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Old 17th December 2017, 22:29   #1
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Default Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

Or: "Fading Machismo in Middle Age" ??? (nah, won't go there... or shall we? :-0)

Getting back to vehicles:

“If I wanted a heavy, all-metal, loud, underpowered, unrefined,
vibrational, air-cooled single-cylinder heritage thumper... I’d buy...

...an Eicher Goodearth
(urbanites please Google that if need be).

I suppose I shouldn't have been so cruel, considering that Moto-Guzzi's legendary V-twins had originally powered tractors...

But that’s what I used to say against the flood of starry-eyed Bullet aficionados; and what I used to think when people I’d meet assumed that like all the other videshis, I must have been riding a Bullet on my fairly prolific travels these years in the Himalayas...

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-pc170921.jpg

No, I definitely wasn't. Bullets were too heavy, too cumbersome, too weakly-braked and bumpy for hill riding, especially as my personal style of touring had been something like "racing from one photo op to the next". So I preferred lighter, nimbler, better-performing bikes - ones, moreover, that weren't going to break my leg if they fell down on it (riding habitually at the machine's and my limits, dropping whichever bike was common in those days).

The sprightly KB100RTZ had carried me happily as far afield as Zanskar, Nubra, Pangong, Sach Pass, and across Uttarkhand to the Nepal border. The torquey KB125RTZ continued in that theme to Leh, Tso Moriri, through all the high villages in Spiti / Pin Valleys as far as Tabo, and up to remote mountain places in tribal Western Nepal. On some of those rides I had Bulleteers as companions, who after observing the KB's in action consistently ended up commenting along the lines of, "I wish I were riding something lightweight like that". The Impulse, for its part, with tuning finally sorted, had similarly impressed the group I last rode to Ladakh with - the suspension is quite decent in the rough stuff, and the 150, pushing 50kg's less than the others, can pull surprisingly well against the likes of RE Himalayans, Electras, and, indeed, an LB500, which only rarely were able to leave me "in the dust".

Multitudinous RE fanboys had commonly seemed (and still seem) rather mindless and annoying to me: “It’s best”. "Nothing compares". "Riding it you are King - it's Royal". Or (re: old CI's) “The UCE has made the Bullet just like every 100cc bike”. Objectivity had clearly been switched off here in favor of blind fanaticism. They really aren't such superlative bikes, and in fact would themselves pale in comparison to a great many other vintage British singles, at least performance-wise.

There was a nicely edited, somewhat artsy video posted someplace years ago, of an owner simply stepping outside his house, standing beside his beloved mount, and going through all the (to me) convoluted processes associated with starting an old-school Bullet… the decompress, slow kick through, ammeter observations, etc - only to be rewarded with a heavy, slow idle of a few hundred rpm’s. This guy was obviously fanatical, as were the many viewers giving it a solid thumbs-up. “You either get it, or you don’t” said the caption. Well, I didn’t get it. I wanted (and still want) a bike that I’m gonna be moving briskly down the road on, not one that I'm gonna stand beside as it sits there barely running in the driveway. I concluded that RE's were so sorely underperforming in motion, that sitting idling was their only possible claim to fame...

It's no small wonder, then, that I should now find myself with a well-worn-in, kind of typically rattly Bullet Machismo 500 (LB/AVL) parked outside:

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-pc170904.jpg

So you all want to know:

Has he lost his mind, or finally seen the light?

Is this sensible / practicable in any way - and would it really be acceptable to respond (as so many do) with, 'No, and it doesn’t have to be'?

Perhaps to the surprise of many, I’m going to answer, respectively, "Neither", “Yes” and “No” here: I do apparently still have my mental capacities, and am still not partial to RE's. Yes, I’m convinced it’s a reasonable purchase, and No, I really don’t believe one has to be thinking irrationally to buy one of these bikes.

Much more can (and will) be said further on in the thread, but I'll start out with a little photo exhibit:

By means of explanation: This particular unit was probably one of the last (Spring 2010) ever produced of what was at the time just about the most expensive and exclusive bike available in India - truly the last of what was essentially still that old original British design; And moreover it has apparently spent its entire existence plying the Himalayas, having been owned by two different local tour companies catering to (mostly foreign) clients riding in groups from Manali to Leh, and other adventure destinations in the region. Which - getting to the photos - is to say that it's settled into its own sorts of patterns by now, experienced its own kinds of trials, wear, mishaps, damages... which studying the bike I had a thought to try and analyze / imagine / document.

I bought it fully intending to restore it to like-new condition, but am having second thoughts now, considering whether after some mechanical refreshing (probably this coming March), I ought to just let its hard-earned battle-scars continue to show... and perhaps accumulate till some point further down the road...

It would probably be missing the point, if it seemed in these images that I was focusing on its flaws. I'd prefer to think that I'm probing its history, its experiences, its survival in one of the toughest riding environments on earth - And contemplating its ability in that context to maintain its form and composure despite whatever rough edges.

For owners of Bullets, everything here will probably look familiar, but I'll add my thoughts between some of them:

To begin with, a few of the reasons I prefer this model of Bullet to others:

1. The AVL engine:
Basically only three years of limited production for this 500cc engine before the UCE came in, but in some ways it may represent the best of the old & new:

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-img_20171217_11184101010101.jpg

“Intermediate” tech means basically the same engine cases as the old iron units, same old-school divorced gearbox, BUT better charging, ignition, carburation, oiling, and combustion characteristics. These can deliver 30+kmpl (vs. maybe 22 for the old CI's), they start easily (first kick on sub-zero mornings up here lately), and have a bit more power out-of-the-box than the original 500.

