Royal Enfield was the name under which the Enfield Cycle Company made motorcycles, bicycles, lawnmowers and stationary engines. The legacy of weapons manufacture is reflected in the logo, a cannon, and their motto "Made like a gun, goes like a bullet". Use of the brand name Royal Enfield was licensed by The Crown in 1890.
Royal Enfield produced bicycles at its Redditch factory until it closed in early 1967. The company's last new bicycle was the 'Revelation' small wheeler, which was released in 1965. Production of motorcycles ceased in 1970 and the company was dissolved in 1971.
In 1956 Enfield of India started assembling Bullet motorcycles under licence from UK components, and by 1962 were manufacturing complete bikes. Enfield of India bought the rights to use the Royal Enfield name in 1995. Royal Enfield production, based in Tiruvottiyur, Chennai, continues and Royal Enfield is now the oldest motorcycle brand in the world still in production with the Bullet model enjoying the longest motorcycle production run of all time.
In 1893, the Enfield Manufacturing Company Ltd was registered to manufacture bicycles. By 1899, Enfield were producing quadricycles with De Dion engines and experimenting with a heavy bicycle frame fitted with a Minerva engine clamped to the front downtube. In 1912, the Royal Enfield Model 180 sidecar combination was introduced with a 770 cc V-twin JAP engine which was raced successfully in the Isle of Man TT and at Brooklands.
In 1911, prior to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Enfield added the word "Royal" to its name. They supplied large numbers of motorcycles to the British War Department and also won a motorcycle contract for the Imperial Russian Government. Enfield used its own 225 cc two-stroke single and 425 cc V-twin engines. They also produced an 8 hp motorcycle sidecar model fitted with a Vickers machine gun.
In 1921, Enfield developed a new 976 cc twin, and in 1924 launched the first Enfield four-stroke 350 cc single using a JAP engine. In 1928, Royal Enfield began using the bulbous 'saddle' tanks and centre-spring girder front forks, one of the first companies to do so.
During World War II, The Enfield Cycle Company was called upon by the British authorities to develop and manufacture military motorcycles. The models produced for the military were the WD/C 350 cc sidevalve, WD/CO 350 cc OHV, WD/D 250 cc SV, WD/G 350 cc OHV and WD/L 570 cc SV. One of the most well-known Enfields was the Royal Enfield WD/RE, known as the Flying Flea, a lightweight 125 cc motorcycle designed to be dropped by parachute with airborne troops.
Postwar, Royal Enfield resumed production of the single cylinder ohv 350cc model G and 500cc Model J, with rigid rear frame and telescopic front forks.
In 1948, a groundbreaking development in the form of rear suspension springing was developed, initially for competition model "trials" models (modern enduro type machines), but this was soon offered on the roadgoing Model Bullet 350cc, a single cylinder OHV. This was a very popular seller, offering a comfortable ride. A 500cc version appeared shortly after. A later 1950s version of the Bullet manufacturing rights and jigs, dies and tools was sold to India for manufacture there, and where developed versions continue to this day.
In 1949, Royal Enfields version of the now popular selling parallel twins appeared. This 500cc version was the forerunner of a range of Royal Enfield Meteors, 700cc Super Meteors and 700cc Constellations. Offering good performance at modest cost, these sold widely, if somewhat quietly in reputation. The 700cc Royal Enfield Constellation Twin has been described as the first Superbike.
The 250cc class was important in the UK as it was the largest engine which a 'learner' could ride without passing a test. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Royal Enfield produced a number of 250 cc machines, including a racer, the 'GP' and a Scrambler, the 'Moto-X'. The Clipper was a base-model tourer with the biggest-seller being the Crusader, a 248 cc pushrod OHV single producing 18 bhp (13 kW).
In 1965, a 21 bhp (16 kW) variant called the Continental GT, with red GRP tank, five-speed gearbox (which was also an option on the Crusader), clip-on handlebars, rearset footrests, swept pipe and hump-backed seat was launched. It sold well with its race-styling including a fly-screen resembling a race number plate which doubled as a front number plate mount.
The Avon 'Speedflow' full sports fairing was available as an extra in complimentary factory colours of red and white.
Other variants were the Olympic and 250 Super 5, notable for use of leading-link front suspension (all the other 250 road models had conventional telescopic forks) and the 250 'Turbo Twin', fitted with the Villiers 247 cc twin cylinder two-stroke engine.
During the onslaught of the better engineered Japanese motorcycle manufacturers in the late sixties and early seventies, the English factories made a final attempt with the 1962–;1968 series I and Series II. Made largely for the US market, it sported lots of chrome and strong performance, completing the quarter mile in less than 13 seconds at speeds well above 175 km/h (105 mph). It became very popular in the US, but the classic mistake of not being able to supply this demand added to the demise of this last English-made Royal Enfield.
The Redditch factory ceased production in 1967 and the Bradford-on-Avon factory closed in 1970, which meant the end of the British Royal Enfield. After the factory closed a little over two hundred Series II Interceptor engines were stranded at the dock in 1970. These engines had been on their way to Floyd Clymer in the US; but Clymer had just died and his export agents, Mitchell's of Birmingham, were left to dispose of the engines. They approached the Rickman brothers for a frame. The main problem of the Rickman brothers had always been engine supplies, so a limited run of Rickman Interceptors were promptly built.
