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Royal Enfield Reliability

Royal Enfield Reliability, Or Lack Of

Every time Royal Enfield launches a new line up of motorcycles, they call them so much better than previous ones. And every time motorcyclists find many faults and short comings. So how good is Royal Enfield reliability, really?

Here’s why, after fifteen years riding motorcycles, I don’t recommend Royal-Enfield motorcycles to my friends.

watch this video

Watch this video!

Some people on YouTube have suggested that this is an aftermarket gas tank. That is incorrect. These are in fact the genuine original gas tanks that came with the Royal Enfield Chrome Cafe Racer model that was sold for several years.

More importantly though, the gas tank was only one of many issues the motorcycle has faced in the last 11 months alone, along many others over the years prior to that.

Are Royal Enfield bikes reliable?

Should we hold manufacturers accountable to a high set of standards? Maybe. But we can probably all agree that we should at least hold manufacturers accountable to a fair set of standards. Fair standards should include things like your motorcycle not leaking gas and oil in the first 10,000 miles of it’s life, right? If you think that doesn’t sound like too much to ask for, Royal Enfield reliability may not be for you.

I’ve been working in the motorcycle industry for over a decade. I’ve seen a couple new generations of Royal Enfield motorcycles come and go. Each one claims to be better than the previous one, and each one continues to not stand up well to the test of time… While Japanese motorcycles can go tens of thousands of miles problem free, many Royal Enfields seem to suffer failures within the first 10,000 miles.

The Royal Enfield in this video is a Chrome Cafe Racer model, and it’s a bike I see all too often. This will be the third time it’s needing service in less than a year. The owner agrees it’s a high maintenance diva of a motorcycle, despite having very little mileage on it.

This Royal Enfield Chrome Cafe Racer needs the entire gas tank replaced. It won’t be cheap, but gas constantly spills out from the top of the tank which can be dangerous. They tried replacing the gas cap in the past, hoping that would be an easy and relatively cheap fix. Unfortunately the manufacturing of the gas tank itself was the problem. Given that the original owner never had this dealt with under warranty, the current owner is now stuck paying for a new tank.

When looking up close at the Royal Enfield, you can tell the fit and finish isn’t on par with other retro motorcycles. The seams are much less nice and polished than you would find on a Triumph. Given the difference in prices between the two motorcycles, that’s acceptable.

However, while we can’t expect Triumph or Moto Guzzi quality finish, we should still expect the Royal Enfield to be reliable, right? Unfortunately the Royal Enfield keeps going back to the shop over and over, as more things continue to fail on it.

Reliability standards

Have a look at the video and you’ll see how much oil the Royal Enfield leaked in just a 10 to 15 minute ride. That’s from a Royal Enfield with less than 5,000 miles on it.

Don’t mistake me from saying other brands of motorcycles don’t fail. I have a lot of customers, with failed motorcycles from all parts of the world. Typically its the rider that has failed the motorcycle, most often because of neglect. Unfortunately, things are different with my Royal Enfield customers. The motorcycles tend to fail their owners more than the other way around.

You should know that the owners of this Royal Enfield also own a handful of other motorcycles. They know how to take care of their motorcycles and motorcycles are a big part of their lives. This is the only bike in their fleet with reliability issues.

Some people will certainly think this particular Royal Enfield deserves some leniency. Granted, it’s a ten year old motorcycle, but it only has 8,000 km, or about 5,000 miles. My forty year old 1979 Vespa didn’t have any gas leaks or oil leaks, and many time more miles. The Enfield just isn’t built to the same reliability standards.

On the topic of standards, a new motorcycle being reliable for just the first few years of its life isn’t novel, it’s to be expected. The real standard for any vehicle’s reliability isn’t what happens in the first five years. Recalls aside, those should always be trouble-free. Its what happens in the five and ten years after that determines true reliability.

With that in mind it might be too soon to judge if Royal Enfield’s reliability on newer motorcycles like the Himalayan, the Interceptor 650, or the Meteor are reliable yet.

Royal Enfield’s track record

I have no doubts that one day Royal Enfield will make a motorcycle of quality that will last a trouble-free decade like the Japanese can. I just haven’t seen anything to indicate that yet. But I’ve seen plenty to show me just the opposite.

History is the only thing we know for certain. History tells us that with every decade Royal Enfield launches a new generation of models. Every decade they tell us their new bikes are better than anything they’ve ever made in the past. And every decade their latest generation of motorcycles fail to age well and a new generation of riders learns the same old lesson. When will we learn?

What do you think of Royal Enfield reliability? Please leave me a comment and let me know.

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  1. Jim Zeiser-you know, kz1000st

    I would have to see it myself. Simply saying that the gas tank leaks doesn’t cut it for me. Is it leaking at the cap? In the metal area around the cap? Everything has a solution once you find the real fault. Where is it leaking oil. At the crankcase joint? A seal? The base gasket?

    Let me tell you something. I have been around motorcycles since my Dad started his TWN dealership in the 1950s (look it up) and back then all bikes leaked everything. Electronics failed every afternoon. Brakes didn’t stop well (check out those Vincent brakes) but somehow owners managed to ride.

    As you know Adrian I own Chinese scooters and by golly they don’t fall apart on me. Why? Because I grew up in a time of pot metal Japanese bikes and British Twins. Today’s riders make me laugh. I’ve thought about a Royal Enfield. The Int 650 is faster than a flying W800 at thousands less and somehow the Himalayan has acquired a reputation for longevity her in the States.

