In 1957 (I was only just old enough to drive it) I part-exchanged my Francis-Barnett 225cc 2-stroke for a 'proper' motor bike: a 1955 Royal Enfield Bullet 350cc. At the time I was living in digs in Manchester and my father lived in London. With many journeys between the two, my daily use of the bike for work, and week-end trips to the Lake District, I covered about 60,000 miles on my maroon Bullet over the next four years.
Apart from replacing the front and back brake shoes, changing the spark plug and oil occasionally, and de-coking the engine about once a year, the bike needed no work and never let me down apart from one disaster when the big-end failed half-way to London. I put gearbox oil in the engine, and found that the big-end didn't knock if I kept below 30mph that was a very long journey! I spent the week-end rebuilding the engine with all new bearings, and the journey home running it in!
I sold it for £35 (!) with the original clutch and chain only when I had a girl-friend who refused to ride pillion!
I think my wife (not the girl-friend referred to) must have got fed up with me always going to look at any old bike I saw, and she took me completely by surprise last year when she said 'If you want to get a bike, do it now before you're too old'
This was too good an invitation, so I started looking through the ads. What did I find? A 1989 Bullet 350!
It was for sale about 70 miles away in St. Helen's (Lancashire), and I couldn't believe my luck when I saw it. With less than 5000 miles on the clock it looked almost brand new, and I made a deal with the owner straight away without even riding it.
I arranged to collect it the following week after buying a helmet and borrowing a leather jacket. The owner asked how I was going to get it home and, when I said I would ride it, he said he had never ridden it that far and hoped I would be OK. I was.
The only disappointment I had was the absence of the casquette with the two small lights, which I always thought was a nice and unique feature. However, reading about Graham Aitchinson's Bullet Superstar in the May Bullet-In I realised that mine must be a Superstar as well, and not a Deluxe as I had thought!
Apart from Graham's modifications the only difference I can see is that my ignition switch is in the offside toolbox. It has all the additional chrome plating, and fork gaiters. The only change I have made is to fit indicator buzzers my old Bullet didn't have indicators, and I find it very easy to forget to switch them off.
I've done about 700 miles on it already, and hope to ride it to Redditch for July 12 (a round-trip of about 350 miles)
One point which may be of interest to other readers. I found the gear-change quite clunky, and neutral fiddly to find. Last week-end I put some Molyslip gearbox additive in, and it has transformed it gear changes are smooth and silent, and neutral is a piece of cake! I changed the oil and filter soon after buying it, and included Molyslip engine additive: I got 72 mpg on my last tankful. No I don't have shares in the Molyslip!
Regards David Parker
PS. I was in Bombay on business about a month ago the first time since 1997 and was very disappointed to see the number of 'foreign' (i.e. Japanese and Italian) bikes and mopeds. It seems the Indian Government has relaxed its import regulations, and Enfield is losing its home market. In two days in Bombay traffic jams, I only heard one proper bike being ridden with great aplomb by a very elderly Indian gentleman: good for him!
Let's hope that the enthusiasts of the UK, USA, Germany, Japan etc (and possibly the Indian rural market) will keep them going without resorting to trying to compete with the others.