Royal Enfield are the motorcycles 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 Royal Enfield far more reliable.
The world slows down on a Royal Enfield. Hold someone up on the highway 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 riding my own sportsbike a few weeks ago, where a person in a sportcar did everything but crash to make sure he was always in front me on the road to Khon Kaen.
Contrast is what the Royal Enfield Classic 500 Chrome does well. In an age of high-tech electrickery, it's delightfully old-world 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 motorcycle – and the 499cc single-cylinder engine is lumpy and languorous, its 40-odd Nm or torque ample. The Royal Enfield Classic 500 Chrome is 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 motorcycle that spurs you to roll up a swag and set out for a rally, to sit around a fire and share stories from the road with people you've just met.
On any other motorcycle the Classic's brakes would be woeful. But on the Royal Enfield Classic Chrome 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 and it's no problem at all.
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 of days gone by, 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 300 kilometer from its 14.5 liter fuel tank it's easy to do. It has some idiosyncrasies: you can't start on its sidestand, but it has a centerstand so that's not bad. 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 the Royal Enfield Classic 500 Chrome anyway.