More on "honesty" in design later, but for now will say of this engine that I appreciate small (now discontinued) design details like the exposed oil-supply lines, bulges in the casting where oil galleys reside, and the leftover part of the housing that earlier contained a series of gears leading up to the ignition points, condenser, and centrifugal advance mechanism - which is less dishonest than it is something perhaps analogous to the appendix, in the science of anatomy. I could even prefer the ever-clicking solid tappets, vs. the newer hydraulic ones, which themselves sometimes get noisy, but are really serviceable. Somehow these more "traditional" sights / sounds can point the mechanically-inclined owner more towards what's going on in there. For shade-tree technicians, an estimation of oil pressure (pump/bottom-end health) is easy to check by cracking open a banjo bolt on the cylinder head... The manual decompressor makes assessments of engine compression / leakdown (i.e., top-end condition) easier; The carburetor is simple, easy to tune and unlikely to utterly fail the way electronics and FI systems can. The separate oil reservoirs for engine, clutch, trans theoretically allow for better optimized lubricants in each. All this to say that the rider/machine connection (if that's important to you) can come more easily / naturally, proportionate to an understanding of the machine's mechanical functions and condition.

I also like the heavier crankshaft vs. what the UCE's have utilized. I'm not going to suggest that there isn't still a lot of vibration, but it strikes me as being less than newer 500's, which always made me feel more as though I was riding an engine than a motorcycle. The crankshafts seem to be more durable than the unit-construction engine's as well, and surprisingly, the AVL, while a little more "thumpy" and smooth/comfy to ride down in the low-rpm ranges, actually produces its peak power 400rpm's higher than the current engine. So it seems it's a little more flexible. Not very refined nor a powerhouse, but all-in-all, a likeable engine for many, one which moreover is quite responsive to performance upgrades, if I should eventually so desire. Some say the old "thump" is lacking on the AVL's - but first of all it still sounds better to my ears than the UCE's, and moreover, if the positive effects on the latter are any indication, the Goldstar silencer may be a worthy upgrade at the point some restoration begins (current stock one has a sizable ding in the top).

2. The Gearbox: I guess the AVL Machismos and Thunderbirds were the first RE's to make the switch to left-hand gear-changing, and at the same time, to five-speeds:

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-img_20171217_1118530101.jpg

Whether that change is desirable in itself can be debated, as it seems the only real trouble with right-hand gears is that people raised on left-handers tend to get themselves into danger with them. I heard a plausible explanation that the Brits of old genuinely felt there was better "balance" in having braking controls on opposite sides of the bike - hence the right-hand front brake and left-hand rear earlier - thinking kind of diagonally, in other words. I can see that point of view, but whatever, the worldwide Japanese domination of the two-wheeler market forced everyone else in their direction. I've no issues with either and in some ways like the exclusivity and uniqueness of the older configuration (I'm not alone, as abroad, some have converted their RE five-speeds back to right-hand changing).

But what I do like here is the closure of what on older RE's seemed a huge 3rd-4th ratio gap. The cogs just seem spot-on now. First is a little lower than the old 4-speeds, as well. So we've got an upgrade here, but still the benefit (in my view) of retaining the old divorced gear-case, which allows for it to be removed / serviced separately, without having to disassemble the engine like you'd have to on most other bikes, including the UCE. Yes, there are still enough false neutrals to keep you reminded what you're riding, at least on seasoned units - so the possibility of having to open it at some point is quite real.

There was some hype / claims floating around out there about the UCE being far superior in terms of reduced power-transmission losses. But after seeing a UCE clutch cover open, I seriously doubt that. It would seem to have an identical type of primary chain drive as the AVL's have. So apart from the hassle/advantage (how do you see it?) of having a separate reservoir to drain/refill, I can't see the Machismo as inferior here.

3. Other interesting / ingenious retro tech on display: In my view, by the late 1960's/70's two-wheeler design had overwhelmingly condensed down to very predictable and fairly uniform solutions (most of which are still with us) - there were by then basically no mass-market bikes that didn't utilize a chain-drive, rear swingarm suspension with telescoping forks held by a "triple tree" up front, overhead cams, and a disc brake or two. Even in the last thirty-odd years, advances have been fairly modest when you really think about it: Monoshocks, FI, upside-down forks (still very much telescoping hydraulic dampers held by triple-clamps, mind you), and ABS are really about as much as we've really gained.

And all throughout, Bullet remained stuck in the 1950's, of course - a time where consensus had only begun to develop re: the easiest / most cost-effective methods of getting some hundreds of pounds of metal and rider down the road on half as many wheels as a motorcar.

Earlier there had been no such standardization / presuppositions, and some time spent in a vintage motorcycle museum (Barber, in Alabama, as one example) can be a fascinating experience for the technically-oriented. There were SO many different final-drive systems, suspension (and damping) solutions, chassis, cylinder arrangements, even controls and their linkages. In terms of its suspension, the Bullet was virtually cutting-edge in the context of the early 1950's (which is why most new bikes sold in India still don't use anything much different) - but the Bullet of the 21st century does utilize some ideas that have long since disappeared from just about every other brand produced.

