Royal Enfield Electra-X: Enfield’s underdog

The Bullet buying guides in RC198 and 199 prompted Keith McKechnie to put electronic pen to paper about his experience with a 2006 Royal Enfield Electra-X. It’s a machine which has become something of an orphan among Royal Enfield enthusiasts, he says: ‘but I’ve grown to like it over the years while sorting out a few problems on the way…’

The dream of Enfield ownership, with a Clubman Electra-X (obviously, this person is not Keith…)

The original owner was an older man who seemed very anxious to sell the bike which appeared to be in almost new condition with only moderate mileage. I soon discovered why: after a longish run there seemed to be a major oil leak issue mostly involved with the crankcase breather system. The primary chaincase was about half-full of engine oil as increased crankcase pressure had resulted in a dislodged crankshaft seal.

I discovered that an aftermarket crankcase breather kit had been fitted which was now obviously not functioning properly (if at all.) After some head scratching, a friend with lots of old British single experience suggested that I put the breather back to where Royal Enfield had positioned it in the first place, on the crankcase left-side, just below the cylinder base.

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On my Electra-X there is a vestigial casting at this spot which had to be carefully drilled with two holes at right angles, one partially backfilled. I employed a very skilled metal worker do this for me who assured me that no metal waste had entered the crankcase. I then ran a reinforced plastic breather tube all the way to the rear of the bike, ending under the back of the rear mudguard.

The slightly soggy reality: Rowena and Emm on their Royal Enfield Round Britain Ride…

After replacing the crankshaft seal, the problem was solved. The new breather tube gives unfettered escape for crankcase gases with only negligible engine oil consumption. However, there is a slight escape of oil on initial starts so I might try the modification mentioned in the magazine, of a one-way valve fitted in the breather tube close to the engine to prevent oil pooling.

The original owner of my bike had decided to join a ride from Bendigo to Sydney, a considerable distance even by Australian standards. All his mates were riding faster bikes and, riding flat-out in an effort to keep up, most of the engine oil was lost probably through the malfunctioning crankcase breather system. This resulted in the engine nearly locking up and only rapid deployment of the clutch saved his bacon.

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Years later, the RC Electra-X was still going strong…

A new barrel, piston and rings were required for the fix and fortunately the bottom end was unaffected. The things you find out about your bike after you’ve bought it! I’ve now done over 20,000 km on the X, mostly bopping along at 90-95kph on quiet, rural roads, enjoying the exhaust note. At these speeds the engine runs as smoothly as my other bike, a Kawasaki W800. Go much faster than that on the Electra (I fitted a 19-tooth gearbox sprocket when replacing the crankcase seal), and vibration starts to set in. It will cruise reasonably comfortably at 100kph which is the speed limit on most country roads in Oz.

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Want to know more about Royal Enfield singles? There’s a two-part buying guide which covers the original Redditch-built Bullets and the later generations of 350s and 500s made in India. Find it in RC198 and RC199 – available mail-order or as digital issues…

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