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Bike Review - Posted 27th May 2016
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Royal Enfield Turbo Twin

Inspired by the 250 two-stroke which the Vintage Motor Cycle Club gave away recently, John Blackburn recalls his time with the Villiers-engined Enfield back in the late 1970s...

It was most interesting to read in RealClassic magazine issue 143 about the Royal Enfield Turbo Twin, as I purchased a well-used example of this machine in 1979 and rode it for a few thousand miles over the following 18 months. Although possibly not a master of style, it was nonetheless a neat looking machine.

Royal Enfield Turbo Twin

The example which I had was ex-police, in black with a really effective Airflow fairing. While sorting out the electrics, I discovered that it had a three-phase alternator, which meant that, although I had to buy three separate rectifiers, I wired it for 12V output and was able to fit a Cibie headlamp unit with a 55/60 watt headlamp bulb. The light output was fantastic, the best Iíve ever had from a British machine of this age. This high-power generator was intended to power the policemanís two-way radio, which had sat in a square recess in the top of the fuel tank. I had four loops welded one to each corner of this recess so that a small pack could be bungied in place here (the original tank-top bag?).

Royal Enfield Turbo Twin Click for full Airflow and Sportsflow advertisement image
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Why was it called ĎTurbo Twiní ? Well, the 4T engine was a great deal smoother than its engine predecessor, the 2T, and I recall it being particularly smooth at 50-55 mph and still not uncomfortable at 60.

In fact it was good to cruise at 60 and I can recall one memorable ride in February with snow on the ground from my home in Sheffield, up through Huddersfield, Halifax, Keighley, Skipton and up the A65 through Settle to visit my dad at Grange-over-Sands. It was cold that winter and I had on my Damart thermals, thick shirt, waistcoat, pullover, tweed jacket and two pairs of trousers, topped off with a black PVC despatch rider style coat and matching over-trousers.

After setting off late one Saturday afternoon at about 4pm, it was dark by the time Huddersfield was reached, but thanks to the fairing, I was warm. Although it hadnít snowed for a couple of days there was still some snow on the road, so care was required, but the excellent headlamp made it so much easier to see. On reaching my destination, for the first time ever on a winterís ride, I wasnít frozen and this was down to the full fairing. From that day to this, Iíve never had a bike since without a fairing of some sort. The distance was 110 miles and to my surprise I made it in three hours: pretty good on a 250 in the dark and in winter. My best-ever time on that journey was 2Ĺ hours on a summerís morning, setting off at 6am riding a 450 Ducati. Note that this was before the current bypasses were builtÖ

Royal Enfield Turbo Twin Photo by Richard Jones

There were one or two other adventures on that Enfield. On another winterís day I approached the main road, downhill, and I realised too late that the road was a sheet of ice. The lightest application of the front brake saw me sliding gracefully after the bike towards the main road and praying that there was no bus approaching. Fortunately there wasnít and we stopped sliding just before reaching the junction.

Later that winter I was blatting happily along the A6 at about 60mph on the approach to Bakewell when, with a sharp crack, the screen snapped off near its base and whacked me square across the chest, taking my breath away for a moment.

Eventually, the engine started to show signs of internal gremlins but I already had another bike rebuild on my hands, so the Turbo Twin was consigned, in large lumps, to a corner of the garage. When I happened to mention this to the guy from whom I had bought it, he offered to buy it back. I wonder, do you still have it, Ken?

Economy was fair: about 70mpg at best, but most of my riding returning nearer 60mpg. Handling was excellent, the front brake could do with a bit more bite and comfort was quite adequate for a non-stop three hour ride (with the original seat). I seem to remember the ignition switch being in the left-hand side panel on the police machine, not on the engine cover.

Royal Enfield Turbo Twin

In all, the Turbo Twin had a good performance for a bike of its age, with slightly better acceleration than the C15 BSA 250 Iíd had previously, although it was crying out for some tuning to bring its performance envelope nearer the realm of the then current crop of 250 two-stroke twins. With the right tuning, Iím sure it would see 90mph.

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