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-pc170926.jpg

A) The "casquette": (current Bullet parts manual simply says,"headlamp housing") would be the most obvious place to start here. Whatever you want to call it, this integrated cast-alloy headlight / shocker leg / running light / speedo / ignition switch / ammeter / control cable / handlebar holder is a truly brilliant one-piece design solution vs what on other bikes involves a lot more individual pieces to do the same job. It looks pretty good, besides, and I'd suspect that the main reason these are not being used anywhere else anymore probably comes down to cost and fashion.

Oh yes, the speedo's broken. Only God knows how many km's this thing has done. Compression's very good, and it runs smooth and reasonably strong, which is heartening. The rattling may be a con-rod small-end bushing, easily enough replaced. If I have to dig deeper, I won't mind.

B) Rear mudguard/seat support arches: Basically triangulated design for high strength with less weight. Being detachable, they allow for easily adapted seating configurations and for the bike's main chassis to be highly simplified / minimalistic. It is also a quite repairable solution, should any damage ever occur to the rear half of the bike due to heavy loading / accidents / metal fatigue.

C) The toolboxes: Vs. what most bikes provide, can actually be used to store some spares / "real" tools / first-aid kit / maybe even a lunch – That is, once I fit a pod or other air filter to replace the factory’s, which some decades of evolution onwards, has finally encroached into the right-hand box.

D) Engine/trans as a stressed member in the chassis is something which much more modern bikes have paraded as advancements, and in theory can add strength, help reduce weight and increase ground clearance.

E) The rear sprocket (funky cast-iron thing known to actually shed teeth vs. wearing them out): Why on earth should I have to replace a brake drum every time I do a chainset? I’d thought earlier. But on the positive side this piece isn't expensive and actually guarantees a fresh, precisely machined brake friction surface periodically… in truth much easier / more practical than the fixed iron rings press-fit into the alloy hubs of I guess every other drum-braked wheel I’ve seen.

Though suddenly losing one's teeth is still a lot scarier prospect than seeing them slowly degrade, I admit...

4. The CHROME:

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-pc170917.jpg

A well-kept, gleaming Machismo has always been real eye-candy for me - I literally just couldn't stop looking at them all these years, and even vs. the new CL chrome edition, the effect seems somehow "deeper" and more mirror-like, and the very simple outlined Royal Enfield decals on the tank just seem perfectly suited to the rest of the bike's finishing.

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-img_20171217_11215801b.jpg

Apart from looks, the truth is that good-quality chrome is just about the most durable, damage-resistant finish you could put on a bike. Which means, incidentally, that it's going to help the bike hold its value better, too. It is very difficult to scratch, it doesn't rust or discolor or craze or blister or scuff or fade out from the sun or bird droppings or petrol spills (or even Coca-Cola!).

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-img_20171217_11194101.jpg

Despite its years of hard running over hard terrain with countless riders, apart from a few very small dimples, the chrome on this bike's tank is still essentially perfect (and may I digress by saying that I far prefer the look of the tank being bolted directly to the frame, vs. the new models which have followed every other bike in having it "float" above it in hidden rubber).

Whatever, from fifteen feet away, even being quite neglected, this remains a reasonably attractive bike to look at - even the wife says so... ...And technically, this is her motorcycle. She'd been the one who, when I was contemplating getting her a Navi (as her sister owns - and I really like them), a couple times exclaimed upon seeing a Bullet go by, "I'd really like to ride one of those!" Hmmm... So it is she who has the documents in her name - now she just needs to learn to ride it!

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-pc170952.jpg

5. Two things out front: One is the (not visible here) front disc brake. A given for modern Bulleteers, but all of my early rides were on CI 350/500/535's with just horrible drum brakes (esp. the 350's). Almost wholly useless, whereas the one on this Machismo actually seems to be very responsive and work pretty well at moderate speeds.

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-pc170894.jpg

And unique to the Machismo is its mudguard. Fully exposed shocker housings allow it to be mounted direct to them (as on Electras), vs having the thing floating up there in space, held on long metal supports from below, as on other Bullets, which tend to loosen on bad roads and get into alignment problems, as well, often scraping paint off. Technically speaking, direct mounting allows for a shade less unsprung weight potentially, especially if I opt to replace the heavily-skirted original with a trimmer Electra piece (which seems to be a direct fit). On those lines, as both tyres will need replacing within the next year or so, I may make the change to the CL's sizing, both front and rear, to lighten the steering and to better fill out the rear mudguard / help a bit with rear braking.

Other misc. details - leading to tech notes and some future plans:

"Okay" (you ask), "So the bike's got a minimalist chassis, modern telescoping forks and ingenious, efficient engineering as witnessed in the multi-functional headlight / rear seat-mount thingys... And dimensionally they are not really large bikes - So why on earth are Bullets still so painfully overweight?"

Eh, yes...

Try weighing one of these dipsticks sometime (and no, I've no idea how one could get so beat-up, but it gives scope for imagination re: what this particular bike has survived)...

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-pc170925.jpg

So yeah, in case you're still confused, what I'm saying is that the reason this Bullet weighs around 200kg instead of the 140 or so it probably ought to is that this dipstick weighs just about 60kgs...

