Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 29, 2012

A Royal Enfield spotting

Filed under: motorcycles — louisproyect @ 6:57 pm

Parked in front of my building this morning

I was stunned this morning to see a Royal Enfield motorcycle in mint condition parked in front of my building, worthy of being displayed in a motorcycle museum.

When I was at Bard College in the early 60s, Japanese motorcycles were still a rarity. Friends owned a Matchless 500cc single scrambler, a Triumph Bonneville road bike, a Norton Dominator 750cc road racer, a BSA 250 cc road bike, and a BSA 650cc Lightning Rocket scrambler—all British bikes. I took the Lightning Rocket for a spin once and was amazed by its power. The friend who owned the BSA 250 sold it and bought a Ducati Diana 250 cc instead. The first Japanese bike was a Yamaha YDS3 that my friend Steve bought in 1965, our senior year. I took it for a spin once and found it much more to my liking than the scary BSA Lightning Rocket.

After doing a bit of research on the net, I discovered that the Royal-Enfield was not a restored model but something fairly new. Except for the Triumph, motorcycles are not being built in Britain any longer. It should be added that a new company that is committed to maintaining the quality of the original is making the Triumph of today. You can see them all around N.Y., rivaling the Ducati’s in sex appeal.

As it turns out, the Royal-Enfields are being made in Chennai, India today. The model I saw this morning (a Bullet 500 ES) is one of 11 models being sold. It has the same exact look as a vintage machine. This is not the first case of colonialism in reverse. In 2008 Tata Motors of India took over Jaguar and cars are now being made in Puna, India.

The Royal Enfield story is fairly paradigmatic of British industry. Enfield was an arms manufacturer. When they got involved with making motorcycles, they created a logo that featured a cannon and whose motto was “Made like a gun, goes like a bullet”. By contrast, Yamaha, which started out as a piano maker, developed a logo for its motorcycles of superimposed tuning forks.

I suppose there’s some moral to be drawn from the choice of logo’s but I’ll leave those of you disposed to cultural studies analysis to figure it out for yourself.


  1. It’s almost certainly not a vintage one but a brand new one (500cc) as they’re still made today using the old tooling but with modern engine touches and have begun redistribution into the USA.

    Per wiki on the subject: “Royal Enfield India is still manufacturing in India and is being sold in India and is also being exported to Europe as well as America and Australia. Recently Royal Enfield has undergone a major retooling particularly in the engine department with introduction of twin spark unit construction engine on all its models with EFI available on their flagship 500cc model. This retooling has sparked such an interest in these bikes that they have started double shifts at the plants.”


    Here’s a 2012 Cafe Racer version:

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — September 29, 2012 @ 11:38 pm

  2. I like these retros from India’s Royal Enfield. They aren’t too expensive and while you may not get much speed, you get the feel of the old Brit single-cylinder thumpers and you don’t need computers for engine self maintenance. I imagine the electrics are more reliable than the Lucas electrics (nicknamed Prince of Darkness) on the old British bikes. You can get Russian Urals in the US too. They’re basically reworked workhorse styled 1946 BMW motorcycles with sidecars.

    Comment by Rick — October 1, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

  3. Royal Enfield logo i am like

    Comment by R.Raja kumar — January 20, 2016 @ 11:53 am

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