As far as the motorcycle brand goes, though, it would appear that Royal Enfield is the only motorcycle brand to span three centuries, and still going, with continuous production. A few of the original Redditch factory buildings remain (2009) and are part of the Enfield Industrial Estate.
Tue, 26 Aug 2014
More than 2,000 attendees visited America’s Car Museum for its 3rd annual Vintage Motorcycle Festival ‘The MEET’ last weekend in Tacoma, Washington, where over 300 motorcycles and scooters were showcased on the Haub Family Field at LeMay. The event drew pre-1981 motorcycles and scooters from the U.S. and Canada, including an antique motorcycle display, swap meet, cruise-in and a 78-mile roundtrip tour from ACM’s Anderson Plaza to Mt. Rainier.
Mon, 18 Aug 2014
The stage is set for ”The Meet at ACM” motorcycle show this weekend in Tacoma, WA. While festivities will begin on Friday evening, America’s Car Museum (ACM) will host the third annual Vintage Motorcycle Festival on Saturday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM. Organizers expect 450 vintage motorcycles and scooters from all over the nation to attend.
Wed, 06 Aug 2014
Royal Enfield, the world’s oldest motorcycle brand in continuous production, has named industry veteran Rod Copes as President, North America. Rod will be responsible for driving Royal Enfield’s businesses in the United States and Canada. By naming Copes to a top-level executive position, Royal Enfield has firmly stated its intentions to rapidly expand the brand in the U.S., its top export market.
Mon, 21 Apr 2014
Some may call filmmaker Andrew David Watson a crazy motorcycle adventurer. Personally, I applaud him. It’s a common phrase in motorcycling to say we’d rather take the long way home, but Watson took those words to heart.
Fri, 06 Dec 2013
Today the motorcycle press descended upon the Long Beach Convention Center to attend media day at the annual International Motorcycle Show. After feasting from a continental breakfast buffet the discerning journalists set to the task of reporting on the bounty of new model motorcycles – most of which has been previously showcased in our November EICMA reporting. If you missed anything from that show here’s a run down of what to look forward to:
Triumph Thunderbird LT Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Can-Am Spyder Royal Enfield Continental GT Zero KTM Super Duke R – KTM confirmed the retail price to be $16,999 BMW R NineT Ducati Monster S 1200 Honda Valkyrie Kawasaki Z1000 Husqvarna
A cool item of interest included a reproduction TZ750-powered flat tracker King Kenny Roberts made famous.
Fri, 11 Oct 2013
On October 20, Bonhams will be auctioning off a collection of original illustrations by Bruce Smith from the 1960s and 1970s. Each one will be signed by Smith on heavy cartridge paper. The collection is comprised of cutaway illustrations of a 1963 Royal Enfield Interceptor 750cc, Chris Vincent’s 1964 BSA 650cc A65 Race Outfit, and a 1966 Greeves Racer, the largest of this series being 45cm x 62cm.
Mon, 07 Oct 2013
Bonhams’ annual fall auction, the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show, at Stafford County Showground is scheduled for October 20, 2013. Included in the auction is the above pictured 1974 Kawasaki H1-RW 500cc triple. Expected to sell for approximately $96,000 to $112,000, the Japanese works Grand Prix racer is one of only two machines built by the factory for the French Kawasaki importer SIDEMM for use in the 500cc World Championship. The bikes were ridden during the 1974 season by the French endurance racing specialist Christian Léon and French-Canadian Formula 750 star Yvon Duhamel.
Wed, 11 Sep 2013
India’s Royal Enfield went back to the brand’s roots in England to unveil its lightest and most powerful model, the Continental GT. The location of the launch was important for a couple of reasons. For one, Royal Enfield drew inspiration from the British Rocker subculture of the ’50s and ’60s which spawn the café racer.
Mon, 22 Jul 2013
The 22nd edition of the annual LA Calendar Motorcycle Show marked its return to the Queen Mary Seawalk Village in Long Beach, California with hometown boy Sam Baldi taking the Bike Building Championship’s Best of Show trophy with a Jimmy Todorovith/Profile Cycles built Big Twin custom named “Lost Angel.”
This year’s Calendar Show showcased not only top builders but selected vendors and exhibitors, and of course the Calendar Girl Music live performances. And as always, this year’s show celebrated the world premiere of the 2014 FastDates.com Motorcycle PinUp Calendars, featuring the world’s top SBK World Superbikes, sport and cafe bikes, and custom motorcycles with the beautiful Calendar Kittens. On hand throughout the day to meet with fans and pose for pictures were Calendar Kittens Apple Price, together with official SBK World Superbike grid girls Jessica Harbour and singer/songwriter Sarah Horvath.
Wed, 26 Jun 2013
If you ever find yourself traveling through India, consider a detour through Pali, an industrial city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan. About 15 miles out of town along National Highway 65, you’ll come across a curious shrine built around a Royal Enfield Bullet 350. The shrine was erected at the site of an accident that took place on Dec.