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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Custom Royal Enfield long-distance trials bike

This neat and rugged Royal Enfield is named Troglobike.
Last summer, Graham Lampkin rode a 1959 Royal Enfield from his home in Colne, Lancashire across England and Scotland — as much as possible off paved roads — to raise money for Cancer Research UK.

He's not done riding yet.

"I was so inspired by last year's trip to Lerwick that I’ve built a bike for such trips and long distance trials," he writes.

Here's his description of how it came about:

I bought a collection of three partly dismantled bikes plus other bits. I didn’t need them, but couldn't say no (I’m sure you understand — not sure my wife does, but if it keeps me quiet).

I had sold a bike in the spring to make more room in the garage, but now of course it was full again. So I sold anything I wasn't interested in etc., recouped the outlay, but realized I had nearly enough to build a bike.

So Troglobike was conceived in my brain. The specification was:

A. Pre-unit single,

B. As light as possible,

C. Usable and reliable before authentic.

The components used are:

Engine. I had an early Redditch Enfield 350cc, but having decided to fit Electrix World electronic ignition with lighting coils I discovered it was difficult to site where the magneto had been; better to put it on the end of the crankshaft. This meant the longer alternator crank, so my engine wasn't suitable. I bought a later Redditch engine but didn't feel comfortable about it. That's when I took a chance on eBay ('cos the price was right!). This was a 1977 Indian 350 and a piece of luck. When I collected it from the vendor, he told me he knew very little about it except that he bought it in auction from the personal effects of a previous employee of Redditch who had died. First impressions backed this up. I've fitted an alloy barrel but the rest of the engine appears to have been competently rebuilt; it runs well.

Ignition. With a lot of work the Electrix World unit has been fitted to the end of the drive side crankshaft, enclosed in a narrow inner chaincase and a matching outer with a small alternator bulge (thanks Andy).

Gearbox. Wasn't sure what to do; the Enfield box doesn't have the best of change mechanism and I did have an AMC road ratio box which I’m told would fit with some work and jiggery pokey. Then the Indian 5-speed was recommended. When I researched this I found the overall spread of ratios was exactly the same as the 4-speed trials box but with a better action and spread over five gears. Best of all it fits straight on with the kit Hitchcocks supply with it. No contest, Indian 5 speed was ordered.

Clutch. Standard fits straight on with a new clutch center, but they don’t tell you you need a four plate version and I had a three plate, just one of several two steps forward, one back experiences.

Frame. Royal Enfield Crusader that was in the collection of bits. They are a good frame, light and good geometry, and with a little alteration take a Bullet engine. I even had some laser cut engine plates left over from a previous project (thanks Owen). More good news is that the Bullet engine fits easier with the 5-speed gearbox than the 4-speed.

But let's start from the beginning. Any lugs etc. that are known to not be wanted are removed as the frame is stripped. A slightly longer swinging arm (from a MZ – slightly longer and I had it!) made ready. The seat area needs pulling in by 15/20mm per side. The steering head bracing tube is cut, bent up to the top tube and welded to it. Stud fitted behind the steering head ready for the petrol tank

Wheel and forks etc. all came from a Honda XL350 – good quality and lighter (thanks again Andy). I altered a pair of alloy Beta yokes to replace the Triumph ones supplied and fitted by A.N.Other (as seen in the photo). They suited better and just needed a new stem making.

Petrol tank and seat. I had these made for the Lerwick trip: tank holds nearly 3 gallons (thanks Roger).

That’s the basic kit. But I’m sure the dear reader would find a blow by blow, nut by bolt description of the build boring (any questions please get in touch). It's more the ethos and design that I'm trying to describe here and that I find interesting.

Finally, why "The Troglobike"? At a club meeting recently a fellow member said every build needs a name and helped me with this (thanks Tony). As I’m sure you dear reader know, during WWII Royal Enfield continued production in an old Bath stone mine, and as you don't know, my garage (where the bike was built) is reminiscent of a cave – does that answer your question?

I now feel confident to continue with the charity riding. The initial planning has started for "Lampy goes to 'L" — not before time say some. This will be in early 2016, more details later. There is a website — — of course the link for donations to Cancer Research UK will remain open.

