Since the turn of the century, bicycle manufacturers went to great lengths to reassure the public of the strength and durability of their cycle frames. With many cheap poorly-made models on the market, the public did not always understand why they should pay up to four times more for the best models. So the top manufacturers incorporated extra strengthening factors into their frame design to create an added ‘psychological’ strength to their bikes. The Premier Royal, Resilient Centaur, Iver Johnson Truss-Bridge and many variations of crossframe were examples popular at the time.
The Royal Enfield Girder, in various models, was the company’s top-selling machine, and also the world’s top-selling ‘strengthened’ frame design apart from the crossframe. Royal Enfield offered two styles: The original, introduced in 1901, was the ‘Girder.’ In 1907, building on the Girder’s reputation, they brought in the ‘Duplex’ – illustrated above and below.
It was basically the original Girder frame but modified to take two struts from the seat tube to the chain stay bridge, instead of one strut.
The company claimed that the Duplex had even greater strength – to justify its extra price – though it’s debatable that it made much difference in practical terms. These days, both versions of the Royal Enfield Girder enjoy cult status, for much the same reasons as they did in their day: the quirky design stands out in a crowd and, like all the company’s products, it is a well-built sturdy machine that’s a pleasure to ride. But the Duplex – featured here – is the much rarer version.
1908 Royal Enfield Duplex Road Racer
Eadie Coaster Brake & Thumb-lever Front Brake
This rare early ‘Duplex’ Royal Enfield is in good all-round condition and ready to ride. The front brake has an interesting thumb-lever, i.e. you push down to activate the brake. The lever is brazed on to the handlebar. The rear brake is an Eadie Coaster. The rear tyre is an old John Bull which is best used for display only. On sale, I will provide an extra tyre for riding use.
The Royal Enfield Duplex is much rarer than a cross frame and, with its interesting and unique Royal Enfield features, this machine would take pride of place in any enthusiast collection.
1909 ROYAL ENFIELD CATALOGUE
WAR OFFICE DUPLEX GIRDERS
Girder Frame Roadsters were supplied as military bicycles to the War Office (used by the Belgian army). This model was also available in civilian trim when soldiers enlisted, with its price specially reduced.
On enlistment, soldiers were offered the opportunity to buy a bicycle on hire purchase, so many civilian machines were used. You’ll see this distinctive model in various illustrations of the period.