Enfield Motorcycle History
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
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
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.
The company merged with Alldays & Onions
in 1907 and produced cars called Enfield-Allday
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
- 1880’s - the birth; the story begins
with the Townsend cycle company in Redditch
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
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. 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
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