- The Indian Bobber King of Brass
- 346 cc single cylinder, 19.8 hp, 28 Nm, 155 kg dry
- In the saddle
The Indian Bobber King of Brass
346 cc single cylinder, 19.8 hp, 28 Nm, 155 kg dry
The customization of motorcycles has known for a decade a continuous boom. Where for a long time this practice mainly affected large American V-Twins and the preparation of sportswomen, it has spread to all motorcycles with particular attention to old and neo-retro machines.. However, some brands have been neglected despite the interesting base that their models represent. This is the case of Royal Enfield which proves with the RE350 Brass Rajah that the Classic are an ideal starting material to create your bobber…
Review of the Royal Enfield RE350 Brass Rajah
For those who do not know this iconic style of the American two-wheeler, you should know that the Bobber was a pioneer in modern customization..
The bobber was born in the late 1940s with the return of battlefield GIs who were willing to spend the accumulated war salaries to buy a motorcycle. They invariably used Harley-Davidson and Indian as a base, but also Triumph twins from the pre-Bonneville era as in the Sauvage / Marlon Brando team. But as more and more veterans were demobilized, the shortage of civilian motorcycles drove up prices, leading them to buy old army motorcycles which they then sawed and cut short ("to bob" in English ) by cutting the rear fender, hence the term Bobtail, as well as removing any unwanted elements to make the bike as light as possible for street racing.
Accelerating as fast as possible from a standing start was the mantra of the bobbers. That’s how they were used in the illegal drag races that were being held across the United States at the time. There were many unfinished highways back then, including Eisenhower’s brand new Interstate Highway System where it was possible to race safely and often make money with bets. This was before the freeways were finished and this kind of racing was commercialized with the creation of special tracks to take them off the streets..
A Bobber thus originally represented a minimalist approach to building a motorcycle that was made to ride as opposed to a motorcycle for display. So anything that was not a necessity was removed. Just like on the Brass Rajah…
The Bobber style is the origin of customization and has reappeared in the last decade.
The Bobber later became the Chopper of the sixties, but that’s another story … although it’s interesting to note that in America today, the garish custom Choppers that were still all the rage there are. A decade before the sub-prime crisis are now a thing of the past, while the many preparers who made them have largely closed shop, leaving room for a return of the Bobber customization that is more minimalist and above all more manageable. That’s why one of Harley’s most recent bestsellers has been the bobber-style Forty-Eight while the Triumph Bonneville Bobber has had the best start in the brand’s history. Mid Life Cycles’ Brass Rajah shows Royal Enfield parent factory how they could achieve the same result.
Royal Enfield’s unique status as a manufacturer whose entire range of two-wheelers is to revive yesterday’s machines in a modern context means that all of its motorcycles naturally lend themselves to period customization. Except that when tackling the customization of an Enfield, you don’t need to worry about restoring the worn mechanics of a model from yesteryear. Just remove everything modern on the bike from a dealership and you’re good to go. This reflects the global trend for air-cooled OHV pushrod engines that are increasingly used on ultra-custom motorcycles that we see parading in custom shows around the world..
The Brass Rajah is an adaptation of the Classic 350 in the Bobber style
It was with the aim of bringing something new to the preparation scene that the local distributor Royal Enfield from Melbourne (Australia), Urban Moto Imports approached the Mid Life Cycles preparer to ask him to design a bobtail. , which will become the RE350 Brass Rajah.
This preparation is among the eight contenders of the competition organized between the various concessions of Australia and New Zealand. The Brass Rajah was completely built within 31 days using a Classic 350 as a base. Even though it only finished in second place in the competition, narrowly losing to the Sydney Rough Cut elected thanks to internet user votes, the demand for Brass Rajah was such as Michael Catchpole, CEO of Mid Life Cycles, has agreed to produce a series of it on order, allowing everyone to adapt the bike to their tastes..
This creation was made in 31 days for a competition between Oceania dealers
“Royal Enfield Sydney won the competition with a good bike that was very well promoted and found everywhere on social media. Our friendly rivalry carried on until the last two hours of voting, but the result is that they won, so good luck to them. But as a company that started out as a restorer of classic motorcycles and a manufacturer of custom motorcycles, we achieved our goal of showing what we could do with a Royal Enfield Classic. This has resulted in a high demand from customers to buy replicas of the Brass Rajah. We are building two of these bikes and are in final talks for a third, all in a price range between 15 and Australian $ 20,000 (between 9,250 and 12,300 euros) for a new Brass Rajah in 350 or 500. While Royal Enfield has announced that they are discontinuing the 500 Classic, we will focus on the 350 from now on. enant. One of the first two bikes may not be as ambitious as the competition bike because it is requested by an owner who wants to ride it in a small country town without getting too much police attention. This is what we will call the Rajah Lite. The other is a full version with all parts included and even a little more. Each is a challenge because, even for the least ambitious, keeping the homologation on the road remains a real challenge in the preparation. The aesthetics of the motorcycle remain the primary factor, it must be beautiful to look at but also ride properly. "
Mid Life Cycles store in Melbourne
It does, as I saw when Michael Catchpole let me ride the streets of Melbourne on the award winning show bike. This is a modern Australian creation using a neo-retro base from India with a Yankee hot rod style for a really really cool look..
