Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Richmond Royal Enfield dealer up to speed

Velocity Motorcycles neatly fills a classic brick building in Richmond, Va. The Royal Enfields on its showroom floor are protected by a big black dog named Lulu. She is friendly but she was rescued from Hurricane Katrina, so she is entitled to a few quirks. For instance, she barks at people in funny hats.

Owner Eric M. Engler is friendlier. In fact, if it was not for the Velocity logo on his shirt I would have taken this soft-spoken man for a fellow visitor, there to gawk at the magnificent vintage motorcycles lined up on the floor. He describes them almost as if they are human friends:

"This is a Thruxton, number 1,200 of 1,208 they made, so it may be the 'youngest' Thruxton living.

"This is a BMW with a Volkswagen engine. It's like riding a BMW that is heavier but with enormous torque. You have to be careful with the throttle. There were three or four firms in Germany that made kits for these. This one is very well done. Look at the welds here on the frame, to lengthen it. Those are beautifully done."

All the bikes are for sale. A 1969 Norton Commander 750S has a price tag of $9,500. I did not see price tags on two real veterans: a 1912 FN with shaft drive (FN was building shaft drive bicycles so all it had to do was add the motor, Engler explained) and a 1922 New Map 350. The New Map defined old-time motorcycle looks, right down to a small tin box on the tank that might have held the rider's pipe and tobacco.

The New Map is only missing the tire pump, Engler said, pointing to the empty lugs on the left front girder leg. He could get a pump but isn't sure what kind is correct.

In the window is a Royal Enfield cafe racer Velocity built. The price tag is $9,600. Velocity's motto is "The bike you loved then is here now." Their web site provides a good look at the many truly vintage bikes they offer, but the motto seems particularly appropriate for Royal Enfield. Two new Bullets sit on the showroom floor, but more are coming, Engler said.

Next: What Velocity thinks is in store for Royal Enfield.

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