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Buy Royal Enfield Bullet 350 vs 500 cc - Cast Iron vs AVL Engine - Pics of Thunderbird 500 Added

Updated on August 27, 2013

Royal Enfield is famous all over the world for manufacturing world-class bikes and we, Indians, are also fans of this amazing machine. Though I don’t own a bullet personally but a few of my friends have it since we were in school. I drove it several times and it’s amazing. I want to buy one soon. Anyhow coming to the main point, when we get together, we discuss about latest bikes, cars, smart phones, tablets, plasma TVs etc. Whether we own one or not, we gather information, compare, and give advice to each other to come to a conclusion so that we buy the best. This time just 2 days ago one of our friends bought a Royal Enfield Bullet 350 STD and he wanted to change its engine to a 500 cc, but got to know from somewhere that a 350 engine does give an excellent pickup than 500 cc, so below were the answers to his queries that formed the shape of a comparison between a Royal Enfield 350 and 500 cc, cast iron engine vs AVL engine (each friend had a different view on this):

Royal Enfield 500 cc bike in Delhi, India
Royal Enfield 500 cc bike in Delhi, India | Source
Royal Enfield 350 STD Logo
Royal Enfield 350 STD Logo | Source

Jeetu said:

  • Royal Enfield’s latest AVL engine does not match the original cast iron engine.
  • A bullet 350 cc can never match the pickup of a 500 cc.
  • The torque and the pickup of a 500 cc bullet cannot be matched by a 350 cc.

On any given day, I would prefer the 500 cc over a Royal Enfield Lightning 535. This is on account of two factors:

  1. Spares in the Lightning 535 are a lot more costly than the Enfield 500 cc. (By the way, the 500 cc spares are a hell lot costly than 350 cc).
  2. The engine setting of a 535 cc cannot be easily settled. It needs a constant attention to the mileage, torque, sound, and pickup. A proper mix of these may take at least 4 to 5 months. I have owned and maintained a Lightning 535 and also two 500 cc. According to me, a 500 cc cast iron engine is the best bet.

Pic of Royal Enfield Lightning 535 CC
Pic of Royal Enfield Lightning 535 CC | Source

Amit said:

  • About the AVL Engines, though I personally have nothing against it, and though it ensures faster cooling, these engines have had to be opened up for problems with the pistons within 2 to 3 years of purchase. Might be because of anything, but then the piston shape in these AVL engines is very different from the old standard ones.
  • And thus, while displacement is the only placement factor, the old ones have greater displacement than the new ones.

Though AVL engines are more reliable, a cast iron engine is also equally reliable provided you have a good maintenance schedule.

Royal Enfield Bullet Delhi India
Royal Enfield Bullet Delhi India | Source

Jeetu said again:

  • Though I crib about my (ex-)535 Lightening, one thing that amazes me was that though I used to tinker around her peripherals all the time, once I got the engine all done up, she never gave me any problem for the entire 3 years she was with me and the current owner also says that the engine is absolutely fine.
  • My 500 cc too, which I got all done up recently (around 2 years ago) is good enough, but then I did the foolish thing of getting carburetor throttle bodies, which seems to have effected the fuel supply and thereby the piston action.

Torque is as important as pickup because (apart from pulling a tractor) when you are doing steep climbs, all pickup and no torque would mean that you would be racing the engine and pulling it up in the first/second gear, whereas no pickup and all torque would mean that you would be slowly chugging up the climb. A combo of good pickup and torque would lead to your bullet going up the climb easily without having to go to the second or the first gear.

Thunderbird 500 pictures
Thunderbird 500 pictures | Source
Front view of Thunderbird 500
Front view of Thunderbird 500 | Source
Seat of Thunderbird 500.
Seat of Thunderbird 500. | Source

So above was the conversation regarding Royal Enfield Bullet 350 or 500 cc, cast iron vs AVL engine. At last, it depends on your own choice and budget that which bullet you want to buy. Planning and reviewing more comparisons on the Internet is a really good thing to do.

Regarding the above post, I hope you found it useful if you are looking ahead to buy a bullet bike and have similar queries.

I will share more info on latest models of Enfield bullet via my upcoming hubs.


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    • soni2006 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rajinder Soni 

      6 years ago from New Delhi, India

      It is so nice to read comments from the old time owner's of this masterpiece. Yes Stuart you got it right. Men in India are mad about bikes and when it comes to Royal Enfield Bullet, you can see them everywhere, whether it is Delhi, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, or Maharashtra, every macho man out here in India wants to ride this bike and many own them. Basically if we talk about Punjab, I have seen even tall rural girls riding this bike.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I like the old-school 'british' look of this machine with the wire wheels and 'naked' chassis, one concern that I would have is about that muffler, are you going to make it to local noise ordinance code with the cherry bomb on the back, there, also, how about them brakes? It's hard to really tell from these photographs, but that looks like it might be a drum brake setup on the back, there. Stuff is always changing, but one concern is for safety, and that's perennial, how does the drum do for heat management/brake fade, that kind of thing? Something old, something new, something red, something blue...depends on what your style preference is, but I like the idea of some parts getting updated to state-of-the-art, while also working to preserve the 'retro' look. Maybe the 2013 Enfields will have rear disc?

    • stugod profile image

      Stuart Goddard 

      6 years ago from Bradford

      As a former Royal Enfield owner I am so happy to see it's resurgence in India. I know it was the favourite motorcycle I ever owned. At the same time the onslaught of the Japanese motorcycle industry was in full flow. And to be honest there was nothing to touch them. Most of the existing British motorcycle industry took no notice and went to the wall. I am trying to be objective as Royal Enfield was an iconic bike. I would go for the traditional look every time. But the Japanese brought quality, reliability, functionality, and a lot more to boot. Royal Enfield has certainly stayed the course and done the same in a more traditional style motorcycle. I am so happy to see them resurgent in India and the rest of the world.


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