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2012 Royal Enfield C5 Classic Chrome 1st Ride

Thursday, August 30, 2012
Sporting a spirited single-cylinder engine and a highly polished tank with a sheen that rivaled anything in the parking lot at the Naswa Resort, it’s no wonder Royal Enfield’s 2012 Classic Chrome was a big hit with the predominantly Harley crowd attending the Laconia Motorcycle Rally. The 3.2 gallon tank looks sharp decked out in post war graphics and the gleam of the chrome finish extends to the fenders as well. And though its signature styling cues hail from post-war
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2012 Royal Enfield Classic Chrome First Ride Video
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Motorcycle USA tests the road-worthiness of the 2012 Royal Enfield Classic Chrome with a run to the beautiful coastline of Maine. Come along for the ride in our 2012 Royal Enfield Classic Chrome First Ride video.
British bikes, this shiny Single-powered cruiser enjoys the modern conventions of electronic fuel injection and push button starting. Gone also is the old workhorse cast-iron Royal Enfield powerplant, an updated Unit Construction Engine (UCE) the new vanguard whereby the casting for the engine, clutch, and gearbox have been combined into one. 

During our week-long tenure with Royal Enfield’s 2012 499cc Bullet, we can’t count how many times we fielded the question “What year is that?” Indeed, the bike has ageless styling. But how would it fare on the open road? To answer this question, we took a road trip over to the coast of Maine on Royal Enfield’s Classic Chrome version under the guise of searching for the best lobster shack, giving us an opportunity to put in a couple hundred miles in one day.

Our journey began on the curvy roads of New Hampshire where we found the slim, light Classic Chrome to be a very nimble bike. With a fairly low center of gravity, compact rider’s triangle and a claimed curb weight of a paltry 412 pounds, it doesn’t take much to toss the Royal Enfield around. Transitioning is quick and effort is minimal. Turn-in on the Classic Chrome is predictable and while it doesn’t necessarily carve turns, its can hold a line without much input at the bars.

We set out for the Maine coastline from Laconia  New Hampshire  to test the road worthiness of the 2012 Classic Chrome.Post WWII graphics on a highly polished tank attracted plenty of attention at the 2012 Laconia Motorcycle Rally.Introducing the 2012 Royal Enfield C5 Bullet Classic Chrome.
(L) We set out for the Maine coastline from Laconia, New Hampshire, to test the road worthiness of the 2012 Classic Chrome. (M) Post WWII graphics on the Royal Enfield's highly polished tank attracted plenty of attention at the 2012 Laconia Motorcycle Rally. (R) The classic styling of the 2012 Royal Enfield Classic Chrome had everyone thinking it was a restoration. Luckily, this Royal Enfield has modern conveniences like EFI, a Unit Construction Engine and electric starting.
A light clutch pull and a smooth shifting five-speed transmission make it a very rider-friendly bike. One reason Royal Enfield switched to a UCE was to reduce friction between the gearbox and clutch, lowering transmission losses as a result. It only takes a dab on the shift lever to kick it into gear and engagement was reliable. Our minor grievance was that we couldn’t get the toe of our boots under the stock shifter without dipping our boot down. Gearing is surprisingly wide and we frequently wound out second gear for everything it’s worth. Cruising the highway, we were pleased to find a bit of top end in 5th gear at 70 mph. Now if only some of the vibes that set into the bars and foot pegs at that speed could be remedied…

Rolling through quaint touristy towns like Kennebunkport, Maine, the suspension provides a firm ride, the back side in particular thanks to dual shocks on the swingarm and dual springs under the seat. We wouldn’t mind a bit more
The Unit Construction Engine of the 2012 Royal Enfield Classic Chrome puts out a claimed 27.2 bhp @ 5200 rpm  41.3 Nm @ 4000 rpm.
The Unit Construction Engine of the 2012 Royal Enfield Classic Chrome puts out a claimed 27.2 bhp @ 5200 rpm  41.3 Nm @ 4000 rpm.
damping on the front fork which took hits hard at times even with 5.1 inches of travel. When it came time to stop, we relied on the solid, grippy two-piston caliper of the 280mm disc of the front brakes because the rear drum is mush and you really have to push down hard on the pedal to get it to bite. And while you can achieve decent lean angles on the bike, the arm of the rear brake pedal runs below the foot peg and grinds on sharp right hand turns.

