Friday, August 17, 2018

Royal Enfield road bicycle of the '80s is a rare sight

1980s Royal Enfield bicycle for saile in Lawrenceburg, Ind. still looks fresh.
It's a cool looking "Royal Enfield" bicycle, but it's no product of the old Royal Enfield of Redditch, England, or the modern Royal Enfield of Chennai, India.

No, the Royal Enfield AERO Grand Prix 12-speed, for sale on CraigsList in Lawrenceburg, Ind, is a Japanese bicycle. It is one of a wide variety of bikes sold under the Royal Enfield name in the 1980s by an American company.

Rights to the Royal Enfield name briefly belonged to George Joannou's company. Joannou's biography credits him as as the "original pioneer of lightweight English bicycles to the United States." He started in 1937!

By the 1980s, of course, his bicycles imported into the U.S. tended to come from Asia, not England.

Royal Enfield badge gives no hint where it's made.
These Royal Enfield bicycles were sold by the G. Joannou Cycle Co., Inc., of Northvale, N.J. There is a 1983 catalog of the company's offerings in the online files of the Yahoo Bicycle Restoration group.

Most of the bikes were recreational models, or for children, and were not terribly expensive although more than you would have paid for department store bicycles at the time.

The AERO Grand Prix road bike was an exception.

At first, the asking price on CraigsList sruck me as high: $349.

Here's the Royal Enfield AERO Grand Prix bicycle in the 1983 catalog.
But then I took a look at the price list in the 1983 brochure. Dealer cost for the AERO Grand Prix was $335. With inflation, that would be $850 today! You'd have paid more at the retail store, of course.

At that price, not many could have been sold. Which makes the CraigsList bike possibly a good deal for a collector of road bike rarities.

This could be a catalog photo but it's the actual bicycle for sale in Ohio.
It appears to be in very good shape. It even appears to have the original "KASHIMAX Aero Super Pro Silver" saddle visible in the 1983 catalog photo.

If I lived close by — and didn't already have five bicycles in the garage — I'd take a look at it.


"Made In Japan" sticker leaves no doubt where it's from.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Can a charging Bullet meet an epic challenge?

The Charging Bullet being prepared to run from Land's End to John O'Groats.
The notion of charging from one end of Britain to the other is probably as old as the notion of riding motorcycles in Britain. The ride from Land's End to John O'Groats became "a thing" in the early years of the 20th Century.

Royal Enfield accepted the challenge in 1964 when it introduced the original Continental GT cafe racer. Royal Enfield of India repeated the feat in 2014 when it introduced the then new Continental GT 535.

Now comes a fellow who wants to do it on an old Royal Enfield Bullet, powered by batteries.

Fred Spaven is a mechanical engineer who restores and modifies classic cars and motorcycles at Spaven Engineering in Hereford, UK.

After a test ride on a Zero electric motorcycle he decided to create his own. He already owned a battered 1961 Indian-made Royal Enfield Bullet. In an article he wrote in Vintage & Classic Motorcycle magazine, he explained why this made sense to him:

Battered and rusty, this original 350cc Bullet has been resurrected as an electric.
"So I thought about my commuting problem, my love of classic bikes and my half-restored Enfield, and I decided that the only solution is to build an electric motorcycle myself. Modern efficiency in a vintage frame..."

Friend and film maker Fin Varney offered to document the process, but only if some "challenge" was introduced. A Google search showed there are enough public charging points to ride all the way from Land's End to John O'Groats.

So, that's settled. They plan to depart from Land's End around Oct. 8.

Fred and Fin call their project the "Charging Bullet."

There's a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to pay for the project. Its FAQ section answers the question "Did you notice you are using KICKSTARTER to start an electric bike project?" These boys are not approaching the challenge without a sense of humor.

Fred Spaven test rides the Charging Bullet.
Their off-the-beaten-path route is a journey of 1,200 miles. To do it the electric Bullet will need more than the originally planned 12 Nissan Leaf batteries. Panniers will be added to carry an extra six.

A Lynch electric motor will produce 21 bhp, more than the (supposedly) 18 bhp offered by the Royal Enfield's original 350cc gasoline engine. The Charging Bullet will be geared for 55-60 mph (direct drive = no gearbox).

Even so, with stops for charging and filming, and speed limited to extend the range (maybe 75 miles with all 18 batteries), they expect to be traveling for three weeks!

Fred answered some of my questions in an email. For instance, why the Royal Enfield Bullet?

"The bike was chosen as it's a simple, open frame with plenty of uncluttered space for battery boxes, and cycle parts are readily available from India. Plus, the faster you ride, the shorter the range so it made sense to go for a 'B-road' machine, rather than something you'd want to do 100 mph on!

"The bike will have regenerative braking; as you roll off the throttle it will simulate engine braking and recharge the batteries. That said, regen doesn't improve range much on a naked bike due to the high drag-to-weight ratio; it makes a much bigger difference on something heavy and slippery like a car."

If you'd like to support the notion of an electric Bullet don't delay — go to the Charging Bullet's Kickstarter page. The goal is high and unless it's reached by Sept. 21 it will not be funded and your money is returned.

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