The bicycle featured here was not built with the innovative new features of the 20th century. It’s the last of the big old roadsters, fitted with a front plunger brake and a rear band brake, both relics of the Victorian era. When the new lightweight Royal Enfield frames were introduced in 1901, almost overnight this machine became a dinosaur.
Each of the leading cycle companies brought out their own band brake at the turn of the century, but they were only used for a few years. Only Triumph continued to use a band brake beyond 1903. Band brakes were made obsolete by much cheaper and effective cable-operated Bowden rear rim brakes which were adopted across the industry around 1900 …and also by the Eadie Coaster (back-pedal) brake which was introduced soon after.
To calculate the age of this machine, I examined when various of its features came onto the market. The front brake lever came out in 1898 – its unique feature is that its pivot clips to the steering head rather than to the handlebar. The headbadge was current in 1898 and other parts in 1899, but its 2nd pattern Eadie band brake was the latest component to be introduced, in 1900. So I’ve dated the bicycle as 1900 accordingly.
I’ve owned several bicycles with similar Eadie fittings that had different makers’ badges or were unbadged. But this is the first I’ve found badged as a Royal Enfield. It also has the Royal Enfield name inscribed on the band brake and the chainwheel.
1900 Royal Enfield
with 2nd Pattern Eadie Band Brake
EADIE BAND BRAKE: 2nd Pattern
TO SEE A VIDEO
OF THE ROYAL ENFIELD BAND BRAKE
PLEASE CLICK THE LINK BELOW
The company was acquired by Albert Eadie (who died 17 Apr. 1931) with other businessmen in November 1891 by the acquisition of George Townsend, & Co.
Eadie obtained the services of Robert Walker Smith, formerly of Daniel Rudge & Co, where he had been assistant manager, and now became works manager. Production continued at the Townsend premises at Givry Works, Hunt End, Redditch although Townsend’s ‘Ecossais’ name was dropped and the model name ‘Enfield’ was first used from October 1892.
Eadie Mfg Co worked hard to establish themselves as cycle manufacturers – you can see their 1893 advert, above, advertising frame fittings. A new factory was laid down in 1896 at Lodge Road and Union Street, Redditch. On 25 June 1896 the company became the New Eadie Manufacting Co. Ltd, to make both components and complete machines, primarily for the trade.
Eadie also formed the New Enfield Cycle Co. Ltd on 1 July 1896. As well as selling components as Eadie Mfg Co, they marketed complete machines under the Royal Enfield name.
The Eadie company marketed an eccentric chain adjuster in 1897 which others copied. The American ‘Morrow’ free wheel was made under licence from 1899. Eadie’s tie up with the innovative Morrow company led to their use of the Morrow coaster brake the following year. Meanwhile, they focussed on perfecting their own coaster hub brake, with the result that Royal Enfields for 1903 were fitted with the new Eadie Coaster, giving the company a major advantage. The Eadie Coaster was an excellent hub, and soon dominated the British market. As well as the income drawn from licensing its use, it also gave Eadie a good bargaining tool in dealing with other cycle manufacturers and the gear syndicate who were pooling patents and resources to develop a three-speed hub gear.
The introduction of the Royal Enfield Girder frame model in 1901 was a landmark for the company. Immediately identifiable as a Royal Enfield, the Girder soon became their top selling model.
In 1901 the New Beeston Cycle Co became defunct and the Eadie Mfg Co acquired the machinery to increase production of freewheels under licence from the James Cycle Co. Ltd.
The ‘Fagan’ 2-speed hub was made under licence from 1903, and Eadie’s own 2-speed coaster hub was introduced in 1905. With Royal Enfield by now established as one of the country’s top manufacturers, and motorcycle production also in full swing, in 1907 Eadie Mfg Co was sold to BSA.
ABOVE & BELOW: Robert Walker Smith’s patent steering lock
ENFIELD CYCLE CO: ‘MOTOR BICYCLES’
As Enfield Cycle Co, the company not only developed a new range of bicycles that included the Girder, but also moved into the production of motor bicycles, motor tricycles and quadricycles.
The first was a Royal Enfield motor tricycle in 1898, powered by a De Dion Bouton engine. De Dion Bouton and Humber combined to supply these to many different cycle firms, but it’s not known if the Royal Enfield Motor Tricycle had a Humber frame or Royal Enfield’s own tricycle frame.
Robert Walker Smith had previously worked at Rudge before starting the Eadie Mfg Co in 1891 with Albert Eadie and developing the other companies that became Royal Enfield. The Royal Enfield Motor Quadricycle was designed by him, built around two cycle frames. It used a 2 3/4hp De Dion Bouton engine.
The first Royal Enfield motor bicycle was also designed by Robert Walker Smith, with the help of Frenchman Jules Gobiet, and it was launched at the Stanley Cycle Show in London. The 1 1/2 hp engine was mounted in front of the steering head and the rear wheel was driven by a long rawhide belt.
In 2020, the Royal Enfield factory asked for my help as they wanted to create a replica of the first Royal Enfield motorcycle. I lent them my 1900 Royal Enfield so they could copy some of its parts for the project, seen completed below in November, 2021.
This was the original front tyre on the Royal Enfield when I purchased it. It’s a 28 x 1 3/4″ size (ERTRO 622). I removed it for safekeeping.