Royal Enfield: The World's Oldest Motorcycle Marque
By James Grahame
Royal Enfield motorcycles have remained in continuous production for over a century. Enfield Cycle Co. Ltd. was founded in Redditch, Worcestershire in 1893 and released their first motor bicycle in 1901. The company produced motorcycles for the British armed forces during WWI, but the company's most famous innovation was the single cylinder 4-stroke "Bullet" introduced in 1932.
Following military production throughout WWII, the company produced a series of extremely popular 350cc and 500cc Bullets. The Indian government selected the Bullet 350 for military and police use in 1955, and Royal Enfield Motors Ltd. (India) was formed to manufacture the Bullet domestically.
Ultimately, British Royal Enfield was unable to compete with the onslaught of Japanese models that flooded the market in the late 1960s. The company closed its doors in 1970, but production continued in India.
Updated versions of the Bullet 350 & 500 are still produced and exported to a number of countries around the world, including the USA and Great Britain. The current product line ranges from the classic Bullet 350 with a single cylinder air-cooled OHV engine and 4-speed transmission capable of a maximum speed of 100 km/h (62 mph) up to the Bullet Machismo 500 with 5-speed transmission and a 499cc air-cooled single cylinder engine capable of hitting 130 km/h (80 mph).
The US and UK distributors offer a number of Bullet 500 variants with electric start and "lean-burn" engines. US prices range from $4995 to $5295.