Royal Enfield, one of the original motorcycle brands, revitalized an iconic single-cylinder bike this year. The 2018 Royal Enfield Classic 500 descends from a 239cc motorcycle first sold in 1901.
It’s not accurate to refer to the Classic 500 as “retro,” because the bike hasn’t changed all that much since its introduction for the Indian market in 2010 and even then many features continued from other, earlier models. The significant changes with the new Classic 500s are standard rear disc brakes, a dual channel antilock-braking system (ABS), a passenger pillion, and new color options.
The Royal Enfield Classic 500’s air cleaner cover, toolbox, and tail light design are carryovers from previous models. Rider comfort features with historic origins include a single person saddle seat with springs, mudguards to keep riders relatively dry, and thigh pads on the back sides of the fuel tank. Purists will appreciate the standard kickstart lever on the right side of the bike, but the Classic 500 also includes an electric starter.
The 2018 Classic 500 is available in seven color choices, with otherwise identical mechanical features. Note that the images in this article do not show the pillion passenger seat — no photography was available with the seat in place. Also, the technical specifications for some of the Classic 500 color options on the Royal Enfield website had not yet been updated with the new features.
All 2018 Classic 500s get their power from a 499cc single-cylinder, air-cooled engine that favors torque over horsepower. Royal Enfield rates the Classic 500 engine at 27.2 horsepower and 30.5 pound-feet of torque. The engine has electronic ignition and fuel injection, a five-speed transmission, and both electric and kick start.
Royal Enfield’s best selling bike has telescopic front forks and twin gas-charged, adjustable rear shocks. Two-piston disc brakes and a front drum brake take care of stopping the 18-inch rear and 19-inch front spoked wheels assisted by the new ABS.
The bike has a relatively short 53.5-inch wheelbase and a 429-pound curb weight — meaning fueled and ready to go. The narrow seat measures 31 inches from the ground unladen and sinks to 29 inches with average-weight riders, which means most people will have little problem reaching the ground with both feet at a stop.
The Classic 500 in tan with red accents starts at $5,600. In squadron blue, desert storm — a light mocha color, battle green, and gunmetal grey, the starting price is $5,700. Chrome and Stealth Black versions both start at $5,800.