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Friday, February 27, 2015

Royal Enfield parallel twin: An Interceptor or an Edsel?

Royal Enfield's incredible sales successes with its single-cylinder motorcycles only fuel enthusiasts' hopes for a powerful new Royal Enfield twin.

The prospect of a twin-cylinder Royal Enfield evokes memories of the mighty Royal Enfield Interceptor of the 1960s.

I reported in January, 2011 that Royal Enfield plans a parallel twin, the same configuration used by the 750 Royal Enfield Interceptor back in the day.

Since then, my email has reflected the hopes of fans in the U.S.

"Now would be the time for the parallel twin; blow your competitors into the weeds and unlock markets that haven't been yet served," wrote John Donlon, of LaGrange Park, Ill.

"As I have said before: a Bullet with a twin becomes a Meteor, an Electra with a twin becomes an Interceptor and the Continental GT with a twin becomes a Metisse. Three new bikes with one engine change."

Such a motor is coming, the authoritative blog Visordown reported. (I have not been able to confirm the size of the twin or the timing of its release reported in that article.)

But what would a Royal Enfield powered by a twin look like anyway? And how would it fare in the U.S. market? I found interesting the following cautionary comments by "Lannis," of Appomattox, Va., on the WildGuzzi forum. He wrote:

"Being a Britbiker with original '50s and '60s bikes myself, I understand why the Enfield single was and remains popular. It doesn't have anything to prove; it can johnny-pop around the countryside and break down every once in a while and go really slow and that's all OK, 'cause it's cheap and historic.

The Edsel.
"But a parallel twin? People are going to expect more out of that; they may even expect something like a Hinkley Triumph twin.  But if they get something anything LIKE the 1970 Royal Enfield Interceptor it's going to be an Edsel-sized sales disaster. Those were terrible bikes even in their day, as opposed to the single.

"What I mean is, the Enfield single was attractive to a certain type of person because it was a direct, genuine descendant of the British Enfield of 1955. Made the same way, with the same warts, eccentricities, and idiosyncrasies, and looked the business, too...
 
"So with the 'new' Royal Enfield Interceptor twin they've got two choices:

"1. Make it a direct copy of the 1970 twin, like the single was; hey, it worked once, maybe it'll go twice. If they do that, it'll be a nightmare and no one will buy one. They'd rather have a Chang Jiang, and with good reason.

"2. Make it a brand-new bike, with styling cues from the old RE 750, a la Hinkley. I'm not sure that would work.

"Heckfire, people didn't know what the RE twins were back when they were NEW! There weren't many around, and they didn't run for long when they were around. There's just no 'history' to help the new technology get accepted with the 'cachet' of the old one.

"I'm not hoping they fail. I'm just not going to be blindly optimistic about its chances, in hopes of adding to some karma stream that will get the bikes sold."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

2015 Iron & Clematis Vintage Motorcycle Show

All metal and shiny everywhere, this Triumph Triton cafe racer was a highlight.
Funny how the things that attract the eye at a vintage motorcycle show are invariably either shiny or soiled. A rusty wreck looking like it was just pulled out of a barn can draw as much attention as a fully restored motorcycle.

The Second Annual Iron & Clematis Vintage Motorcycle Festival in downtown West Palm Beach, Fla. Feb. 21 had plenty of both.

Alloy fairing on Triumph Triton cafe racer.
A shiny Triumph Triton cafe racer on show fulfilled anyone's dreams of seeming perfection.

Imposing 1929 Henderson 4. Check the rustic yet rugged stand holding it up.
Across the street, a time worn 1929 Henderson couldn't be overlooked. Displayed behind its magazine clippings, it is as-is after years of use (and modification). The clippings told the story of its life and preservaton by members of a single family.

The 1929 Henderson had a full set of instruments.
Clematis Street is the center of old West Palm Beach. The vintage motorcycle show was concentrated in the 500 block of Clematis, which has the downtown's highest concentration of historic buildings.

Henderson 4 is rough looking but ready to take you anywhere.
Vintage yachts were on show in the marina at the bottom of Clematis. Their varnished wood seemed a complement to the shiny metal just up the street.
Vintage motorcycles and vintage yachts were on show the same day.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Royal Enfield races off-road in 1954 movie

A pretty Royal Enfield gets a real run in this 1954 Swedish comedy.
A beautiful Royal Enfield motorcycle features in the cornball 1954 Swedish movie "Åsa-Nisse på hal is." Google translates that as "Asa-Nisse On Thin Ice."

You see the Royal Enfield best in this short clip.

If you have the patience (it probably doesn't matter whether you speak Swedish; the plot is obvious) then watch the full movie.

It's a bone-headed comedy built partly around an off-road motorcycle racing event. Footage of that is excellent.



The elderly bumpkin Asa-Nisse proves his ineptitude on a motorcycle in the short clip above. Then he inadvertently takes over for a fallen rider in the motorcycle race and wins the event.

There's plenty of other silliness, too; the movie's title refers to the opening sequence featuring a wild ride on an ice boat powered by a motor wheel.

There have been many Asa-Nisse films, starting in 1949 (and another was released in 2011) but they are not considered a high point of Swedish film making.

On the other hand, this film does include some excellent motorcycle racing footage and even, near the end, a car race featuring one of my favorite British motor vehicles, the little known Austin A90 Atlantic convertible.

Rarely seen Austin A90 Atlantic convertible in racing action.

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