The little Single of the 2012 Classic Chrome has just enough snap to put a smile on your face. This is facilitated by throttle response from the electronic fuel injection that is crisp, the EFI adept at controlling air-fuel ratios at vacillating speeds more so than its Mikuni carbureted predecessor. Granted, its engine was a bit noisy at first because it only had 30 miles on it when we picked it up from National Powersports Distriubutors and its internals had barely had enough time to be bathed in oil. The engine noise subsided the more we rode it as the crankshaft and gears got broken in. Heat coming off the little Single was nominal thanks to improved oiling and cooling of the alloy cylinder brought about by its conversion to a UCE. The change from the prior cast-iron version also included the addition of a stronger crankshaft and connecting rod.

For the most part, the fit and finish of the 2012 Royal Enfield Classic Chrome is exemplary when you try to think of other bikes that sell for less than $7K and come with hand-painted pinstripes and accents. The factory-installed chrome toolbox tucked neatly away on the bike’s right side is a bonus in our book. Spoked wheels, a stalwart Single rising vertically in the single downtubed frame, and a sprung solo seat keep the styling of the Classic Chrome clean and tidy. A kick pedal, which turned the bike over on the first try, adds to the sense of nostalgia. It also comes with a two-year,
The Royal Enfield Classic Chrome transitions easily and tracks through turns predictably.
The Royal Enfield Classic Chrome transitions easily and tracks through turns predictably.
unlimited mileage manufacturer warranty. But we did find a few design choices that were a little suspect, like the horn mounted haphazardly outside of the protection of the downtube. There’s no fuel gauge and the only indication that it’s time to top off the tank is a small “low fuel” light that begins to flash. All the indicator lights (neutral, turn signals, hi-beams) are located in the speedo and difficult to see. We also frequently fell victim to the lack of self-cancelling turn signals.

On a positive note, the 499cc Bullet’s efficiency will make you smile because during our time in the saddle of the Classic Chrome, the bike was good for a 61.5 mpg average despite our heavy throttle hand. “Fun” is a proper adjective to describe the overall riding experience on the Classic Chrome. It is a no frills ride that’s easy to toss around and once you learn the powerband provides just enough punch to sate the need for speed. Best of all, when riders climb aboard, the Royal Enfield will sweep you up in a sense of nostalgia as the sound of the throaty Single takes you back to simpler times, evoking memories like your first ride on a motorcycle, and every time we stepped off the virtual time machine we found ourselves grinning.


