Rick Barrett of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday morning Royal Enfield will open its North American headquarters as early as the end of the year. While there are a total of seventy-four dealerships selling the legendary Enfield around the U.S. not only will the new headquarters coordinate the motorcycle manufacturer's North American operations but also open a company-owned showroom.
Royal Enfield Motors will locate its North American headquarters and a dealership in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward under the watchful eye of Rod Copes, president of Royal Enfield North America and former Harley-Davidson executive. Enjoying a career at Harley that spanned nearly twenty years, it should be no surprise he considers Milwaukee the American heart of motorcycle manufacturing.
"I live here, so I am biased. But in my mind, Milwaukee is kind of the center of motorcycling in the United States," Copes told Barrett during an interview.
For riders who like some history with the motorcycle they ride, Royal Enfield would be among the top of the list. The company legitimately claims to be the world's oldest motorcycle company in continuous production with its legacy dating back to 1893. That was the year the Enfield Manufacturing Company was formed to manufacture bicycles and adopting the branding of Royal Enfield.
The company’ motto of ‘Made like a gun’ came from a legacy of manufacturing weapons with the corporate logo making a clear association. After experimenting with a heavy bicycle frame fitted with a Minerva engine clamped to the front downtube, Enfield built their first motorcycle in 1901 with a 239 cc engine.
The then British motorcycle manufacturer continued to improve its two-wheeled technology making appearances at racing venues in the early 1900’s. Enjoying military contracts during the first and second world wars the company produced a range of successful motorcycles.
From the smaller 250cc motorcycles which were popular in England because it didn’t require a full license to ride, to its larger bike the 700cc Royal Enfield Constellation Twin which has been described as the first Superbike, Royal Enfield experienced success throughout its range of models.
But as with many motorcycle manufacturers around the globe, Royal Enfield was hit hard by the onslaught of the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers in the late sixties and early seventies. Enfield built a model made largely for the US market, sporting a lot of chrome and strong performance, it completed the quarter mile in less than 13 seconds at speeds well above 105 mph. Ironically, the motorcycle was so popular production couldn’t keep up with demand adding to the demise of this last English-made Royal Enfield.
It could be said these events were preparing the company, and more importantly the Royal Enfield brand, for its next chapter.
From the current Royal Enfield line up - Cafe inspired Continental GT
Royal Enfield motorcycles had been sold in India since 1949 with production for that market coming from a newly formed ‘Enfield India’. This company assembled the 350 cc Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle under license from Royal Enfield and by 1957, tooling equipment was sold to Enfield India so that they could manufacture its own components.
Where the British company faced stiff global competition, Enfield India enjoyed an ongoing contract to produce motorcycles for India’ police and army.
Royal Enfield India continued to manufacture and sell motorcycles in India, growing its sales to export to Europe as well as America, South Africa and Australia. Recently Royal Enfield has undergone a major retooling particularly in the engine department going from carbureted cast-iron engines to twin spark unit construction engines on all its models, with EFI available on their flagship 500 cc model.