We have long recognised the demand for a low-priced but high-grade machine, and the difficulty hitherto has been to incorporate economy with efficiency to the degree of meeting a public want without prejudicing our good name, as Royal Enfields have attained their celebrity because the name is a guarantee in itself. For this reason we would not impair our reputation by offering to the public any machine which was not in every detail worthy to rank as a ‘Royal Enfield’ in character as well as in name.
– 1904 Royal Enfield catalogue, describing the ‘Model B’
The Royal Enfield name is a British institution. Of course, these days, the company is India’s primary motorcycle manufacturer, so the name and its history has been wonderfully preserved. As The Enfield Cycle Co the company was important in the early years of cycle manufacture. In 1892 Eadie won a contract to supply rifle parts to the Royal Small Arms factory at Enfield and to celebrate this a new bicycle design was named the ‘Enfield’ from October that year. In 1893 ‘Royal’ was added (from the Royal Small Arms name) making the model name ‘Royal Enfield.’
By the turn of the century, the ‘boom years’of cycle sales had passed and companies needed to be more competitive. Previously, cycles had been aimed at the aristocracy and upper classes, but now working class folk wanted to buy bicycles too. The upmarket brands, including Royal Enfield, started to introduce lower priced machines in order to capture both ends of the market. With special frames such as the Girder, as well as the company’s various (unsuccessful) attempts at spring-assisted frames, Royal Enfield’s top machines were expensive (18 guineas to 20 guineas). At 12 guineas in 1902, the ‘Model B’ was not actually cheap, but the company lowered the price to 8 guineas in 1904 as a serious attempt to have some machines for sale the lower end of the market. It was a clever move: with the company’s excellent reputation behind it – greatly enhanced, of course, by their military orders for the government and debut of their motorcycle range – the ‘Model B’ Roadster became a tempting proposition in the marketplace.
1902 Royal Enfield ‘Model B’ Roadster
Frame No A68618
The Royal Enfield Girder model was the company’s top-of-the-range machine and was manufactured in large quantities for many years. The Gent’s Girder, in particular, was the company’s flagship model. Their standard pattern gent’s roadsters were not promoted so heavily, and production of these cheaper models was less profuse. Today they are therefore much rarer. This example from 1902 is the earliest Royal Enfield Gent’s Roadster I have seen. Although a standard pattern machine, it is a historic model because this is the year that Royal Enfield gent’s roadsters made their debut.
Royal Enfield bicycle frame numbers have no logical sequence, and the VCC Royal Enfield marque specialist has no information on machines this early. We are lucky that at least a poor quality photocopy of the 1902 catalogue exists to use as reference. The frame number of this machine has an ‘A’ prefix, so I assumed it must be the more expensive ‘Model A.’ But the catalogue description of the fittings suggests ‘Model B’ so I’ve described it as that. Unfortunately, there ‘s no longer an expert alive to clarify such minute details on a Royal Enfield of this vintage.
1902 ROYAL ENFIELD CATALOGUE
1904 ROYAL ENFIELD CATALOGUE
ENFIELD MFG CO LTD:
A brief history to 1918
The directors Albert Eadie (d.17/04/1931) and Robert Walker Smith (ex-Rudge) started the business in 1891 and displayed ten machines at the 1892 Stanley Show (including two Eadie front drivers and six safeties). Smith was a former designer at Rudge responsible for Perry parts and fittings; Eadie was manufacturer of Perry parts and fittings).
The company was registered on 24 February 1893 (No. 170,951). An office with showroom was opened at 166 Edmund Street, Birmingham, Warwickshire, and they were later, from December 1893, at 94 Snow Hill, Birmingham. The badge was a shield with a smaller shield inset containing a field gun facing left. It seems that initially the company sold machines made by the Eadie Manufacturing Co and moved into the former works of Townsend, George & Co. at Givry Works, Hunt End, Redditch, Worcestershire from 1896. There was a London showroom at 6c Sloane Street and a Dublin showroom at 73 Grafton Street.
During this time the company name changed several times: Enfield Manufacturing Co. Ltd (wound up on 8 January 1897), Enfield Cycle Co. Ltd, New Enfield Cycle Co. Ltd and then reverted to Enfield Cycle Co. Ltd. In 1892 Eadie won a contract to supply rifle parts to the Royal Small Arms factory at Enfield and to celebrate this a new bicycle design was named the ‘Enfield’ from October that year. In 1893 ‘Royal’ was added (from the Royal Small Arms name) making the model name ‘Royal Enfield’. At the 1893 Stanley Show the firm showed a front-driver and a tandem but the latter received some criticism. For the 1894 Stanley Show there were 19 safeties on display, plus two tandems. A main feature of their lady’s machine for 1895 was the frame which was adopted as a distinctive marketing feature at the instigation of Albert Eadie.
For 1897 there was the Eadie back pedal brake. There was a close association with the Eadie Mfg. Co. At the 1897 Stanley Show Enfield displayed ten safeties, two tandems, a triplet and a quad. The main features for 1898 were the bottom bracket in a separate sleeve, the front brake fulcrum on a bar projecting from the handlebar stem and the lady’s dress guard cords were now wound around studs on the mudguards rather than passed through holes. From 1898 all models were known as ‘Royal Enfield’. The motto ‘Made like a gun’ was used to describe the machines. Models for 1898 were supplied with R. W. Smith’s Patent Disc-adjusting bracket and Enfield Lever Pattern brake. The Light Roadster for 1898 weighed 30 lb. Albert Eadie retired that year.