Remnants of club / epic ride stickers? So many stories must have unraveled astride this bike:

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-pc170895bw.jpg

They say the stock air filter is restrictive, and at this point in its evolution, this housing didn't even contain one. I'm going to do something about the bike's "breathing" on both ends, though, and see what sort of power I can easily / cheaply enough pick up in the process. One of the Hitchcock's kits manages an easy 20% power gain (= near 30bhp) with the main components being simply a different (Amal) carb and filter (the 500 would seem considerably under-carbed with its 28mm Keihin). I'm thinking the Karizma or P220 carb might also do the trick in a cheap and effective manner - I'd be all for some more thrust at little cost.

Consider the punishment this aged Rexine (a.k.a. vinyl) must have taken over some years...

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-img_20171217_11181001.jpg

...Partly for the roughness of roads between here and Leh/Kaza/etc, partly for the intense UV up here in the hills, partly because the rear shocks, vs. newer models, don't seem to utilize progressive springs; partly because even harder than those are the front shockers - which old-school Bullet mechanics up here for years had an extremely bad habit of filling with - believe it or not - 90W gear lube... Insane... makes them ride hard as a rock, basically almost suspensionless. I have a feeling I'm going to find just that liquid in these fronts when I open them - and I've gotta do that soon, before I injure my back...

On that note, whatever I do suspension-wise (friend here swears by the Karizma rear shockers for ride improvement without lessening control), I intend to buy a sheet of an amazing material called "Sorbothane" next time I'm in Delhi. They use it for machine mountings, for high-end shoe insoles and motorcycle handgrips. Extremely effective at ab"sorb"ing vibrations. I'm gonna put it under a fresh seatcover and see the engine vibes transmitted to my body greatly reduced - I'm absolutely sure of that. The shakes in the handlebar and footpegs don't really bother me at all - but the seat's rather hard foam sends waves through my -eh - personhood that I'd just as well do without.

Just to add, I must say I really do like the looks of single (or two-piece) seats on Bullets, and the added springing can be helpful sometimes, too. If I can find a setup that my wife/family finds comfortable, I may ultimately go that route.

Few more pics here, just playing around with the (new to me) camera and trying to find some interesting compositions in the details of this (new to me) bike...

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-img_20171217_1119200101.jpg

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-img_20171217_11202002.jpg

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-img_20171217_1122170201.jpg

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-pc170916.jpg

6. Valuation:
Not to be neglected is the question of how exactly such a purchase as this might be financially justified, when there are already two other bikes in the stable:

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-img_20171223_13033401.jpg

...And when it cost not a lot less as an eight-year-old than I could've bought a pair of new Navi's for:

The 500 Machismo cost a bit over a lakh when introduced in 2007, and the fact is that well-maintained examples are still fetching at least that much as ten-year-old second-hand units - something that can't really be said for very many bikes worldwide, or perhaps for any other vehicle in the Indian market. The depreciation rates for UCE's seem atrocious ('12 Desert Storm up here with asking price of 70k recently, three-year-old Bullet 500's everywhere @ around 90k). I don't know what the final production numbers for the AVL500's were, but the original plan was for only 500 units per year. So these are rare, and for some already quite desirable. Apart from the perception of being more maintenance-intensive than the newer 500's (some tried to dissuade me on that basis), I know some people really do prefer riding these - certain tour groups were specifically requesting them this past season vs. new CL's. And if the pricing trends of old CI 500's (which I could've easily purchased below rs50,000 not many years ago) are any indication, I expect this bike to appreciate in value, whether restored or unrestored.

Never having felt very positive about RE's, I will expound later upon my own kind of turning-point, my feelings about them at this stage of my life... and a sort of analysis of why an underperforming bike with decades-old technology is still selling in record numbers....

For now, as I've said earlier someplace, a lot of it comes down to where the machine will get you, and how you'll feel in the process of its getting you there...

7. What it's good for:
In the case of this Bullet vs. its stablemates (the Impulse & KB125-RTZ)...

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-img_20171223_13035101.jpg

...What I find satisfying is its ability to move along at a relatively brisk pace, but in what feels like a very relaxed manner. Yeah, I'm nearing the half-century mark, I've got two young kids, and my touring style is (or should be) a bit less racy at this point. The Machismo is supposed to be able to do 120kmph, but I can't think of a time when I'd need to ride/drive that fast; its purportedly comfortable cruising speed of 90kmph would be sufficient for most uses domestically. I hardly touched 120 even on the U.S. Interstates this past spring, on a much more powerful bike - it just isn't particularly safe on anything but the best designed/maintained/controlled roads, and exceeds all legal speed limits on either continent, inviting tickets/challans (it's coming, folks). Anyway, in this Bullet there's nothing dramatic, no nervous twitchiness, it's just very steady and solid in its groove. The others can be ridden nearly as quickly (to a point) if pressed hard - but that's just it - you feel you're pressing them (and yourself) hard. The Impulse, in particular, really has to be kept above 5,000rpm's in order to feel lively, which can be lots of fun but it is certainly not relaxing when it's screaming like that all the time; whereas the RTZ125 has plenteous midrange pull, but it is a very harsh, noisy engine that loses considerable power (and gets noisier yet) as it warms up. Not to mention that it's at the other extreme in terms of mass - a 90kg featherweight that feels as though it could go flying away pretty easily. I've done plenty of long rides on these others, but I've never been able to just "kick back" and think mainly of the scenery, as I was too busy trying to work the machine, or cope with the noise. On longer rides especially, you generally just want to be able to ride easy and unstressed, and the AVL seems to be good at that. The friend who keeps my DR350 in the U.S. was over recently and we rode a ways up the Rohtang road. He said at one point, "it's really something, I don't even have to downshift coming out of turns". That's just it.

