Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Royal Enfield bicycles looked as good as the motorcycles

Royal Enfield bicycles were just as stylish as their motorcycles.
Royal Enfield motorcycles, not bicycles, are the subject of this blog, but it was hard to ignore the lovely catalog of 1958 Royal Enfield bicycles I noticed recently on the Veteran-Cycle Club Online Library.

In 1958, when I was eight years old, bicycles were more interesting than motorcycles and I would have been thrilled to have any of the sporty looking English-style bicycles in this catalog.

I was condemned, at the time, to a single-speed Schwinn made, seemingly, of cast iron. I had to push it up "The Big Hill" near my home because I didn't have the strength to pedal to the top.

(Years later, my brother and I would drive past our old home and notice that "The Big Hill" of our memories was little more than a hump in the road. It's just a matter of perspective.)

You only have to look at these Royal Enfield bicycles to see that they would have fairly flown up that hill. The thin tires, delicate fenders and multiple speeds promised ease of riding.

Every bike in the catalog is shown with a tire pump (dubbed an "inflator" here). Glory be, what luxury! Our tires were always nearly flat.

The other accessories are first rate, too. I love the triangular leather bag hanging from the seat, just the right size to carry a lunch bag. Our flimsy paper lunch bags swung from our sweaty grip on the handlebars until, inevitably, they tore.

Sprocket design featured the Royal Enfield gun.
(Note the roller lever rod-operated rear brake!)
Some of these Royal Enfield bicycles are shown with the "gun" motif in the front sprocket. As a boy, I would have treasured that.

But there are oddities here too, never seen in our town.

The full oil bath chaincase models look quaint. But I vividly remember that the only "improvement" I ever made to my Schwinn that worked was the time I removed the chain and submerged it in motor oil. It went back on after hanging to dry overnight and it made a big difference.

Full oil bath chain case might have been a worthwhile idea.
Perhaps a full-time oil bath really was a good idea, even if it looked old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy.

"Roller-lever brakes," operated by rods, also would have seemed old-fashioned to us, even in 1958. Notice in the catalog that cable operated brakes are offered as options.

It takes me back.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Royal Enfield Works Replica made it there and back

1959 Royal Enfield Works Replica trials single victorious in Lerwick.
Part III

Graham Lampkin completes his story of riding a 1959 Royal Enfield Works Replica trials motorcycle from the center of England to the Shetland Classic Vehicle Show in Lerwick — as much as possible off roads — to raise money for cancer research:

"We had only 20 miles to go to the ferry terminal in Aberdeen, before boarding at approximately 6 p.m. Again we used the smallest roads we could find, ending up on the coast. A short track near the coast provided the only unsurfaced stretch.

"Just before Aberdeen, Frank and I were approached by yet another guy attracted by the bikes; amongst other things he said we should stop at a car park around the corner that overlooked Aberdeen. He was there, pointing out parts of Aberdeen, but before we left he donated £40 to the charity. We had been blown out by the generosity of the public since crossing the border.

"The rest of Friday passed gently. I bought a pair of shoes because I forgot to pack any, and we found a great cafe for lunch.

"We got on the ferry, a good, well appointed ferry. By magic we woke up in — yes — Lerwick, with a welcoming committee on the dockside just for us — thanks Gary, it was good to meet you and a nice surprise (the power of the Internet).

"Off to the show. It surpassed my expectations, in both size and quality. Its best quality was the people, the exhibitors, the visitors and above all, the organizers. A great blend of well organized with friendly relaxed atmosphere! A good informal but well sorted event. Try it for yourself, we enjoyed it.

"It was humbling when the folk, including teenagers, donated to the charity. I met two separate people who live within two or three miles of me, but I had not heard of, never mind met before! Every one we met on the islands was helpful and friendly.

"Les and Frank visited a broch (prehistoric dwelling built of rock) within 20 yards of the show, and the puffins (sea birds seen in Britain only at nesting time). More boxes ticked. But it was on Shetland that little tigger the Tiger Cub became incontinent; the upper pushrod oil seal failed. The first mechanical gremlin, fixed swiftly by Les the next morning.

"I won’t go on about Shetland. I’m not good enough to explain it; suffice to say we enjoyed it and recommend you visit it yourself. It’s all because of the people.

"What a great few days.

"The return journey was basically the reverse of the trip up, only drier. The only mechanical problem was with the R.E. A modification done by its builder to the rear brake plate anchor failed on the first day on the Cairn-O-Mount road. I tidied it up in 20 minutes and continued without a rear brake for the rest of the journey — not too much of a problem at 40 mph or less! Apart from this, and tigger's oil seal, the bikes were great and reliable, covering over 2,000 miles between them. Old bikes are for using.

"This trip was a great one. The route and the journey itself, the folk on Shetland and others we met, the many generous people who donated, the places and things we saw by taking the slow route. Any these things would have made it worthwhile, but together, experienced on an old British bike, I can only say WOW!

"I’m very glad my mind came up with this on that day in Skipton last August. Very glad I did it.

"Let’s not do an Oscar speech of acceptance, but a huge thank you to Frank and Les, the many who donated and collected, and all those that helped and encouraged.

