A Faster Bullet…
The Royal Enfield Classic 500 — aka CL500 — has been in production for a decade. From the outside, it looks like an old-school Enfield, directly linked to the company’s storied heritage on two wheels. The heart, however, is the Royal Enfield unit construction engine (UCE), the modern replacement for the company’s legendary cast-iron engine — a holdover from the post-WWII era.
The UCE 500 features EFI and integrated casting of the engine, gearbox, and clutch. Priced above the Bullet, the Classic 500 melds the company’s iconic heritage with modern technology, but with only 27.5 horsepower at 5250 rpm, it leaves something to be desired in the performance department.
Enter Sukhkaran Singh (Sukhi) and Baljit Singh of Ludhiana’s Cycle City Customs. Baljit is the city’s best-known mechanic for vintage motorcycles, while Sukhi manages a restaurant during the day and spends his off-time riding and working on bikes:
“We are both passionate riders, working constantly on how to improve the performance of the motorcycle.”
They’ve certainly accomplished that with this custom cafe racer. Aptly named “Vajra” — the Sanskrit word for Thunderbolt — this Classic 500 cafe racer weighs 84 pounds less than stock (339 lbs) and makes double the horsepower at the rear wheel:
“Performance wise, this 154-kg (197 kgs stock) motorcycle generates 40 hp (19 hp stock) at the wheel — it’s planted, flickable and fast.”
The upgrades are wide-ranging. The single-cylinder engine has been punched out to 612cc with high-lift cams, competition valve train, forged piston, and a stroker crank. It has a quickshifter, Power Commander 5, and Autotune — along with USD forks, an FZR swing-arm, and upgraded brakes. Never have we seen an Enfield that blends such single-minded performance and pure beauty into a single machine.
Below, we get the full story on this Royal Enfield “Thunderbolt.”
Classic 500 Cafe Racer: In the Builder’s Words
Words by Sukhi Singh (@stingray_gill)…
Built by Cycle City Customs from Ludhiana, “Vajra” (means thunderbolt in Sanskrit) is a cafe racer build with a Classic 500 as its base bike. On the surface, the frame has been modified to take on a mono shock and all steel bodywork has been replaced with handmade aluminium parts.
The USD suspension reduces fork flex and unsprung mass and in our opinion, they look mighty fine. The swing arm has been replaced by one from a Yamaha FZR600. These changes have reduced the rake while at the same time increasing the wheel base, making the bike more planted on the road during straight line acceleration and nimble in corners. A rear disc has been retrofitted along with steel braided brake lines and sintered pads for better braking.
The engine has been rebuilt and the head tuned, with performance parts from Hitchcock’s motorcycles. The high-lift cams allow the engine to rev a lot higher (6500rpm vs 5100rpm stock). The competition valve train with its double sprung, bigger nitride treated valves handle the increased compression of the forged Wossner piston and Hitchcock’s 612 stroker crank.
Clutch plates from EBC brakes make sure there is no clutch slippage, even at high rpm/high speed shifts, despite synthetic oil. A quickshifter allows for clutchless up shifts smoothing the power delivery, thereby increasing the rate of acceleration. NGK iridium plugs and racing cables provide strong and consistent sparks each time the engine fires. The intake is through a K&N cone filter and the exhaust is through a stainless steel free flow header and muffler, held in place by a light weight aluminium flage and a milled aluminium bracket.
The fuelling is managed by Dynojet’s Power Commander 5, which also runs the Quickshifter and Autotune unit, which refines the Hitchcock’s 612 map each time the bike is ridden.
Electrical needs of the bike are met by a short case lithium ion battery from Antigravity batteries which is light and compact enough to fit inside the rear cowl. Because of its lower running amps we had to keep the load on the battery low, electrical accessories have been kept to a minimum with the stock, old school headlight and sleek almost invisible yet extremely bright LED indicators with integrated brake lights from Rizoma.
The wheel setup is from the GT535 with its Excel aluminium rims and Pirelli Sport Demon tyres. The ergonomics are nearly as crucial to a performance build as the engine. Here we modified the top triple T with integrated clip ons from the KTM RC390 to hold the single meter and give the bike a more aggressive stance, along with adjustable levers. The foot pegs and controls were shifted back to achieve the racer stance. And the heavy side stand has been replaced by one made from aluminium.
Performance wise, this 154-kg (197 kgs stock) motorcycle generates 40 hp (19 hp stock) at the wheel — it’s planted, flickable and fast.
About the Builders
There are two people involved in this build: Baljit Singh, who is a second generation motorcycle mechanic. He has been working on bikes since he was 14. He has a very sound understanding of things mechanical and is responsible for all the work done on the bike. He is probably the best-known mechanic in Ludhiana for old school and vintage motorcycles, but his expertise go beyond working on Singles and Twins, and has worked his magic on some Italian and Japanese inline engines as well.
The second person is myself, Sukhkaran Singh and I run a restaurant as my day time job. During my time off work I am mostly riding or working on design and performance aspects of motorcycles. We are both passionate riders, working constantly on how to improve the performance of the motorcycle. Having finished Vajra, we are onto our next project which is a Scrambler, again based on a Royal Enfield 500, and have another three bikes in the pipeline after that.