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Royal Enfield Motorcycle History

Royal Enfield motorcycles

Royal Enfield was the brand of the Enfield Cycle Company, an English engineering company. Most famous for producing motorcycles, they also produced bicycles, lawnmowers, stationary engines, and even rifle parts for the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield. This legacy of weapons manufacture is reflected in the logo, a cannon, and their motto "Made like a gun, goes like a bullet". It also enabled the use of the brand name Royal Enfield from 1890.
In 1955 Enfield of India started assembling Bullet motorcycles under licence from UK components, and by 1962 were manufacturing complete bikes. The original Redditch, Worcestershire-based company dissolved in 1970, but Enfield of India, based in Chennai, continued, and bought the rights to the Royal Enfield name in 1995. Royal Enfield production continues, and now Royal Enfield is considered as the oldest motorcycle company in the world still in production.

History of Royal Enfield - Evolution of Royal Enfield (1851-1890)

Hunt End, England was a village of several small mills manufacturing needles and fish hooks. In 1851,a businessman named George Townsend put up a needle making mill here. His firm was named "Givry Works". After George Townsend died, his son George Jr. and his half brother brought into Givry Works and made a crude bicycle. It had an iron backbone, wooden wheels, iron tyres and pedals of triangular pieces of wood. The bike was a source of some amusement. But George Jr. and his team felt that they could easily improve on it. By 1880, the earliest modern safety bicycle with two wheels of equal size had appeared. All manufacturers including George Jr. were trying their hand at this new venture. By luck, George Jr. invented a saddle that used only one length of wire in the two springs and in the frame work. This was adopted, patented and marketed as the "Townsend Cyclists Saddle And Springs". He had entered the bicycle parts trade. From bicycle parts, Townsend slowly moved on producing bicycles himself. The Townsend cycles were reputed for their sturdy frame, a character that all Enfield bikes followed. Givry Works was growing rapidlly.

The Coming Into Being (1891-1900)

About 1890, Townsend got himself into a bit of financial trouble. He called in some financiers from Birmingham, but they didn't quite see eye to eye so Townsend parted ways with the financiers leaving the company to them. The financiers then appointed R.W. Smith & Albert Eadie to take control of Townsend's in November 1891. The following year the company was rechristened as "The Eadie Manufacturing Company Ltd". Soon, Albert Eadie got a profitable contract to supply precision rifle parts to the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, Middlesex. To celebrate the contract, Eadie and Smith decided to call their new design of bicycle the "Enfield". A new company was created to market these new design bicycles called "The Enfield Manufacturing Co. Ltd", in October 1892. The next year, the word "Royal" (after the Royal Small Arms Factory) was added to the company name and thus the Royal Enfield began. Their trademark, "Made Like A Gun" appeared in 1893.

The first automotive vehicles with the Royal Enfield name were produced in 1898 - a quadricycle with a De Dion-Bouton 2.75 hp engine. In 1901 came the Motor Bicycle with a 150 cc 1.5 hp (1 kW) engine above the front wheel. In 1902 a similar contraption appeared with an Enfield engine of 239 cc 2.75 hp (2 kW).

In 1910 came the first of the famous Enfield V-twins, first with Motosacoche 344 cc 2.75 hp (2 kW) engines, later with Enfields own engine. Until World War I the big twins with 770 cc six hp J.A.P. engines and after WWI 976 cc eight hp Vickers-Wolseley engines. In 1915 came the first of the small two stroke 225 cc engines, starting with model 200.[2] The company merged with Alldays & Onions in 1907 and produced cars called Enfield-Allday until 1925.

The First World War (1911-1920)

The First World War began in 1914. Royal Enfield was called on to supply motorcycles to the British war department and even awarded a contract to build bikes for the Imperial Russian Government during the same period. The machine gun combination and the 6hp stretcher-carrying outfit were some of the models produced for the war purpose. Enfield started using its own engines, a 225cc two-stroke single and a 425cc V-twin about this time. In 1917, the officers of the woman's police force were issued with a 2.1\4 RE 2 stroke. The models of this period featured 600cc, inlet-over-exhaust closed valve gear, hand operated oil pump, two speed countershaft gearbox and chain final drive. The 1915 make in-line 3 cylinder 2 stroke prototype was the world's first with this configuration and engine type.

They also made the only known two seater car, the Enfield "Autolette" made in 1914, complete with four cylinder engine with a bore and stroke 59x100mm with a cubic capacity of 1,093 cc. and delivers 9 horse power. Other rare examples include the four seater four stroke and a two seater two stroke. The Enfield Autocar Company Ltd. of Hunt End Works in Redditch was formed in 1906 to handle the car making activities of the Enfield Cycle Company. In the early 20th century they moved to Sparbrook after being taken over by Alldays and Onions Ltd.

