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Friday, June 8, 2012

Royal Enfield bicycles, too, were Made Like a Gun

The Royal Enfield bicycle catalog for 1907
was as well made as the bicycles and motorcycles themselves.
Royal Enfield built bicycles for most of the time it built motorcycles. You learn a lot about the way it built things from the 1907 bicycle catalog.

This lavishly produced and written publication — offering bicycles for sale! — would put to shame any modern brochure for a luxury car. The motto, "Made Like a Gun" was already in place, and the iconic cannon appears on the cover.

The booklet is 48 pages long. Three frame designs are offered with up to four sizes of each to suit the size of riders. Bikes for children are a separate category yet.

There is even an entirely separate line of bicycles produced to sell at a lower price, under the Coventry Cross brand name. The catalog is a bit apologetic about this:

"Hitherto we have felt that in face of our inability to keep pace with the Royal Enfield demand, such action was impossible, and we have therefore acted up to our opinion that to do one thing well was infinitely better than doing two things indifferently."

The catalog reassures the readers that Coventry Cross bicycles would be produced in "a special department in our new factory" and thus in no way would lessen the quality of Royal Enfield bicycles.

Royal Enfield's new factory is celebrated in the catalog.
The catalog opens with a proud illustration of the new factory, noting that the building covered more than two acres.

Concern for quality is evident throughout. Many illustrations are accompanied by testimonials:

"Miss Vaughan, Tewkesbury, writes: 'I have been riding my Royal Enfield over three years and I find it most satisfactory; it is now in splendid condition.'"

Royal Enfield offered only two-speed rear hubs but "in all cases where riders are desirous of possessing a medium gear" a Sturmey-Archer three speed was available. Interestingly, the Sturmey-Archer did not add to the price. The suggestion seems to be that perhaps fewer speeds were better.

The Royal Enfield Oil Bath Gear Case was clever but unneeded.
One idea that would not catch on was the Oil Bath Gear Case exclusive to the most expensive models. Allegedly oil tight, it would also have kept the drive chain dirt free on the roads of the time. But time would show that it was a complication a bicycle didn't need.

Reader Al in Philadelphia pointed the catalog out to me. It is on the excellent and informative  www.Oldbike.Eu web site.
Royal Enfield Standard Light Roadster of 1907.


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