Since the turn of the century, bicycle manufacturers went to great lengths to reassure the public of the strength and durability of their cycle frames. With many cheap poorly-made models on the market, the public did not always understand why they should pay up to four times more for the best models. So the top manufacturers incorporated extra strengthening factors into their frame design to create an added ‘psychological’ strength to their bikes. The Premier Royal, Resilient Centaur, Iver Johnson Truss-Bridge and many variations of cross-frame were examples popular at the time.
The Royal Enfield Girder, in various models, was the company’s top-selling machine, and also the world’s top-selling ‘strengthened’ frame design apart from the cross-frame. Royal Enfield offered two styles, the ‘Duplex’ – illustrated above – whose frame divided in two after the girder tube met the seat tube – and the ‘Standard’ – the machine featured here, and illustrated below – with only one tube following on to the chainstays.
The company claimed that the Duplex had even greater strength – to justify its extra price – although it’s debatable that it made much difference in practical terms. These days, both versions of the Royal Enfield Girder enjoy cult status, for much the same reasons as they did in their day: the quirky design stands out in a crowd and, like all the company’s products, it is a well-built sturdy machine that’s a pleasure to ride.
1907 Royal Enfield Standard Girder
Special Order Tall Frame
John Bull Pedals
W.A Phillips Cable Brake
Frame No 52977
The frame number 52977 suggests this machine was built around 1906, though Royal Enfield’s famous ‘cannon’ chainwheel was not introduced until 1907. If a customer required a tall 28″ frame, a special order was required. Far less 28″ frame size machines were sold than 24″ and 26″ models. So it’s likely that the company retained an older stock of 28″ frames to use when one was ordered, hence the earlier frame number. The company used four different chainwheel styles at this time, so probably this machine was sold in 1907 and the customer requested the latest style, the ‘cannon’ design. Rather than fitting rod brakes, a simpler cable-operated Bowden style brake was fitted to the rear, manufactured by Phillips; this would have helped reduce the weight of the bicycle.
The bicycle is in excellent original unrestored cosmetic condition, good mechanically and ready to ride.
WAR OFFICE DUPLEX GIRDERS
Girder Frame Roadsters were supplied as military bicycles to the War Office (used by the Belgian army). This model was also available in civilian trim when soldiers enlisted, with its price specially reduced.
On enlistment, soldiers were offered the opportunity to buy a bicycle on hire purchase, so many civilian machines were used. You’ll see this distinctive model in various illustrations of the period.
PHILLIPS CABLE-OPERATED BOWDEN REAR BRAKE