Thursday, July 31, 2008

Royal Enfield, Made Like a Gun

If as a child you pedaled around on a plastic Big Wheel, you will not understand the appeal of a Royal Enfield motorcycle.

Excuse me. I did not mean to say that you are hopeless, just because you are too young to have had a Schwinn as your first real vehicle: a big, heavy, steel Schwinn bicycle, with one gear and a coaster brake.

But, if you're my age, you'll fondly remember that big old thing and one thing you will remember is how tough it was: there was no plastic on an old-time bicycle. You left it in the rain, ran it hard over railroad ties, jumped it off curbs and used it to tow your kid sister in a wagon.

Somebody finally stole it from the school yard, and you mourn its loss to this day. It was your childhood.

Enter mid-life crisis, and now the man who would be a boy again wants a suitable transportation device.

Well, knock off the plastic lenses and switchgear the DOT requires on all motorcycles, and the Royal Enfield Bullet looks a lot like that old Schwinn. It is all steel, a true product of the Industrial Age.

That explains the Royal Enfield motto: "Made Like a Gun." It is a tool, an iron tool. "Paging Dr. Freund! Paging Dr. Freund! Dr. Freund, please come to the parking lot!"

A few years ago a friend graciously gave us one of those pretend city parking regulation signs: "Royal Enfield Parking Only, All Others will be Towed." Of course I dared not post this by the actual parking, for fear someone would feel unwelcome.

Everyone is welcome here at the Three Down bar, but I often wonder what the tourists make of us. I am sure they realize this is a Royal Enfield motorcycle bar because of all the old pictures and Royal Enfield advertisements we have accumulated on the walls. Most confusing to the first-time visitor must be the motto.

The company adopted "Made Like a Gun" in 1893, long before it made motorcycles. The ancestor company of Royal Enfield was in the business of making needles. It moved into the bicycle business before the start of the 20th Century.

When the company received a contract for rifle parts from the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, the name Royal Enfield was merrily applied to the bicycles it was making. The motto quickly followed.

Decades later, in 1931, it would seem logical to name a new sporting model Royal Enfield motorcycle the Bullet.

Few other motorcycles have played such a role in national defense. Royal Enfield motorcycles served in World War I and World War II. There was even a very light weight model, "The Flying Flea," that dropped by parachute.

In fact, national defense (of India) is the only reason we today can buy a brand new Royal Enfield motorcycle that resembles in major details the Royal Enfield Bullet of 1955.

It was in that year that India, newly independent and building its army, sought to produce the Bullet for service on the frontier with Pakistan. The Bullet continued in production in India after the British company ended in 1970.

So, the Bullet truly is a "war machine" to this day.

You might call it a Son of a Gun.


  1. Anonymous8/04/2012

    Yes I know all about how it all came to pass.
    And I am very glad that it happened.
    However I cannot help but notice that I never see and "Clubmans" models in the for sale section.
    Is this because the "Clubmans" thing is a very British requirement?
    Be glad to read of any answers to this item. Regards to all.

  2. The motto was coined by Jules Gobiet, a French designer who worked at Enfield from circa 1900 to 1904.

    1. Interesting, since the French word would have been "cannon," non?

  3. Sorry to say , but its true


  5. Anonymous1/30/2015

    "Defence" not "Defense" surely?


Follow royalenfields on Twitter