Every company likes a gimmick. Post-1900 crossframes – or bicycles uniquely constructed with an extra tube – were not only easily identifiable as the product of a particular maker, but the design also suggested extra rigidity and strength. Even if this is only psychological rather than an actual advantage, it was still of great benefit in advertising and sales.
At first glance, the Lady’s Girder looks like a cross frame. Although further examination shows that the cross tube runs from the headstock to the down tube rather than to the bottom bracket, the impression was intentional. The cross frame was already subject to extensive patents, primarily those of Raleigh, Referee, Components Ltd, Centaur and Elswick. So it was no longer easy to build a cross frame without infringing on one of those patents. This led to the idea of extra tubes added to a diamond frame. Premier patented a frame with an extra tube added to the top tube, naming this model the ‘Royal.’ Royal Enfield’s offering was the Girder Frame. Introduced in 1902 to compete directly with the cross frame, the Girder Frame was a resounding success, with the Royal Enfield Lady’s Girder snapping up customers who may otherwise have bought a more expensive Raleigh X Frame.
The ‘Duplex’ and the ‘Duplex Riche’ were introduced in 1907 and became the Royal Enfield flagship models. Most of the company’s advertising included either a Lady’s or a Gent’s Girder, and Royal Enfield ‘Duplex’ models were so successful that they continued in production until the late 1920s.
These days, the pre-1907 ‘Standard Girder’ is much rarer than the Duplex. You can see the design difference below.
1906 Royal Enfield Lady’s Girder
‘Standard Girder’ Model
Quick Release Brakes
Frame No 129613
The Royal Enfield Lady’s Girder is in good all-round condition. It retains 100-year-old tyres: the front is an ‘Advance’ and the rear is a Dunlop ‘War Grade’. Royal Enfield introduced interesting innovations for its brakes at this time, including roller levers, quick-release brake fittings and tension adjusters within the linkeage. Female riders were used to maintaining their own bicycles, and companies recognized that they appreciated easier ways to adjust brakes and remove wheels. With its unique design, practical features and comprehensive advertising campaigns from Royal Enfield, it’s no wonder that this was one of the most popular ladies’ bicycles of the day.
1905 ROYAL ENFIELD CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
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.
1902 ROYAL ENFIELD CHAINWHEEL
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-price 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: