Arguably Royal Enfield is one of the best-known names of the British motorcycle industry, even though the machines are not as sought after and do not command the same level of value as comparable machines from Norton, BSA, or Triumph. Ian Kerr MBE reviews Royal Enfield – A Complete History.
Royal Enfield’s famous slogan — ‘made like a gun’ — hints at the factory’s origins similar to BSA. But, unlike the now-defunct Birmingham firm, they are now the oldest motorcycle manufacturer in existence that can boast of continuous production, providing you accept the move to India from Redditch. To be fair, though, its most famous model, the Bullet, can claim the longest motorcycle production run of all time without question.
While the bikes have often struggled to gain the respect they deserve, authors too seem to have shied away from writing the story of a company that started in the Victorian era manufacturing needles – apart from concentrating on the Bullet – and who also more than did their part in the second world war effort.
It is a company of many parts, including being a car manufacturer and being responsible for many features found on all brands of motorcycles even to this day, like cush-drive rear hubs. They also pioneered air-cooled diesel engines and were even involved in the development of atomic energy, so there is lots to tell.
Accomplished motorcycle author Greg Pullen has now charted the whole story bringing it right up to date, including the current Indian ownership that has kept the name alive and brought machines bearing its moniker on a par with others in the 21st century.
As part of the ‘Complete Story’ range from renowned automotive publishers Crowood, he has updated the story with help from those who were part of the UK story and those taking the story onward under the new ownership.
The lavishly illustrated 176-page hardback has nearly 200 colour images to go with the period shots and advertising posters spread throughout the well-researched text. Thirteen chapters chart the company’s progress and highlight competition success, with notable ISDT achievements, including star rider Johnny Brittain and racing the big twins, not to mention Geoff Duke and the GP5, all featuring as machine specification panels throughout the quality pages.
Anybody looking for a complete models list with specifications may be disappointed, likewise, those who seek minutiae about a bike or the company as a whole. But, given the 150-year plus history, this book gives the reader a serious grounding in the Royal Enfield history.
As with Pullen’s previous works, it is well-written and researched and, due to the excellent layout, can be dipped in and out of besides being used as a reference work — all for a modest £25.00
Obviously, one for the RE fan or owner, it is also one for those who are fed up with the endless tomes on Triumph, BSA etc., and want to understand the whole of British motorcycling history in the UK and around the world.
Besides, Royal Enfield has come back to the UK and is very much part of the current scene!
Available from all good bookshops or direct from the publishers Crowood www.crowood.com
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