Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Royal Enfield bike raises question for bikers

An old Royal Enfield bicycle raises questions owners of Royal Enfield motorcycles might find interesting.

The owner of this Royal Enfield women's bicycle says it is a 1943 model in original condition and he as been told it is now a rare find. He put an ad on CraigsList, not to sell it, but to ask whether he should preserve it or give it to his daughter to ride.

He wants to know your opinion.

"From what I've been told there are only a handful of these bikes left. Although some surface rust, everything seems great. I put on a new chain, packed all the dry bearings and replaced the stock tire tube — and she rides great. My daughter likes it and could get some good use out of it. After just a day now of use I've heard extreme opposite reactions — from "should be in a museum" to "a bike is to use." I'm still thinking on it. What's your 2 cents?"

It's an issue everyone with an old motorcycle must answer. Oddly, it's a stumbling block neatly evaded by those of us who own Royal Enfield motorcycles of recent manufacture. They aren't rare, at least, not in India, which continues to export them.

Thus, no guilty feelings. I can treat my motorcycle like the motor vehicle it is, without worrying that I am using up the world's dwindling supply of 1999 Royal Enfield Bullets. That's a pleasant thought every time I round off a nut: oh well, it's not the last.

The old Royal Enfield bicycle is in Alameda, Calif., and it may very well be one of the few like it there. Should it go to a collection, or to his daughter?

I would only add that my 20-something daughter brought a very pristine Raleigh three-speed from the 1970s a few years ago for use on the streets of Washington, D.C. It looked lovely parked inside her apartment in the winter but, when spring came, daily use proved to be a very hard life for a bicycle.

How would you vote?


  1. Anonymous1/12/2010

    What is his basis for claiming that it is a 1943. the handle-bar and stem are not from that period. The hub, if Sturmey-Archer, would be stamped with the date.

    There are several British cycle groups on line that could help him.

    Al in Philadelphia who still rides British three-speeds

  2. Anonymous1/12/2010

    May I also add that there certainly was NO civilian cycle production during 1943.

    Al in Philadelphia

  3. This lovely comment arrived by email from Robert Slovey, who remembers these bikes well:
    Regarding the Royal Enfield bike in today's posting: I would be curious how he determined it was a 1943 model. I grew up in a Schwinn bicycle shop in Chicago. My dad owned the shop and I worked there from 1957 to 1968. We sold many of this kind on a daily basis. The generic name for these bikes was "English Racer." They typically had skinny tires and three speeds (internal, in the rear hub). The most common make was Raleigh, but I saw many Royal Enfields in the same period. The oldest of the English Racers had no cables to operate the hand brakes. These brake contraptions had a series of levers and rods that had to be properly adjusted to work. All of the late models (pretty much 1960 and newer) had cable operated brakes. I couldn't tell from the photo, but if that bike has a front brake operated by a cable, then it's not a 1943. Oh ya, my opinion is: let the kid ride it. She will have the coolest bike on the block.

  4. Anonymous1/12/2010

    Hi David,

    So cool to see it on your blog! Thanks for making me smile this morning.

    I'm rushing off now but just wanted to say I'd love to find the year model...maybe its not a 1943, I dunno. It does have a 2 or 3 San Francisco bike permits (over each other) with the last one being 1953, so reasonable guess trhat it must be at least that. I was told by a bike collector that from the serial # it was from the early 40's...but he may have been guessing. I'll comment on your blog and see if a little fishing helps. Also, not Sturmey Archer rear hub but a single speed kick brake...dang, forgot the make...I think it starts with a P....but like the Sturmey does have a serial# starting with 40 xxxx. Decided to give it to my daughter and she rode it to school yesterday and loves it.

    Gotta run..... thanks much for your interest and comments. John from Alameda

  5. I know my bike is cool and all (tinyurl.com/yfvra8a), but I doubt it is worth more than $60. And it is by no means rare!

  6. Anonymous1/13/2010

    Anna, the bike more elegant than cool. Your Raleigh three-speed looks like one of the last imported before production was switched first to Alabama and then to Taiwan. It is a treasure!

    Your handle bars seem to be a replacement rather than the original Rayleigh pattern.

    Al In Philadelphia

  7. Al,

    Thanks for the info! I tried to do some research on it when I bought it from Craigslist but couldn't find anything. I really appreciate knowing more about it! Also, I'd like to add, my father says I don't treasure the bike, but I treasure it just like he does his RE - by riding it. :)

  8. Anonymous1/13/2010

    I have a similar issue with a 1952 Rudge bicycle which has a 3 speed Sturmey Archer dyno hub (with year stamped on it), fully complete and all original with enclosed chain, fenders, Brooks saddle, etc. I have had it for many years and now have no interest in it any longer. Do I sell it on Craigslist or give ir to someone who will appreciate it? Maybe selling it will make someone appreciate it more so?? Maybe selling it will go towards the 2010 G5 I plan to buy once they are available in California.

  9. Anonymous1/14/2010

    Rudge was a "gentleman's" machine; meaning that it was of the highest quality. Your cycle is very desirable to the cognizanti. By all means sell it as this would insure that it goes to someone who genuinely appreciates it. I would post it for sale on one of the British cycle groups web sites.

    Al in Philadelphia

  10. Paul Sussman6/05/2010


    I was wondering if anyone can help me. I am a novelist (and former field archaeologist) based in London. My new novel features a brief scene, set in 1930, featuring a man riding a Model J Royal Enfield. I needed to confirm that the following details about the bike are correct:

    Single cylinder
    3-speed Sturmey Archer gearbox
    Gear lever located on frame below petrol tank
    Throttle controlled by lever positioned on handlebar

    I was also wondering if anyone knew the top speed of the Model J.

    Any help would be hugely appreciated. You can contact me at paul_sussman@hotmail.com

    Many thanks. All best wishes,

    Paul Sussman


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