For 1899 there were rubber inserts in the head tube to absorb vibration. Also introduced was eccentric bracket chain adjustment and eccentric discs let into the rear fork ends to allow chain adjustment. The band brake was promoted, especially on lady’s models. In 1901 the steering lock was changed from bolt-through to head clip and the lady’s models switched from plunger to pull-up stirrup front brake.
At the 1899 Stanley Show the Rucker and Philpott flexible spring frame was shown and adopted by Enfield. The spring frame ‘Flexible’ was heavily re-designed and offered for 1901. It was built with compression stays of flat steel, the seat stays being divided and connected to the saddle lug by two flat steel scroll springs. Front fork blades were made from two flat steel springs, placed with broader surfaces parallel to the wheel hub. The longer blade is at the rear, curled near the lower end, to which the spindle is attached.
It didn’t work and was re-designed and re-introduced in 1902. Main features were fork blades made to two flat springs curving down from the fork crown, the longer one carrying the front spindle, and the shorter one in front, bearing down at a point about 5″ above the spindle. There was a similar arrangement at the back, plus sprung bars and seat pillar. It was withdrawn by 1904 following the introduction of the ‘Girder’. There were two types of ‘Girder’ frame: the ‘Modele Riche’, offered first, with brake mechanisms hidden in the fork head and silver badge, with the Duplex added for 1907 and continuing as top of the range until the late 1920’s; and another with a single bracing strut on lower-range lightweight frames. The chainwheel on the ‘Girder’ is distinctive in having six, pear-shaped cut outs.
For 1903 there was a new patent drum hub brake; the plated fork crown was replaced with boxed crown (although plated crown with flexible forks continued to be available on special order until c1912); waisted seat stays replaced straight; and inverted brake levers were adopted. At the 1903 Show the Fagan 2-speed hub was introduced for 1904 and fitted as standard on the ‘Modele Riche’. A coaster brake was now fitted to the ‘Royal Enfield’ and ‘Model B’. The company was now trading from Hunts End, Birmingham, and recived some publicity for fulfilling an order for 72 cycles destined for the 1st Volunteer Battalion of Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
In 1905 the models on offer were the ‘Modele Riche’ at £16 16s., including two-speed gear and painted black with gold lining; the ‘Royal Enfield’ at £12 12s., painted black and lined in gold and white, with black and gold on wheel rim centres; the ‘Model A’ at £10 10s, lined in crimson and bronze, with crimson and black wheel centers; the ‘Model B’ at £8 8s, and lined with green and white. Enfield offered the two-speed hub, made under the Fagan patents.
1906 marked the switch from cable to roller-lever brakes. The ‘Girder’ road racer with 2-speed coaster hub, and a single-strut ‘Modele Riche’ Featherweight (27lb.) were introduced and the ‘Modele Riche’ was offered with the 3-speed S-A hub. The assets of the defunct Coventry Cross Cycle Co. were also acquired in 1906 and in the following year that of Ric Cycles. So for 1907 there was a cut-proce range of Coventry Cross cycles.
The directors in 1909 were Lord Ernest Seymour (Chairman), George Howard Cartland, Robert Walker Smith and Thomas Evans. J. W. Davis was the company secretary.
There was a new design of brake lever in which the rolling levers appeared as of one. Brazed-on brake lugs were introduced for some upper-range models. Also a brake mechanism for carrier cycles was patented incorporating a balancing device (1909/26,311). Prices varied from £15 15s for the Three-Speed ‘Riche Duplex Girder’, to £5 10s for a juvenile machine. The more expensive models were offered with black or green enamel, lined gold, with matching rims. Cheaper models were enamelled black, lined crimson and chrome with black centre rims. There were 28 models offered including a tradesman’s carrier. Lady’s frame sizes were from 20″ to 26″ in two-inch steps; gent’s sizes were from 22″ to 28″ in two-inch steps, but depending on the model.
In 1910 the Modele Riche and Duplex ‘Girder’ machines switched from eccentric bracket to eccentric rear spindle chain adjustment. Also in 1910 brazed-on pump clips and full length front guards were offered on some models and chain cases had large, plated chain wheel covers. For 1911 there was a separate catalogue listing large and small box carrier cycles, a delivery hand truck, and a specially designed carrier bicycle.
In 1912 handlebars were covered in celluloid, all-weather roadsters were offered and a tandem was re-introduced with pronounced downward curve to the gent’s top tube. A constabulary girder-frame model proved very popular. The gear change lever moved to the handlebar for lady’s machines. The three fieldgun chainwheels were fitted to most models in 1913 and the fieldgun was also on the lamp bracket replacing the previously plain design. There was a big publicity campaign for 1914, based on W. Gill’s achievement of 100,000 miles on a 1905 ‘Girder’.
In 1915 a military bicycle was produced for eight guineas. There was a reduced range for 1916, with the most expensive road racer being dropped, and that reduced range continued throughout the war while production concentrated on the military model.
Around 1920: The finishing shop:
The cycle dispatch area of the factory:
The Hunt End factory in the 1920s:
The new Royal Enfield works in Redditch around 1928:
1950s Austin A70 delivery van:
1909 ROYAL ENFIELD DUPLEX GIRDER v 1902 ROYAL ENFIELD