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25th June 2010


Royal Enfield Open Weekend 2010
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What's the most important item to take with you on a countryside ride to a classic bike event? You might consider packing waterproofs or a map, but fruit cake appeared to be the essential accessory last weekend...

It was 1950-something all over again. Blue sky, dazzling sunshine. The chug-chug of traditional single-cylinder thumpers. Nissen huts, peeling paint on wooden window frames, Union Jack bunting. Chaps with sunburned heads earnestly debating the pros and cons of tyre profiles. And families, basking on the grass, sharing tea and fruit cake. The rush and hustle of modern life faded away from the rolling Cotswold countryside leaving people to get on with the important stuff of life; telling tall stories, riding motorcycles and eating a 99 Flake in no time flat to stop it dribbling down the clean-on-today shirt. Admission price? Zero. Value? Inestimable.

Nissen huts, peeling paint on wooden window frames, Union Jack bunting....

There is a point to all this enjoyment, of course, and that is so that a wide range of people can try the current range of Royal Enfield motorcycles for themselves in convivial circumstances. For many people, a modern electric start 500cc single with good brakes offers the best compromise between traditional motorcycling and all mod cons. For some, no current model could ever be considered 'classic' - and that's fine, of course, for as long as you have the legs to keep on kicking it up and the mechanical nous to re-jig the ignition by the roadside. For other riders, they wonder how smooth the Enfield's fuel injection system is, how sporty the riding position on the Clubman model is, how the tyres on the trials bike feel on tarmac: and those questions are best answered by taking a quick spin.

The company's fleet of demo bikes was kept busy throughout weekend, when a record 319 test rides were taken - the largest number in the event's five-year history. Cheltenham and Cotswold Advanced Motorcyclists guided riders through the country lanes surrounding the Watsonian Squire factory, home to Royal Enfield in the UK for over a decade.

Visitors arrived on the widest variety of machines, including a glorious bunch of Beesas en route to Banbury, three Vin twins including PUB itself (and herself), a T160 which might well have been a Cardinal but we couldn't quite read the numbers, an Ariel 3 tricycle and Honda Silverwing sidecar outfit.

Next year's Challenge will be photographing Hondas next to streams. You heard it here first...

FW the Editor couldn't resist taking a spin on the Honda Stream which accompanied the Ariel 3 although the Stream didn't seem to enjoy the encounter (thanks to George Osborn - no not *that* George Osborne -- for bringing the three-wheelers along). Plus there were Harleys, Bimmers and Hinckley Triumphs by the hundredweight.

Mr Saturday faces the wrong way... Norton Commando Hi-Rider owned by Vincent Prosser

On Saturday a Norton Commando Hi-Rider owned by Vincent Prosser won the prize for Best RealClassic, while on Sunday the prize went to stunning 1953 Redditch Bullet which spent half its life in an attic, being cleaned and polished to perfection, piece by piece. We hope to feature both those bikes on this site or in the magazine in the near future…

...While Mr Sunday won an FW. 1953 Redditch Bullet

Regular guests at the event included motorcycle adventurer and Royal Enfield expert Gordon May, who has just returned from riding a BSA Bantam overland to Egypt; world sidecar champion passenger Stan Dibben and Jim Reynolds, acting as master of ceremonies. Freshly cooked food was provided once again by the Shipston-on-Stour Sea Scouts, who expanded their popular curry menu (chicken and chickpea: scrummy) with a new chilli, while local Cotswold ice creams were available to cool down afterwards.

Wychwood Brewery, famous for Hobgoblin Ale, travelled from the other side of the Cotswolds in their 1951 Bedford dray, bringing taster packs of their cask ales. Wychwood also unveiled their very special Hobgoblin Bullet, a wonderful one-off motorcycle with single seat and unique livery which we think will be given away to a lucky competition winner later in this year's season.

No Hobgoblin comments, please... The other George Osborne. With Ariel 3 and Honda Stream
18 with a Bullet on Right Now......

No visit to the Watsonian Squire factory would be complete without a ride in a sidecar and the two demo outfits, a classic Royal Enfield/GP Manx combination and sporty Yamaha XXR1300 paired with a Squire ST3, were both in constant demand, with many passengers enjoying their first experience of a trip in a chair.

The spares counter was wildly busy all weekend, with genuine bargains galore - a new saddle for a tenner, a pair of brand new tyres for £50 - while many visitors were delighted to see behind the scenes at the factory workshop, where all the Bullets which enter the UK are prepped and fettled before they go to the showrooms. Plus, as ever, there was a sneaky preview of possible 'things to come' from Royal Enfield… but not everyone paid very much attention to the factory hack, casually parked with the visitors' bikes.

If we were MCN, this would be an exclusive spy shot scoop... Casual factory hack

We 'meeted and greeted' hundreds of RC readers over the weekend and were delighted to make new friends and see some familiar faces. At the risk of offending all those who don't get a mention (sorry!), Geof and Christine made a special trip from the Island, Andy baked the best batch of flapjack we've ever tasted, Roy Plowman delivered a delicious pie (bad! Very bad! Leading us astray like that), and Tony and Tina took time out from wedding preparations to drop by. Charlie Webster had even researched the history of the Northwick Estate and came equipped with fact sheets to find his way around the old US military hospital and Polish refugee centre. We're still boggling at the photo of the 1960s Polish skiffle band…

Dates for the 2011 Open Weekend will be announced in due course, and we hope that Royal Enfield will make us welcome there once again. Even if you have no interest whatsoever in buying a Bullet, it's a perfectly lovely way to spend a summer's day.

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Information about the full Royal Enfield range from 01386 700907 or visit www.royal-enfield.com for details.

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