Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Royal Enfield Owner's Club recalls the past and carries on

Four men view well traveled Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle.
In 1956 A.J. Barboza, left, and John Noronha, second from right,
rode the first Royal Enfield Bullet made in India 14,000 miles to England.
Royal Enfield's Major Vic Mountford and Jack Booker welcomed them at the factory.
I last updated you on the doings of the Royal Enfield Owners Club UK as reported in the August/September and October/November 2019 editions of the club's "The Gun" magazine.

I have now before me The Gun editions for December/January and February/March 2020. Let us proceed:

The December/January edition reports the passing of John Cliffe Oct. 17, 2019, at 88. Credited as a founder of the club as it exists today, he wrote a letter suggesting it be formed. That caught the attention of other enthusiasts thinking along the same lines. One of those was founding member Dave Bogg, who died Aug. 16, 2019.

John Cliffe's obituary concludes with this:

"John felt that Royal Enfield was an often overlooked and regularly undervalued motorcycle manufacturer who deserved a pride of place in our motorcycling heritage. Long may his sentiment be preserved."

Chris Reed wrote in to complain that a pin was found working out of the chain on his 2017 Classic. He advised watching for this hazard and complained that Royal Enfield (at the time of writing) had declined to replace the chain. After buying three Royal Enfields, he wrote, he will not buy another.

Dave Blakeney enthusiastically described his new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650, but noted that his dealer warned him to make sure the side cover was in place before locking it, as it could be lost otherwise.

Ken Goa approves of his new Interceptor as well, especially after riding "the crap" out of the dealer's demonstrator.

Colin Myler showed photos of his restored 1919 Royal Enfield Model 200 225cc lightweight, veteran of 30 Banbury runs. He also owns a new 2019 Classic, registered 100 years later.

Club archivist Bob Murdoch detailed in an illustrated article the Royal Enfield Bullet's transition from made-in-England to made-in-India, making it "the world's longest manufactured motorcycle."

In Branch Reports, Suffolk noted the weather was changing before it exhausted all its ideas for ride outs. "Just not enough weekends in a year."

Northeast Scotland Branch cheerfully recounted wet weather runs, poorly attended, with closed restaurants, and missed turns ("my old map didn't have changes to road numbers").

The Greek Chapter provided full details on plans for the REOC International Rally, Sept. 3-5, 2021 at Camping Bekas, at Ancient Epidaurus, a distance from Athens.

The January/February edition opens with three photos from member John Mountford. They show his father, Royal Enfield managing director Vic Mountford mounted on a Royal Enfield Interceptor in 1962; John's older brother Richard Mountford on a 1965 Royal Enfield in about 1995; and John's own son David Mountford on a Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 just this last October.

All three are distinguished looking gentlemen on distinguished looking Royal Enfields. John notes that, of the bikes, the 650 is "much easier to start."

Member Peter Barber wrote in to recall visiting Royal Enfield's Redditch factory in 1958 and he provided a photo of himself riding a 700cc twin that day "straight off the production line." He remembers that the factory visits were for members of the original REOC, formed in 1954 and ending in 1963 or 1964. Now 86, he still enjoys reading The Gun.

Member Peter O'Brien recalled keeping a used Royal Enfield Bullet as personal transportation while serving as a dispatch rider for the RAF during the Cold War. Riding a Triumph in all weather to deliver secret communications to Bomber Command stations wasn't enough for him — he rode his Bullet while off duty.

It wet sumped so badly that, every 50 miles he would stop, drain the sump, and pour the oil back into the oil tank!

On that subject, Doug Young wrote in with a description of how he solved the wet sumping on his 2003 Bullet. (Solved wet sumping? That will be the day.)

N. Whitehead explained how his new Royal Enfield 650 Interceptor is a worthy descendant of the original Royal Enfield 750 Interceptor of the 1960s — except when it isn't. Fit a solo seat, raise the handlebars, move the footpegs and take the motor to 750, he suggests.

A historical article noted that in July, 1950, S. Sankaran, managing director of Madras Motors, sent a 50-page photo album, bound in crocodile skin, to Major F.W. Smith, managing director of Enfield Cycle Co. in Redditch. This advertisement for Madras Motors and South India came years before the formation of Enfield India Ltd.

In Branch Reports, Wessex reported that a hoped-for viewing of archival motorcycle films was cut short when the projector bulb blew.

Wiltshire listed eight ride-idea destinations for the coming summer, including Middle Wallop Army Museum.

The birth of an Airedale and Warfdale Branch was enthusiastically announced.

Kent members were challenged to "identify the bike" with only a snippet of it shown. They sent best wishes to two members injured in motor accidents.

West Riding noted of one outing "Although the temperature dropped, the comradery and countryside remained 90 miles of excellent riding although there was at least one breakdown due to a failed clutch cable."

The Royal Enfield Owners Club Autojumble 2020 is April 18, 2020 in Village Hall, Chestnut Road, Yardley Gobion, Towcester, Northants. All makes of parts are welcome, Mark Mumford wrote.

I can't make it to the autojumble. I really only included a mention because Chestnut Road, Yardley Gobion, Towcester, Northants is a wonderful sounding address.


  1. A very interesting piece! Do you know anything more about their trip? That must be worth reading about as well. And I was very sad to see that Winifred Wells had died as well. She must have done great things for Royal Enfield in Australia back in the day.

    1. Interesting question. REOC archivist Bob Murdoch writes this: "A few photographs in the archive capture the arrival of the first Indian Bullet at the Redditch works after its impressive 14,000-mile ride from Madras, but we have no details of the trip." I wonder where that motorcycle is today?

    2. In his book "Memoirs of a Spanner: My Story," K. Sanjeevan writes: "John Noronha, the son of Mr. Noronha, our Maths teacher was an outstanding athlete who used to excel in sprint events. After schooling, he and a friend, Alfred Barboza, an alumnus of Guindy Engineering College, undertook an overland journey from India to England by road on a Royal Enfield motorcycle. He has chronicled his journey in a book, a copy of which is with me. He later emigrated to Canada..." We need to find that book!


Follow royalenfields on Twitter