Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Enfield trike and Lance Armstrong

The first motorized vehicles to come out of the Enfield cycle company were quadricycles in 1898. They already bore the Royal Enfield name, since the brand had been around since 1893 for bicycles. The first motor bicycle would come out in 1901. There exist several surviving examples of the Enfield quad, there is one in the National Motorcycle Museum in Solihull and another in the Beaulieu museum, which was featured in the BBC show Top Gear. A privately owned one makes the yearly veteran race from London to Brighton. 

Much less is known about the Enfield tricycle that was sold shortly after the quadricycle was introduced. To my knowledge there do not exist any surviving examples and even more frustratingly, there seems to exist only one very grainy photograph, a version of which we reproduce at the upper left.Until 1903, all Enfield motorized vehicles sported De Dion-Bouton engines. In fact the Enfield trike has more than a passing resemblance with the De Dion trike. So I guess that by looking at these pictures of De Dion trikes we get a glimpse of what the Enfield trikes must have looked like. De Dion-Bouton was a French company, it manufactured trikes, quads and later motorcycles, cars and railway cars. It became a victim of the depression, closing most of its operations in 1933, production of small numbers of commercial vehicles continued until the 1950's. In 1950 the brand was acquired by a motorcycle company. There is a De Dion-Bouton marque club in the UK, it publishes a quarterly newsletter.

Since we are on the De Dion subject, there is a cute story. The editor of the main sport newspaper in France  Le Velo supported Alfred Dreyfus in the notorious ‘Dreyfus Affair’ (which in turn inspired the movie Papillon starring Steve McQueen). The Comte de Dion was an anti-dreyfusard and helped set up a rival newspaper L’Auto. As a publicity stunt, the editor of L’Auto, Henri Desgrange, revived the Paris-Brest Road Race, which had last been run in 1891. But it did not create enough interest. So, in 1903, he established a bicycle race that covered 2400 kilometres in 19 days and embraced the whole of France. The race got its name from Le Tour de la France par deus enfants, a well-loved schoolbook that had sold six million copies since its publication in 1896. Yes, the Tour de France that Lance Armstrong won seven times was started by le Comte De Dion.

 Anyone out there has any more information about the Enfield trikes?


  1. Excellent item, Jorge. The Royal Enfield does indeed appear to strongly resemble these.

  2. It is a pity that no such more motorcycles are built. Maybe exist instructions to build such a machine?



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