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Royal Enfield's golden record in the ISDT

22nd March, 2017

The success of Royal Enfield in the International Six Days Trial in the late 1940s and early 50s is the stuff of legend. Generally seen to be the ultimate competition test for rider and machine, the ISDT is recognised as the off-road blue-ribbon event, and has often been referred to as the Olympics of motorcycling.

During those years, 26 individual Royal Enfield machines competed in the ISDT, covering a total of about 70,000 miles in the most arduous conditions – high speed riding over rocks, rivers, mountains, deserts, dust, off-road and on road, mud, torrential rain, high speed tests, acceleration test, brake tests, penalties for time infringements, for unreliable starting, for straying off-course (if caught!), and for failure of lights or other non-functioning machine fittings. All this pressure makes the ISDT the most arduous of all motorcycle events. The Enfields taking part in the ISDT during these golden years completed their 70,000 miles without the loss of a single mark!

On the way Royal Enfield won the Manufacturers’ Team Prize three times – 1949, 1951 and 1953 – collecting a total of twenty-six gold medals on the way. The UK team won the premier prize, the ISDT Trophy, five times, in 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951 and 1953. In all these years Royal Enfield machines and their riders were crucial members of the winning UK teams. After 1953 the UK would never again win the premier ISDT Trophy prize.

A footnote

It is said for his 1948 successful entry Jack Stoker was offered an ex-Milk Marketing Board J2 500 (!) and left to his own, very considerable, devices. After some ‘improvements’ Jack set the fastest time in the speed sections of the pre-selection event in Wales. (This is the bike in the picture with this posting)

In the event the Enfield’s lower fork crown snapped and Jack improvised a repair, using a spare clutch cable and tire lever. That night the bike was left untouched in ‘parc-ferme’. The following morning a Model G was seen on the street – in the Italian Alps. The bike, according to Jack, was ‘borrowed’, to provide a pattern for the needed part for the following day – a note being left for the owner in place of his bike. The following morning the repair was effected, within the very short time the regulations allowed. The going was so rough that the other fork leg broke and the repair gave way. The handling of the bike became so unpredictable that Jack opted to wear two sets of leathers and a leather coat – ‘just in case’.

The bike now would only turn to the right, but as this was the last day, and the location a race circuit with only right-hand bends, all was well. Jack clocked 80mph on course and that was enough for the UK team to win the Vase!

Enfield management was disappointed Stoker didn’t make the bike available for publicity photos. Jack’s explanation, that the bike would attract only negative publicity, wasn’t believed. So he wagered that if Barry Smith, son of the MD, could ride the bike across the car park he’d buy the drinks. Smith took up the challenge - but dropped the bike within a couple of meters!



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