So the Machismo is not a performance bike really, but it is responsive and pulls well enough even when being ridden lazily - which sometimes (iincreasingly) - is just how I want to ride. Thus this venerable bike, for all its potential shortcomings (especially if you're studying a spec-sheet), has its place beside the others, and I've been enjoying it... should say "we've been" - because with the flatter tank/seat and all the torque, it's a better family bike than either of the others, too.


Oh, and on that note:

I'd put down half payment and taken possession of this Hyosung GT250 Comet earlier in the year; had even started a thread here, which after a few favorable replies the mods (prophetically?) had shifted to the assembly line, sadly never to re-emerge:

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-comet.jpg

I suppose that the two bikes could hardly be more different, apart from being equally "naked" with all their bits showing. Even at that time I'd been thinking alternatively of buying a Machismo; yet the Comet 250 V-twin was the quicker (nearly 30bhp), vastly smoother, better braking, better handling, arguably better-sounding, obviously more modern bike. You couldn't beat the exclusivity/uniqueness factor, and it was in considerably better condition as well, for only a bit more money... In terms of pure VFM in pure riding terms, it would've been the clear choice here... A great, full-sized, pure sportbike without all the vain fairings.

...So long as I was always riding solo, and never was planning to re-sell it. Our kids heard it started up and (little gearheads) loved the sound, which truthfully, was to die for - I lay awake at nights just running those rich exhaust tones through my mind, my stomach in knots over it (even the mechanics maintaining that rental fleet of AVL500's were impressed with its sound). But those same kids couldn't stand riding on it. Even for a 15-minute trip, the seat was awful for them, and they were pleading to go home - too tight to sit on the seat in front of me (and high/broad tank impossible), and if on the pillion pad, just too far away from me to be able to hold on securely and feel comfortable. Former owner's wife disliked it for the same reason, and was thoroughly spoiled one day riding back from someplace pillion on a friend's Bullet. In truth I did feel quite leaned in (far from any beloved pillion) on the Comet, moreover with quite a lot of weight on my wrists that I know would've been uncomfortable after a time. Whereas my wife says of the Machismo that it's the most comfortable / secure-feeling experience overall that she's had on any of my bikes.

Other thing is that, as appealing and good a bike as the Hyosung is (it was allegedly designed by a bunch of ex-Suzuki engineers, and has been sold worldwide for going on 15 years now), I knew that once I bought it, I was likely to be stuck with it. Ordering parts from Korea or the U.S. wouldn't take any longer than getting Impulse parts ordered from the dealer an hour away, but they much costlier than RE spares, and there are a lot more of them (double of cylinders/rods/pistons, plus four overhead cams, eight valves, two timing chains, two carbs, etc; But the main trouble is that there is just not much resale potential for these in India. If I wanted to be rid of it later, I'd pretty surely have to take a loss. Last snag was its being registered at friend's former residence in another district, which would've required sixteen hours of travel to and fro trying to retrieve an NOC - and anything can happen upon arriving there (officer's not here, come back tomorrow, ongoing excuses, etc, etc)??? I knew that it wouldn't be issued the same day, meaning the expenses and time involved in overnight stay(s) in a tourist hill town, in summer, when I really ought to be doing other things.

So I had to let the Comet go, knowing that a part of me (the impractical, selfish, but aesthetically attuned, enthusiastic part) would always regret it. In my Impulse thread I posted an entry of our trip a couple years back to the hilltop high above Kullu where the Bijli Mahadev temple is located, the Hero being ridden alongside these two - the Comet and a 500 rental Machismo. I've got roadside video footage: The Hyosung, so refined and smooth, its sweet tune humming along in a way-up-there powerband; And the AVL throbbing and throwing rooster-tails of dirt off its back tyre under throttle, clattering its way noisily behind, its rider worried that his old neck injury was going to flare up from all the jarring on that jungle track... I knew then which bike I'd rather own (the red would've better matched the other two bikes, too)... Yet here we are now in clattering black&chrome! While I easily could fall again into lusting over the addictive mini-Ducati sound of that V-twin, in the long run, I am hopeful that this Bullet is going to work out better...


Next post will add more along the lines of "getting there" as a basic consideration of specialty bikes in particular, by recounting my first journey on this machine a few weeks back - a very impromptu sort of fling of I guess several hundred kilometers, in quite remote places, with no preparatory servicing...

But being a warm, sunny day in the mountains yesterday, I'll leave you with these:

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-pc170935.jpg

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-img_20171217_12023001.jpeg

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-pc170939.jpg

Last edited by ringoism : 25th December 2017 at 23:45.
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Old 26th December 2017, 08:46   #2
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Motorcycle Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 26th December 2017, 12:59   #3
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

The AVL engine is something remarkable, I'm yet to come across another RE that transfers oomph to the rear wheel as fluently as the Machismo 500.