"Finally, would I do it again? Like a shot! In the words of Churchill (dog not PM) Oohhh Yeessss!

"P.S. The website is still open for donations!"

Part II
Part I

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Off the pavement across Britain by Royal Enfield

Royal Enfield Works Replica trials motorcycle crosses a ford.
Part II

Graham Lampkin continues his story of riding a 1959 Royal Enfield across England and Scotland — as much as possible off paved roads — to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Inspired? It's easy to contribute in honor of his effort. Here's his story:

"After nearly 10 months of gestation, the start date was upon us. The other two guys stayed at our house the night before so that we could get an early-ish start. At 8 a.m prompt we were at Watery Lane, Colne, where the stream and the lane become one for 100 yards. In the drizzly rain, the Evening Telegraph photographer took the official start pictures and luckily couldn’t find the stream, 'cos I slipped and fell.

"Glad to get that behind me, we carried swiftly on, Les riding along with me and Frank driving the back-up van.

"Another ford and some quiet country lanes got us to Salter Fell, one of the longer un-surfaced roads on the route. No problems, especially if you don’t count the large bull at the far end who agreed to let us pass through his farm.

"It was now dry. We made good progress through the Dales on quiet lanes, through lovely countryside. We met the van for early lunch at a temperance inn — very nice, try the rabbit pie! The road was full of travellers going to Appleby Fair with their horses and we had to take care passing them.

"Ravenstonedale with a small unsurfaced track, Ravenstonedale Moor (not bad at all, but fun), Orton, the Bank Head track to Crosby Ravensworth (as smooth as any jazz quartet but with a filthy look from a lorry driver on the last bit), into Temple Sowerby for Frank and Les to swap driving the van/riding with me. Re-fuel and off again.

"Track (wide, straight and good surface), Gamblesby followed by a really bad track (narrow, very deeply rutted, nowhere to put feet), Renwick, more track at Cunrew (poor tarmac and across fields with gates to open and close), Brampton, Bewcastle, another track (good going), two fords and forestry track to Newcastleton for Night 1.

"Where did the day go?

"Day 2. We started northward again, in the rain, Frank with me on the B40 and Les in the van. We took a minor road across by Hermitage Castle, up A7 into forestry. After a logging wagon driver sent us in the right direction we carried on into the forest. A forester, on hearing the bikes, chased after us in a Land Rover. As the rain ran down our necks, he just wanted to talk about old British bikes. He obviously didn’t meet many like minds in his neck of the woods (pun intended). Eventually we made our excuses and carried on through the forest — it would have been great on a good day!

"Onto a B road, diverted by a road closure, we used another track to the A708. Off piste, we went over a large hill across private land on to a private road, to meet the van for lunch at Broughton. By now Frank and I were very wet and cold. Frank got changed into dry clothes, I went in to the cafe where a puddle formed on the floor around me.

"During lunch we talked to local customers, some of whom made donations to the cause, as did the management of the Laurel Bank Cafe. Wow, this and a good lunch made it worthwhile.

"After being warmed by a good food and changed into dry clothes, I was ready for the afternoon. The next part wasn’t worth anyone else braving the weather, so I continued alone. Boy, how it rained. All day.

"Biggar, Carnwarth and C roads to Forth Road Bridge, up minor roads and a length of forest track to Bridge of Earn for Night 2. I just carried on until I got there without thinking too much. A hot bath, a good meal and a night's sleep sorted it all out. What a long day!

"The next morning was dry; the proprietor of the B&B donated some of his income from us to the charity.

"All bode well for Day 3. We were now in an area with few tracks, and the Forestry Commission District office weren’t as keen on old fellas on old bikes playing at Last of the Summer Wine. Les was on little tigger (the Tiger Cub), and it did well. Frank was in the van.

"Just after starting, Les and I rode a stretch of forest track that had established public right of way; typical forest track with some large wet depressions. Soon after we were stopped on a minor road by a farmer. He asked us to park up while they drove some cows down the road. As we waited for the herd, a lady joined us who was helping with the cows. She saw the Cancer Research UK sticker on the bike and we explained what we were doing. Without further ado, she took out the only money in her pocket, a £10 note, and donated it. These moments are precious.

"We rode along empty country lanes with great views of the Tay; all was good. Before long, Les and I pulled into a rest stop overlooking the Tay Bridge for a coffee break. While there we got a text from Frank saying he had already found a cafe in Letham for lunch. Crossing the bridge, we soon left behind the busy fringes of Dundee, swapping them for country lanes to Letham, where we found Frank, woke him up and went for lunch. Ever had African soup? we did, and it's good!

"The guys swapped driving/riding duty. Frank and I carried on with the country lanes, Brechin and Fettercairn, lovely places both, came and went. Several emails had recommended the Cairn-O-Mount road, so up it we went to Banchory.

"Great scenery, great bends, lovely views. The road was larger than imagined, but worth travelling when you get the chance.

"This leg, Bridge of Earn to Banchory, was one of the shortest and by far had least un-surfaced road, but we were ready for an easier day after the previous two. It was still a fair way, but we knew we had time."

NEXT: Goals met.