Bullet diaries-how to start a Bullet 500 LB

A characteristic of the enfield-bullet is the starting mechanism. It is unlike any other bike in India because it cannot be started without any one of

1. Sound knowledge of the starting mechanism

2. Demo from another bulleteer.

The single most important factor which complicates the starting routine of an enfiled-bullet is the amount of compression produced by the 350/500 cc displacement of the piston-stroke combination. When the piston is cranked with the kicker, the compression decreases or increases depending upon the direction of the piston in the piston chamber. On the cast-iron engine, cranking the engine without paying attention to the compression can lead to back-fire. Doesn’t sound like fun and believe me, it isn’t.

In either one of the cast-iron engine or the alumunium engine there is a decompressor lever. I have an alumunium engine, in which the decompressor lever can be used to relieve the compression produced in the piston chamber. This helps to crank the piston without any problems related to compression within the piston chamber. The function of the decompressor lever is to aid in bringing the piston to the correct position when it has just crossed the point of maximum compression within the piston chamber and any further movement will only relieve compression and at the same time the spark plug is ready to fire the air-fuel mixture within the piston chamber. If the piston is cranked now the piston moves away from the piston head and at the same time the spark plug ignites the air-fuel mixture leading to piston moving even faster owing to combustion expanding the air within the piston chamber and this force carrier over to the next combustion cycle. It is the same as any other bike except that here the compression produced by this engine is so high that cranking the engine from just about any position of the piston is very difficult. This case may however not hold true for old engines/ poorly maintained engines where high piston wear will lead to compression loss(owing to leakage) at the edges of the piston.

There is a bit of trivia that I would like to share which has really surprised me regarding the starting mechanism of the enfield-bullet. This daes back to the day when Varun’s bike had not started and I had to call for the assistance of the local bullet mechanic. What he told me is still fresh in my mind.

‘The mark of a good bullet is the starting mechanism. A good bullet can be started with one’s hand’

Taking this forward, a lot of people think that starting a bullet is very tough. I have driven a cast-iron bullet and a 500 AVL and in both cases, I agrew with the bullet mechanic. Said thus, I also think the starting mechanism reflects as much on the rider as it does on the bullet.

In my bullet, the starting mechanism is very simple. Crank the engine with the help of the decompressor(used partially) very gently. It should be a tactile exercise with your foot. Crank the engine as much as you can with very gentle pressure. You should reach a point when the piston will not move any further with partial decompression. To crank the engine further, you need to depress the decompressor lever to the hilt. Now crank the engine a little over 1/8th of a turn. Now release the kicker.

Now give a decenlty powerful kick and the kicker should move without any obstruction and the engine should fire-up without rev from the accelerator. The definition of ‘gentle’/ ‘partial’/’powerful’ in the aboe description is something that one will learn with experience. But believe me, it is worth the effort. A engine which stars effortlessly is nothing short of pure poetry and the deep rumble of an enfield bullet is exactly that.


12 Responses

  1. Well…i didn’t understand everything, but i know someone who wud have liked ur article a lot! take care

  2. Just the other day, I was reminded of a movie with Varun. The scent is thick and reminiscent.

  3. I love your site!

    Experiencing a slow PC recently? Fix it now!

  4. A classmate recommended me to check out this site, brill post, interesting read… keep up the cool work!

  5. That was a nice post. Explains it well.
    I used to start the bulls, but didn’t exactly knew what happened inside the bike.

  6. Hi,
    A very good write up. I’m totally new to Bullet. Yesterday i bought the new Bullet 350 UCE (the former ‘Standard’ model). Now they don’t have the decompression lever-they say it automatically happnes when you start kicking. In the owner’s manual they have stated – to crank the engine before starting. In my search for ” cranking the engine” i bumped upon your site. I donno if you can tell me how to handle with ease the new Bullet 350 UCE also. If so, it would be great. Presently, it takes me 3-5 kicks to start off. But i ‘m sure its a
    ” knack ” and a matter of understanding the science, which should make it a cake walk. And i don’t have the know-how of this knack. If I get some light into this, whew!!! it’ll add wings to my dreams. As of now, the Starting stuff slightly pulls down the entire charm of possessing the Bullet.

    • Hi Vishwanathan, ‎

      First of all, congratulations for your new RE Std 350‎cc UCE.
      As per my reply, you probably know most of things about your RE by now for sure!

      Let me give you my share of knowledge, 

      Simply listen for small hissing sound…
      With light power, crank the kicker lever;‎
      It’ll stop at a point, where it’ll be quite hard;
      ‎Then give a little push (about 20-30 degrees rotation to lever, or else 1/8th of a rotation);
      »»»this is when you hear that small hissing sound«««
      It’s nothing but auto-decompressor working perfectly, letting some compression out!‎
      Then easily “just” swing your leg on lever freely in one whole motion, even without accelerator applied – engine will come to life 🙂 

      PS: You can easily miss out that small hissing part at starting! You just have to experiment the right amount of push to get that hissing sound. After some time, even on traffic stops you’ll be easily able to start in 1 simple kick 😉 

      Edit: You can always try kick hard when compression is at peak (lever is hard while lightly cranking); you won’t get hissing sound (at least which you can’t notice); engine starts – but heck load of pressure is required in this hard way!

      Suraj B Hegde,

  7. Nice article. I learnt how to ride a bike on those old army bullets. And i know what all can happen if you don’t start it properly.

  8. Yeah and after 6 years of owning a damned RE, I have had enough of its bloody niggles. Throwing it out, getting a plastic Jap bike that will atleast start without issues!

  9. Could you please make me confirm whether the Compressor/Decompress lever is coming in New Royal enfield bullet 350 UCE or not?

  10. thnks for infrmation,for me the most difficult part is to start a bullet.is thyere any difference between starting a petrol std and diesel sooraj/taurus

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