Royal Enfield Club of Australia
There is a certain amount of street cred that comes from riding the world’s most enduring motorcycle name. Royal Enfield can trace its beginnings back to 1893, its first motorcycle to 1901, and can rightfully claim to be the oldest motorcycle name in continuous production since the earliest days of motorbiking. A slogan on one member’s t-shirt boasts the claim, “Royal Enfield – turning men into mechanics since 1893”. True, there have been some minor adjustments through time and a small move halfway around the world but the essence of Royal Enfield continues, to use its own words,
“untainted by technology”.
Royal Enfield has its own loyal band of enthusiasts in Australia in the Royal Enfield Club of Australia (RECOA). What started out as a loose, web-based group has matured into a nation-wide organisation with the full trappings of a real motorcycle club. It even has royal patronage with HRH Prince Leonard of the Principality of Hutt River as its patron. Naturally, when you have a royal patron you must visit him. The club has held one ride to Hutt River with members riding from the east coast right across Australia just for the pleasure of meeting its royal patron. That’s no small feat on a Royal Enfield. Another ride is planned for 2015.
Being scattered right across Australia, the interweb and the club website are important tools for keeping in touch and sharing information. The club runs a member-only web page where it shares knowledge, experience, advice and opinion. While the focus is on the endless challenges thrown up by Royal Enfield ownership, anyone with an interest in these fine machines is welcome to join. Ownership of a Royal Enfield is not a requirement but would appear to be the inevitable progression of the disease once the infection has set in.
Being a formal club, there are certain obligations that must be met. There must be a committee with a president, secretary, treasurer and such. There must be an annual general meeting with an agenda and minutes, financial statements, elections and all the usual palaver. All this is handled in a thoroughly professional manner and got out of the way as quickly and painlessly as possible so the real club business can be conducted – telling each other tall tales of motorcycling adventure and mishap. The merits or other characteristics of each model are thoroughly explored with suitably lubricated talk well into the night at every gathering. The 2013 AGM will be held in Alice Springs – a convenient central location for all. Just getting there on a Royal Enfield will generate plenty of stories to enliven the proceedings.
OUT AND ABOUT
For members with different tastes in adventure rides there are regular short rides and tours organised by sub-groups based in different towns cities all over Australia. There are active branches in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, northern NSW, Canberra, Perth, Albury and Wodonga. Wherever two RE owners meet, there will be rides organised and stories told. Many members can be heard telling stories to themselves…
You can get a good feel for the club from the signature blocks members use when they sign their messages posted on the web page, like “The journey is the destination”, “A broken Enfield is better than no Enfield at all”, “Chrome is not going to get you home”, “Two living fossils: me and my Electra” and so on.
Many of the bikes in the club are the newer REs coming out of India. There is a growing dealer network to support new owners and with the importer based in Melton, just north of Melbourne, sourcing spares and consumables is rarely a problem. This is one of the great attractions of the RE – it has all the style and presence of a British bike from the classic era but it comes with modern factory support.
OLD AND NEW
An interesting part of any club gathering is when the older British and Indian bikes come out to play with their modern cousins.
It is a rare thing to be able to follow the evolution of a complex machine like a motorcycle from its beginnings. The first named Bullet was produced in 1932. It was a Bullet, Jim, but not as we know it. The theme continued through its early reinterpretations as the G and J series from 1935. The Bullet as we know it now was reborn in 1948 with swingarm rear suspension. Development continued during the ’50s and into the ’60s. Sadly, Royal Enfield suffered the same collapse as most of the British bike industry of that time.
Fortunately for us all, by this time Royal Enfield bikes were also being built in India – the jewel of the Empire in more ways than one. Development has continued in India bringing us up to the latest fuel-injected, discbraked version available today. The family resemblance runs strong right down the line but no two bikes are the same. The subtle variations between bikes of the same model as well as from one model to the next are an endless source.
As well as the Bullets, there are a smattering of other different Royal Enfields plus some other, more exotic, branches of the family that sometimes join in our gatherings. As well as the occasional Flea, G, and J, we sometimes have the opportunity to inspect a Constellation or an Interceptor – Royal Enfield’s version of the British parallel-twin. At one stage the mighty Royal Enfield 750 Interceptor was the largest engine in any British production motorcycle. The Interceptor’s evolutionary connections back to the Bullet are obvious.
A new branch of the family tree is the Carberry V-twin – an Australian development based on the single-cylinder Royal Enfield. Royal Enfield did produce V-twins before WWII but these are rare beasts in Australia. The Carberry V-twin offers a possible vision for a future revisiting of a V-twin engine for Royal Enfield. Around the world there have been several similar reworkings into the V-twin format
HORSES FOR COURSES
There is no way around it – Royal Enfields are not for everyone. Even with the latest models equipped with fuel injection, a left-foot gearchange and a right-foot rear brake pedal, they’re not like other bikes. They have their heart and soul firmly set in an earlier, more gently paced era. Given the nut-loosening vibration of the longstroke, slow-revving single, this is about the only firmly set thing on the bike.
Royal Enfields demand a different mind set – as one club member puts it, “If you want to go fast, get a different bike”. But if you enjoy ‘tinkering’, if you want to enjoy every ride at a more human pace and feel like you have experienced a real journey, then perhaps you should check out the Royal Enfield Club of Australia. You too could be faster than a speeding Bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…
Visit RECOAINC.com for more information.