With the Brass Rajah, Catchpole & Co. aimed to assemble a motorcycle that they felt emphasized the design strengths of Royal Enfield’s Classic range by focusing on its timeless single-cylinder engine:
We took a new Classic 350, put it in the workshop, walked around it a bunch of times, and then started removing pieces of it. After removing the many unwanted parts and contemplating the engine placed high in the chassis, we realized that we had to visually lower it and physically lengthen the profile of the bike..
The rear of the Brass Rajah is lightened to the maximum
This goal was first achieved by lengthening the swingarm by 75mm with a new tubular steel design by Andrew Hallam of Hallam Racing, co-designer of the Australian Hunwick Hallam X1R superbike..
It was then the turn of the fuel tank:
The Royal Enfield Classic’s standard tank has a nice shape on its profile, but our prep required a longer, thinner, and lower tank. We tried several possibilities, some of which are still on the shelves of the store. But none of it really stuck, until we found a replica of a 1930s Norton tank in a catalog. As the 31 day lead time continued to get shorter, it wasn’t until we got the package and put the painted tank on the frame that we knew it was the right one. The RE350 project came to life !
The reservoir is presented as the centerpiece of the preparation
Catchpole then asked local painter Glen Stevens to remove the Norton logo by repainting the tank and doing some pin-striping to stay true to the original black and gold design, then allowing the team to use the Royal Enfield badges brass on the sides of the tank. The team was then able to turn to the details..
Customizing a motorcycle requires two things: a main theme that helps define readiness and stay true to the original intent, plus hundreds of decisions about the details. From the start, we wanted some of these pieces to be brass to evoke the Art Deco era in which we wanted to put this bike. From brass tank badges, bullet shaped turn signals, wing nuts on the brass brake rod, to the custom speedometer frame, handlebar mount and spoke rim nuts. I think we have achieved our goal. We also had to give the bike a name, so what better way than to call it Brass Rajah! (which can be translated as Roi de Laiton)
The Brass Rajah is full of brass details
By this time, Catchpole & Co. had purchased many other parts, including BSA style rear shocks to replace the original spring elements, thus ideally complementing the original front fork design. They had also stripped, repainted and rebuilt the wheels by attaching brass nuts to the stainless steel spokes. They also upgraded the 350 Classic’s 18-inch rear wheel to 19-inch. Since it distributes this brand, Mid Life Cycles has chosen Shinki E270 4.00 x 19 tires to reinforce this Bobber look of the 40s..
BSA type shocks have been added to the rear to match the style of the fork
The one-piece handlebars and the leather suspended saddle come from the dealer’s accessories catalog and had already been installed on several Classic 350/500s. However, the Catchpole team wanted to dispense with the standard springs under the saddle by making a temporary support frame and then ordering Fabwell to create a support following the curve of the rear fender for which he also created the semi-concealed supports, another crucial element of this preparation. This custom protective element had to be carefully stretched and curved to follow the profile of the 19-inch wheel taken from a Bullet 500. The team then installed a horizontal LED brake light strip under the saddle that appears to be floating in it. air from profile.
The suspended saddle tops a tiny LED headlight
In the saddle
Climbing aboard the Rajah before pressing the start button or kickstarting it reveals that the leather saddle is incredibly comfortable while still looking cool. For once on a prep, it is the function that dictates the form, which makes it a pleasant motorcycle for shopping in the city or simply passing in front of the cafe terraces. Think of it as the super cool retro equivalent of a 400cc scooter !
The single cylinder can also be kick started
The spacing of the grips of the one-piece handlebar is not excessive compared to the low and longer tank and offers a relaxed and relatively sporty position. Contrary to what I expected when seeing the bike for the first time, you don’t end up with excessive weight on your arms and shoulders.
The handlebars keep a relatively comfortable position
There is always a kick, but you can start it with the starter motor, which is very easy thanks to the low compression ratio of 8.5: 1.
The result is this creation of the classic era fun to drive around town with light and agile steering that makes the Rajah a great tool for crossing traffic. We are well helped by an easy clutch and an irreproachable gear change of the five-speed gearbox. Despite the small displacement of the engine, the long stroke of 90 mm allows for a fairly good level of torque over the entire rev range. On the other hand, with barely 20 horsepower available on this 350cc pushrod engine, it takes a lot of clutch play to keep up with traffic on some of Melbourne’s widest boulevards..
