The story of Royal Enfield

Posted on 01 Sep. 2019


Royal Enfield is a brand that needs no introduction. Whether you are a bike lover or not, you must have heard and fanaticised about riding it. Among the oldest bikes of the world, Royal Enfield bikes hold a legacy of its own. The people who own it call it their lover. The thundering start of the bike has been flaunted in many movies and music videos. But like every other successful brand, Royal Enfield had a humble beginning. Read on to find its story and where it all began before the madness took over.

Royal Enfield started in Redditch, Worcestershire as The Enfield Cycle Company Limited. At that time, they were known for selling various motorcycles, certain parts of it and bicycles. These were manufactured under their company name. At that time, the title Royal was added to their brand.

How did it begin?

In the year 1851, George Townsend, a resident of Redditch, was running a business of making sewing needles. Soon enough, they started making and manufacturing motor parts. Over the years, they evolved and began on building bicycles and motorcycles. Their bikes had an edgy and unique look of its own. By the year 1886, fully-functional motorcycle started to be sold under their name. 

Like every other business, they suffered significant financial trouble during that time. Two people, namely- Albert Edie, a sales manager and R.W Smith, an engineer were then chosen to run the company. But the ups and downs don’t end here.

In 1891, the firm now run by Eddie and Smith was renamed to ‘The Edie manufacturing company limited’. They started with designing bicycle models and named it the ‘Enfield’. That’s when the company got its new name. Because of the popularity of their Enfield bicycles, they started to be known as ‘The Enfield Manufacturing Company’. By the year 1899, the company started at the forefront of advertising with their new mechanical bike.

The company had to again face severe losses in 1907 and the Edie Manufacturing Company was absorbed by Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA).

So when was the first Royal Enfield made?

It was the year 1901. The company owned the design of the motorcycle. This is one of the oldest existing motorcycle designs. Bob Walker-Smith and Jules Gotiet designed it. This bike had an 11/2 hp Minerva engine. 

The company soon began developing a range of motorcycles. They even extended their range to tricycles and quadricycles. By the year 1909, they introduced the world with a small V twin engine built on the swiss tradition at a motorbike show. Soon the company developed a larger 2-speed gear model.

What is a Quadricycle?

Royal Enfield had produced the iconic quadricycle in the year 1899. This quadricycle was a wrap-around four-wheeled structure with a rear rider-saddle. It also had handlebars. The quadricycle had a front-mounted passenger seat and it had a De Dion engine.

How was the Royal Enfield used in World wars?

By 1914, the company started to supply to the British War Department. Their robust designs won them a contract with the governments of several countries for their usage in the military. At that time, Enfield produced 225 cc two-stroke single-engine and 425 cc V-twin engines. 

During both World War I and II, the Royal Enfield was used for carrying machine guns. By 1924, the company had developed a 4 stroke 350cc engine. In the next few years, the company launched various modifications of its bikes. They soon developed an 1140 cc twin engine ad also became the first company to use saddle tanks and centre spring girder front forks. The company, however, had to face financial losses still. 

During the Second World War, the company was expected to manufacture military motorcycles. It was during this time that they developed the iconic Royal Enfield WD/RE. This was designed in such a way that it could be dropped with the airborne troops with a parachute. For the military, they designed many models like WD/C 350 cc side-valve, WD/CO 350 cc OHV, WD/D 250 cc SV, WD/G 350 cc OHV and WD/L 570 cc SV.

For a smooth manufacturing process during the war years, an underground manufacturing facility was set up for them. They produced motorcycles that were precise and useful for the military. 

In the year 1931, Albert Edie died followed by the demise of his partner R.W. Smith soon afterwards in 1933.

What are some of the iconic Royal Enfield models?

Some the all-time favourite models of this are-

Bullet 350 UCE - This model had a 346cc, 4 stroke engine. It could generate 19.8 bhp at 5250 rpm. The maximum torque was 28Nm at 400 rpm.

Royal Enfield Thunderbird - This model is undoubtedly the favourite of all. It is available in two engines- 350cc and 500cc. Equipped with telescopic, hydraulic damping suspension, this motorbike comes with a variety of safety features. It also has features like a digital 2 trip meter, analogue tachometer and a digital fuel gauge.

Royal Enfield Classic - This vintage look provides a classic riding experience. The saddle seat is perfect for the comfort of the rider. It comes with a 346cc and 499cc 4 stroke engines. It generates a 19.8 bhp at 5250 rpm and a maximum torque of 28 Nm at 4000 rpm.