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Friday, January 2, 2015

Royal Enfield and the importance of being Lawrence

Peter Egan explains how it all goes back to Lawrence of Arabia.
There is no historical figure more important to my generation's love of motorcycling than T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia). And there is no American automotive writer of my time better able to explain this than Peter Egan.

As he does in a Cycleworld piece entitled "The Long Shadow of Clouds Hill — A visit to Lawrence of Arabia's last home — and last stretch of road — after all these years."

Egan credits Lawrence (and the 1962 David Lean movie "Lawrence of Arabia") with sparking his own love of motorcycling. Most guys my age will understand.

But Egan in effect goes on to explain how Lawrence and his death on a quiet road near his Clouds Hill home in England sparked a love of — specifically — British motorcycles.

This is a factor that Royal Enfield clearly understands as it carries on the heritage of British motorcycling in a new century.

Lawrence rode his famous Brough Superior that last day in 1935 when he fatally swerved to avoid two boys on bicycles. It was that muscular and manly Brough, the country lane and the last act of courage... ummm, skip the part about having to die. Nice bike, though.

T.E. Lawrence was a fascinating character. He was tortured by his captors in World War I and tortured himself afterwards. (As Egan writes, "and who better than a genuine masochist to own seven British motorcycles?")

Those seven motorcycles were Brough Superiors, owned one after the other. The one from which he was thrown to his death is at the Imperial War Museum, displayed as if on an altar.

T.E. Lawrence Brough Superior at the Imperial War Museum.
There ought to be some way to enshrine the typical British country road as well.

Please read Egan's whole piece — I hope he will forgive me for quoting his kicker here:

"I sometimes wonder if it was the Brough Superior that captivated me when I first saw 'Lawrence of Arabia' 52 years ago or if it was simply the romantic vision of those empty English roads from a bygone era. Or the heroic legend that connected them both. Maybe it was all three. Motorcycling is never just about the bike."

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