Ru­pert’s En­field frame mods

Classic Bike (UK) - - Contents -


Royal En­field Me­teor Mi­nor resto is six years in. Its 496cc twin has been re­built and a new front end fit­ted. Now the aim is to fin­ish the bike for a trip to this year’s Clas­sic TT.

One of the prob­lems of hav­ing the En­field’s engine built by an ex­pert (Jim Hodges) is it made the rest of the bike look shabby. I’ve stud­ied and rid­den Jim’s bikes, and af­ter that it’s hard to main­tain a ‘that’ll do’ at­ti­tude on your own project. I got the same feel­ing from two other Brit bike mae­stros, Jim and Bill Gysin, when they popped in ear­lier this year. Like Jim, they have had their bikes in CB and pro­duce work to the same im­pec­ca­ble stan­dards.

My big prob­lem is En­field’s odd rear frame de­sign, which slopes down­wards like a dog drag­ging its arse and gives the bikes a staid, stodgy look. On the Me­teor Mi­nor it also makes the seat far too low for good com­fort and con­trol. My Heath Robin­son so­lu­tion had been to raise the seat, but this left a yawn­ing gap un­der­neath and looked ter­ri­ble. So I found my­self strap­ping the bike into the van and head­ing to see Ian Davis at ETTO Mo­tor­cy­cles in Sibthorpe, Not­ting­hamshire, for a re­think.

Ian is an ex-racer who un­der­stands func­tion as well as form, and his newly-es­tab­lished cus­tom shop would have pleased the En­field’s orig­i­nal owner, John Robin­son. I’m try­ing to re­store the bike in the way John would have done, to im­prove its com­fort, con­trol­la­bil­ity and prac­ti­cal­ity. By the time I’d ar­rived and had a cuppa, I re­mem­bered I didn’t like the petrol tank. En­field made some tasty tanks (on some Bul­lets and the MKII In­ter­cep­tor) but the Me­teor Mi­nor’s bulky, util­i­tar­ian item didn’t fit with the ag­ile con­cept I was af­ter.

Ian re­minded me that un­til the seat and tank were nailed down, we couldn’t sort the tubes un­der­neath. “Get me the tank and seat you want and we’ll take it from there,” he ad­vised. That night, I found an orig­i­nal Red­ditch Me­teor tank, with the right shape, in de­cent nick, for £85 on the in­ter­net. Thrilled, I spent a fur­ther £15 on a Ja­panese fuel tap, be­cause all Brit fuel taps are rub­bish (an­other tip I’ve picked up from Jim Hodges).

The bike was still at Ian’s, but I traced a side-on photo, mod­i­fied the tank to suit the new shape, and sketched/rubbed out dif­fer­ent seat op­tions un­til one felt right. Wow! Sud­denly the bike looked com­pact and pretty (see be­low). I tried look­ing for off-the-peg seats, but couldn’t find any. In­stead, I planned to ask Ian to make a seat base from scratch. To my de­light, when I brought him the new tank and showed him my styling plan, he agreed en­thu­si­as­ti­cally that it was do-able. Mak­ing a curved main tube is go­ing to be tricky, but he gets the idea of the project – and that’s worth a lot.

ABOVE: Ian Davis is the man tasked with turn­ing Rupe’s ideas into metal

BE­LOW: Rais­ing the seat left a big gap be­neath. Back to the draw­ing board... Ru­pert’s sketch of his re­vised con­cept for the frame, seat and tank

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