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1960 Meteor Minor Royal Enfield 496cc Twin

1960 Meteor Minor Royal Enfield 496cc Twin

Rare on the roads in the sixties when it was new and rarer still now, the Royal Enfield Meteor Minor twin was always underrated by enthusiasts. The name did it no favours suggesting it was the little brother of the 692cc Super Meteor twin. With a power race on and USA customers demanding bigger and more powerful engines the little brother Meteor Minor was soon pushed out of the windows into the back of the showrooms and gathered dust.

Royal Enfield, a family firm, were among the earliest makers of motorcycles, had a long reputation of making sound, sensible motorcycles for sensible mototcyclists and found it difficult to adjust to the sixties market of young riders who wanted bikes that looked fast, sounded fast and were fast, as proved by the racing success, even if that success was won on specially built motorcycles.

It was as quick as any of its 500cc rivals with flashy names and faster than most. Its two way mean a maximum of 89 mph with a best one way of 97 mph tested at MIRA proving ground was way ahead of the much vaunted Triumph Tiger 100A which only managed a mean of 77 mph and a one way best of 86 mph. Moone associated Enfields with high speed so no-one, or hardly anyone, bothered to check these test figures. Even if they had, the Tiger had more image. Minor might have been the right name for a small family car but it was the wrong name for a sports motorcycle.

The Meteor Minor scored over its rivals by being over square in its bore of 70mm and stroke of 64.5. This reduced vibration, the limiting factor with parallel twins and made for an efficient combustion chamber. It was unusual in having separate cylinder barrels and cylinder heads which made DIY work on the engine easy. Like most Enfields, oil was carried in a separate compartment in the crankcase eliminating external pipes though operating on the dry sump principle. Steering, braking and comfort was better than average because Enfields always had practical motorcyclists in the firm.