the return of the first Royal


It all started with a challenge to Royal Enfield’s design and engineering teams from Gordon May, the brand’s historian, during a historic presentation to celebrate the manufacturer’s 120th anniversary. The presentation in question included the very first prototype Royal Enfield motorized bicycle, developed in 1901 by Frenchman Jules Gobiet in collaboration with the co-founder and chief designer of Royal Enfield, Bob Walker Smith. As the nascent motorcycle industry was not large enough to have its own exhibition, the prototype was shown at the Stanley Cycle Show in London in November 1901. It was the very first time that a motorized two-wheeler. Royal Enfield was unveiled to the public.

No functional copy of this very first model has been found to date; There were only a few period photographs, advertisements and a few illustrated newspaper articles from 1901 left, which gave graphic indications and basic information about the look and function of this motorized bicycle. Not much to revive a 120-year-old model.

Milan Motor Show 2021: Royal Enfield Project Origin: the return of the Royal premiere

Very quickly, the difference in design of the original model compared to today was obvious. One of the most striking differences was the position of the 1.75 hp engine, which was mounted above the front wheel, which drove the rear wheel via a long leather belt. A Longuemare carburetor was located on the side of the gas tank and the lubrication was at a loss, the pilot injecting a charge of oil into the crankcase via a manual pump located on the left side of the cylinder. The lubricant would run out after 10 to 15 miles, and the maneuver had to be repeated.

Milan Motor Show 2021: Royal Enfield Project Origin: the return of the Royal premiere

To start the machine, you had to pedal and once the engine was on, a manual lever located on the right side of the gas tank allowed the carburetor to go from idle to full speed. There was also no accelerator: the speed was modulated by means of a valve lifter which was opened by a lever located on the handlebars. To slow down, the driver used a lever that opened the exhaust valve. In 1901, the model cost exactly 50 pounds, or the equivalent of 4,745 euros.

Milan Motor Show 2021: Royal Enfield Project Origin: the return of the Royal premiere

The difficulty of the challenge was high. One of the most complex and delicate elements was the construction of the brass tank made from a single sheet of brass bent, shaped, hammered and welded using techniques and tools forgotten by the modern manufacturing techniques. The team then turned the wooden grips by hand, fabricated the front and rear band brakes, and had the carburetor built from scratch. The original turn-of-the-century parts, such as the paraffin lamp, horn, leather saddle and wheels, have all been reconditioned and nickel-plated to give the impression that « Project Origin » had just been completed. unveiled to the public for the first time.

The challenge is therefore successful.

Milan Motor Show 2021: Royal Enfield Project Origin: the return of the Royal premiere

Milan Motor Show 2021: Royal Enfield Project Origin: the return of the Royal premiere


Milan Motor Show 2021: Royal Enfield Project Origin: the return of the Royal premiere

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