British motorcycle manufacturers - R

Last update June 6, 2003

Radco  1913-32.Small bikes. Started again 1954-56 as Radnall. Made a minibike in 1966.
Radmill 1912-14
Raglan 1909-13. Bicycle company. First showed motorcycles in 1903, but production began in 1909.
Raleigh An early contender in the motorcycle scene, the famous bicycle maker stopped making motorized vehicles only a few years after they started, 1899-1906, but returned again in 1919. They stopped in 1933, came back in 1958 and finally quit in the mid 1960s.

Raleigh never enjoyed the prestige of its contemporaries. They made their first motorcycle in 1899 using a Schwann engine clipped to a bicycle frame. After several models, they stopped making motorcycles in 1906 or 07. After the war, they made a 654cc sv, expanding the lineup  through the 1920s, and even scored a few modest successes in racing. But the company saw sales plummet in the Depression, and pulled out of the business in 1933. They came back in 1958 with a 49cc moped and later a 78cc Bianchi scooter. They dropped motorized vehicles a few years later, in 1967.

Rambler 1951-61. Built by Norman.
Ray 1919-20 and 1922-25 (two companies)
Raynal 1914-22. Bicycle company, also made auto cycles 1937-53 (50?).
Ready 1920-22
Rebro 1922-28 (1922-25?) REad BROthers.
Redrup 1919-22
Regal 1909-15. Bought by New Comet in 1913.
Regent 1920-21
Regina 1903-15 and 1914-15. Two companies.
Reliance 1902.
Remus 1914-22.
Revere 1915-22. Made by W. Whitehouse.
Revolution 1904-06. Made engines under NRCC logo.
Rex Founded  by brothers William and Harold Williamson as a car manufacturer in Coventry in 1899. In 1904 they turned to motorcycles with 456cc single and 726cc twin. Made the first telescopic forks, in 1906 and several other innovations including rotary-valve engines and in 1908 were the first to angle the top tube downward to lower the riding position. Company fired the founders in 1911 and under new boss George Hemingway went on to make own engines, as well as producing a series of JAP-powered machines for Premier. Took over Coventry-Acme in 1919 to become Rex-Acme in 1922. The range included 15 models by 1926, from 172cc to 746cc sizes, but sales were sliding. Sidecar manufacturer Mills-Fulford purchased the company in 1932, but dropped motorcycle production in 1933, and sidecars soon followed.
Rex-Jap 1908-15. Built by Premier Motor Co. (PMC)
Reynolds-Runabout 1919-22. Scooters.
Reynolds Special 1930-33 (1931-35?). Built by Scott, sold by A. E. Reynolds.
Reyre-Newson 1921. Sports single.
R&H 1922-25. Same as H&R.
Richards 1904-07. Same as Beau Ideal.
Rickman Founded in 1957 by brothers Don and Derek Rickman, and formally made into Rickman Bros. Ltd. in 1962. Known mostly for their offroad 'metisse' machines made from their frames and other companies' components (metisse is French for a mongrel dog). Rickman acquired 200 Royal Enfield 736cc Constellation Series II engines in 1968 when RE closed and made a Rickman Interceptor using a Metisse chassis, their own forks and disc brakes. Rickman even made a few lightweights for police work, powered by small Zundapp engines.
Riley The Riley family started making well-engineered and expensive bicycles in 1890, turned to motorcycles in 1899, making their first car in 1905. Their first year had 19 models, including motorized tricycles. In 1901 they made motorized quadricycles as well. Started using their own engines, designed by sons Percy, Victor and Allen, in 1903. Three-wheelers were their specialty. Company ceased motorized production in 1908, then bicycle manufacturing ended in 1911.
RIP 1905-08.
Robinson & Price 1903?
ROC 1903-15. Funded by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, designed by A. Wall..
Rockson 1930-32 (1920-23?)
Rolfe 1911-14
ROMP 1913-14.
Romper 1920
Roulette 1918-19
Rover Founded by James Starley in 1885 to make a new safety bicycle called the Rover (manufactured in Coventry at the Meteor Works). A year after Starley's death, in 1901, the company started to develop a Rover motorcycle. In 1903, Edmund Lewis, of Daimler, joined as chief designer and the Imperial Rover was released later that year. It was an advanced machine with a sidevalve engine and diamond frame with tandem front downtubes. But a wary public slows sales, and after only building 1,250, Rover stops production in 1905. A Rover bicycle designed to take a clip-on engine was made in 1908. In 1910, the founder's son, James Starley jr. took over and the company launched a new motorcycle in 1910, a 500cc single designed by John Greenwood. A sports model was released in 1912, and a TT version in 1913, the year when the Rover racing team collected over 100 competition awards. Unlike most manufacturers, civilian production continued through WW1, with a 654cc V-twin added to the line. After the war, they finally dropped the belt drive in 1922, and in 1923 introduced a 250cc unit-construction model. This was followed with a 350cc in 1924. But production ended in 1925.
Royal Ajax 1901-08 (1904?)
Royal Eagle 1901-10
Royal Enfield

