Friday, June 23, 2023

A Royal Enfield I thought wasn't real

Photograph of RE2 with pedals, for Bermuda.
The Royal Enfield Bermudian didn't exist, I thought.

 "Of course I would be delighted to be proven wrong," I wrote, in May. 

Well, I have been proven wrong. I'm grateful to blogger Jorge Pullin of My Royal Enfields for lighting the fuse that blew up my theory. In several ways he gets the credit for turning around my notion that the Royal Enfield Bermudian didn't exist. 

You see, as best I could tell in May, the 1952 Royal Enfield Bermudian probably never went beyond the prototype stage. If it had, wouldn't someone remember that there was a version of the Royal Enfield RE2 two-stroke motorcycle that had bicycle pedals in addition to its motor? 

As the name suggests, the Bermudian was designed for the islands of Bermuda, where pedals were required on motorbikes up to, maybe, 1953. 

Photos of one pedal-equipped Bermudian, perhaps a mock-up, exist in archives. And period factory paperwork in the possession of Hitchcocks Motorcycles indicates that 225 of the special RE2s were to be built for Bermuda. 

And yet no one I could find in Bermuda remembers them. Royal Enfield advertisements published in Bermuda at the time showed regular Royal Enfield RE2s, with NO pedals.

I concluded that the Bermudian was cancelled, and only standard Royal Enfields were shipped to Bermuda.

But someone had heard of them, second hand.

"I remember the first time I heard about the pedal equipped RE2s was from the late Dave Benson who told me he spent some time in Bermuda and worked on them," wrote Don McKeand, a two-stroke enthusiast and authority on them for the Royal Enfield Owners Club (UK).

Dave Benson died in 2022. He was technical officer and Life Vice President of the British Two Stroke Club and surely would have recognized an unusual RE2 if he worked on it.

Don's recollection of Dave mentioning the pedal-assisted Royal Enfield came in response to fresh information provided by Jorge and passed along to Don by Graham Scarth, of the REOC.

For his part, Graham returned to the Royal Enfield factory records he studies and concluded that more RE2s went to Bermuda in 1952 then it had first appeared.

There is a trick to this.

"Ledger entries are often inconsistent as they were filled in by different people," Graham wrote me. But adding up all the likely figures, it now looks as though 179 RE2s went to Bermuda. Still less than the 225 envisioned by the factory, but a significant number for a small market.

The factory records don't say whether or not these motorcycles had bicycle pedals. But someone else does.

Photo and caption from The Tiger Cub Bible.
Bermuda required pedals on motorbikes; did Royal Enfield supply them?

Jorge sent me a link to the 2003 book "The Triumph Tiger Cub Bible," by Mike Estall.

On Page 90, Estall writes, of the Triumph Terrier in Bermuda:

"It has been said that the first Terrier to arrive in the island (date unknown, but prior to delivery of the first production machine to go there in September 1953, and also presumably prior to the March 1953 legislation which removed the pedals requirement) is reported to have had pedals mounted on some sort of bracket, allowing the machine to be propelled like a bicycle. It is most unfortunate but no pictures of this contrivance exist today and the author has reached the conclusion that the story, although interesting, is likely to be apocryphal."

Yet, while discounting the possibility of Triumphs so modified, the author of the Tiger Cub Bible accepts as gospel this caption on a photo of the RE2 with pedals:

"If a prototype Terrier had been built with pedals and folding foot rests, it would have looked something like this. 71 examples of this maroon painted 125cc model were imported in 1952. (Courtesy of the Royal Enfield Owners Club)"

As the caption implies, the photo in the book is one of the archival factory photos of the same prototype, or mock-up.

Whether the number of Royal Enfield Bermudian's produced was 71, or 179, or 225, the only pictures I've seen are all different poses of this very same, single motorcycle.

Six views of the Royal Enfield Bermudian.
Six views of the same motorcycle: an RE2 with pedals for Bermuda.
(Courtesy of Jorge Pullin)

To my amazement, Jorge had found all six of these photos in the Redditch library, and graciously emailed them to me.

The images, dated January, 1952, are consecutively numbered, and labelled "Model RE2s with pedals for Bermuda."

They are the only certain, photographic evidence that the Bermudian existed. So far.

I would be delighted to be proven wrong about that, too.

I am indebted to Jorge for finding the library photos and the material in "The Triumph Tiger Cub Bible." 

Author Mike Estall died in 2021 leaving his detailed book for fans of small Triumph motorcycles. 

Royal Enfield enthusiasts, at least those interested in the little RE2, a descendant of the Flying Flea, can be thankful to Estall for laying out the myriad changes in Bermuda law that inspired a pedal-assisted version.

He sets the end of pedal requirement precisely at March 3 1953 (pedals were still required in machines under 50cc). This very probably limits the life span of the pedal-assisted Royal Enfield Bermudian to the 1952 model year.

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