Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mystery bike may be Royal Enfield Hornet

What is it?

This unusual looking Royal Enfield motorcycle for sale on CraigsList in Rocklin, Calif. may be a rarely seen Royal Enfield Hornet. Or it may be just a (more common, but still unusual) Royal Enfield Crusader Sports, with a few parts swapped in from other motorcycles. What do you think?

U.S.-spec Royal Enfield Crusader.
Jorge Pullin, who writes the blog My Royal Enfields, found pictures from ads for the Hornet and the U.S.-spec Royal Enfield Crusader. Both were 250cc bikes and neither sold very well in the U.S., apparently. They are rarely seen. Jorge says the Hornet was available for one year only, 1961, making it a rare motorcycle indeed.

Royal Enfield Hornet.
Both look a bit like our mystery bike, don't they? Both have a separate headlight. Crusaders sold in Britain had the typical Royal Enfield nacelle combining headlight and speedometer panel.

But look at the rear fenders. Like Crusaders in England, the U.S.-spec Crusader is shown with a chubby valanced rear fender. The Hornet has only a slim rear fender, looking not really big enough for the wide double seat. Our mystery bike also has a slim rear fender, although it may be wider than the one in the picture.

Nate's Royal Enfield Hornet.
"Nate," a motorcyclist who posts on Brit bike message boards, has what he believes is a Royal Enfield Hornet. He knows it has non-original parts on it now, but he was given pictures by a previous owner that Nate believes show the bike more as it originally looked.
Here we see the slim rear fender, somewhat oversize looking seat, and the stand-alone headlight.

The half-moon speedometer on Nate's bike is not what is on our mystery bike now, but speedometers tend to break over 40-plus years and it would have been impossible to find the correct half-moon type to replace it.

I think our mystery bike is a Royal Enfield Hornet. Here's why: the tail light appendage on Crusaders was fully boxed (and the U.S.-spec Crusader in Jorge's picture is fully boxed).

The mystery bike, Nate's Hornet, and the Hornet in Jorge's ad picture all have an unboxed tail light and license plate assembly.

Tail light structure on Nate's Hornet.
It's pretty thin evidence, I admit. Perhaps the fender was swapped in at some point.

Either way, it's a very pretty motorcycle.

As far as performance, it doesn't matter. Jorge provides the information that the Hornet had the light alloy head and hotter cams of the Crusader Sports, and Nate confirms that his Hornet does have the alloy head.

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