Jun 15, 2010

17 Bike History/Timeline: Royal Enfield [1893-2010]. Is Royal Enfield the World's Oldest Motorcycle Brand?

Royal Enfield probably is the world's oldest "surviving" motorcycle brand..

I have been hearing about this for sometime now. So I decided to find it out the truth. Is Royal Enfield really the world's oldest motorcycle brand?

Imagine if Royal Enfield models gets the tag of "Manufactured by the World's Oldest Motorcycle Brand..!!"

.. who wouldn't want to own a piece of history like that?

After some "Googling" on the net, the following facts came into light:

  • Triumph started to produce motorcycles in 1902

  • Harley-Davidson started making motorcycles in 1903

Now there are some guys who say that Royal Enfield made its first motorcycle in 1901..!! The photo posted below is claimed as that of the first Royal Enfield motorcycle manufactured in 1901.

If it is true then that would definitely make Royal Enfield the world's oldest surviving motorcycle brand..!!

1901 Royal Enfield

More about that later.. but first,

A brief history of Royal Enfield:

1893: The Origins

Royal Enfield was founded in 1893 in Redditch, Worcestershire, England; as "Royal Enfield Manufacturing Co. Ltd." with the trademark "Made Like a Gun".
Prior to that it was started by a gentleman called George Townsend as "George Townsend & Co." in 1851. It manufactured objects as diverse as sewing needles and fish hooks, bicycles.

It was sold off in 1891 to Albert Eadie and R.W. Smith, and renamed as "The Eadie Manufacturing Company Limited", the firm made bicycles and also started supplying precision rifle parts to the "Royal Small Arms Factory" in Enfield, Middlesex. Soon a new company called "The Enfield Manufacturing Company Limited" was created to market these new design "Enfield" bicycles.1892, Enfield BicycleThe following year the word Royal (after the Royal Small Arms Company) was added and thus "Royal Enfield" came into being in 1893.

1899-1971: The beginning and end in the UK

Royal Enfield made motorized tricycles, quadricycles and even cars during the initial years. Later it started to make motorcyces of all types. 2 strokes, v-twins even triple cylinder models. The single cylinder, 4 stroke "Bullet" was first launched in 1933.1933 Royal Enfield BulletIn the mid and late 1960's, the once mighty British motorcycle industry could not withstand the invasion of the Japanese brands. Royal Enfiled also had to wrap up its business in England in 1971.

1949-2000: Royal Enfield Bullet arrives and thrives in India

Royal Enfield motorcycles had been sold in India since 1949. In 1955, the Indian government ordered a batch of 800 350cc Bullets its police and army.

Enfield IndiaIn 1955, the Redditch company partnered Madras Motors in India and formed "Enfield India" to assemble, under licence, the 350 cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle in Madras (presently Chennai).

In 1994, Eicher group acquires "Enfield India Company". The company name is changed to "Royal Enfield Motors Limited".

2010: Alive and kicking in India.. exported worldwide..!!Royal Enfield Classic 350

Coming back to the earlier question:

Did Royal Enfield make a motorcycle in 1901? If the answer is "Yes" then Royal Enfield, India has a potential goldmine which it should definitely utilize.

Imagine if Royal Enfield models like the Classic 500/350 gets the tag of "Manufactured by the World's Oldest Motorcycle Brand..!!", wouldn't that make the Royal Enfield models even more desirable and possibly increase its sales 3 to 4 times (at least worldwide if not in India)? After all who wouldn't want to own a piece of history like that?

But the Royal Enfield (India) website doesn't mention anything about the 1901 motorcycle model in its History page. In fact in the official website, the first mention about a motorcycle is made in 1909. So is Royal Enfield India not sure of the existance of the 1901 model?

Royal Enfield History

On the other hand, Royal Enfield UK Site mentions that Royal Enfield had produced its first motorcycle in 1901 and that it is the world's longest running motorcycle brand.

There are also some die hard Royal Enfield fans like Mr. Jorge Pullin from LA, USA (he has been keeping a blog dedicated to covering anything about Royal Enfield..!!) who also mentions that Royal Enfield had made its first motorcycle in 1901.

Jorge Pullin

Just visit his blog to know things about Royal Enfiled that probably you did not know.

Royal Enfield Bullet, the world's longest running production model..??

