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4th July 2008


Royal Enfield Open Weekend
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All kinds of classic bikes attended the third Royal Enfield Open Weekend, when 2000-plus people had the chance to try an Enfield for size...

It’s terribly fashionable for PR geezers to say that an event had a ‘carnival atmosphere’ and that particular phrase has indeed been bandied about in connection with the third Royal Enfield Open Weekend, which took place in June 2008. It’s not an entirely inappropriate description in truth; the sun shone, hordes of people flowed through the factory and surrounds; we ate ice cream and played with motorcycles and there was nary a grumpy face to be seen.

Not a grumpy face to be seen. Apart from that bloke on the right who thought he was coming to a rifle show.

However, ‘carnival’ doesn’t quite cut it. If the RE Open Weekend is like anything at all, then it’s most like a traditional English fete. There are stalls selling home-made cakes, and the Shipston on Stour Sea-Scouts provide excellent lunchtime refreshments in the shape of keema or chicken tikka curry. There’s a treasure hunt to keep the kids entertained while dad takes a test ride. (The questions were pretty tricky, too, and revealed that Watsonian-Squire will be celebrating a centenary in only four years or so. Great. That’s something to look forward to). You could browse through biking books on the subject of Enfield old and new, or racing sidecars; have a sneak preview of the new DVD on Johnny Brittain, sign up for a summer riding holiday in Spain, bag a bargain set of tyres, exhausts or whatever for your Enfield, or have your motorcycling skills assessed by the IAM instructors.

Never ask the opinion of a man in tight leather dungarees...

All of this goes on in the grounds and surrounds of the Watsonian-Squire factory in the Cotswolds, because Watsonian are the official UK importer for the range of new Royal Enfields from India where they’re built. We set up the RC Roadshow next to the impressive row of Enfields on display; the current Electra model is now available in a range of styles to suit almost any mode of motorcycling (including trials, café racers, traditional and classic, and the new off-road inspired Woodsman) so folk were hopping on and off these bikes all day long, trying them for size. Anyone who wanted a more in-depth experience could take a spin on one of the test ride machines, accompanied by an IAM rider, and then ask any question of the Enfield workshop staff who were on hand to offer technical advice throughout the day.

It's not all Enfield, Enfield, Enfield, you know.... 1948 Ariel Red Hunter

To the other side of the RC Roadshow lurked the Winners’ Enclosure, where a display of specially selected machines awaited the concours judging each day. These were bikes ridden in to the event by members of the public, and a rare old selection turned up on both days. Folk rode in on all manner of machines, modern and ancient, with a definite slant towards Hinckley Triumphs, Moto Guzzis, BMWs and Harley-Davidsons among the current kit. Frank’s eye was caught in particular by a superb Bonnie Scrambler – not the official model being built at the moment but a home-made confection which absolutely captured the spirit of the 1969/70 TR6C. Unlike the sometimes clumsy aspects of the Scrambler, this T100 Special fitted together seamlessly and is a credit to its owner (who we think is called Ken… maybe!).

This man might be called Ken.... "Hinckley" Triumph T100 with high-level pipes

Among the classics we spotted a stunning Canary-Yellow Norton Commando, a glorious Ariel Square Four, a Vin or two, many, many Triumph and Beesa twins and more Bullets than you could comfortably count. There had to be a winner chosen each day, so on the Saturday RC Clubman Jim Reynolds did the honours and gave the award to Michael Ellis for his 1948 Ariel Red Hunter. On the Sunday we wanted to give the prize to PUB but someone yelped about nepotism, so it went instead to Andy Stait’s extremely handsome Royal Enfield Interceptor. Poor Andy then had to figure out how to attach his RE goody bag and RC fun bundle to the bike…

Never leave home without string. Andy Stait’s extremely handsome Royal Enfield Interceptor
Royal Enfields on eBay

The Royal Enfield Open Weekend has always created a delightful, laid back atmosphere and this year was no different. It feels like a deliciously long summer’s day, with plenty of time to amble around and experience everything, without any time or financial pressures. Every year the organisation improves and the site gets increasingly tidy; the sign-posting puts most commercial show organisers to shame, and over 2000 visitors are comfortably accommodated on the old military base of Northwick Park, which lives on as a business estate.

Wasn't Dave Angel a character in the Fast Show? F2 Motorcyles' Ural Combo demonstrator

The Royal Enfield Open Weekend is also a time to meet and greet old friends. It was a five-pack day for the RC Roadshow (we handed out five packs of Jaffa Cakes to readers…), and we were also delighted to see plenty of familiar faces from dealers and specialists around the country. David Angel of F2 Motorcycles had to be different and rode his demo-bike Ural combo to the event instead of an Enfield. Royal Enfield author and expert Gordon May was promoting his new DVD biography of trials ace Johnny Brittain. Arden Motorcycles offered info on their tours on Royal Enfields in the Cotswolds, while Bike Astur help riders to explore the ‘natural paradise’ of Asturias in Spain on machines that are perfect for the roads. Stan Dibben, who won two world sidecar world championships in the 1950s on Watsonian outfits, proved a hit with visitors of all ages, thanks to a fund of anecdotes from his incredible career.

Stan Dibben, yesterday. Stan Dibben, who won two world sidecar world championships in the 1950s on Watsonian outfits

One of the newest RE dealers in the country dropped in, and it was nice to put a face to match the name of Steve from Midlands RE in Shrewsbury. Bruce Maconochie from Oxfordshire Royal Enfield gathered plenty of support for his 2000-mile round trip from John O'Groats to Lands End in aid of the Parkinson's Disease Society, while a further £500 was also collected for the CJ Riders Fund.

By the end of the day, one of the RC Crew had a very sunburned head (told you to wear a hat) and the guys from Watsonian looked pretty exhausted, but very upbeat. As petrol prices head ever upwards, interest in the lean-burn Electra is going to remain high – a standard Electra will travel up to 100 miles on a single gallon. Even the tired old RC Electra (which is equipped with the Highway Kit, has been thraped around the UK and gets sweet FA in the way of mechanical attention) will sometimes see the giddy heights of 90mpg.

Riding bikes; this is what it's all about... Royal Enfield Electra 500-T - and a big smile

It’ll be interesting to see if the new model Enfield, a unit-construction fuel-injected machine, can maintain such frugality and keep enough character to be a similar hit with the public. (More on this later…). In the meanwhile, we couldn’t help but be impressed by the Electra outfit at the Open Weekend. It was giving sidecar rides to anyone who wanted a brief blast on three wheels, to get the wind tangled in their hair and enjoy a quick lap of the locale. That bike was on the go for the whole day; stop and start, short dashes in low gears, brief pauses and then off again. It was in action for six hours or so and never once failed to start on the button as it snorted off for another circuit with a delighted passenger aboard. There probably isn’t a better advert for the modern Enfields than that one motorcycle: faithfully chugging away all day long.

So. Not quite a carnival. More like ‘if wet, in village hall’. All it needs is a cricket match in the afternoon. What do you reckon guys: take a strimmer to the verge and we could get in a few overs…?

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The details of the 2009 Royal Enfield Open Weekend will be given on our Events page when they’re announced.

For details of the Royal Enfield models and dealers please call 01386 700907 or see: www.royal-enfield.com


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