Royal Enfield started as a munitions and arms manufacturer George Townsend & Co. in Redditch, near Birmingham in 1880, making bicycles. In 1892 it was closed for financial reasons, but it came back as Enfield Manufacturing, reformed by Robert Smith (works director) and Albert Eadie (managing director). They started making Enfield bicycles in 1892 before turning to motorcycles in 1899 with a single powered by a 299cc Minerva and a quadricycle with a de Dion engine. They produced their own engine in 1901. However, in 1904 they let motorcycle production slip while they concentrated on cars (as the Enfield Autocar Company).  This company went broke in 1907 and the parent company concentrated on parts manufacturing, while Eadie resigned.

Enfield returned to motorcycling in 1910, when they produced a lightweight V-twin, which was followed in 1912 by a 770cc JAP-powered V-twin using an Enfield-patented Cush-drive rear hub. Several new designs were introduced in the next four years including a two-stroke 225cc machine in 1914 that came third in the Junior TT that year.

When war broke out, Enfield made both bicycles and sidecar outfits for the Allies. After WW1, their line expanded to singles. Starting with a 350cc in 1924, it grew to include a range from 225 to 488cc (first offered as a sv in 1927, it also came in ohv versions in 1928). A special version of the 1922 2 1/4 hp model was made with a lowered frame for women. They also offered a series of twins which reached 976cc in 1921 with an engine of their own design. They also made a large 1140cc V-twin Model K, which was produced through the 1930s, until 1938.

Firsts included Cush drives before WW1 and dry sump crankcases in 1930 models. During WW2 they made a robust 350cc side-valve single for the military.

The Bullet was launched in 1934 in 250, 350 and 500cc sizes, although the initials used to designate models were still retained. The Bullet was successfully redesigned after WW2 and did well in sales and in trials matches after its re-launch in 1948. The 1949 Model G Bullet had an alloy head, and full swing-arm suspension. The 1948 Bullet also had a re-designed frame, and its new suspension offered superior handling against its competitors.

In 1948, the company introduced the Meteor, its first parallel twin, a 500cc machine with swing-arm suspension and other advances. This was upgraded to the 692cc Meteor in 1953, the largest parallel twin available aside from the Vincent. It got several more upgrades to the Super Meteor, then in 1958 the Constellation with its Airflow fairing, and finally the 736cc Interceptor in 1962 and the final version, the Mk2 Interceptor, perhaps the finest British twin ever made. Another popular Enfield was the Continental GT, a five-speed 248cc sporting single. The Clipper ran from 1953 to 57, when it was replaced by the unit-construction Crusader (a budget Crusader II was launched in 1958-65, but was not the same machine). The Clipper itself was really a budget version of  the Bullet.

