By the end of the nineteenth century, the first great cycle boom, considered to be the second industrial revolution, was starting to wind down. Fortunes had been made because manufacturers profits were high, the bicycle being aimed at the top of the market. But, by the end of the 1890s many cheap copies had flooded the market and, being of inferior quality, had affected consumer confidence. The average first time bicycle purchaser did not understand the difference between top quality expensive machines and poorly built bicycles that outwardly looked the same.
So the manufacturers came up with the idea of creating bicycles with extra tubes to strengthen the frame …and to also provide an immediate visual difference from the conventional diamond frame and any issues associated with it. The cross frame was the first design concept of this nature, and much debate ensued in the cycling press about the flexibility of the cross frame, if it added to the longevity of the bicycle, and how it might help rider fatigue.
Observing the robust public discussions about strengthened frames, other companies investigated ways of creating their own unique designs. The cross frame was already subject to various patents, primarily those of Raleigh, Referee, Components Ltd, Centaur and Elswick. So it was no longer easy to build a cross frame without infringing on one one of those patents. This led to the idea of extra tubes added to a diamond frame. Premier patented a frame with an extra tube added to the top tube, naming this model the ‘Royal.’ Royal Enfield’s offering was the Girder Frame. Introduced in 1901 (illustration above) to compete directly with the cross frame, the Girder Frame was a resounding success.
Sales of Royal Enfield bicycles during the 1906 season validated their decision to open a new specialised factory where they could double their previous rate of production. The distinctive flagship model, the Girder Frame, contributed greatly to the boost in the company’s finances, and racing successes with this model (below) made it one of the most popular cycle designs of the early 20th century.
1910s Royal Enfield Constabulary Roadster
Frame No 10156 P
Royal Enfield’s flagship ‘Girder Frame’ model was introduced to great acclaim in 1901, as an alternative to the X frame produced by a number of manufacturers, and was a resounding sales success. A few years later they offered a Duplex variant which had two small tubes behind the bottom of the seat tube rather than the single tube of the Girder. At that stage, the Girder became the cheaper model. It was made in various weights and frame sizes. 24″ – 28″ medium weight models without gears were offered to Police forces as The Constabulary Roadster.
This example is in good all round condition. My inspection reveals three dents in the frame: on the bottom of the seat tube on the chain side & on the left and right of the top tube under the saddle (close up photos can be seen here). The chainwheel design is identical to that of a Girder frame I previously owned that I know was made in 1906, but I think this example is later. It is cosmetically unrestored and original, and is ready to ride.
1919 ROYAL ENFIELD CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
1913 ROYAL ENFIELD CATALOGUE EXTRACTS
1913 ROYAL ENFIELD GIRDER v 1911 PREMIER ROYAL