29th July 2011
Richard Jones and his camera continue their quest to capture classic bikes of all kinds, this time at a factory open day in the Cotswolds...
After enjoying the Banbury Run, the following Saturday it was time for something completely different although Mrs Jones again declined to participate, citing important tasks requiring completion . No wonder we're buying a new iron every few months. So again I set off for the Cotswolds to attend the event heralded in June's issue of RealClassic -- the Royal Enfield Open Weekend at Watsonian Squire's premises at Northwick Business Park.
Like Banbury, Blockley is not far from Jones Towers and whilst the weather wasn't marvellous at least it wasn't raining so off we went in a happy frame of mind. Arriving at Northwick I was pleased to see that this was not a 'business park' in the currently accepted sense ie; lots of large factory units with glass curtain walling interspersed with car parking, landscaped gardens and fountains. As explained in RealClassic magazine, the buildings were originally an American field hospital in World War II and then a home for Poles displaced by the war. It is now home to a group of businesses in the heart of the Cotswolds of which Watsonian Squire, the UK importer of Royal Enfield motorcycles, is one.
The machines are imported by Watsonian Squire from Chennai in India where the marque has been manufactured since 1949. Watsonian Squire was created in 1984 when Watsonian, founded as a sidecar manufacturer in 1912 by T F Watson, merged with relative new boys, Squire, to create the UK's biggest sidecar operation. In 1999 the company took over distribution of Royal Enfield in the UK and have since built up the brand to its current well known and popular state.
As well as importing the motorcycles, Watsonian Squire also cast a close eye over the imported machinery before it goes to the dealer network and they of course continue to manufacture sidecars on the site too. As you can see this is a real factory.
There was a great deal going on including a display of the complete range of 2011 models, test rides, a chance to be driven around in a sidecar outfit (how Mrs Jones kicked herself when she heard she'd missed that opportunity), clothing and accessories, food courtesy of the local scouts and, of course, the RealClassic Roadshow. There were some rather tasty new versions to see including the Fury road featured in RC86...
...And a Bullet with what I would say was an 'art deco' influence in its tank badge - I'd buy this just to hang on the wall!
Another new face on the scene was this Indian
This was built by Bruce Maconochie of BMCC who built a bobber for himself about four years ago using a Royal Enfield 500cc Classic. Returning home from a show to discover his father had sold it to someone who was prepared to pay whatever Bruce asked, he found he had discovered a new business. Seven bikes later and he still doesn't own one of his own creations. Bikes are built to individual's requirements and, as a result, no two are going to be the same. An opportunity to acquire a unique motorcycle at what is a reasonable cost - doesn't happen every day
I did have a test ride on one of the Royal Enfield fleet and three of us followed one of the local IAM riders around the lanes before coming back to Northwick Park through Blockley. I heard one of the other visitors saying later that the test riders left with eyes wide open for the first bend and came back with a big smile on their face.
I think I came back with a wry grin rather than a smile - this would be a wonderful machine for the back lanes in the Jones' homeland of North Wales but the dual carriageways around the present Jones Towers would not be quite so exciting other than in what would be a very dangerous fashion.
I did get the opportunity for a brief chat with Ben Matthews, a director at Watsonian Squire, and Jim Reynolds who acted as master of ceremonies over the weekend
I asked Mr Matthews what new innovations we could expect from Royal Enfield - would there be the chance that a V-twin may appear sometime soon? He skilfully and sensibly deflected the question but did describe, in some detail, the investment being made by the Indian parent company that would see manufacturing output escalating dramatically into six figures per year to satisfy the demands of the home market. He also believes that there will be new models that would appeal to markets outside the subcontinent and this could potentially include changes to styling and/or capacity. I think I will delay my purchase of a Royal Enfield for a while yet - I really would like to see a V-twin version.
As always the bike park presented photo opportunities - ignoring the rather attractive lady biker (yes - I know it's politically incorrect but I'm an old man so it's all right) my favourite was this Chang Jiang.
So there we are - two weekends in June with events completely different in purpose, scale and the type of machinery on display. However they did have a lot in common - enthusiasm, engineering ability, innovation and, above all, a love of motorcycles of a certain age. It's at times like these that I'm less worried about the global crisis - things can't be all that bad.
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