Friday, January 23, 2009

Buying used Royal Enfield? Look carefully

This blog lists used Royal Enfield motorcycles for sale in the United States. The information naturally comes from the sellers' ads and sometimes it raises real questions. Are the sellers being honest?

Let's go easy on them. It's quite common for Enfield owners to say our bikes are "from 1955" or that they are "English bikes." That's their heritage, and it becomes a shorthand way of talking about them. Is that what the seller is doing?

More seriously, fudging the year of construction (or, sometimes, the mileage) is a common dodge around restrictive registration rules in the U.S. Some buyers may be comfortable with that, if it gets them on the road. I can't object to this too much, if the buyer understands what is going on.

What does bother me is motorcycles being marketed as something they aren't, where the effect, even innocently, could be to mislead the buyer.

Since the Royal Enfield Bullet has been built for so many years in India, and India has such a culture of recycling and refurbishing goods, nearly any variation is possible. No problem, as long as the buyer know what he is getting.

Is that "1965 350 Bullet, made in England and restored in India" really what it claims to be? Or is it an Enfield 350, of whatever year, made in India and shipped into the U.S. with paperwork that says it is from 1965?

Looking at the picture, we might see up-to-date looking turn signals -- odd for a 1965 machine. But they could have been fit as part of the restoration. What about the right-shift transmission? That could indicate an original English motorcycle, but Enfields made in India had right shift as well. Many U.S. left-shift bikes have been converted to right shift, for that matter.

What about the Indian-style license plate, the little rectangular plate under the headlight? That says "India" to me. But an English style pedestrian slicer plate might not indicate a British bike, since these are popular accessories worldwide.

A glance at the history books provides a possible answer: The Bullet with separate Albion transmission came to an end in England in 1962; the Bullet name continued on in Britain, but on a motorcycle with engine and transmission in a single unit. That means a "1965" Bullet with the separate engine and transmission likely not only was restored in India, it was born there -- not England.

Does it make a difference? Not as long as the buyer is aware what he is buying.


  1. A proud owner of a "Restored in India" 500cc bike recently showed me his bike. I didn't have the heart to tell him it was really a 350. Buyer beware.

  2. Anonymous8/06/2010

    Dear all,

    I wonder is someone can help me identify my supposedly 1966 Royal Enfield.

    My bike has ID number:

    Frame number:G2/50910

    Engine number: G2/50910 20620

    Appreciate all help that I can get

    Kind regards

    Thomas Jakobsson

  3. I think the answer to Thomas' question may be here


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