Also available as a YouTube video.
I’m on my Royal Enfield Classic 500 heading for Newnham village near Daventry, where there is a blue commemorative plaque outside what was once The New Inn. It celebrates an important day in motorcycling history, when in 1908 there was a timed motorcycle hillclimb.
I’ll let the Reverend Basil H Davies a motorcycle journalist who wrote under the pen name of Ixion, describe the day.
“…a wild sensation was caused at the Newnham hill-climb of the Coventry club. Here every summer the Big Chiefs on the industry feverishly contested a little family combat, where strangers were tolerated but always humiliated when the prize awards came out.
In 1908 an unassuming nonentity from Yorkshire, in the person of AA Scott, walked off with all three events on formula, and his new two-stroke boasted an admirable kick-starter, an open frame and a lovely exhaust.
He did not convert the industry to open frames or to two-stroke engines, but he forced kick-starters and variable gears on a lethargic world.”
This was a big deal in the history of motorcycling, so I thought I’d ride along to Newnham to take a look around.
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Listeners to the previous episode of my podcast "Motorcycling Days" will know how the Royal Enfield motorcycle came to my attention in India, more specifically in Shimla, the old British hill station in the foothills of the Himalayas.
In India, the Royal Enfield is much more than a brand or a bike. Its distinctive look and, perhaps more importantly, sound and feel, create an aura around the machine, and a devotion from its riders, to which other brands can only aspire.
This near-spiritual response to the Enfield by Indian riders, evoked by an iconic machine with looks that recall its British heritage, completely won me over, especially so amongst the ghosts of the British Raj which can still be sensed in Shimla.
When back in England I would seek one out.
In this episode of "Motorcycling Days", I talk about the first meeting with the motorcycle I now own.