P.S. a 500cc engine turned up, it's now in the bike!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Egad! "Bunty" selling Royal Enfield? "Blimp" sold Norton!

Col. Blimp spoke for Norton. Could Maj. Bunty speak for Royal Enfield?
It is inconceivable that Royal Enfield will ever adopt as its spokesman the outspoken Maj. Bertram "Bunty" Golightly, British Army (retired).

And, yet, there is a precedent.

The master of Blotto Hall, shooter of peasants (along with pheasants), dallier with "fillies" (and horses, too), connoisseur of drink, and proud bigot,"Bunty" has absolutely nothing to recommend himself — except knowledge of, and loyalty to, Royal Enfield motorcycles.

These characteristics have been enough to delight members of several Royal Enfield Yahoo message groups and bring others to sputtering outrage.

Bunty Golightly as a young man.
Bunty is unreliable — his Yahoo posts stop for months at a time. No known image of him exists, although he has been identified with the dapper gentleman atop a Royal Enfield.

Perhaps worst of all, he is (probably) fictional, although he insists he's real.

Could a serious corporate entity such as Royal Enfield put up with all this?

Norton did.

It's true. The Bunty Golightly who frequents Yahoo message groups devoted to Royal Enfield in the 21st Century is unquestionably based on "Colonel Blimp," a pre-World War II cartoon drawn by artist David Low.

The overweight and overwrought cartoon Blimp usually held forth swathed only in a towel, fresh from a steam bath at his club.

"Egad, Sir!" he would announce. "England must keep her colonies, even if that means we have to buy a geography book and figure out where they are!"

In 1943, the character of Blimp came to life in the movie "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp," starring Roger Livesey. Winston Churchill tried to block the film, concerned that it would sap army morale in wartime.

Nothing was further from the truth, as the good-hearted Blimp clearly represented the sometimes bumbling yet sincere and caring British character.

Blimp was so attractive, despite his blubber and blubbering colonialism, that during World War II Norton motorcycles used his cartoon image in an advertisement.

The copy reads:

"Dear Old Colonel Blimp, in his sarong and astride a Norton too! For evermore! And just listen to the old boy... "Gad, Sir! this IS progress! In my view Beveridge should provide a Norton for every able-bodied youth reaching his majority. I understand this is the world's best road-holder. I'm glad to hear it. We must hold our roads as well as our Colonies... in the post-war race this machine will take first place. Gad, Sir! after the peace the pace, what?"

The ad makes amends to Blimp's creator this way: "With apologies and acknowledgements to LOW."

Could Bunty emerge as spokesman for Royal Enfield? Doubtful. His creator would have to step forward to accept credit (if not payment). I would love to meet the man behind Bunty.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

On a Royal Enfield, how close is close enough?

What if the guy you're following has better brakes than you do?
There are two sayings I repeat to myself every time I get on my Royal Enfield Bullet.

The first is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation training phrase: SIPDE. Scan. Interpret. Predict. Decide. Execute.

Every motorcyclist will immediately recognize the value of that saying.

The second is more specific to riding my classic, 1999 Bullet:

"Following Distance Is Your Friend."

I'm reminding myself to leave extra room between the car or truck ahead and my Bullet.

I'm not saying the Bullet's brakes are bad. But, as the old saying goes, the Bullet's brakes are like your retirement savings: it pays to plan ahead.

Car and Driver columnist John Phillips reminded me of this recently in a piece he did asking how long it would be before improvements in motor vehicles make us all completely reliant on safer machines to keep us safe.

"Ask any driving instructor how difficult it has become to get fresh students to stand on the brakes with force sufficient to engage ABS," he writes. "Such a large human input now feels like a wild overreaction in an age of delicate touch screens."

And so it is that before every ride I remind myself that I am leaving the world of mouse clicks for the circa 1955 world of "drum brakes: some physical effort required."

Beyond a doubt, the traffic ahead of me is going to be able to out-brake me if it needs to.

As often as possible, I plan to give it plenty of room to do so.

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