The RE350 is at home in the city, although it takes a lot of work with the clutch.
But it’s actually a pleasure because the changes are easily made in the muffled, but still dynamic noise of the exhaust of the Rajah. The latter uses the original manifold and a Mid Life Cycles chrome silencer, to deliver a very pleasant soundtrack..
The bike has the look of a bobber, but the performance and allure of a Cafe Racer, so it brakes well too. However, you have to use the small rear drum brake that is strong enough to brake at any speed, even reasonable, while at the same time squeezing the front single-disc brake lever. But everything works perfectly, although it is always better to anticipate your stops as much as possible..
Braking is correct but still requires a lot of anticipation
Another factor that makes the Brass Rajah fun to ride is the absence of any excessive vibration from the air-cooled engine. It’s been years, decades even, since the last time I was able to drive a Royal Enfield 350 unlike a 500. But it was a 350 with an iron cylinder and a separate gearbox with primary chain drive. The Indian company’s huge leap forward in 2009 with the launch of the current all-aluminum engine has transformed both the ride quality of the bike and the engine’s enjoyment as well as its sense of sophistication. It is no wonder that thanks to improved fuel economy (the number 1 problem for the Indian customer), the 350 Royal Enfield models have supplanted the larger 500cc versions in the Indian market, where 97 % of the 716,000 motorcycles produced in 2019 at the three factories in Chennai were sold.
The 28 Nm of torque are permanently accessible on this single cylinder which does not vibrate
It is a pleasure to be propelled through the streets of Melbourne by the 350cc engine of the Rajah. And even at higher speeds, the bike has no trouble taking an angle following the curves of the river in Yarra Bend Park or accelerating down the highway to return to Mid Life Cycles, where she even seems to have a lot of length.
Despite its only 20 horses, the Brass Rajah seems to have enough length
It’s a wonderful preparation, but still "rolling" and practical, in the kind that Roland Sands (apart from the VMAX Cafe Racer), the preparer from Los Angeles, would have been proud to have created himself. She is as beautiful as she is competent.
Royal Enfield RE350 Brass Rajah by Mid Life Cycles
And it’s a motorcycle that can be bought at a reasonable price for a prep, between 9,000 and 12,000 euros ($ 15-20,000 AUD), depending on the specifications chosen, which, compared to the many limited American productions costing five times more expensive like the Curtiss Warhawk, seems almost sold off for a handmade custom. Mid Life Cycles is now looking for more customers for Brass Rajah replicas:
The hardest part of the whole customization was to ensure that each step could be cost-effectively reproduced to produce a limited run of practical and controllable motorcycles, using that same platform. I am happy to say that we have succeeded. So we can’t wait to build more Brass Rajahs, each different from the others..
The technical sheet of the Royal Enfield RE350 Brass Rajah
Entry-level, extra class Air / oil single cylinder, 349 cm3, 20 hp and 27 Nm, 191 kg full made, from 4.099 euros Royal Enfield commemorates its 120th…
Indian classic Virtually unchanged in 50 years, the Royal Enfield Bullet is the epitome of the motorcycle in its simplest form: two wheels, handlebars…
The first American superbike 60 ° V-Twin of 996 cm3, 135 hp and 107 Nm, 177 kg, 50 units produced 1995! 25 years ago! This date is a major milestone for…
The faithful friend 4 Z1000 cylinders rebored to 1,229 cm3, 144 hp, Moto Martin frame, 175 kg dry Many of us have had motorcycles that have become…
French watch or Gallic genius ? 128 hp Honda Moto2 engine, parallelogram suspension front axle, adjustable geometry, solid 7075 T6 aluminum chassis, 154…
Neo-retro in the right tempo 3 cylinders of 798 cm3, 148 hp, 88 Nm, 173 kg, 20,300 euros Concept bike adapted in an ultra exclusive limited series, the…
The Cafe Racer spirit and the joys of the single-cylinder combined in one motorcycle Single cylinder, 535 cm3, 29.1 hp at 5,100 rpm, 44 Nm at 4,000 rpm,…
Single cylinder tumbled, 499 cm3, 27 hp, 41 N.m, 187 kilos with full tank, € 5,785 A retro machine full of charm to rediscover the joys of everyday life…
The time machine Born in Great Britain in the 1890s (and the offshoot of a weapons factory, hence the name of its models, Bullet), but Indian since the…
Post-classic queen 915 cc parallel-twin, 90 hp, steel subframe, 167 kg It’s been 20 years since the last Laverda left the brand’s factories, but the…