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8,000 Miles Already and Loving It!

A Royal Enfield Rider Shares His Experience

Paul Flaugher
Ohio

The Royal Enfield Bullet Electra X is my first motorcycle in 18 years.

I am very pleased with this motorcycle, and the support the dealer gives me.
I wanted a straightforward motorcycle to carry me reliably to and from client
sites in Northern Kentucky, and that is just what I have.

I had looked at Royal Enfields at KRW Cycles in Phillipsburg, Ohio, at the end of the previous year, and was impressed with their friendliness and enthusiasm about
motorcycles. I seriously considered a Bullet-65, but when I saw the Electra in the RE catalog, decided that is the machine for me.

My wife drove me to KRW to pick up the Electra on Saturday, May 6, 2006. (Photo 1) The drive home is about 60 miles, so this gave me a head start on the break in. She followed, and took photos on the way. (Photo 2) It was unseasonably cool with scattered rain, so I ran the speed up to 50 MPH a couple of times. We stopped in Germantown, 30 miles down the road, for a snack and to let the motor cool completely, then were on our way again. It rained heavily from there, for which I was grateful, because now we were on Route 4, a much busier road with a lot of stoplight idling the rest of the way into Cincinnati.

From the start I used the bike for commuting. I am self-employed, and most of my clients are in Northern Kentucky, one as far away as Frankfort. Even though one of the counties in Northern Kentucky is among the nation's fastest growing, there are plenty of open country backroads. U.S. 27, once the main road from Cleveland,
Ohio to Tampa, Florida, is a two-lane highway that is improved in some places, with beautiful scenery the year round. U.S. 127, between Glencoe and Frankfort, is the same. When I pull out of Cincinnati, a short run on I-275 gets me quickly to Kentucky 16, and from there I have my choice of country roads to Owensboro or Dry Ridge or Frankfort. State Routes 22 and 607 are in this area, and both follow ridgelines, with challenging curves and views off into the distance.

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Cross-country Riding

I rode to Washington, D.C. for a conference in the middle of June, 2007, and took U.S. 50 there and back. The Electra performed flawlessly - I think that the motor did not miss a beat once in 1,050 miles. From Grafton, WVA. to Romney, VA, Route 50 is very rugged, and both going and coming I saw large numbers of motorcyclists enjoying the turns.

My luggage weighed a lot, and was all on the rear. In one instance on the way out, in a sudden rainstorm, I had a heart-stopping moment when the back tread shuffled and I slid a little, but overall the Electra handled very well on the curves. 'Ol Bullet couldn't match the super bikes on the steep uphill pulls, but then I wasn't in a race either, and it gave me some satisfaction to see the number of double-takes the Bullet got both on the road and at stops. (Photo 3 and Photo 4)

Indiana west of Cincinnati, also has nice routes. My favorite ride in Indy is State Route 252 to U.S. 52, then 52 west to Indianapolis. Route 52 goes by the railroad ride / museum in Connersville, a restored part of the Erie Canal system in Metamora,
and through Rushville, the site of the Steam Pioneers' Reunion the first weekend of every August. Anyone interested in the development of stationary, portable, and self-propelled external and internal combustion engines of all types needs to go to this show! The exhibitors are easy to talk to, and usually have their engines doing work like lifting water or powering a sawmill.

My wife has ridden pillion with me to these places, and also out U.S. 50 to Bedford and Spring Mill Inn, near Mitchell, where we have stayed on many occasions over the years. Spring Mill Inn is part of the state park system, and is a good base for
exploring the area. The scenery in the surrounding area is beautiful.

And so is the local history, especially for railroad buffs. Just two examples: Big Tunnel, near Tunnelton, was considered so essential to the WWI war effort that it was guarded by the army for the duration; the tiny hamlet of Bono, once a contender to be state capital, withered when railroad activity passed it by.

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Drivability and Performance

The controls on the Electra – clutch, throttle, brake – have a wonderfully progressive feel. The clutch is almost light enough for two fingers, except that the throw is so long that the other fingers would interfere. The front brake took about 1,000 or so
miles to bed in, but in the process worked fine. I don't use the back brake so I can't comment on it.

The wide engine and transmission lower the bike's center of gravity. This, with the large diameter wheels makes the steering feel slow initially, but I quickly got used to it and now it simply feels stable.  This bike is very responsive: I often find myself doing high-speed turns in the city. I wondered before I rode 'Ol Bullet how a British
single would feel, especially having read all those 1970's articles. Take it from me: it doesn't leap forward with every stroke, which would have felt weird in any event. At parking-lot speeds the Bullet Electra doesn't lunge with each stroke as much as did my Honda 450 with two cylinders firing at 180 degrees. I imagine that it feels just
like any other single.

I much prefer the Royal Enfield vibration control technique – the tires and the rider's hands and derriere – to rubber motor mounts. It simply has a high frequency thud. The mirrors are useable across the entire speed range, even to identifying the make of cars at a distance behind me. After the first shakedown service I've never
found any loose nuts on the bike, and everything important uses nylock nuts, anyway.

