“Made like a gun”, I don’t think RE needs an introduction. Bikes from the brand have a cult of their own. People owning a Royal Enfield have a different class and status in society. But many of us might not be familiar with the path RE had to tread on in order to become a cult in a country of vivid cults. Let us take a look at the history of one of India’s most loved motorcycle brand.

Made Like A Gun, Since 1901

1901 RE's First Motorcycle
1901 RE’s First Motorcycle

The history of the company dates back to the year 1901 when Bob Walker-Smith and Frenchman Jules Gotiet made the first-ever motorcycle from the company. It was powered by a 239cc engine capable of producing 11.2hp of power.

1909, First V-Twin Motorcycle from Royal Enfield

Royal Enfield's first V-Twin Engine
Royal Enfield’s first V-Twin Engine

The company introduced its first motorcycle to be powered by a V-twin 297cc engine. This bike became a huge success for the company due to the agile framework and good performing engine.

1914 – World War 1 Begins

1914 - Mass Production of 2-stroke bikes
1914 – Mass Production of 2-stroke bikes

And with it began the production of Royal Enfield’s first 2-stroke motorcycle. The war also forced the company into building the company’s biggest motorcycle, the 770cc 6hp V-twin bike. During the period of conflict, RE supplied bikes to British, Belgian, France, United States and Imperial Russian armies. The made like gun bikes were a popular choice of armies due to their rigidity and multi-terrain abilities.

1924 – Royal Enfield steps up its game

1924 - RE
1924 – RE

A total of 8 models were introduced by the year 1924 after the constant degradation and research being done at the company. This lineage included Sports Model 351. It was powered by a 350cc OHV 4-stroke engine, making the motorcycle first from the company to have 350cc engine. There was another bike introduced at that time. It was a 225cc powered motorcycle especially meant for ladies which can be seen in the image above.

Major events in the next few years have been listed below.

The Redditch Factory
The Redditch Factory

1926 – A fire breaks out at the Redditch factory of the company. But the company’s own fire brigade manages to control the fire which otherwise would have finished the whole manufacturing unit.

New Saddle Tanks and Front Fork
New Saddle Tanks and Front Fork

1928 – Royal Enfield replaces the flat tanks with saddle tanks on its bikes. It was also the first manufacturer to change the front fork system from Druid design to centre-sprung girder forks.

1932 – The Legendary Bullet Is Born

1932 Bullet
1932 Bullet

The well-known model from the company which still is in production, the Bullet is born. It was offered in 3 versions: a 250cc, 350cc and 500cc engines powered variants. The Bullet 350 was also bought by the British army as the bike was rigid and powerful and comfortable for a ride.

This is where the Indian connection began. Not the year, but the bike.

1949 – Royal Enfield comes to India

The new generation of 350cc Bullet was introduced in the UK. K.R Sundaram from Chennai established Madras Motorcycles to import British motorcycles into India which also included the Royal Enfields.

1955 – Indian army needs a new frontier

Factory at Tiruvottiyur, near Madras
The factory at Tiruvottiyur, near Madras

The Government of India was in search of motorcycles that the army could use for patrolling the border. The search ended on the Royal Enfield Bullet 350. The Indian Army ordered 800 units of the bike and thus making it possible for the Royal Enfield Company to set up the manufacturing plant in Madras.

And this is how the company began the operations in India. Let’s have a look at the most famous models from RE in India.

  1. Royal Enfield Tauras

    RE Taurus
    RE Taurus

    Taurus was the first-ever diesel bike in India. Actually it was a diesel version of the famous Bullet. But the massive build and hassle starting were the drawbacks of this bullet. It was never able to make it big in the market. The thumping sound of the massive engine was enough to crackle the bodies of weaker ones.

  2. Royal Enfield Thunderbird

    Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500
    Royal Enfield Thunderbird 500

    It is one of the best-known REs in the country. It was previously offered in 350cc and 500cc variant. Currently, due to the BS6 norms, Royal Enfield had to discontinue all the 500cc power mills.

  3. Continental GT

    RE Continental GT
    RE Continental GT

    This cafe racer according to RE is a modern interpretation of a cultural icon. The current version of the Ton of Fun is powered by a BS6 ready 650cc engine which replaces the previous 500cc engine.

  4. Himalayan 

    The Himalayan
    The Himalayan

    It is built for the roads as well as no roads. This motorcycle has the ability to tread on anything that is possible on this earth. The current-gen Himalayan is powered by a 411cc engine capable of producing 24.3hp of power and over 32Nm of peak torque.

  5. RE Classic

    RE Classic 350
    RE Classic 350

    This cruiser was also offered in two engine options: 350cc and 500cc up until the BS6 norms kicked in. The Classic is also currently offered with a 350cc engine. It is the second most famous model from the company only after the legendary Bullet.

  6. Bullet

    Royal Enfield Bullet 500
    Royal Enfield Bullet 500

    Legendary bike, that needs no introduction, especially in India. The Bullet 350 has been the most famous Royal Enfield in India and has been with the company since its inception. The current generation of Bullet is also offered in 350cc variant while the 500cc was discontinued, the same reason mentioned before.

Also, read 2020 BS6-Compliant Royal Enfield Classic 350: All You Need To Know

So this was the history of the name that has got a cult of bikers following. Do you own a Royal Enfield? How is your experience driving a Gun? Let us know in the comments section below.

Have a look: Forgotten Royal Enfield bikes in India: The lesser-known REs


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