It’s 1901, Queen Victoria’s 63 year reign has come to an end, Texas discovers its oil, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are officially in trouble, and Royal Enfield produce their first motorcycle. “The oldest global motorcycle brand in continuous production” is a tag the company is rightly proud of, and in 2017 the company returned home to old Blighty when it opened its brand new Technology Centre based at Bruntingthorpe Proving Grounds. Home to over 120 employees, the team in Leicester have been working on multiple projects with their colleagues in Chennai, India and I’m particularly keen to see what the historic brand has to offer over the next century.
Our Classic 500 is a wonderfully simple machine. Its post-war design evokes warm reactions wherever we ride, and it’s not just older folks who remember similarly styled bikes through rose-tinted specs. It’s an honest machine built around its engine, a design which I suspect can be traced back to when the sidecar was considered a good idea. Of course its been refined over the years and gained a few modern niceties like fuel injection, but at its heart, the 500cc lump is a pure, reliable and dependable workhorse. The single cylinder may not provide huge gobs of power, but its soundtrack is unmistakable and there’s more than enough torque to satisfy.
We had the plucky trooper navigating all sorts of, ahem, terrain because directors “need shots” and the Classic is, unsurprisingly, unstoppable.
Having conquered Scotland’s finest, I elected to ride the Classic all the way back to London in a single run. I wanted to. That’s the spirit of the Classic 500. Huge thanks to the chaps at the Technology Centre for resurrecting the 1937 KX1140 and letting me ride it. A diamond in the memory.
We would like to extend a special thank you to Fred Glover who kindly agreed to appear in the film and was an absolute joy to work with. Fred is one of only a handful of WWII survivors and served in the 9th Parachute Battalion on D-Day. It was a special volunteer force assigned to crash inside the Mervile battery.