curb Weight: 180 kg
Top Speed: 120 km/h
Price as Tested: PhP 143,000
+: Low end torque, fuel economy
-: Drum brakes
Editors rating: 9/10