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Friday, October 19, 2012

Royal Enfield Bullet was what was "new" in 1933

Imagine riding a 1934 Royal Enfield dual-port Bullet with its racy, sloper motor.
The Motorcyclist website recently reprinted  "Britain's Olympia Motorcycle Show, Around the London Show with our special correspondent," by Francis Jones.

It's an original article from the December, 1933 issue of Motorcyclist Magazine, illustrated with a picture of a 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet.

The caption describes the Bullet as an "80 mph" dual-port model and notes that "The Enfield Company, which markets a range of models up to the 'thousand twin' featured a pressed steel job of 150cc called the Cycar, totally enclosed."

The article is a fascinating slice of motorcycle history, and not just because of the attention given the racing looking Bullet, with its "sloper" motor, girder forks and fishtail pipes (one on each side, both serving the same single-cylinder motor).

The article is an effort by a Brit to explain British motorcycles to American readers.

"Motorcycling in Britain is going strong, despite the depression," correspondent Jones informs us. It's a good thing, too, since the British motorcycle industry leads the world in his view, even if the Germans build the fastest motorcycle and the Italians have just won the International Six Days's Trophy.

There are about 30 different makes on view at Olympia in 1933; among them, Triumph alone has 18 different models to show off.

Jones explains that this wonderful diversity, "astonishing to a visitor from the States," stems from three causes:
  • The British taxation system is based on engine capacity, which tends to multiply types;
  • Sports models are becoming distinct from utility models;
  • And the "European motorcyclist is fastidious-faddy." Riders demand a mount exactly to taste.
Still, there are some influences that tend to make British motorcycles distinctly British. The "1,000cc jobs" are few, since gasoline is expensive in Britain: 36 cents a gallon! Besides, "The Britisher, as a rule, favors a fairly light mount, and is therefore inclined to turn down the large machine on the score of weight."

Jones predicts a continued trend toward twins; he's right about that, although the riding public is going to have to wait until after a war he can't foresee to get many of them.

He also predicts a steady trend toward enclosure, with leg shields as standard equipment, and engines and fittings encased as far as possible. This would happen, but not in quite the way the designer of the Royal Enfield Cycar visualized.

All in all, the article is an armchair trip back to 1933. Reading it, you'll feel transported in time.

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