Heritage, nostalgia, legacy! These are pillars on which Royal Enfield is built upon, as a brand! And one such legacy was the company's continued success in international trials competition in the 1940s and 1950s and the person behind this success was a British gentleman by the name of Johnny Brittain, who went on to become a trials and a motocross legend. Yet another enduring tale of triumph and yet another opportunity for the brilliant marketing boffins at Royal Enfield to create a new segment of motorcycles. Enter Royal Enfield Bullet Trials Works Replica 500. Yes! The name is a mouthful and there is a 350 cc version too. But at the press ride, we rode just the Trials 500. This was one rather refreshing press ride. Read on to find out how!
So what exactly is the Trials 500?
Well, it has been derived from the Bullet 500 and is a retro-styled scrambler. There is a minimalist design theme with an exposed frame painted in khaki green. The rest of the bodywork is painted in silver with dollops of chrome on Trials 500. The Trials 350 gets a similar silver and chrome paintjob with a candy red frame.
Then of course, you have the single, spring mounted seat, a rather severely upswept exhaust, front telescopic forks wearing rubber gaiters, semi-knobbly dual-purpose Ceat tyres, a factory-fitted luggage rack at the rear instead of a pillion seat (there couldn't be an option either as the upswept exhaust wouldn't allow for one) and an assortment of accessories such as a metal mesh headlamp protector, an engine guard, a bashplate and a cover for the handlebar brace.
One really cool detail is the faux competition number-bearing plate, which cranks up the nostalgic feels. So yes! Royal Enfield managed to create a brand new motorcycle out of an existing one by slapping on some off-road bits. The overall look could be called quirky at best and we believe only the staunchest of Royal Enfield aficionados will agree to it being called a show-stopper!
Any changes to the mechanical bits?
The Trials 500 uses the same 499 cc single-cylinder fuel-injected motor as on the Bullet 500, pumping out 27.2 bhp at 5,250 rpm and churns out peak torque of 41.3 Nm at 4,000 rpm. The gearbox too remains the same, clunky 5-speed unit which at times, had a mind of its own. The front telescopic forks have a 35 mm diameter and a travel of 130 mm. At the rear, are the twin gas-charged shock absorbers having a travel of 80 mm. Both ends get disc brakes, a 280 mm unit upfront and a 240 mm unit at the rear with dual-channel ABS on offer that cannot be switched off.
So, how is it like to ride?
So, this press ride was a bit different. In order for us to get a feel of how a Trials event works, the press ride consisted of multiple off-road sections designed by the Royal Enfield team. These consisted of steep hill-climbs, rock-strewn trail-riding and three separate trials course too. There were no open roads where we could test the motorcycle for performance and handling. We were primarily riding off-road and that is where the Royal Enfield Trials did well enough to get us grinning inside our helmet. It took on some rather tricky trails, with the suspension and the bashplate taking proper beating but never did it falter. On dusty sections, the knobbly tyres did well to provide grip and the swell of torque across the rev range ensured that you did not get stuck in, umm, sticky situations. We primarily rode the motorcycle in the first 3 gears and well, it had the typical vibrations that you could expect of a Bullet 500 and given that there is still no tachometer, you simply gauge the RPMs by the vibrations that you feel through the handlebars and footpegs.
Any areas for improvement?
We did have a few grouses with the Royal Enfield Trials 500. Firstly, standing up and riding proved to be a task because the fuel tank is fat and bulbous. This meant that your legs had to go around it, making for a slightly awkward standing riding position. Also, even if you do manage to do so, there is no grip to be found on the tanks (no rubber tank pads) and locking your knees onto the tank is near impossible because of the smooth metal. The footpegs are a little too forward set for our liking. It may appeal to some. The bite from the brakes is dull and there is no progression. This kind of robs you of confidence when you are riding off-road and need to stop quickly! Also, a little more thought into the design could have worked wonders and made the motorcycle palatable to a larger set of audiences.
Credit needs to be given where it is due! The Royal Enfield Trials 500 and the 350 did not need massive resources in term of R&D and with a few new parts, nice paintjob along with legit off-road ability the company has churned out an enthusiasts' motorcycle which will take you to back of beyond with the assuredness that Royal Enfield motorcycles are known for. Sure, there is room for improvement and a few niggles aside the Royal Enfield Bullet Trials Works Replica is a good addition to the company's single-cylinder fare of motorcycles. A little more thought and it could have actually been a mouth-watering prospect. Right now, it is more of a hit-or-miss thing!
With prices starting at ₹ 1.62 lakh ( ₹ 9,000 more expensive than the regular Bullet 350) for the 350 Trials and ₹ 2.07 lakh ( ₹ 6,000 more than regular Bullet 500) ex-showroom, India for the 500 Trials, Royal Enfield is offering you a lovely retro-flavoured scrambler which will definitely get you second glances on the road and off it and well, you get to own a slice of the company's Trials legacy as well.
Photography: Pawan Dagia