|1970 Rickman Royal Enfield Metisse, left, with other Retro Tour vintage bikes.|
Especially exciting is that a 1970 Rickman Royal Enfield 750 is still part of Retro Tours' fleet of powerful twin-cylinder vintage motorcycles. It's available to riders who join Retro Tours' tailored tours on vintage motorcycles around their eastern Pennsylvania base.
Retro Tours began when Joel Samick "decided to assemble a collection of every big twin from the 1970s." His fleet has grown to 25 machines, including the Rickman Royal Enfield. These were built in very small numbers from left over Royal Enfield Interceptor motors after Royal Enfield closed its doors in England.
Author Roy Bacon wrote that the Rickman Royal Enfield Metisse "combined the tough Enfield engine with the immaculate Rickman chassis to produce a machine with even more punch, thanks to reduced weight. The frame was of all welded construction with duplex tubes throughout and finished by nickel plating... Both hubs carried disc brakes, which at that time was unusual on the front and very rare for the back."
What is it like to ride? Joel described the Rickman Royal Enfield experience in an email to me:
"We rode it to Seven Springs in August, which was about 550 miles round trip. I was leery of taking it on a long hard run like this but it actually did quite well. Of course it vibrates and leaks quite a bit, and the seating position is — let's just say 'weird' to be polite — but it is still a very exciting ride. The big twin motor really propels the 350-pound machine with authority and the handling is, well, Rickman-esque. Riding it always brings out a big grin.
"The rider who requested it went through an interesting transition. He was very excited to start out on the Rickman but soon was looking forward to swapping bikes due to discomfort. We do swap bikes frequently on these tours for that very reason: to spread the discomfort around. Each machine vibrates differently and has a different seating position and attendant pressure points so switching bikes helps to keep things bearable on long hauls.
"By the third day this same rider would not get off the Rickman; he became smitten, seduced by the machine.
"The bike ran well for the whole trip and, for the 100-mile group ride out from the resort, was ridden by Motorcycle Classics editor-in-chief Richard Backus.
"He experienced the only problem. After lunch he had trouble starting the engine, presumably due to confusion about the (unlabeled) ignition switch positions. As he was heaving up and down on the kickstart lever with the bike on its side stand, the side stand bracket began to fatigue and the parked position became radically listed to one side.
"We just used the center stand on the way home and one day soon I'll be breaking out the TIG welder to realign and buttress the sidestand bracket."
So, basically, the Rickman Royal Enfield is a rare, challenging ride.
Royal Enfield is widely expected to introduce a new parallel twin model soon that will evoke memories of the 750cc Interceptor motor that forms the heart of the Rickman Royal Enfield.
Wouldn't it be neat if some motoring journalist manages to ride that new machine alongside Retro Tours' Rickman Royal Enfield? Which machine would he/she prefer, do you think?