Say ‘Royal Enfield’ to any motorcycle aficionado, and they will undoubtedly remember the Bullet, the motorcycle with the longest unmodified production run of any motorcycle, having been in production since 1948. However, the narrative of Royal Enfield is much more than one model, and the business, which built its first motorbike in 1901, was as essential in the story of the British motorcycle as rivals Triumph, BSA, or Norton.
The company began in light engineering in 1851, bicycle manufacturing in 1886, and precise rifle parts in the 1890s. The relationship with India began in 1955 when Madras Motors assembled the 350cc Bullet from parts delivered from England. By 1962, Madras Motors was producing Bullets from the ground up, including manufacturing all parts, and when the Royal Enfield facility closed in 1967, Enfield India continued to produce the Bullet and continues to do so to this day.
V-Twin Royal Enfield (1910)
Motosacoche, a Swiss enterprise, was one of the numerous manufacturers in Europe developing V-Twin engines. Royal Enfield purchased 297cc versions of their V-Twin engines to fit into their frames, but these proved to be underpowered, so a 770cc, J.A.P. V-Twin engine was sourced for the Model 180 in 1912, and this was powerful enough to pull a sidecar, an important role for motorcycles in the early days as they were viewed as a mode of transportation, rather than a frivolous pastime or hobby.
By 1913, Royal Enfield was producing its own 425cc V-Twin engine, and it was this motorcycle that would assure the company’s success when it got major orders from the British War Department during World War I. Machine gun-carrying sidecars were frequently included with motorcycles.
The Royal Enfield Standard was introduced in 1925.
We doubt that any manufacturer would dare to call a new model the ‘Standard’ now, but it was an appropriate term in the 1920s, signifying sturdiness and simplicity, both of which were desirable at the time. The Standard’s 350cc, two-stroke, single-cylinder engine produced 2.75 horsepower, but it was dependable and well-equipped, with front and rear drum brakes, a novel front fork design, and even turn signals. It is an unimpressive motorbike, but it is significant because it is the type of machine that earned Royal Enfield a high name in the market and provided a firm foundation upon which the company would expand in subsequent years.
The Royal Enfield Bullet was introduced in 1948.
The Bullet brand has been assigned to Royal Enfield guns since 1932, but the model we know and love today is from 1948. The versions from 1931 to 1947 had an inclined engine and a rigid rear end, as did all motorcycles at the period. The 1948 Bullet was completely new, with an upright engine and a swing-arm frame that allowed for the use of a dual seat.
Another innovation was the ‘neutral-finder’ lever on the transmission, which allowed the rider to skip right to neutral regardless of gear. RE imitated Triumph’s ‘nacelle,’ enclosing the headlight and speedometer for a neater look. The engine capacity was first 350cc, followed a year later by a 500cc variant. When the Indian Army ordered Royal Enfield Bullets in 1949, the business chose to construct an assembly plant in Madras, India. This is the model that is still being made today but with contemporary technologies.
Meteor/Super Meteor/Constellation (1949-1967) by Royal Enfield
Royal Enfield’s parallel-twin engine debuted in 1949, demonstrating the advantage Triumph earned by introducing its parallel twin engine 11 years earlier, before the war. As with the Triumph, displacement was first 500cc, subsequently increasing to 700cc, and the models provided good performance (the Meteor 500 was RE’s first 100mph model) at a reasonable price.
They were a commercial success because they were well-made and handsome, albeit a little hefty, and had a somewhat nameless reputation among heavyweights Triumph, Norton, and BSA. Many sources claim that the Royal Enfield Constellation with the 700cc engine was the first superbike,’ even though it is a far cry from what we consider to be a superbike today.
Interceptor (1961-1967) by Royal Enfield
While every other British manufacturer had replicated Triumph’s parallel twin, Royal Enfield went further and earlier than its competitors by creating their top-of-the-line Interceptor first 692cc, and then 736cc, when everyone else was stuck on 650cc. This offered the Interceptor a performance advantage that was significant for the American market, which was crucial for British manufacturers.
