Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A C5 from Cajun Country

I was feeling patriotic these days, so I asked not what my country can do for me but what can I do for it. My answer was to decide to stimulate the Louisiana economy by purchasing a C5. One of the little known aftermaths of Hurricane Katrina was that Louisiana lost its Royal Enfield dealerships. The Baton Rouge dealer told me he was closing shop since there was more money to be made in the New Orleans reconstruction than by selling and repairing some strange British bikes made in India. The situation improved last year, with the appearance of a new dealership in Abbeville, LA, called "Cruzzers". Abbeville is deep in Cajun country, so last Saturday we headed west to pick up the bike. No point in going to Cajun country without stopping for cafe au lait and beignets in Cafe des Amis in Breaux Bridge. As usual on weekend mornings the place was crowded and the floor moved up and down with dancing. We were sat at the same table as a Quebecoise couple which forced me to bring out my rusty French translating the menus (how does one say "grits" in French?!). A bit ironic, since the majority of the people in the room were probably native French speakers. From there we went to Abbeville and I rode my brand new Enfield home. It was an 80 mile ride including a worrysome and unavoidable 50 miles on interstate I-10, the worst road in the country. Fortunately about 30 miles of that section run through the Atchafalaya Basin, a swamp where the interstate is a large bridge on pillons and with a posted speed limit of only 60mph. The ride allowed me to test the Enfield in various conditions. So here go some of my impressions of the new bike.

The C5 starts promptly with the electric start. The gearbox feels perfect to me. First gear is short and low, propelling you with vigor from traffic lights. Second and third allow the thumping engine to build revs till you hit 40mph. There you choose fourth gear and it is perfectly set for cruising forever at that rate, which came in handily in route 163 in Lafayette, which is posted at that speed. To go faster you get into fifth. The Enfield feels sweetest between 55 and slightly over 60mph. Above that, vibration, particularly through the footpegs, starts to build up. At 65+ it gets annoying. In the interstate the Enfield was not a happy camper for a while. The cement planks of the initial stretch seemed to resonate with the frame of the bike making the front and rear rise up and down like a seesaw. Riding like that was unnerving. At the end of the Atchafalaya basin the interstate turns into asphalt in reasonably good condition. There the Enfield stabilized and I briefly gunned it to 70mph with no problem, though there was a lot of footpeg vibration. The engine felt like it had a lot of life left in it at that speed. Worrying that the bike was barely being broken in, I revved down to under 60mph for the rest of the road. At the end of the 50 miles on the interstate, the vibration had taken its toll on me. I was relieved to see the tall Mississippi river bridge (where I was scared by strong crosswinds) and downtown Baton Rouge where I could hop off the interstate and take more sedated surface streets. As supplied, the mirrors seemed to give me a reflection of my forearms mostly, and one of them unnervingly flung out of position in the interstate, where it was rather difficult to correct. After some adjustments at home they look somewhat better. They are steady and allow good visibility without vibration. An interesting quirk I noticed is that if you shift into neutral by nudging the pedal up from first gear, the neutral light comes on. But sometimes if you shift into neutral by nudging the pedal down from second it does not. Interestingly, in the latter position the bike refuses to start. This gave me my first scare. I rode off the dealer directly to a gas station since by regulations of the fire marshall they sell the bikes with virtually no fuel. When I went to start the bike, it would not start! I checked it was in neutral by rocking it back and forth, but nothing! (There was a lot of sun so it was hard to see that the neutral light was not on). I had to push it out since the gas station was very busy. After fiddling for a while I switched it into first gear and back into neutral and that did the trick. There is a switch for the headlamp vs pilot lights only in the right handlebar but that seems to be disabled in the US, as the law requires headlight on all the time for motorcycles. The headlight comes on when one turns the ignition key, not only when the engine is running as it used to do in the older kickstart models. There is a quirky yellow switch on the opposite side of the button for the horn that seems to engage the high beam to warn other vehicles about your presence. I don't get the reason for its existence, since it is as easy to flick the high beams with the regular light switch which is less than an inch away. The only thing I could think is if you want to flick the high beams and sound the horn at the same time, then you could use your thumb for the latter and your index finger for the former. There is a lever in the left handlebar, called "manual bi starter" in the bike's manual, apparently for starting in cold weather. The front disc brake is a delight. The rear drum is softer than what the one in my old Enfield felt, although that is possibly just an impression by the comparison with the strong front brake. The gas tank cover has a lock, a move I'm sure was inspired by Gul Panag's incident. A bit disappointing is the lack of accessories. The dealer could not supply me with either saddlebags or with a luggage rack compatible with a passenger seat and backrest. I think I'll just fit some aftermarket saddlebags, there seems to be plenty of places to support them without interfering with the rear wheel. I'm sure Classic Motorworks is busy dealing with the accessories situation. I had the upswept silencer installed, it sounds wornderful! It is not loud but very throaty. Gunning the bike at 60+mph sounded like those supercars they test in BBC's Top Gear.

The Avon Roadrider tires have round profiles and modern style grooves. The bike is supplied with two spare inner tubes, which I hope not to be needing any time soon. "Thanks to California regulations" -according to the dealer-, the bike stops when the sidestand is pulled down. It is actually a neat way of stopping the bike. The bike will run with the sidestand up and the centerstand down. The nacelle looks like that in the old Enfield but where the ammeter used to be there are two lights, one for low fuel and one for engine start. When you turn the ignition key the engine start light turns red and you hear whirring noises in the electronic ignition. After a few seconds the light turns off and then you are supposed to start the bike. There is no fuel petcock (and therefore no "reserve" position) hence the low fuel light, but I couldn't find anywhere how many miles you are left to ride when it comes on. An interesting quirk is two asymmetric holes in the ring of the headlight. Oh, and the speedometer appears to be "optimistic" in its speed readings as many rumors have suggested over the years. All in all the C5 is a delight, I'm looking forward to many happy miles of riding.


  1. Congratulations! Lovely machine.

    The two holes are DOT required to let your screwdriver reach in and "adjust" the aim. Completely unnecessary, since the nacelle aims the full-size headlight just fine. U.S. Enfields have come with these holes (and an undersize headlight) all along (my '99 has them) to meet regs. Lots of people fit the very nice full size headlight, which eliminates them and gives better light, too.

  2. Thanks, David! I went ahead and ordered the 7" light kit.

  3. I notice you have a small backrest... but I cannot find any backrests for the C5 model listed at Did yours require retro-fitting?

  4. Anonymous: The folks at CMW are still updating the Nfield store with C5-relevant information. Your best bet is not to trust the site at this point and get in touch with them directly.



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