Monday, July 28, 2008

The Royal Enfield Motorcycle

The Royal Enfield motorcycle is a British motorcycle, but it is not built in Britain today. It is built in India. There it has been changed and improved without getting much different than it was in 1955.

Even when brand new, the Royal Enfield motorcycle remains recognizably a British style motorcycle of a time otherwise gone. India exports the Royal Enfield to the wide world, where it is appreciated by anyone who can appreciate a superbly made but obsolete motorcycle.

The Three Down bar is a biker bar in America but it is not an American biker bar. It might have been a pub in Redditch, Worcestershire, England, in a time of coal and factory work.

You might wander in today, drawn by the charm of fading paint on the façade and the "Fish 'n Chips and a draft beer" advertised on the chalk board at the door.

You soon realize the bar is devoted to the Royal Enfield.

The Royal Enfield motorcycle, now and since always, is a tough yet unreliable machine, prone to broken clutch cables and electrical faults, slow even when modified for performance. Its brakes are weak, its compression is low, it has but a single cylinder.

This very much describes the Three Down as well.

Service here is at a pace that does not rush your conversation; only one brand of beer is served. You need not ask what it is, not because everyone knows, but because no one either knows nor cares. If Fish 'n Chips is on the menu, then Fish 'n Chips it will be.

The boards of the floor are dark and wide. Everything in this bar, every table, every chair and the bar itself is made of dark wood, or wood that has become dark in old age. The occasional odd piece of metal in the place will have fallen off of a Royal Enfield motorcycle and have been put to use as "decor."

The Royal Enfield is beloved by the denizens of the Three Down bar, and you find mostly Royal Enfield motorcycles parked in a neat row along the alley between it and the shop next door. We first visit the Three Down, however, at an unhappy time.

There has been a schism.

As a result, not everyone is here this afternoon; and not everyone who is here is all there, if you know what I mean.

Do not make the mistake that the men (and they are all men) sitting silently here are a clique, in love with one another. No one here likes anybody else very much. You may as well come in and take a seat; you're as welcome as not.

Those who left not so long ago, and in considerable anger, for another pub in town, were the popular ones. They liked one another, enjoyed good company, talked loudly and spilled beer.

But the cheerful crowd was mistaken to believe this was acceptable behavior in the Three Down. Mostly they were recent arrivals anyway, just come into ownership of a Royal Enfield motorcycle and anxious to share their enthusiasm.

It had been getting a bit crowded in here, in fact. There was talk of adding a sound system and playing music by The Beatles. That is how far things had sunk.

The new men said, when they first came, that they wanted to hear from those who had always loved the Royal Enfield. They lied. They wanted to boast.

They were speed demons, to hear them tell it. They spoke of making their motorcycles go faster. That was a sin: the Royal Enfield motorcycle is slow, and properly slow. Anyone who couldn't understand that didn't belong at the Three Down.

The anger among the old-timers built gradually. Inevitably, there was a blow up. Chairs skidded back on the wooden floor as men stood. Lines were drawn. A threat was made; or maybe it was just implied. Voices rose.

It was suddenly obvious that those who had sat their stools for many years were keeping them. The newcomers would have to leave.

Their leader was "Speed." Yes, his nickname, which he chose himself, was appropriate. Like a Moses, Speed had swept the Chosen Ones off in a huff, to another bar, with a pretty waitress and a sound system that played The Beatles. Reports were that they were very happy there.

At the Three Down, it was suddenly very quiet indeed.


  1. Anonymous7/28/2008

    This is such a great narrative. I can definitely picture the place.

    The Royal Enfield motorcycle is such a great character. You create a good portrait of it. Its flaws, its charm, its personality. I can tell why you like them so much.

    - emb

  2. Anonymous6/11/2010

    socorro... necesito las tapas de cilindros de royal enfield 750 c.c.modelo 1967 las características son: (SC) y el número del motor, frenos hidráulicos tanque combustible pintado luces de giro de chapa con luces rectangulares. le agradesco espero repuesta positiva.

    relief ... need cylinder covers ccmodelo 1967 royal enfield 750 features are: (SC) and the number of the engine, fuel tank hydraulic brake lights turn painted plate with rectangular lights. I hope I owe pocito response.
    My E-mail is

  3. Anonymous6/13/2010

    compro tapas de cilindro royal enfield 750c.c. modelo1967


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