Inter-war-years (1921-1930)

The interwar year was a period when the sidecar reached its zenith. The year 1924 saw the launch of the first Enfield four-stroke 350cc single using a JAP engine. In 1928, Royal Enfield adopted saddle tanks and centre-spring girder front forks, one of the first companies to do so. The bikes now with a modern appearance and comprehensive range, meant continuous sales even during the dark days of depression in Great Britain towards the end of 1930. In 1927 Royal Enfield produced a 488cc with a four speed gear box, a new 225cc side valve bike in 1928, and a four-stroke single in 1931. Several machines were produced in the next decade, from a tiny two stroke 146cc Cycar to an 1140cc V-twin in 1937. Royal Enfield's range of bikes for 1930 consisted of 13 models.

The Second World War & Establishing The Renowned Bullet (1931-1940)

During World War II, production changed to motorcycles for the war machine. 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, WD/L 570 cc SV. The most well known offering for the Second World War was no doubt the 'Flying Flea'. Also known as the 'Airborne', this light weight 125cc bike was capable of being dropped by parachute with airborne troops. The Enfield Cycle Company was called upon by the British authorities to also manufacture a variety of special instruments and apparatus to use against enemy forces, so it was not bikes alone during the war years. In 1931, a four-valve, single-cylinder was introduced and christened "Bullet" in 1932. It had an inclined engine and an exposed valve gear. It was then that the first use was made of the now famous Bullet name.

Post-war (1941-1950)

After the war the Enfield Cycle Company came back with the last G and J pre-war models, and the "Flea". In 1947 the Royal Enfield 500 cc Model J was back in production, but was now fitted with telescopic forks with two-way hydraulic damping instead of the old pre-war girder forks. The front axle mountings were offset forward of the fork legs. The 1939 Bullet 350 kick started the post-war models. They used two rocker boxes for the first time. This enabled better gas flow and consequently higher volumetric efficiency. Royal Enfield's own designed and manufacture telescopic front fork placed the Redditch marque at the very forefront of motorcycle design. The biggest advancement introduced by the new Bullet was its swinging arm rear suspension system and hydraulic damper units themselves. In 1949 Enfield made a J2-the first model with a telescopic front end followed in 1948 by a 500 cc twin (Enfield's 25bhp answer to the Triumph Speed Twin, which stayed in production until 1958.

In 1948 the J2 model, with 'twin exhaust ports' and pipes, was released initially for export only. The J2 exhaust port split into two after the exhaust valve, so the difference was more for appearance.

The post-war J models had a rigid rear frame, and a four-speed Albion gearbox with an extra lever that the rider could press to find neutral. This was a simple, solid 499 cc push-rod single with 84 mm bore x 90 mm stroke and a compression ratio of 5.5 to 1. It also used a fully floating white metal big end, similar to those found in radial aircraft engines, with the usual felt oil seals, Amal carb, and Lucas magneto ignition. The fully floating white metal big end could be replaced with an aftermarket caged roller bearing conversion. By 1950 the compression had been raised to 5.75 to 1, with a claimed power output of 21 bhp (16 kW) at 4,750 rpm. These were essentially torquey sidecar machines. In 1949 the first new models were introduced: the 350 cc full sprung Bullet, and a 500 cc twin. The sportier alloy head, swing arm frame 350 cc Bullet was a sensation. It was the 1954 350 cc Bullet model which was to be made in India until the present (read further down). In 1953 the 500 cc model appeared, using the same bottom end. After 1956 a new frame was introduced in the British-made version of the Bullet, making it different from the 1954 model still being produced in India. The British made version was manufactured until 1964. The Bullet 350 and 500 also used the fully floating big end design.

The new swingarm frame 500 cc twin of 1949 would eventually evolve into the Interceptor. The 500's big end had no bearing inserts, the machined con-rod running directly on the crank pin. In the 1956 700 cc Super Meteor, a development of the 500, conventional babbit bearings were fitted, and were used on all subsequent vertical twins.

The 500 cc Bullet engine produced 25 bhp (19 kW) at 5,250 rpm while torque peaked at 29 lb·ft (39 N·m) @ 3,600 rpm, From 2,000 rpm onwards torque did not fall below 25 lb·ft (34 N·m) till beyond 5,300 rpm. Later models like the 250 cc Crusader (1957) and 700 cc Meteor (1955), were followed by the 250 cc Continental GT (1965), the 700 Constellation (1959), available with Royal Enfield's "Airflow" full fairing, and the 736 cc Interceptor (1963).