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Comments
mogue   April 16, 2013 06:49 PM
>>because the rear drum is mush and you really have to push down hard on the pedal to get it to bite.<< Thank you for mentioning this! I got my C5 two days ago and have been thinking I was crazy and needed some sort of brake inspection because it seems like I'm depressing the rear pedal all the way down and not getting much response. "mush" was the perfect word. I still consider myself a novice rider (my last bike was a little Suzuki GZ250) so such tidbits added to articles help us newbies.
PPHARTIGAN   January 9, 2013 02:22 PM
@barenekd - compliments on the great follow-up comments. I found them very helpful. They certainly help move me closer to buying an Enfield.
Poncho167   September 7, 2012 03:51 PM
This is not that bad of a bike. One doesn't buy it for performance, one buys it for the nostalgia appearance.
Poncho167   September 7, 2012 03:49 PM
The KLR is 74-75 HP/L in other magazine dyno tests, or 37/38 hp.
aussie   September 4, 2012 04:41 PM
Enfield is almost a lifestyle thing. The amazing thing about these bikes is you can park next to anything from a Ducati to a Harley and the Enfield still hogs all the attention. The only thing that upstages them is a something like a DBD34 Goldstar or G80 Matchy ... genuine "ton up boys" classic British iron that you rarely see on the road anymore. I have also found over the years that most Enfield owners are long term riders that have usually owned and ridden bikes since they were teenagers and actually ride the bikes. You get very few of the weekend warriors who ride maybe 500km a year or the mid life crisis guys that never had a bike before hitting 40. The Enfield fraternity is about the love of classic styled machinery not a macho image.
barenekd   September 4, 2012 12:37 PM
There are a lot more positives to this motorcycle than the tester found, as the bike wasn't broken in, which doesn't speak well for it's true performance. And the tester obviously doesn't know how to ride an English thumper. "Gearing is surprisingly wide and we frequently wound out second gear for everything it’s worth." These bikes should be ridden between 3500-4500 RPM that's where the real power is and revving them higher only results in higher fuel consumption. This bike as no where near being broken in and should never have been flogged like that is the first place. As for my "test riding" of this bike, I have put over 12,000 miles on it in the last ear and averaged 70MPG over the course of that time. Most of the miles are in the Mountains of SoCal. My riding partner and I commonly do 250 mile rides with a some extending out to 350 in a day. I have been riding these mountains for 30 years on a lot of different bikes, and found that going fast on a slow bike, beats the hell out of going slow on a fast bike. "Our minor grievance was that we couldn’t get the toe of our boots under the stock shifter without dipping our boot down." Raise the shift lever a notch or two! "There’s no fuel gauge and the only indication that it’s time to top off the tank is a small “low fuel” light that begins to flash." I've owned 50 bikes over the last 50 years, from 250 Matchlesses to Honda 929s, and I've never owned one with a fuel gauge. The light starts blinking with about 1/2 gallon left, which with the mileage I get with my bike, over 70 MPG because I don't flog it in second gear, is good for about 35 miles. "All the indicator lights (neutral, turn signals, hi-beams) are located in the speedo and difficult to see. We also frequently fell victim to the lack of self-cancelling turn signals." Yeah, the stock indicator lights are rather useless. They are the same ones that come on Triumphs. Replace them with LEDs. Self cancelling turn signals? You've got to be kidding. I had a bike back in the '80s that had those. I haven't seen them since. After it is broken in the bike is smoother than several Japanese bikes I have owned or ridden, it shifts much better and the EFI is much smoother. The handling is very light and neutral. The SoCal mountains are its realm. It loves those twisties. I was back in New Hampshire a few months ago and was missing the bike terribly! As for the handling it does very well within the limits of the skinny Dunlop K70s, but Bikerandy with the Piaggio Scooter can bring it on! More Smiles per mile than anything I've owned in years As for ugly? There are a lot of people out here that think it's the best looking bike around. What beauty do you ride Hari? Bare
bikerrandy   September 2, 2012 10:25 PM
Th675, it sure is if this RE 500 Enfield is. I'm talking bang for your buck. OTOH, if all you want is an ancient still available MC to put around on, then by all means get this Enfield.
Thommo675   September 2, 2012 04:33 PM
LOL @"Biker"Randy, your 250cc tricycle must be awesome if it worth bragging about online.
bikerrandy   September 1, 2012 02:07 PM
My Piaggio 250 MP3 has a top speed of 77 mph and 70 mpg. This is a 500 and it can't even match those figures. And let's not even compare storage, weather protection, handling of the 2, plus little vibration and comparable attention from lookers for a comparable price. But it is cute.
Thommo675   August 30, 2012 09:33 PM
@hari - Grow up mate, there is a lot more to motorcycling than hp and torque numbers. This video of a (~30hp) Ninja 250 overtaking litre-bikes at Laguna Seca is good example of this point: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kz03sQeX02c Now I don't suggest that you me, or even the legend in that video could go round the outside of litre-bikes on the Bullet, but it does demonstrate that you can have plenty of fun, and go plenty fast on low hp bikes. As for the looks, I'm a sportsbike guy, and I reckon it looks awesome. Props to RE for finally putting a decent motor in their bikes.
Piglet2010   August 30, 2012 06:07 PM
@ hari - Well, that is 54 HP/L, which does not compare too badly to the 64 HP/L specific output of the liquid cooled Kawasaki KLR650.
hari   August 30, 2012 12:55 PM
499cc and makes 27bhp and is an ugly POS ! Why would anyone bother ?