How did Royal Enfield get the name?

Royal Enfield story discovered by a collector


from bma 5/13
by Jörg "Jogi" van Senden

How nice that there are still motorcycle meetings where you can actually still find motorcyclists and not just family important, who want to experience an entertaining family outing with the kids and not leave the field under three bags full of brochures. At the last Hanse Jamboree in Henstedt-Ulzburg, I made the acquaintance of a man who gave advice and support to a Unimoto team that was taking part in the Schleswig-Holstein Cup. "Royal Enfield" was embroidered in red letters on his peaked cap. "Also a friend of the brand?" I asked casually and we were talking. At that point in time I didn't know who I was dealing with, because, unlike me, who I am only a sympathizer of Royal Enfield, after I happened to find a quite corroded bullet on a canal in Amsterdam in 2004, the bullet turned out to be friendly guy with the peaked cap as a real professional. Our conversation lasted several hours and a few beers until the Hanse Jamboree came to an end around midnight. We exchanged our business cards and Thomas Schramm, that's the name of my new acquaintance, offered me to say goodbye to visit him and his small private Enfield collection in Hamburg.
It took a few days until I found the said business card while mucking out the numerous pockets of my favorite camouflage pants. So I picked up the phone. Thomas didn't look particularly surprised and we quickly agreed on an appointment.

But first a little excursion into the history of Royal Enfield, starting in 1851 with George Townsend and his mill in the English city of Hunt End. Twenty years later, George's stepson begins building primitive bicycles with steel frames and wooden wheels. In 1880 the "Townsend cycle Company" was born in Redditch. Initially, the company was busy producing rifles, because Enfield's actual business area is the manufacture of carbines and artillery. But in 1892 a new bicycle was presented to the public, which was first named Enfield. The bike was marketed by a new company and got the addition "Royal". At the same time, the advertising slogan “Made Like A Gun” appeared, which is still used today and is intended to indicate that the product was manufactured with the same precision and quality as that of the Enfield firearms.
It took another nine years before the world's first motorcycle was presented in 1901. This makes Royal-Enfield the oldest motorcycle brand still in production, followed by Triumph in 1902, Husqvarna in 1903 and Harley-Davidson in 1907, which presented their first machines in those years. The company was founded a few years earlier, of course.

In 1931 the JS model appeared as the predecessor of the legendary "Bullet", which began its career in 1933 with 250 cc and 350 cc. In addition, a 125cc two-stroke model was produced in 1939 based on a 98 cc DKW, which became famous among the paratroopers in World War II as the "Flying Flea" because it was possible to protect this light motorcycle from a tubular cage without being damaged by the parachute Throwing a plane and transporting paratroopers and motorcycles behind enemy lines. You can find interesting pictures and videos at http: //royalenfieldflyingflea.weebly. marvel at com. Between 1953 and 1960, some models were even marketed as Indian in the USA. In India, too, the demand for motorcycles from England was high, especially from the military.

Since 1945 the English made serious efforts to leave the Indian colony. The Muslims from today's Pakistan and the Hindus and Sikhs from the Indian area fought bitter fighting until Pakistan split off in 1947. Nevertheless, the demand for motorcycles did not decrease. So two young business people from the Madras Motor Company came up with the idea of ​​importing Bullet motorcycles to the southern Indian port city of Madras.
In 1955, the first Enfield factory was opened in Madras. At first only kits from England were assembled. Soon after, the entire motorcycle was made in India and the motorcycle era began to boom in India.
Further 500 parallel twins were manufactured in England and the 700 Meteor from 1952 to 1955. This was followed by the Super Meteor from 1955 to 1963, from which the Constellation was developed in 1958 in a sportier appearance. The crowning glory was the 750 Interceptor with 52 hp. This ended the Enfield production in England.
In India, production continues under the name Enfield India. In 1984 Enfield India also took over the rights and the name of Zündapp and manufactured mopeds and mopeds CS 25 and CS 50 in Madras until the 1990s.
In 1994, Enfield India was acquired by Eichner Goodearth Ltd. taken over and renamed Royal Enfield Motors Limited. In 1999 the naming rights go back to India, so the motorcycles can again be called Royal Enfield and not Enfield India.

Around 35,000 of the Bullet are produced annually. The 350 Bullet is intended for the Indian market. The 500 bullet is mainly exported. The "Diamond Frame" used from the start is remarkable; a frame in which the motor is integrated as a load-bearing element in a single loop by screwing. This saves weight and simplifies the installation and removal of the engine and is still standard on many models today. Over the years, the Bullet has been given a left-hand gearshift, electric starter, disc brakes instead of drum brakes and, since 2008, electronically controlled petrol injection to meet the Euro 3 standard. The current 500 has a total of 28 hp, has a five-speed gearbox and is available for a new price of less than 6,000 euros with various paintwork and chrome parts. Less than 5,000 Enfields are imported into Europe each year.