Royal Enfield Chronology

  • 1851 - George Townsend sets up a mill called Givry Works in Hunt End, England. 20 years later, Foster, George’s stepson brings into the factory one of the first " boneshakers", a quasi-cycle with an iron backbone, wooden wheels, iron tyres and pedals of wood. Amused by this contraption, George Jnr. and his team felt they could do a slightly better job and entered the booming bicycle market with a patented spring-saddle, and then goes on to make bicycles and their parts. All on his own premises
  • 1880’s - the birth; the story begins with the Townsend cycle company in Redditch UK
  • 1892 - The Royal Enfield Brand coined. RW Smith and Albert Eadie take control of Townsend’s, rechristening it "The Eadie Manufacturing Company". Soon, they stumble upon a contract with Royal Small Arms factory in Enfield, Middlesex to supply precision rifle parts for the making of Enfield rifles. Meanwhile, they make their first new bicycle - called the "Enfield". The Enfield is marketed through a new company - The Enfield Manufacturing Company Ltd. A year later, the cycles were launched publicly and the company added the word "Royal" to the name. With that, the legendary trademark - "Built Like A Gun" appeared for the first time.
  • 1901 - The first Enfield motor bicycle manufactured
  • 1939 - The JS Model, the forerunner of the popular Bullet range of motorcycles
  • 1949 - Bullet Comes to India. Two young businessmen, Mr. Sundaram and Shankar, of the Madras Motor Company started importing the Bullet motorcycles into the southern port city Madras, India.
  • 1955 - Enfield India Limited Incorporated. The first plant was set up at Madras, marking the beginning of the era of motorcycling in India. At first, kits were sent to India for assembly, but soon full production of complete motorcycles started.
  • 1970 - Royal Enfield, UK closes operation putting an end to the British version of a glorious motorcycling legend.

Royal Enfield Interceptor

During the onslaught of the 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 an engine performance with less than 14 seconds to the quarter mile 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 200 Series II Interceptor engines were stranded at the dock in 1970. These engines had been on their way to Floyd Clymer in the US, who unfortunately had just died. His export agents, Mitchell's of Birmingham, were left to dispose of them. 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 (2006) and are part of the Enfield Industrial Estate.

Enfield Indians

From 1955 to 1960 Royal Enfields were painted red, and marketed in the USA as Indian Motorcycles by the Brockhouse Corporation, who had acquired the rights to the Indian name after it went under in 1953. Floyd Clymer, of manual fame, was involved, but Americans were not impressed by the badge engineering, and the venture was unsuccessful. It was rather ironic that Enfields went 'Indian' in two different ways. The largest Enfield "Indian" was a 700 cc. The marketing agreement expired in 1960 and from 1961 Royal Enfields were available in the US, still through Clymer, but under their own name, up until Clymer's death in 1970.

Enfield India (1949-present)

Royal Enfields had been sold in India from 1949. In 1955, the Indian government looked for a suitable motorcycle for its police and army, for use patrolling the country's border. The Bullet was chosen as the most suitable bike for the job. The Indian government ordered 800 350 cc model Bullets, an enormous order for the time.

In 1955 the Redditch company partnered Madras Motors in India in forming 'Enfield India' to assemble, under licence, the 350 cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle in Madras (now called Chennai). In 1957 tooling equipment was sold to Enfield India so that they could manufacture components. The first machines were assembled entirely from components shipped from England, but by 1962 all components were made in India. The Indian Enfield uses the 1960 engine (with metric bearing sizes), in the pre-56 design frame.
An independent manufacturer since the demise of Royal Enfield in England, Enfield India still makes an essentially similar bike in 350 cc and 500 cc forms today, along with several different models for different market segments.[8] In 1986 UK civil servant Raja Narayan, returned to India and organised an export arm for the company to market the Bullet in England. Starting with a 350 in 1986, he was soon giving feedback that led to improvements. By 1989 the Enfield Bullet appeared in UK motorcycle shows.

In 1994 Eicher Group bought into Enfield India. In late 1995, the Enfield India firm acquired the rights to the name Royal Enfield. Royal Enfield of India now sells motorcycles in over twenty countries.

They are being imported into the United States, United Kingdom, and other western countries in increasing numbers, though the newer versions (2001) with electric start are becoming more popular than the 'classic' version which is little changed from 1955. There are a few changes: indicators, a 28 mm Mikuni carb, 12 volt electrics, an improved seat and, since 1990, twin leading-shoe brakes.