Despite the fact that the Interceptor was well-made, attractive, and had exceptional performance, the manufacturing was unable to meet demand from the United States, and attempts to do so expedited the death of the British arm of the company, but Royal Enfield India persisted.
Continental GT (1965) by Royal Enfield
The café racer fad was beginning to take hold in British motorcycle culture in the 1960s. These were motorcycles that their owners had modified to look like racing motorcycles from the time, complete with clip-on handlebars, rear set foot controls, and a single seat. When Royal Enfield launched the Continental GT, it was the only manufacturer to make a factory café racing variant.
The engine capacity was 250cc, which was crucial for the UK market because a learner may ride a bike with up to a 250cc engine before passing the riding test. The Continental GT came with all the proper pieces – clip-ons, rear sets, a swept back exhaust pipe, and a humped seat – and while the 21 horsepower single-cylinder engine couldn’t do the ‘ton’ (100mph), the bike looked fast even when standing still.
Royal Enfield Himalayan (from 2018)
As the millennium progresses, Royal Enfield begins to look beyond the Bullet, which continues to sell in large numbers not only in India but around the world, thanks to the new modern classic’ or retro obsession. The adventure bike is the fastest-growing motorcycling market, and Royal Enfield recognizes that it is in an ideal position to design a durable yet easy adventure bike based on its new 411cc, 25 horsepower single-cylinder engine.
It comes just in time, with manufacturers facing rising criticism for their huge, heavy, and pricey adventure versions like the BMW R 1250 GS and KTM 1290 Super Adventure. The Himalayan is well-equipped, with rider and bike protection, and it also represents good value for money, outperforming motorcycles costing three times as much. A superb adventure bike in its own right, not just a fine entry-level adventure bike.
Continental GT 650 (2019) by Royal Enfield
With the firm completely embracing the model classic trend and attempting to move away from its one-model past, it was time for RE to resuscitate model names from the past in order to satiate the craving for all things nostalgic in motorbikes. The Continental GT was an easy moniker to bring back, however this time it would be driven by RE’s brand new 650cc parallel twin engine while preserving the ‘factory café racer’ style pioneered by the original Continental GT of 1965 (see above).
Like other Royal Enfields, it is a simple yet polished motorbike with reasonable performance without fireworks, and while it lacks the ergonomics necessary for long days in the saddle, there is very little that can compete with it as a bike to simply get out on and enjoy the ride for a few hours. If you want something that will keep you comfortable all day, the Interceptor 650 is the shoe for you.
Scram 411 Royal Enfield (2022)
The Scram 411 is clearly based on the Himalayan, although it is much more road-oriented, with a 19-inch front wheel instead of the Himalayan’s 21-inch piece. This results in substantially sharper road handling, which is only compromised by the budget suspension. A meager 24 horsepower from the single-cylinder engine may not sound like much, but there are many individuals who don’t need much more, and at the price, there is nothing to compete with the Scram, which remains an enjoyable bike to ride with good comfort for extended days in the saddle.
If the performance is limited, it at least reflects the Scam’s easygoing demeanor, and the bike’s basic simplicity should imply fewer worries about unreliability. Most importantly, the existence of the Scram and the Himalayan demonstrates a firm prepared to shift away from its one-model mindset that typified the company for so long and recognizes the significance of the brand name.
2023 Royal Enfield Super Meteor 650
Royal Enfield has clearly studied Triumph, which has spun off the Bonneville model into various different forms while preserving the core architecture. The 650cc twin-cylinder engine, introduced in 2018, was the ideal foundation for a multimodel line, and the Super Meteor 650 – another resurrected name – is RE’s cruiser or bobber model, depending on your interpretation of the design.
The engine is a completely stressed component of the chassis that Royal Enfield and renowned chassis designers Harris Performance collaborated on. Front and rear Showa suspension are installed, while braking is provided by Brembo subsidiary ByBre, which is competent with the single front disc. The riding position is relaxed, the craftsmanship is excellent, and the styling is appealing. The pricing, as with all Royal Enfields, is one of its most appealing features.