According to what I have come across on a couple of sites (click here), the Bullet is the world's longest running production model.

Now if that is true as well, somebody should wake up the marketing dept. of Royal Enfield India! Shouldn't such powerful and potent brand associations and rich heritage be marketed as well?

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This is to remind that the Views or Opinions in the blog are entirely mine unless explicitly stated. The Views and Opinions published in this blog should in no way be related to any other person or organization associated -- directly or indirectly -- with me.


GAGAN said...

I wouldn't be surprised if that happens to be true!!

One observation of mine: Royal Enfield is one brand whose models dont go under the crazy scrutiny that every other bike model goes. It quitely launches a model, the model quitely makes it way to the streets. No questions asked...no eyebrows raised...no crazy Tv anchor blabbering rubbish on it!! It is its stature..and experience showing all over it. Unmatched in india by any bike.

GAGAN said...

and yea..having a go at a thunderbird saddle..gives me goose bumps every single time!!

Gautam said...

It doesnt matters to me how old who is....

If Harley is American icon, then RE Bullet is surely an Indian one! Much greater than just icon and mere motorcycle, its truely a RAAJA GADI!

Long Live RE!

Akash said...

Yes Royal Enfield is the world's oldest motorcycle brand. its origin might be British but now its INDIAN

Chak De

Ritesh Sharma said...


Hw r u? Hope all well.

As usual, i am finding your article much informative and interesting about Two Wheelers.

But one query - what do you get out of this blogging and spending so much time on bikes and their details.
What do you do for livelihood? Or is it your main business.....
Keep blogging such useful information.........

Ritesh Sharma

Payeng said...


that's the power of being a unique brand.

@Ritesh thanks,

Motorcycles have been my passion and this blog is just that manifestation of that passion.

This blog is not for earning money or for business.

The only way to keep coming up with new stuff is to ride / experience / surf and think about motorcycles all the time.

Thanks again

Rajyavardhan Mishra said...

Hi Payeng...

late comers might not be aware of ur passion...been following u for 3+ years nw....hats off 2 u.. :)

sometimes post abt ur personal front too...like earlier u used to do on blogspot


Payeng said...

Hi Rajyavardhan,

Its nice to hear from someone who has been following my blog for such a long time.

Will soon blog about myself and motorcycles

Anonymous said...

I really ve emotional attachments with this bike, i own and i respect it but the truth is R E dosent satisfies its customers need. They provide a poor quality work. This motorcycle Bullet is a heritage one but it has a drawback also, of its owners 95% never encounter a good mechanic to get their work done properly. The rest 5 % are only satisfied.

Anonymous said...

The Royal Enfield brand was created in 1893 and applied to bicycles. Then in 1898 it was applied to motorized tricycles and quadricycles. And in 1901 to a motorcycle (some places say 1902, I think we will never know for sure).

Rajyavardhan Mishra said...

Hi Payeng...

late comers might not be aware of ur passion...been following u for 3+ years nw....hats off 2 u.. :)

sometimes post abt ur personal front too...like earlier u used to do on blogspot


anmol trikha said...

Royal Enfield

motor the Legend rides on,..
on & on...
Still Riding on,

and will always do... " "

Nick said...

Royal Enfield is the oldest motorcycle brand to be in continuous production. That's what i know.

Anonymous said...

Hi payeng,been reading ur posts for a long time....lots of admirations for u,man!can hardly imagine how u manage all this POST-MARRAIAGE!!it wud be really nice if i cud have ur mail id. Have things to ask u...do reply,wud be waiting:)

S.P - Biker Next Door said...

@above you can mail me at the following: bikernextdoor@gmail.com

after marriage the frequency of posting and opportunity to ride new bikes have reduced drastically :-)

anand raju said...

well everybody knows RE is the only bike manufacturers, surviving till now, though it started in uk we are still enjoying riding with their new models, i own a thunderbird ts, a great cruiser bike,i feel royalty in riding it, one of the oldest manufacturing company from 3 centuries

Anonymous said...

Hey bro, i saw an ENFIELD BULLET 350, not ROYAL ENFIELD just today and i took pics of it. I'm a 2-wheeler fan but not sure which year model it is. I want you to see it . So if you have time , plz reply to mmohita0@hotmail.com and i'll send you pics.

Kind Regards

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