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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Did Lawrence of Arabia ride a Royal Enfield motorcycle?

Identify which one of these statements is true:

A. James Dean  rode a Royal Enfield motorcycle.

B. Steve McQueen rode a Royal Enfield motorcycle.

C. T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) rode a Royal Enfield motorcycle.

In America, at least, you might get away with saying that all three statements are true.

James Dean really did ride a Royal Enfield (briefly). I've noted before that some Royal Enfield owners say they "feel" like Steve McQueen when they ride.

Now comes proof that T.E. Lawrence, possibly the best known Britain to die on a motorcycle, is being conflated with the Royal Enfield brand.

A recent discussion on the Mudcraft Cafe message board contains this romantic theory about another famous figure, lost aviatrix Amelia Earhart:

"Forget the theories and wild guesses; Amelia busted right through that cloud cover into the astral plain, landed happily and probably hooked a ride from ol' T.E. Lawrence on the back of that Royal Enfield in a place where there are no empty tanks, and no gravel on the curves."

If Lawrence is in Heaven with Earhart, he might have preferred to pick her up on his beloved Brough Superior motorcycle. As far as I know, no one has ever suggested that he patronized Royal Enfield.

But wait, there's more: In his review of the Royal Enfield C5 Classic, Louis Lenard wrote:

"I began to envision myself as someone like T.E. Lawrence or James Dean as I cruised the Classic C5 on local canyon roads homeward, under the cover of night."

Royal Enfields remain relatively rare in the United States but they have long surpassed the number of Brough Superiors likely to be seen cruising around on our streets. A British motorcycle is a British motorcycle and Royal Enfield certainly sounds like the name of a British motorcycle.

So, why not imagine Lawrence on a Royal Enfield?

All Americans know for sure is that the world's most famous Englishman, Harry Potter, rode a Royal Enfield; but that was just in the movies.

There's an excellent item on The Art of Manliness blog that illustrates how famous men and their motorcycles tend to leave a common impression on the mind.

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