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Royal Enfield Classic 500 Chrome | BIKE TESTS

Get back to basics with Royal Enfield’s learner-approved retro Classic

Royal Enfields are the bikes which tootle down your street thumbing their chrome-visored headlight noses at modern-day two-wheel technology. And they do it with an air of grace and esteem. Mind you, they never used to. Once it was with an air of electrical shortages and weeping cast-iron engine cases. But a few material and componentry upgrades have made today’s Enfield far more reliable.

The world slows down on a Royal Enfield. Hold someone up on the freeway and they’ll smile kindly as they pass you, giving you plenty of room as they do. Quite a contrast to the reception I received on the Brutale Dragster the same morning, where a Porsche Cayenne did everything but crash to make sure it was always in front me on Melbourne’s Eastlink.

Contrast is what this bike does well. In an age of high-tech electrickery, it’s delightfully olde worldy with its side-mounted chrome lockable toolbox and analogue flip-over odometer. It’s got a kickstart (to complement its electric start), a drum rear brake, and there’s not an LED to be seen. Its 19-inch front wheel removes any lightning quick reactions, from you or the bike, and the 499cc single-cylinder engine is lumpy and languorous, its 40-odd Nm of torque ample.

It’s bikes like these which remind you why you fell in love with motorcycles in the first place. It’s a simple piece of mechanical independence, the sort of bike that spurs you to roll up a swag and ride to a rally, to sit around a fire and share stories from the road with people you’ve just met.

On any other motorcycle the brakes would be woeful. But on a bike like this you accept that with a twin-piston caliper biting the 280mm front disc and the drum rear you’ll need to allow a little bit more time to slow down – you do it and it’s fine. It’s a similar story with the five-step preload adjustable twin rear shocks and conventional 35mm front end. In fact, compared to the brand’s 500cc single not that long ago, you could almost find yourself being grateful for the modern touches of a disc and basic adjustability.

I loved my time on Royal Enfield’s Classic 500 Chrome. Quick morning rides turned into all-day affairs and with a range of well over 300km from its 14.5-litre tank it’s easy to do. It has some idiosyncrasies: you can’t start it on its sidestand, but it has a centrestand so it’s no biggie. It’s slightly temperamental to start on cooler mornings, but there’s a manual choke to assist you with that. And the vibrations over 100km/h are so extreme they’re almost comical, but you’re rarely inclined to do those speeds on this bike anyway.

When you look at the Chrome for what it is, it’s a great thing. Besides, I reckon it’s far more hipster and retro than Ducati’s LAMS-approved Scrambler and, at $8990 ride away (which includes two years’ roadside assist and a two-year 10,000km warranty) it’s more than $3000 less expensive, too.

It’ll teach retro-loving newbies the simple principles of motorcycling and it’ll remind the experienced ones of good days gone by. It’s as cool as it comes.

Testbike Urban Moto Imports

Colour Options: Chrome black or Chrome red

Warranty: Two-year, 10,000km warranty (includes two years roadside assist)

Price: $8990 rideaway