Life on bikes

One owner, full service history, not for sale

There’s always a motorcycle we wish we’d never sold. Luckily Chris Cobbold has managed to hang on to his, a Royal Enfield Crusader, for 58 years so far.

With the average span of a motorcycle lasting between 12-15 years, stories like Chris Cobbold’s Royal Enfield 250cc Crusader Sports motorbike are a rarity.

The 77-year old has owned his favourite motorbike for nearly 60 years and in that time has clearly spent a lot of time looking after it.

The Claydon resident has ridden other motorcycles – but believes there is nothing better than his Royal Enfield Crusader, which has clocked up more than 150,000 miles in 58 years.

Royal Enfield Crusader
© Simon Finlay. Much coveted badge

Chris recalls the first time he saw his beloved motorcycle back in 1959.

“It was a very attractive machine in those days, the Sports 250,” he told the Bikesure Forever Bikes blog, a platform for motorbike fans who have owned their bikes for 30 years or more.

“I’m a very small chap, only 5ft 2in, and it’s a jolly good little bike for people like me – it was very easy to handle physically.

“Everything about it just fitted me. I could, and did, ride many big bikes, it was just a bit more of a challenge. That’s why I kept it – I liked it and it just suited me.”

Royal Enfield Crusader
© Simon Finlay Chris has even managed to hang onto the original handbook

Chris comes from a family of motorcyclists, and built his first bike in the era of austerity from assorted pre-war parts at the age of 16.

“Motorcycling was in the blood – my grandfather and father were always that way inclined. I could not wait to get on the road, and I started the hard way by building my own bike.”

Royal Enfield Crusader
© Simon Finlay The bike is unmolested, with no restoration

Chris who used to work in drawing and design paid £205 for the Enfield, about £4,400 in today’s money, and paid an extra £7 for an enclosed chain case and an air filter, before setting off an incredible first ride on his new bike.

“My first trip on the Enfield was to Switzerland. I went with a friend who had an Ariel Leader. My father was based there for part of the war, he knew all about that part of the world and it’s probably one of the reasons we went there,” he says.

“It was nothing unusual to do that. The Enfield was a new bike back then – the latest thing, and the journey was no problem whatsoever, although you obviously can’t compare them with today’s bikes.

“I remember that the Citroen 2CV was everywhere at the time – we passed them going uphill and they passed us going downhill!

“Royal Enfield was a good company with a good reputation and, at the time, in the 1950s, they were making a lot of smaller bikes, right up to the bigger bikes. They were the first people to make the 700cc vertical twin (regarded as the first superbike).”

Royal Enfield Crusader
© Simon Finlay The reverse speedo still works

Yet, despite his infatuation with the Enfield Chris has ridden a whole host of other bikes including, a Triumph 350cc, a Yamaha 1200, a Kawasaki 600, a brand new Honda 750, and two further Hondas, a CBX500 and a CBR400, but none of them lasted the distance and had the same hold on his emotions as the Enfield.

“There was no attachment to those bikes, not in the same way,” says Chris, who remains a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and Motorcyclists, and used to train learner motorcyclists having been trained by the DVLA at Cardington.

“I’ve always kept it taxed and insured, though I can’t ride it now for health reasons. But it’s still up and running.”

So after 61 years of motorcycling, and a series of other bikes passing through his hands over the years, only one faithful machine has stood the test of time.

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“I’ve finally finished up just with the Enfield,” says Chris. “I kept it because I’ve always liked it – I’ve never really thought about or tried to sell it. I had nothing to lose – what’s the £200 it cost me?”

Royal Enfield Crusader
© Simon Finlay Chris and his bike

Chris’ bike is featured in Bikesure’s Forever Bikes blog – the personal stories of motorbike enthusiasts who have owned their vehicles for 30 years or more. Read more stories at www.bikesure.co.uk/forever-bikes/.

This article was produced in association with Forever Bikes. If you have owned your motorbike for 30 years or more and would like it featured on Bikesure’s Forever Bikes blog email Grant Elliott: [email protected]

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