Friday, June 7, 2019

Gordon May's new trip: 1952 Royal Enfield, 15,000 miles

Vintage Royal Enfield motorcycle.
He'll ride this 1952 Royal Enfield twin across two continents.
Gordon May is back on the road on a vintage Royal Enfield motorcycle. This time the author, historian and adventurer is riding from the UK to far northern Europe, then on to South Africa.

His planned route takes him through at least 34 nations, some of them probably in today's news feed for all the wrong reasons.

This on a 67-year-old Enfield 500 twin, extensively modified and now displacing 600cc, but still a museum piece.

Gordon is the veteran of other long rides, including his 2008, 8,400-mile ride from England to Chennai, India, where Royal Enfields are made today. He did that trip on a 1953 Royal Enfield Bullet, a single-cylinder, 350cc plodder.

Then it was overland from England to Egypt in 2010 on an underpowered 1952 BSA Bantam.

England to Vietnam followed in 2015, on a 1941 Matchless G3L, a military motorcycle of World War II.

Each trip has resulted in a book. His "Overland to India" is in a second edition, with a How To Guide for anyone wishing to make the ride themselves.

The UK-to-Norway-to-South Africa trip will be his longest adventure so far, at more than 15,000 miles.

His 1952 Royal Enfield 500 twin was considered advanced in its day but remains "a simple 1950s British push-rod twin that's happy to cruise all day long — at 50 miles per hour."

There's an excellent website for the trip, containing information on Gordon, the Royal Enfield motorcycle he will use, its preparation and the special equipment he will carry.

According to the site, the Royal Enfield twin has been modified with a heavy duty rear subframe to tote luggage, a 21-inch front wheel to surmount obstacles, LED spot lights to light the way, and a saddle gel pad to — well, you understand.

Among the items packed on the motorcycle: tent, sleeping bag, tools, fuel and oil containers, and a Garmin satellite device that can send text messages without cellular service and, if necessary, broadcast an SOS.

One item that surprised me: a bike cover such as you might use at home.

"When covered, a motorcycle effectively disappears from sight and is no longer an attractive traveler's machine to be played with or stolen from," Gordon writes.

You'll want to read Gordon's lists of essential gear and the rationale behind them if you're planning a motorcycle adventure of your own.

Gordon is best known to readers of this blog as a historian of Royal Enfields through history. He has helped Royal Enfield introduce its newest motorcycles — and their distinct ties to the past — as the company continues to offer new products with retro appeal.

His website even includes an excellent "Royal Enfield Twin Timeline" that details Royal Enfield's postwar twin-cylinder motorcycles, from Gordon's 500 twin all the way to the brand new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 and Continental GT 650 now appearing at dealerships around the world.

It's a proud history of accomplished motorcycles, and Gordon is on his way to adding yet another proud accomplishment to the history of Royal Enfield.

You're invited to follow Gordon along on Instagram at GordonGMay.


  1. Let's see if I understand this. This May fellow is going to ride 15,000 miles with no ABS and no "rain" mode? Why, I wouldn't ride around the block...
    Gordon, ride safe and have a wonderful time!

    1. ABS
      "Rain mode"
      You ain't English,boy.

  2. Anonymous6/09/2019

    I'm curious about the larger top end... was it a drop in deal or did the case openings need enlarged ??

    1. According to the website, "700 Meteor cylinder heads and pistons (give) 600cc displacement." Sounds as though it was just top-end mods.

    2. Anonymous10/26/2023

      Perhaps not, the Meteor Bore X Stroke are same as a 350 bullet times 2.
      Where as the clipper 250 and 500 twin share the same bore X Stroke.
      The engine in this motorcycle above is a 700 Meteor with 500 twin crank shaft, if I remember correct it's a77 mm stroke. Custom made longer con rods are used so the pistons travel further up.
      Essentially it's detuned Meteor.

  3. Good luck Gordon and wishing you safe passage.


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