There have been a number of successful British motorbikes over the years, but few have the longevity of the Royal Enfield Bullet. The model has had the longest production run of any motorcycle, having been continually made since 1931. This versatile machine is popular all over the world, and we’re taking a look at how the Bullet came into existence.
In 1931, the Bullet was introduced as a four-stroke single cylinder motorbike. It featured an inclined engine with four valves per cylinder and came as a 350 cc or 500 cc option. 1933 saw the inclusion of a 250 cc model, though it came with centre-spring girder front forks and a saddle-type fuel tank. The Bullet’s rigid rear-end gave it a ‘sprung’ seat, which contributed towards its iconic look.
The 350 cc Bullet proved to be successful in competition and it was bought by the British Army to be used by dispatch riders. By 1949, the Bullet had been updated to include a vertical engine with alloy head and higher compression. The introduction of a telescopic fork enabled a bench seat made out of foam to be included. The same year, the Indian Army ordered Royal Enfields for border patrol. This inspired the company to open a factory in Madras.
In the 1950s, the Bullet was redesigned at the Redditch plant, with changes to the gear ratios. The changes weren’t implemented by the Indian factory due to its commitment to supplying the Indian Army. As a result, the British and Indian lines diverged.
Enfield India continued to produce the 1955 Bullet design and reintroduced it to the British market in 1977 under the name ‘Enfield.’ The Indian model remained unchanged and survived in the 1990s, becoming a domestic Indian commuter bike.
Between 1956 and 1960, several versions of the British Bullet were introduced, such as a 350 cc Trials ‘work replica’ model. In 1958, the Airflow model was introduced, which featured a weather-proof fibreglass fairing. The design was created in partnership with British Plastics.
Eventually, the divergence led to the Bullet marque being split in two. In the 1990s, the Bullet Electra 350 was brought out and this became one of the best-selling Royal Enfield models of all time.
The Royal Enfield Bullet has remained one of the greatest motorbikes of all time. Do you own one? If so, we’d love to see pictures! Feel free to post them to our Inside Bikes Facebook page.