First Ride - Royal Enfield Classic 500
Today I feel like i’ve traveled back in time and it was a pure delight to have a little feeling of analogue in this modern digital world. The Royal Enfield Classic 500 is just that, a bare bones modern classic that undeniably captures the era of yesteryear while incorporating some creature comforts of the modern age.
When I would tool around town on a Triumph Bonneville, I never thought I could get more leering eyes on me. That was until today. The Royal Enfield Classic 500 has surpassed the Bonnie in “passer-by-awe-factor” by leaps and bounds. Its moderately powered engine is a delight to the rider almost as it is to pedestrians and drivers because it allows them to sip from cup of glory and design when the bike rolls past.
I almost feel guilty for not wearing a pair of aviator goggles and leather satchel as it would have completed the ensemble.
Many of you might be thinking…yeah, ok, it looks good…hell, it looks great, but what’s the Classic 500 like to ride? I say, hold your horses…we’re getting there. I really want to revel in beauty of the Classic 500 for another 12 paragraphs.
Just kidding, I’ll get on.
Like usual, today was another beautiful and perfect day in Southern California for a bike ride. We are truly a blessed bunch out here on the best coast….ahem…west coast.
My good friend Sarah ventured out mid-day and took the Classic 500 through Santa Monica, up through Topanga and back through some super secret side roads to simply get feel for the basics.
You sure won’t be winning any drag races or setting any lap records on the Classic 500 but that is simply not the point of this machine. For god’s sake, this 500cc single produces a whopping 27hp and vibrates with gusto at high RPM’s, so it’s best to stay in the mid-range and low end for comforts sake. Thankfully the 5-speed transmission allows you to stay lower in the rev range for most of your day-to-day riding and thus preventing any of that discomfort you might otherwise experience in your nether regions. From a full stop to 60 mph you are looking at something around 8 seconds, I won’t lie, i stop caring after 6 seconds and anything under 4 is enough to get my hair standing on end and my adrenal glands pumping excitement into my stomach and loins.
On paper, the engine looks severely underpowered and unimpressive for a 500cc single and it is when compared to many bikes on the market but that didn’t matter to me. I had an almost transcendence experience on the Classic 500 today. From the moment I put the kickstand up to the moment I finished my riding, I was all smiles.
Even though the Classic 500 is a new bike, it somehow captures the janky and odd characteristics of an old vintage engine while remaining modern. What I mean by this is that the throttle sometimes needed to be feathered at a stop to keep it from stalling, there were a couple times here and there when I would miss a gear shift, and I felt a lag in setting off from a stop. For most bikes I ride and review, this would be a problem but strangely, I expected these nostalgic quirks to be ever present in the Classic 500 when I mounted up. I kinda enjoyed that they were there.
In and out of the canyons the Classic 500 feels remarkably well planted. Its light, easy to throw around and just as happy as you are to be on a ride in a sunny 70 degree climate. Just as comfortable in traffic and out on the open road, the Classic 500 is remarkably well-balanced for practicing and honing slow speed maneuvers. While Sarah was topping off her fuel tank I took a moment to practice my tight turning circles and figure-eights in and around the pumps. The gas attendant was actually amused. I chalk that up to the Classic 500’s sexy factor.
Finding your line in and out of the corners is easy-peasy and I attribute this to the nicely wide handlebar setup and standard riding position. When in the saddle, there is never a moment when you feel like the Classic 500 will get away from you. It just can’t. For this reason alone I think the Classic 500 would make for a perfect MSF training course bike. It would surely look and perform better on the range than those old ass, beat up Nighthawk 250’s I was forced to endure when I got my M1 endorsement.
Braking on the Classic 500 is not impressive but it’s neither inadequate. Fitted with a single 280mm disc brake up front and a drum brake in the back, it took a heavy right foot to lock up the back wheel and induce a skid and the front brakes felt acceptable under panic braking and regular stop-and-go commuting. Remember, you won’t be tearing ass on this bike so it’s not like you need a set of Brembos to bring you to a halt.
From a comfort perspective, let me sing the praises of the dual rear suspension. You have twin gas charged shocks with 5-step adjustable preload on the frame with 80mm of travel and springs under the saddle. Double the pleasure and double the fun…seriously. Its sublime because not only are there two sets of springs but the saddle looks like it was ripped off a beach cruiser and padded with clouds. My ass has never been happier in a stock saddle…EVER.
The only real issue I had with the Classic 500 during my ride today, which might also bother many of you, is that at the higher rpm’s the vibration from the engine becomes readily apparent and for some reason, would transfer solely to my throttle hand. This somehow needs to be addressed.
I would love to get some extended time with the Classic 500 to iron out some issues and really dive deep into this bike. Maybe head out for a long weekend and see what this little 500 is capable of tackling but for now, I have been pleasantly surprised and delighted by this beautiful modern classic for its nostalgic appeal, classic design, cheap price point ($5695), and ease of operation.
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