During the 2017 xBhp Interstate G2G I happen to meet a rider on a customized Machismo 500 and we connected instantly, his ride had undergone some drastic weight reduction mods and ran off a CV carb with SAI deleted and a quick throttle, though I'm strictly against using a QT on a CV carb I was dumbfounded witnessing the way the motorcycle put down oomph!, every time he cracked open the throttle either there was loose debris all over the place or the motorcycle would go side ways or both!

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Made me fall all over in love with it!

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Here's a snap of the same motorcycle in track form, hope this inspires you in case you have something creative in mind for the Machismo, say something along the lines of your RTZ
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Old 26th December 2017, 14:21   #4
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

Just last week I got opportunity to visit ROYAL ENFIELD factories located at Oragadam & original factory (since 1955) at Tirruvoityar, near Chennai.
The original factory has that old world charm & I also got to witness, hand painting of those golden lines on fuel tank by the members of family who have been doing it since the factory opened in 1955.

Orgadam is a new factory & twice the size of old one and of course much better organised. RE people do not like their machines be addressed as bikes, they prefer them to be called as Motorcycles. I also witnessed track testing of various models and the one that caught my fancy was painted in stealth black. Its just breathtaking.
Also saw few EXPORT models with camouflage & olive green paintwork. I am told that both are NOT allowed in India.

A very satisfying day - was that.


Last edited by ariesonu : 26th December 2017 at 14:23.
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Old 26th December 2017, 19:19   #5
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

Now I have to start following this thread.
Machismo 500, Impulse & KB125-RTZ.. you got some beauts there. And those pics would make anyone fall in love with ageing. Hats off to you!
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Old 26th December 2017, 21:47   #6
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

Hi Ringoism,
Quite a narrative...looks like you've also 'crossed the line' into being a RE fan; and have been bitten by the bug.
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Old 26th December 2017, 23:43   #7
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

Originally Posted by ashwinprakas View Post
The AVL engine is something remarkable, I'm yet to come across another RE that transfers oomph to the rear wheel as fluently as the Machismo 500... I happen to meet a rider... his ride had undergone some drastic weight reduction mods... hope this inspires you in case you have something creative in mind for the Machismo, say something along the lines of your RTZ
In Old Manali I met a Rishikesh-based Israeli by the name of Amir Yardenay who rides/races one... his fb page leads to various interesting photo/vid links, I hope it'd be okay to post one or two here, affirming the copyrights as his:

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He competed in the 2014 & 2017 Raid-de-Himalaya Rallies. Successfully completed the first time, the second time had invested a lot in serious engine mods... it was lightened some as well, and he claimed it would pull wheelies at 60kmph, which I hardly doubt. Stock suspension would've been the main holdback, and he DNF'd on account of some chassis problems in the second stage, from what I hear... not the main frame but some failed desi welding on his modified mudguard support/luggage carrier. Anyway, hoping to connect with him re: any recommendations towards extracting modest additional power / minimizing mass.

I'd also found the one below in a thread somewhere, if anyone knows the link let me know, because there was a lot of good technical info there. Owner had poured a ton of effort into this thing, was Mumbai-based I think, and the machine ended up on OLX eventually, advert claiming it weighed 134kg. Loaded with (expensive, incl. Hitchcock's) modded engine stuff, this one was supposed to pull wheelies at high speeds, too. I can only imagine how one of these bikes would perform with double the stock power and 70kg's less mass to drag about:

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That said, there's something to me pretty appealing about the classic design of this motorcycle (more on that later), and I'd probably tend to something more subtle like this:

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I kinda figure that alloy wheels, boxes, mudguards, seat pan (and maybe even tank) would go a long way towards lightening everything whilst retaining the original looks... but then, all that wouldn't be cheap, either.

...Main trouble in this case would be that my wife has a philosophical objection to single-seats, and seems to hate every bike she sees with one...

As mentioned, it's her bike...

End of the day, if bumping the compression ratio a bit, upsizing the carb and doing some general blueprinting is going to get me a 20% gain, then the cost per point of power-to-weight ratio improvement will almost surely fall to the side of cheap engine mods, more than to alloy chassis / body stuff. I think I could go for a pair of wheels, though, and these can be sourced in India, off the Conti GT. And the slimmer Electra mudguards...


Last edited by ringoism : 26th December 2017 at 23:49.
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Old 27th December 2017, 06:05   #8
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

