Royal Enfield introduced the Revelation in 1965 as its answer to the hugely successful Moulton small wheeler. Like the other established English manufacturers, Royal Enfield was scrambling to jump on the small wheeler bandwagon, but without infringing the Moulton patents.
The Revelation followed the Dawes Kingpin as one of the original 20” ‘shopper’ bikes. They had 20” wheels in order to have a reasonably comfortable ride. Smaller wheels give a rough ride, which is why the Moulton, with its 16” wheels, had suspension. Raleigh's Moulton competitor, the RSW 16, had soft 'balloon' tyres to soak up the bumps instead. Small wheelers were not - at this time at least - humble shopper bikes; they were the bikes of the future!
The Revelation was the last new Royal Enfield bicycle. The company was already failing when the Revelation was introduced, and no one knows how many were made before bicycle production ceased in early 1967. The Royal Enfield bicycles sold since then have been merely badge-engineered versions of other brands.
History of Royal Enfield
Royal Enfield had its origins in a needle manufacturing company founded in Redditch, UK by one George Townsend in 1851. After Townsend's death his son George Junior began selling parts to the cycle trade before producing complete bicycles. The Townsend firm became 'The Eadie Manufacturing Company Ltd' after being taken over by R.W. Smith & Albert Eadie in November 1891.
The ‘Enfield’ name came about after the new owners contracted to supply precision rifle parts to the Enfield Royal Small Arms Factory. They obtained permission to use the ‘Royal’ prefix a few years later and subsequently adopted their memorable 'made like a gun' motto.
Royal Enfield produced its first engine-powered vehicle, a quadricycle, in 1898, and its first motorcycle in 1901. The company prospered and became an established manufacturer of both bicycles and motorcycles. However, nothing lasts forever, and by the 1960s the company was suffering. Bicycle production ceased with the closure of the Redditch factory in early 1967, while motorcycle production lingered for a few years at another plant. (History thanks to Burton Bike Bits)
The attractive Revelation frame, by long time Royal Enfield engineer Vic Bott, was truly original. That much-needed gusseting is certainly distinctive, and note those ‘seat stays’ that are just ‘stuck’ on the main tube, and the way they are finished on the end.
The seat post is unusually small, 22.2 mm I read somewhere. It has shims to fit the seat tube. A sign of the times was that the fork ends were simply pressed rather than having dropouts. The handlebar stem has 'Royal Enfield' faintly etched on it - quite a surprise when cleaning off the grime of ages.
The painted rear rack is sturdy but very fine and shaped to suit the slightly Dan Dare look of the bike. It is so fine that it sometimes almost disappears from view. I’m hoping to find a suitable shopper bag to replace the dead original. And while I dream of finding a front rack, I'm not holding my breath.
The Revelation is fitted with a three speed Sturmey Archer geared hub with a trigger shifter. The shape of the handlebars suits the Sturmey trigger, so this one is easily within finger range and convenient to use. I wish I could remember for sure what size sprocket it came with, but I think it was 15 tooth. I calculated that (thanks Sheldon) to give about 94 gear inches in third gear - surely that can't be original?. Now it runs an 18 tooth sprocket - a great improvement, whatever the gear inches.
Weight is a bit less (say a couple of kilos) than a Raleigh Twenty. Very precise.
Unusual bottom bracket
The Revelation has a ‘Bayliss Wiley unit bottom bracket’. This is a separate, self contained unit that fits into a plain, slightly larger-than-usual bottom bracket shell in the frame. It comprises a standard spindle and bearings in a steel cylinder with a slightly-modified bearing cup at each end. The cylinder is held in the frame by a flange on each of the bearing cups.
The Bayliss-Wiley Unit Bottom Bracket was introduced in the mid-1940s. It was fitted to various English lightweights through the 1950s and, as we can see here, was used at least until the mid-1960s. However, the unit bottom bracket was never popular and it had a reputation for being troublesome. A lack of positive location allowed it to rotate within the frame, loosening the bearing cups. I can vouch for this. Within a few weeks of commuter 'testing' of my newly rebuilt Revelation I could discern some strange movement through the cranks, and sure enough the bottom bracket lock ring had undone itself and the BB was free to move laterally some several millimetres. The solution is to fix the unit in the frame, using an adhesive and/or a screw. (Thanks davepalk)
What’s it like to ride?
This Revelation has new Raleigh Record tyres (ie vintage reproductions), which are probably very similar to those it had when new, running at 55 psi. So, as you’d expect, it rolls a bit slower than it could but they suit the bike. It feels very steady yet still manoeuvrable.
The bars are surprisingly low – not sporty low, just nothing like ‘sit up and beg’. Overall, the ride is similar to most vintage tourer/roadsters, and maybe a bit steadier than some. Fine if you’re not in a hurry.
This Revelation (frame number 141477) was, like so many old bikes, stashed away (and not too carefully) at the end of its useful life and forgotten. I have merely pulled it apart and put it back together. Happily, the rust I saw in the photos before I bought it turned out to be dried up sump oil, so most of the shiny bits remain so. It has plenty of scratches on the paintwork though. I have replaced the seat as the original was perished; ditto the original shopper bag.
Note the scrape mark on the chain guard, partly obliterating the Royal Enfield logo. I have seen this on other Revelations, so perhaps its typical. The chainguard mounting is not the most secure (the bracket to the chainstay tends to shift), so a bit of movement and voila! – the little clearance there was between it and the crank has gone and there remains a nice scrape as a permanent reminder! I've fitted a bit of rubber under the chainstay bracket to help it grip better.
|Bayliss Wiley unit bottom bracket||Bayliss Wiley unit bottom bracket has a bad name|