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    Royal Enfield 250 Crusader Sport

    Tuesday, October 13, 2009

    Being the proud owner of a fairly big van has its drawbacks, mainly on a wet freezing night when one of my mates rings me to ask if I will pick up him and what's left of his bike from some part of the country, or in one case the local police station. On such occasions many offers are made, from money, to filling the tank with fuel, needless to say most promises given are soon forgotten. However, one bloke I helped lived up to his rhetoric and came to my house a few days later with several boxes containing the disinterred remains of what he called a classic just waiting to be put together. Nearly two years later I was the proud (sic) owner of a 1959 Royal Enfield Crusader Sport; two years of locating parts, an oil strewn garage and an empty bank account.

    I ended up with a motorcycle that wouldn't look out of place in a classic show except for one problem, I couldn't start the bastard. After nearly breaking every bone in my leg I enlisted some help. This bloke was a pain in the arse except for one redeeming feature, he started the heap after ten minutes of fiddling with the timing (I never did master the art...).

    The Crusader Sport was a single cylinder machine of 250cc and it shared the same major components as its many brothers. Its main claim to fame was that it was the fastest 250 road bike when first introduced - don't forget we are talking learner legal back then. On an interesting note, one the Sport's brothers was called the Continental, styled and built after the factory asked some apprentices what they wanted to ride - not a bad idea!

    After some form filling and a visit from a DVLC inspector, an age related numberplate was granted and duly fixed in place. There followed the quickest MOT that I've ever seen with the tester just giving the bike a look, and writing out the ticket.

    On the road, the RE went round corners like it was stuck to the tarmac, feeling stable and secure, inspiring me to greater heroics than I ever thought possible. It was not long, however, that all the problems of British bikes of this era became evident. Bolts coming undone, oil leaks and just to add insult to injury, my hard won numberplate complete with rear light was ripped off by some spotty git and is probably still hanging on his wall as a trophy.

    Someone also tried to lever off the tank badges but failed. I smacked the sod around the head with my crash helmet and left him in a heap on the pavement. Then one fine spring day, as I was hurtling round a tight left-hander, I was thrown off, and watched in horror as the machine slid with a vengeance towards the ditch by the side of the road. Stopping just short of the edge where my battered body met up with it. Apparently, people in the know saw the prongs off the main stand. As mine was new it was intact and dug a furrow out of the tarmac before digging in and sending me ballistic.

    As my finances improved I bought a new GPZ500S, and the same thing happened, only this was the bellypan that had the back wheel off the ground and me in the hedge. Anyway I fixed up the Crusader and rode it all over the place. Then it blew up in a big, final way and I was the one on the phone to a mate with a van to come and pick me up.

    After a large number of new parts were fitted I had become very wary of riding to the end of the street on the thing and concentrated on the Kawasaki (much more civilised). Only had the odd run on the Brit. All in all, the experience taught me a lot, like leaving the Enfield parked in town and coming back to find several old boys huddled around it, talking about past heroics. I once went to a well known beauty spot and had a coach load of ancients out on a day trip huddled round for a good hour whilst their other halves were taking in the scenery and casting pitying looks at their partners. Then there's the dickheads who try to tear it apart or nick it.

    On the technical side the engine had a bore of 70mm and stroke of 64.5mm, sported a compression ratio of 8.75:1. It sipped petrol from a single Amal Monobloc carb at about 75mpg, vibrated like buggery and pissed out oil as if I had shares in BP (just like a true classic). The petrol tank held about five gallons of leaded and leaked through the cap when full. The seat was comfortable for at least twice the distance between fill-ups. The gearbox was solid and reliable, with its four speeds well placed. The top speed was between 75 and 85mph depending on where the speedo cared to point, and the bike went round corners as if on rails.

    Being self-employed my fortunes go up and down alarmingly and on an enforced lay-off something had to go. The Crusader had long been admired by a guy who buys and sells all manner of goods, and after some hard bargaining I rode round to his lock-up and left the bike there, walked several miles home in a very dark mood.

    After a few months, out of curiosity, I contacted the bloke to find that he'd exported the bike to Japan where's there a booming market for old British Iron. I nearly pissed myself laughing at a mental image of that one - talk about getting your own back.

    My overall experience with this machine wasn't all bad and apart from minor irritations the bike did perform quite well. It was never going to rip arms off with the acceleration or cruise at high speeds, but on the plus side, when it blew up and I removed the engine I took it to a friend of my dad's who is well know throughout the area as a Vincent fanatic. Together, we took the little engine apart. He was well impressed by the engineering within. I think with a bit of careful rebuilding and good quality parts you could make a very usable bike.

    There is a big market in spares in these old bikes and all I had to do was pick up the phone to get the bits to me the next day. A word of warning, though, it's always best to appear in person at these stores to check the selected bits very carefully, there are a lot of crap ill-fitting spares. Fit them at your peril. It seems that I fell into this trap when I first rebuilt the Enfield.

    But then I've always been impatient, which is why I'm able to tell you this sorry tale because I've come off the GPZ again and now have a few weeks before the various lumps of plaster are removed. Christ, those OE tyres are crap (you should've read the Used Guide - Ed). The Kawa's also very bent but repairable. You would never believe me if I related here how it happened just suffice to say that it involved a bend in the road, a pothole, a large horse and the side of a Toyota. Nuff said...

    BY: mr ray smith (r_smith1@sky.com)

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