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Maintenance

The Bullet Electra's maintenance is not as hard as it initially seems. The source of my initial uncertainty was that I don't know other Bullet owners with whom to swap notes. (Note: The new forum mentioned above is prime for this issue!) This is where going to meetings and races would be helpful, except that I have reached
my limit of free time. At times I have tried to get information by emailing everybody who might know something, but the bike is simple enough that now it is easy to maintain.

I recommend getting both the RE Electra Shop Manual and Electra Spare Parts Catalog, and Pete Snidal's Manual. The drawings in the parts catalog are invaluable for figuring out how things go together.

Break this motor in gently, and it will love you. I track my gas mileage closely, and it gradually improved from 65 mpg to 78 mpg up to about 2,000+ miles, where it leveled off. Also, at about this mileage I could just kind of sense that the motor was starting to run more freely, like coasting to a stop against compression instead
of instantly when the ignition is turned off, and being able to kickstart it without using the decompressor. If I ride easy, it gets about 80 mpg; if I ride harder the mileage goes down.

For a while I was experiencing excessive oil consumption and oil-soaked air cleaner filters. I ultimately cured this by routing the breather line out the top of the under-seat breather can to the outside, and plugging the hole in the airbox. I used clear PVC tubing so I can spot any problems, but so far this is working fine.

In retrospect I don't think all of the early oil changes were necessary. If I had it to do over I would still do one right after the first ride home, because all three lubricants came out looking and smelling strange. (Photo 5)

I clean the bike with WD-40, a rag, and elbow grease, which is a good way to feel that everything is okay. I lube the chain with ordinary engine oil at every fill-up or as soon as possible thereafter, and after 8,000 miles it is still on the second dimple on the adjustment snails.

This is the first four-stroke pushrod bike I've owned. Valve adjustment is certainly easy enough, but I had to become accustomed to the noise. I kept calling KRW Cycles for reassurance that I was adjusting them correctly. I even rode back once for Kirk to check them. With 8,000+ miles on the bike now, I don't even notice the valves any more.

Before the trip to Washington, I removed the front wheel and removed and remounted the tire and tube just to make sure I could do it. The instruction to "tilt the motorcycle" bothered me. What if it got away from me? My concern was unnecessary since the wheel can be wrestled out and in without tilting. A deflated tire makes this easier. I learned that a third iron would be helpful, although I did the job with two.

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Accessories

When I ordered the bike I also ordered Royal Enfield Leather Saddlebags, a useful addition, especially for papers and file folders. I started out with an RKA Tank Bag, and now have a Harro Elefantenboy for cross country riding, because the Harro is a truly gargantuan tool and luggage bag. I use the RKA around town.

I made a chain and engine oiler from a plastic detergent bottle, a length of small diameter hobby tubing, and hot glue. To use, I screw my homemade oiler cap on; when done I replace it with the regular cap. This eases oiling the chain and getting oil into the filler orifice. I'm making a canvas holster to hang the bottle behind one of the saddlebags because I don't like carrying the oil inside a saddlebag.

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Ending

Things have changed a lot since I rode years ago. A big change is that the Heat doesn't hand out hassle just because you're on a motorcycle. The Bullet gets a lot of stares, comments, and questions. Twice I have run out of dealer's cards because of the people who approach me about the Bullet. Most are surprised to learn it is new; and usually intested specifically in the new motor. In Washington a man from New Zealand stopped to chat with me in front of my hotel because he had once worked on Bullets in a motorcycle restoration shop. He told me he knew a man who had paid a king's ransom for a hand-machined copy of a Bullet. I just stared at him, and now wish I had pursued this story.

The most memorable response was in a restaurant parking lot by an outlaw who looked like he was capable of killing and eating his own mother. He inspected the bike closely from all angles, even laying flat on the ground, all the while keeping a respectful distance.

The machine handles easily. It is small and can be wrestled around by hand. At the same time it is comfortable on long rides. The maintenance learning curve was steep for me, but I have to admit that this might be due to being overly concerned about my new purchase.

If KRW Cycles is exasperated by all the 'phone calls I've made to them they've never let on. They've always given straight answers, and hints and tips. A good dealer is worth their weight in gold.

The only changes I would make right now would be hydraulic lifters, and a higher, flat bench-type seat like on the old universal Japanese machines. A flat seat permits the pilot to slide up and down and use the rear pegs more easily, helpful for non-stop travel. Somewhere down the road, no pun intended, I'll be making my own flat seat. Until then, I'll continue to enjoy the bike.

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Photos

Royal Electra and Rider Royal Enfield Electra travels a mountain pass Royal Enfield Electra in Ohio
Royal Enfield Electra parked on the roadside Royal Enfield Electra maintenance Royal Enfield on Saddleback Mountain

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Enfield in Twighlight