A great read, thanks for sharing your observations, I can relate almost all / many of them with whatever little experience that I have with my Machismo 500 which is one of the first ones delivered in Bangalore (at least that's what I was told by folks at 'Agro'). Like you said, I have heard folks talking on internet that this can touch 140kmph on a straight line and also met one guy at Rider Mania (Ooty) who was using this for drag races with some modifications. However, I may have tried only a few kms short of 140kmph on a highway a couple times and really didn't feel like doing it more or for longer duration while at that speed almost all the metal pieces were going through heavy vibration. I always liked it in 80s/90s on highways, and I have really enjoyed this motorcycle during many rides I took in the mountains of southern India, the raw torque at low speed, climbing the ghats is to experience with this motorcycle.. Once the Himalayan was out, I was contemplating to sell this and get RE Himalayan, paid the advance money for REH and then decided against selling the Machismo 500, feel some sort of attachment with this one. I haven't had major service issues, its been very easy to maintain except I had issues with the battery connections behaving and some electrical issues owing to the way a mechanic has wrapped up things in hurry, but nothing really with the core, engine or mechanics that I'd complain. I really like the lazy ride it offers. I ride only for few months in a year, dedicated for long, out of station rides, no more riding it in the city for past few years. Usually I try to ride it regularly during winters, which I'm trying this season as well, lets see if I can spend some more miles with my motorcycle this season.
I'll continue to look at this thread in case if anyone shares any inputs on 1> minimizing the vibration and 2> bumping up the power a bit if possible, in that order of preference.
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Old 27th December 2017, 10:57   #9
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Please let us know of all the mods you try for the suspension setup.
I have a 97 Bullet 350 and I never gave two hoots about it's suspension while I was living in Chandigarh. However, after moving to Himachal, the rear suspension feels too hard especially for solo rides. Having a pillion smoothes it out but not to that good a level as it should be. I have also heard great things about using Karizma shockers as replacemenfs as well.

I have felt very strongly myself that Bullet has always been impractical. Ours always had charging issues and our mechanic wanting to retain the purity of the bike, never made any changes. Since we were hardly using the bike apart from weekend geris, these issues never seemed so big. When he heard that I will be moving, he readily installed the charging system of newer bullets as well as changed the front drum brakes to a more capable one which RE issued in later models. These two small changes made a hell of a lot of difference in my confidence on riding the bike. I have always ridden it sedately but even then the piss poor braking and charging issues were enough to put me off during the first 15 years of ownership.
Since it was my father's bike, who didn't ride it much, we never thought of selling it off as it wasn't used a lot. Since my father passed away last year, I don't think I'll ever be able to sell it off now and try to use it in summers for local riding. It has always been maintained immaculately both in looks and mechanically.

So, now that leaves me in a conundrum. I have never ridden anything apart from the Bullet and now I am in the habit of having the gear shifter on the right side. I want to keep using the Bullet but that means I would need to make changes to it so that I can be more comfortable and confident riding it. This thought process collides with the other part of the brain which wants to keep the bike as original as it can be. I am guessing the best way forward for me would be to make the changes but hold on to the original parts so that the bike can be fully restored to original condition if ever needed in the future.

Current projects I am thinking off going for is getting disk brakes installed in the front and a secondary battery setup (removable) for aux lights. Even after the upgrade to the charging system it still can't keep up with powering the lights properly. I will be moving to lower powered bulbs though as both the original lights and the twin hella setup are 55W bulbs.
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Old 8th January 2018, 22:20   #10
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

Originally Posted by rdst_1 View Post
I am guessing the best way forward for me would be to make the changes but hold on to the original parts so that the bike can be fully restored to original condition if ever needed in the future.

Current projects I am thinking off going for is getting disk brakes installed in the front and a secondary battery setup (removable) for aux lights. Even after the upgrade to the charging system it still can't keep up with powering the lights properly. I will be moving to lower powered bulbs though as both the original lights and the twin hella setup are 55W bulbs.
Thanks for sharing a bit of your history... Goes to show how much sentimental factors can influence us, for better or worse.

I think you're on the right track:

- Disc brake definitely recommended, the only alternative would be the twin-leading-shoe 500cc drum brake, which is decent IF adjusted right. Or is that what you already have?

- As for the charging/lighting, I'd personally forget the auxiliary units, which tend to blind ("dazzle") oncoming traffic and IMO are fairly useless from a net safety perspective. Instead go for a proper hi/lo LED headlight bulb in the original socket - even a 35W LED gives double the lumens of a 55W halogen, from what I've researched. Less load on your charging system, longer life, and very importantly, you can still "dip" it to low-beam at night, extremely important in hill driving (which as a transplant you may or may not have yet discovered / adopted as a habit).

You've got a nice bike there in the old iron 350. They sound wonderful, parts are plentiful, and right-hand gears are really no issue if you're used to it. That said, the five-speed is really better in terms of ratios for the 350's more limited power, and would be a worthy upgrade in my view.

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Old 9th January 2018, 11:06   #11
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

Thanks for the pix!

Those old Machismo 500s are still going strong! I was in Sarahan in November and, at the temple, came across a large biking group from Germany, who were riding a motley selection of Classics, Standards AND two Machismo 500s. When I asked the guides about the Machismos - they said that they run the best and are most preferred by their customers.

(Am a proud owner of a Machismo 350 and I completely agree!)
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Old 27th January 2018, 18:36   #12
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

Originally Posted by Skidrow View Post
I...came across a large biking group from Germany, who were riding a motley selection of Classics, Standards AND two Machismo 500s. When I asked the guides about the Machismos - they said that they run the best and are most preferred by their customers.
Yes, that was probably the thing that pushed me over the edge as it concerned buying this one, when I'd almost given up on the idea... I realized that the foreign crown loves them, I saw one that looked considerably worse than mine going for rs20,000 more, and the new (Israeli) owner was absolutely thrilled at his purchase. I figured that I'd always be able to re-sell it for as much or more than I bought it... thus little liability really. Not to mention that there must be some reason that so many folks are preferring them. I'm enjoying it so far.

