When I was 12, my parents bought me a stingray style bicycle. I bought a can of cheap green spray paint; a leopard patterned banana seat, high handlebars, and went to work modifying the bicycle. The finishing touches were handlebar streamers, and playing cards attached with clothe-pins to the frame so they blade slapped the spokes. It sounded a little bit – if I used my imagination – like a motor.
When I was 22, after graduation at UW La Crosse, I toured through India with a music group. Before going to India, my mentor had given me the name of a good friend of his from the time he lived in Long Island, NY; he asked me to stop by and say hello to her if I had a chance and he gave me her address in New Delhi.
One night on that trip, I borrowed a Royal Enfield Motorcycle and drove to where she lived. I didn’t have a motorcycle license and hadn’t ridden a motorcycle before. Of course, its crazy to ride a motorcycle in India, but at 22 I felt invincible, and one night I took the chance. I found where she lived, knocked on the door and told her why I was there. She invited me in for tea and we talked quite a while.
The Royal Enfield motorcycle factory did not start with motorcycles. They first manufactured bicycles, and at one time made bullets for the British Army. But near the turn of the Century, in about 1901, the company began making motorcycles. Its motto is “Built like a gun, goes like a Bullet.” That is on my seat which I had sent from India. My bike model is actually called the 500 bullet.
Royal Enfield – along with Triumph – dominated the British motorcycle market pre-1950, but when Japanese bikes were brought to Europe, and British soldiers were looking for new adventures after the war, they bought many imported motorcycles because they were faster and cheaper than the Enfield.
RE lost its footing and in the mid 1950’s, the company and brand was sold to an investor in India. Since the mid ‘50’s, that’s where they’ve been made. Mine, according to the ID stamping on the engine, was manufactured in Chennai, India, in Jan, 2017
I never rode motorcycles until I was 46 years old – except that one time in India – but from that day until the time I bought my first motorcycle, I remembered the fun I had that night in New Delhi dodging goats, cows, and people.
Over the years, once in a while, I’d hunt through Craig’s list or Ebay for a RE with no luck. But about a year ago I found one for sale in Las Vegas and made a pitch on it. They took my bid, and a year ago (Aug) it was delivered to my street in Arizona.
Getting on that bike was the first time I’d rode one since that day (over 40 years ago) in New Delhi. Since then, I’ve read books on the history of the Royal Enfield and have wanted to modify its look. I noticed the old fashioned logo with the Lee Enfield .303 WWI era trench rifle, and decided to use it.
Below are close up pics of the R and E with the Enfield .303 in between