Several innovative machines were made in the 1950s and 60s. The Crusader Sports (56) was the first modern British four-stroke, the Series II Interceptor (69) had wet-sump lubrication, capacitor ignition and a vertical oil filter.

For a short while before it collapsed, American firm Indian sold the Interceptor in the USA with an Indian badge. In the mid-1950s, RE sold manufacturing equipment to an Indian subsidiary in Madras, to make the 350cc Bullet for the Indian Army and Indian police.

In the mid 1960s, RE was in financial trouble. They continued in business until 1967 when they closed and sold off their stock and machinery. The Indian Enfield company however, made Bullets with hardly a change since they began in 1955, except to upgrade the engine to 500cc for one model, improve the electrics and brakes. These bikes have been exported around the world, coming back to the UK in 1978 and other countries soon after. They become popular as simple, easy-going bikes with a vintage look and feel, but at low cost.

In 1997, the Indian Enfield company acquired the rights to use the name Royal Enfield on its bikes. Swiss engineer Fritz Egli has done considerable work upgrading and tuning Bullets for more power and speed.

LINKS T&R Impex, Canadian importers and historians Royal Enfield home page.

Royal George 1903
Royal Mail 1902
Royal Ruby 1909-33. Started building motorcycles in the early part of the century (1904?) using their own engines.  Turned to Villiers motors in 1930, and offered several models from 247 to 346cc sizes, but closed shop in 1934.
Royal Roebuck 1902. Built by James.
Royal Scot 1922-24, Scotland
Royal Sovereign 1902-03
Royal Wellington 1901
R&P 1902-06
Rudge-Wedge 1903-04. Started by Dan Rudge, later absorbed by Rudge-Whitworth.

Dan Rudge started a company in 1868 to make velocipedes (forerunners of bicycles) but died in 1880. George Woodcock bought the firm in 1885, but if foundered by 1890, and following his death, the company was acquired by bicycle manufacturer Whitworth Cycles in 1894 and the two bicycle manufacturers merged names. They started selling re-badged Werner motorcycles in 1909 and manufactured their own machines in 1911. They had several early innovations, including a spring-loaded stand, a front-and-back linked braking system, a spray-action carburetor and, in their early 1912 model, the Rudge Multi, a belt-gearing system (similar to the Zenith Gradua) that offered no less than 21 gear ratios! This was finally dropped in 1923.

Rudge made a 998cc V-twin in 1914, but war halted production of it until 1919. In the 1920s, Rudge built four-valve cylinder heads for their 500cc single, a version of which won the 1928 Ulster Grand Prix - "The World's Fastest Road Race" - with a speed of 80.078 mph. As a result, their next model was named the Ulster and offered a top speed of 90 mph.

Their glory years were in the late 1920s and early 1930s when they won several races. They introduced a new radial valve/cylinder head design in 1930 that soon cost them considerable money to develop. The company had other racing successes, and closed in 1933 because of the Depression. They opened again under the control of the Gramaphone Company Ltd. (later HMV, then EMI). A totally-enclosed valve gear was introduced in 1937, and Rudge machines won the ISDT that year, but the rescue attempt couldn't revive them enough.

Financial trouble (in 1934-34 he company only sold 2,000 machines a year!) forced the company to re-design and the 1937 Rudge Ulster sold 3,00 machines. But the war brought production to an end in 1939, when Norman briefly manufactured them before war closed civilian production. The name was sold to Raleigh. EMI-Rudge did make a small Cyclemaster clip-on engine in the 1950s.

An interesting side note In 1927, Stanley Glanfield, took a 3.5 hp single cylinder Rudge-Whitworth on an 18,000 mile journey around the world, covering four continents. See the link below for details. In 1928, Glanfield designed a Rudge especially for dirt racing, marketed under the name 'Glanfield Rudge.'

Russell 1913
RW Scout 1919-21. Built by R. Weatherall Co.
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