And now, the afore-promised pics of my first journey on it a couple months back:

Manali-Kullu-Bajoura-Dianapark-Jhatingri-Barot-Baragram-Rajgunda (final 1.5hr by trek). Returned a couple days later by the far less interesting Mandi route (Pathankot highway)... which has thankfully been mostly re-paved recently on that stretch. Either way takes about the same time.

The destination being "Workation X" - a recently completed remote workstation set in one of the more remote villages of the region. I'd done the defunct jungle road (from the Billing side) some years ago on the KB125 - quite an adventure, as no vehicles had crossed over it in years it seemed and there were some pretty entertaining obstacles (a Bullet would never have made it through, in truth). Apparently that road has re-opened now, but it's still more of a Jeep trail, very rough/narrow at points, and visitors to Workation are always brought in via Baragram.

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Having done a good bit of the route (excluding that beyond Jhatingri) earlier on the Impulse, the KB100/125's, an old CI 350 (and of course the Marshal), I can say that this was probably the best tool for the job. Apart from the rock-hard suspension (going to be doing something about that soon - have confirmed that it does NOT have shock-oil in the front shocks, but motor-oil or possibly even gear oil!). Mainly on account of the low-end torque on what at points are some very steep grades (particularly in the stretch just beyond Mandi IIT). The Impulse did it okay but it was screaming most of the time... same for the KB100. The KB125 was powerful in the midrange where needed, but so rattley in its innards; Whereas this LB500 just chugged along without really seeming it was trying... Very nice.

As far as the route goes, it is a nice one, very lightly traveled in the off-season, and therefore pleasant. Very few tourist facilities along much of it, but there again lies the appeal. Quite a distance is run along a narrow, high ridge, with views both to the north and south, overlooking villages that must be just about never visited by outsiders. Very satisfying.


Last edited by ringoism : 27th January 2018 at 18:45.
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Old 27th January 2018, 19:08   #13
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

Amazing article. Fantastic effort. Thanks @Ringoism.
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Old 27th January 2018, 19:13   #14
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

Originally Posted by Ketan View Post
I'll continue to look at this thread in case if anyone shares any inputs on 1> minimizing the vibration and 2> bumping up the power a bit if possible, in that order of preference.
Thanks for sharing your personal ownership experience. I too liked the Himalayan conceptually, but it did not seem very sorted, both in terms of component durability and IMO performance (rear brake/suspension in particular).

1. Vibration: I doubt there's much to be done at the source, that being the mass of the big piston itself. I mentioned Sorbothane - using a sheet of it under the seat cover, maybe in the handgrips / footrests it would also be possible. If the bike had a double-cradle frame you could put rubber engine mounts, but it doesn't, so I think we're stuck with a vibey engine/frame and the only place to reduce it is in the rider/bike interfaces.

2. Power increase: Attaching a page from the Hitchcock's online catalog here; keep in mind that in the UK market the "Electra X" is powered by a 500LB (AVL) engine:

Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500-hitchcocks-stage-1.jpg

This is their stage 1 kit, which supplies a truly astonishing 40% power increase at the rear wheel - with only an upgraded (Amal 30mm) carb/adapter/air filter, a freer-flowing header pipe, and capping off the PAV system in the cylinder head. Really impressive gains. Personally, I'd work up a kit on my own rather than spending a few hundred pounds on theirs. But anyway 40% takes you up to around 32bhp (up from 23), supposedly without any negative effect on low-end torque. I think that'd be a very appealing/comfortable level of power for a Bullet.

Very non-invasive, simple mods here, and I'd imagine that if it's not being ridden hard continuously, the stock bottom-end should be able to handle it for the long run.

As I probably mentioned earlier, I'm going to look for a P220/Karizma carb to see whether it'd adapt easily enough. PAV system easy enough to block off if that seems right to do (they insist it's critical, I'm not sure why), and large-diameter carb-mounted open-element air filters are easy enough to come by (not personally a huge fan of K&N for dusty environments like ours). Will have to take the stock header pipe off and see if I can figure out what makes it restrictive, then maybe custom-make a corrected new one???


Last edited by ringoism : 27th January 2018 at 19:15.
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Old 27th January 2018, 23:46   #15
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Default Re: Faded Glory: A middle-aged Enfield Machismo 500

A word if I may about the Hitchcock power upgrade.

People with the old Iron Barrel should leave their engine alone unless they plan on changing the connecting rod and bearings.

The Iron Barrel engine uses a aluminum (alloy) connecting rod with a floating sleeve bearing in the big end.
The 90+ year old bearing design is not designed to take large loads or to operate at high engine speeds.
The aluminum connecting rod is inherently weak due to the strength limits of the material.
The lower ball bearings supporting the crankshaft as supplied by the company leave a lot to be desired as far as their quality is concerned.

Then there is the matter of the Iron Barrel having a cast iron cylinder.
This material dissipates heat rather poorly so overheating and "piston seize" will occur if the engine is hopped up and ridden hard.

All of these things must be considered before using something that will greatly increase the power of a Iron Barrel.

The AVL on the other hand uses a steel connecting rod and roller bearings on the big end and a aluminum cylinder with a steel sleeve in it to greatly improve heat rejection.

These differences allow the AVL to be modified without over stressing the engine (although upgrading the crankshaft bearings to a top quality supplier is a good idea).

Just thought I'd warn you people who own a Iron Barrel.

Now, back to the main topic.
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