The current Enfields can be seen at It is worth mentioning that the Bullet was used by some small series manufacturers as the basis for a diesel motorcycle. The structural separation of engine and gearbox (pre-unit) offers a favorable basis for this. With the exception of the Sommer company, the other manufacturers of diesel enfields have stopped the conversions, such as Taurus diesel. Hatz diesel engines, Lombardini and Lombardini license diesels were used; with 6.5 to 11 hp only partially suitable for our road traffic (great driving and travel reports, e.g. with the Enfield diesel to Morocco, are available online in the bma archive at The poor quality and poor supply of parts mean that Jochen Sommer is now making the frame himself and buying mudguards from Italy. Since wages in India have also risen considerably in the meantime, a Royal Enfield is no longer an inexpensive motorcycle and can no longer compete technically against modern machines in the same price segment. However, the machines look wonderfully old fashioned. If you like that and love the English style, there are hardly any alternatives.

My navigation system led me to the address given by Thomas without any problems. After a warm welcome, I was allowed to first take a look at the oldest motorcycle in his collection. The good piece from the 20s has been parked as a decorative object in the living room for some time and has already grown a little of the greenery of the flower window - what a still life. Then we go to the garage, which is only a few kilometers away, where the other machines are. After opening the well-secured garage door, I can hardly believe my eyes. 14 Royal Enfields and an old BSA are in a tidy little workshop. Boxes of spare parts; everything neatly labeled and organized. Thomas tells me that he used to import, maintain, rebuild and sell himself. But that was over for a few years. What is happening here now is exclusively his private hobby. The spare parts are remnants and sometimes laboriously collected. There is a small personal story for almost every machine. The motorcycles are part of his life and he doesn't like to part with any of his machines. I can understand well.

The focus of the collection is on the Bullet model. Thomas prefers the 350. It is a little more tame and requires less maintenance and forgives a little good-natured little mistakes. It even runs when the ignition is turned 26 degrees. He drove a 350cc mile for over 200,000 km. I discover a 700 Royal Enfield Meteor and a machine with the Enfield India logo on its tank.

On closer inspection you can see a flying ball in the tank emblem; a reference to the company's history, which began with the manufacture of firearms. A white government machine with suitcases is also part of the collection, as is a team. The sidecar can be removed in no time, just in case you want to go solo again. This is usually no longer possible with modern carriages. A blue Enfield with a Lombardini license diesel from Greaves is parked further back. Since everything is now regulated electronically and you don't have to worry about the needs of an engine, I noticed some special features about the old machines, such as levers that reminded me a lot of my three-speed torpedo gear shift on my bike. These are used to adjust the ignition point. Another for adjusting the air slide, a more sensitive solution than a bland choke button, which is usually only in or out. Another lever is used for decompression. This makes it possible to bring the kickstarter to the right pressure point and kick it through without much effort. The circuit is on the right. The operating principle of the gears is still similar to the "Albion gears", which were shifted with a claw and previously had a gear stick on the tank and were operated by hand. With these transmissions you can step down from neutral and you are then in first gear. Another step and the second gear follows. It goes all the way to fourth gear without ever having to shift into neutral. Another smaller gear lever further back can be operated with the heel of the boot. With a courageous kick you end up in neutral again directly from fourth gear. Great - no fumbling and searching for the neutral position. The manufacturers of modern machines should take a closer look and think about it. Everything works wonderfully mechanically and is designed to be repairable.

Thomas explained to me how a centrifugal force-controlled igniter works using individual spare parts from the shelf. Finest mechanics. You can still repair everything yourself and the technology is transparent, he enthuses. Sometimes there are only problems with the spread of the production dimensions. In fact, the dimensions are so far apart that the parts that fit together well had to be paired at the factory. If half of a crankcase has to be replaced after a fall, it is easier to replace the entire engine. Another half of the case would definitely not fit. Therefore, in addition to the engine numbers, production numbers are also included for allocation.

The time flew by while I was allowed to rummage around in the garage. At the end I got some historical literature explaining the Enfield technique. Thomas will certainly remain true to his old Royal Enfields. He doesn't want anything to do with the new electronic models. Some of the old gems can be seen every year at the Hamburg City Park Race in summer. There they stand at the tent of the Classic British Bike Club e.V. together with their sisters from BSA (Birmingham Small Arms), Norton, Triumph and Matchless.

We recommend the Enfield forum to all those interested in Enfield!

A very good overview of the history of Royal Enfield and the technology of the Bullet models can also be found at The homepage is very lovingly and clearly provided with many photos of machines, dismantled and cut engines for technical explanations. Someone really tried hard.