Friday, April 14, 2023

Royal Enfield fan Chris Overton passes by

Chris Overton on Royal Enfield motorcycle.
Royal Enfield enthusiast Chris Overton has died.

 In 2018 Royal Enfield enthusiast Chris Overton and I got into an elevator in Santa Cruz, California, and found ourselves sharing the little compartment with Siddhartha Lal, Royal Enfield's corporate boss and our host at launch events for the Royal Enfield 650 twins. 

There we were, two stalwart fans of Royal Enfield, facing the man who had revived and extended the legacy of the brand. We didn't know what to say. We were absolutely tongue tied! 

Where could we start? Twenty seconds in an elevator would not have been enough to express Chris Overton's attachment to Royal Enfield, its motorcycles and its history.

Chris had brought his original 1966 Royal Enfield Continental GT 250 from his home in Rossland, British Columbia so that Royal Enfield could display it alongside the brand new Continental GT 650. 

His historic Royal Enfield was an example of the first "factory" café racer on planet Earth. It had the ground breaking (and often broken) five-speed gearbox, famously condemned as unreliable in its time. Chris said he wore "ballet slippers" rather than motorcycle boots to pick his way through its gears.

And, while he had brought the little café racer from Canada in a van, he rode his motorcycle all over Santa Cruz during the launch event. 

There is a photo of Lal, at one event, crouched over the tank on Chris's motorcycle. Seeing it, Chris would say that he wished he had offered to let Lal ride the little red 250cc café racer on the road. It would have been an inspired moment, bringing two eras together. 

Siddhartha Lal, left, at 650 launch in 2018.
Chris Overton (in yellow shirt) watches as Siddhartha Lal and historian Gordon May show Chris's original Royal Enfield Continental GT 250 to the motoring press of the world.

Chris passed away March 23, in hospital, victim of an unsuspected cancer that briefly interrupted and then ended his active, productive life.

He is survived by his wife Elaine, sister Jan and brother-in-law Rod Hobbs, cousins, and his many friends. A long list of former classmates offered condolences on the Facebook page of the high school he attended. He was a 1970 graduate of Southern Okanagan Secondary School. One fellow alum described Chris as the smartest kid at school.

I can believe it.

He will be missed by the many Royal Enfield owners around the world who benefitted from the knowledge he contributed to multiple Royal Enfield forums.

Chris owned Royal Enfields modern and vintage, including what he called "the remains" of a 1960 Fury. With Chris and Royal Enfield authority Graham Scarth I was privileged to be a junior member of a happy trio devoted to helping readers of this blog figure out what year and model Royal Enfield they might have.

Graham is a student of historic Royal Enfield frame and motor numbers, with a solid sense of what the numbers tell us. Chris analyzed the photos, based on accumulated knowledge of rare Royal Enfield models of the 1960s.

Chris told me he considered himself a student of all the Royal Enfield history that wasn't considered important enough to write down at the time. He completed a detailed analysis of the serial numbers partially visible on the Interceptor shipping boxes seen in the background of the famous Royal Enfield "We Only Supply the Motorcycle" advertisement.

He humorously described himself as "hardcore unemployable" but in fact was always busy at building projects, and enjoyed a challenge. 

When I noticed that vintage Royal Enfields had oil recommendations engraved in a tiny typeface on the gearbox filler plug (whereas my 1999 made-in-India gearbox plug was plain) Chris gifted me a labelled plug from his collection. It fit perfectly and is on my Bullet now.

New and old Royal Enfield gearbox filler plugs.
Something to remember Chris by.

Chris was personally generous with me in other ways. In Santa Cruz I found myself in over my head when it came to riding the Royal Enfield 650 twins on California mountain roads. It was far more challenging than the straight, flat roads of Florida, and I was frankly scared. Chris reassured me by suggesting I just follow him and do what he did. It helped.

The Royal Enfield event in Santa Cruz was the only occasion on which I met Chris. Otherwise, our friendship was conducted on email. I knew little of his personal history beyond his interest in Royal Enfield. But I am grateful for the electronic relationship we had. He enriched my life. I will miss him.

Siddhartha Lal on original Continental GT 250.
Siddhartha Lal tries Chris Overton's 250 GT.


  1. What a lovely tribute. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Anonymous4/15/2023

    Very touching tribute! You were lucky to know him. Thanks for the tribute - BTW I can relate to being scared. At the launch of the Himalayan I was terrified at the offroad part!!

  3. Anonymous4/16/2023

    Thank you for this wonderful tribute of my Soulmate, Elaine

  4. Anonymous4/17/2023

    He was great in helping me find information on 1961 Fury.


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