    • Should be able to see where the gas tank leaks from in the video, but I don’t think I captured the engine leak. If you judge things by 1950s standards, anything on the road today will be wonderful, and there will be no progress, and I will feel bad for you, because progress is good.
      In the 1980s, cars still weren’t reliable methods of transportation in Canada. Why? Carbs would freeze up. Fuel injection changed that. Don’t become stuck in an era gone by, or you’ll become a miserable old man too stuck up in his own head to smell all the flowers that the future brings.
      I enjoy simple motorcycles, the less tech the better, but I’m not blind to the fact that the good ones don’t need my interference to stay good. A good motorcycle’s natural state is to stay good. A shit motorcycle will need someone who grew up in a time of pot metal Japanese bikes and british twins to make it not terrible. Nature of the beast.

  2. I don’t know how things are in Canada but the 500 single isn’t sold here anymore. From what I’ve seen the Himalayan and 650 models are doing quite well. One Modern Vespa member, who isn’t always an Erv Kanemoto with tools, did a full service without anything failing afterwards. I think it’s a little extreme to write an article about “Should You Buy A Royal Enfield” based on one person’s experience. With that thinking “Should You Buy A Harley Davidson”? Think of all the people stuck with Bastard Motorcycles like the V-Rod and Street Models. Not to mention ALL the Beta Twin Cam timing chain failures.

    • Except, it wasn’t just one example. Working in the motorcycle industry for over a decade, I’ve seen a ton of examples. This was just the one that broke the camel’s back and inspired me to get off my butt and make a video to warn would-be buyers.

      Also, I think the benchmark should be A LOT higher than just someone “did a full service without anything failing afterwards”. The same can be said of MOST low to mid tier motorcycles.

  3. Jim Zeiser-you know, kz1000st

    If you worked in the motorcycle industry for over ten years then you should be able to do an article next on why not to buy a Harley. So I’m guessing that your observations are based on all Royal Enfield models and not just the 500 Single. Funny, none of the major magazines share your viewpoint. They are all impressed with the Himalayan, Meteor and 650 twins getting through all their road Tess without a failure.

    • This is the second time you’ve made incorrect assumptions about me. Why do you keep doing that? I haven’t just made one post and video about avoiding buying a Harley-Davidson, I’ve made two posts and two videos on the subject over the years. I don’t know why you have this weird obsession but please stop wasting your time and mine.

      • Jim Zeiser-you know, kz1000st

        And what assumption is that? Every time I try to pin you down on a point you play the pained, misunderstood card. Here’s how it goes. Here I’m experienced one. My Dad started out selling TWN’s and I helped him fix Brit bikes in his shop. Older than Jesus? He died at 32. I’ve made it 70.
        Want to know what I know? It’s the owners. A good owner knows his bike and fixes it. A bad owner makes YouTube videos whining about how bad it is.

        We old timers know our bikes.

        • Last we spoke you literally assumed my ethnicity and didn’t even get the continent right. It’s to the point where I don’t know if you just enjoy trolling me, or if you actually mean the things you say because your head is painting it’s own reality. Based on the posts I see you making on the MV forum, I’m guessing it’s the latter. Either way please stop coming to my site.

          • Jim Zeiser-you know, kz1000st

            Ohhh. Psychobabble. I love it. Subterfuge. Answer the question. Are all Royal Enfield’s crap or just your friends.
            Your smug superiority complex is getting in the way of your journalistic integrity.

          • The entire premise of the article went totally over your head. The concept is that it is too soon to know the answer, however, in my experience as a present day motorcycle industry worker, and not someone who worked in the industry 50 years ago, is that I see by far, on a proportionate basis, a concerning number of failed Royal Enfield’s. Again, please stop harassing me.

  4. An article comprised of utter nonsense. You’ve condemned a brand based upon some involvement with a few bikes. Maybe you should get out from under that rock and speak to some of the many very happy owners whom have come from more expensive models and marques.

    • I speak to many Royal Enfield owners. They call me when their motorcycles have failed them and they need help. The number of calls I get from Royal Enfield owners relative to the number of Royal Enfields on the road is alarming.

  5. I ride motorcycles for a living. I do 1-2000 kms a week as a courier. I bought a Honda and a friend, also a courier, bought a Himalayan in 2019 because he wanted to do adventure touring on weekends.
    My little CB125E has now done 80,000km entirely trouble free. Its as fast as the Himalayan. I change the oil every 5,000km and its never been in the shop for repairs. It’s designed to be abused and thrashed in 3rd world countries and it shows.
    My friend’s Himalayan has been in the shop more than he has had it on the road. He has struggled to get his bike to 40,000km in the same time, so its cost him real money. The problems so far are:
    Leaking tank (incomplete welds and internal rust).
    Blown fork seals.
    leaking engine cases.
    Two clutches.
    Just about every cable.
    Frame welds (Steering head twice)
    Constant electrical gremlins.
    Warped brake discs.
    Now it’s got a big end knock.
    He has invoked his rights under Australian Consumer Law, for a full refund. They fought it but lost. He is going to buy a Honda.
    BTW the Honda cost A$3000 new. The Himalayan was A$8000.

  6. Has anything changed up to now? Should I avoid RE?

    • Personally, I’d wait two more years, and see how the first of those 650cc Royal Enfields are holding up after half a decade. Remember: A good motorcycle isn’t a motorcycle that’s good when it’s new, they all are. A good motorcycle is a motorcycle that five years down the road, is still as good as new. And a great motorcycle, is one that’s still great, well over a decade later. Food for thought, best of luck with your search :)

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