Motorcycle Classics Blogs > Black Side Down

Enfield Update

by Richard Backus


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enfield small 
It's been awhile since we've given any updates on our long-term Royal Enfield, which we collected from U.S. Enfield distributor Classic Motorworks (www.enfieldmotorcycles.com) way back at the tail end of 2005. 
 
We've had a gas with the bike, although the paltry 1,400 miles we've racked up on it would suggest otherwise. A long, cold winter kept us off the Enfield and our own bikes, but we'll get in some good road time this spring, including a planned road trip down to our favorite bike cafe in the Flint Hills.
 
But it hasn't been all bright and light with our Enfield, as last fall we suffered our first mechanical setback. Running around the pits at the inaugural Bonneville GP in Utah last September, I stalled the Enfield, and when I hit the starter button the engine made one of those unhappy noises. A prod on the kickstarter was met with complete resistance, leaving me wondering if the engine had spontaneously failed and locked. It took a few months to find time to dig into the Enfield, and when I finally did I discovered that the sprag clutch for the electric start system had failed. The sprag looks like a bearing assembly, but instead of ball bearings it has fingers that catch the inner and outer race of the assembly when the starter is engaged, which then transfers the flow of power from the starter motor to the engine, spinning it over to start. When the starter is released, the fingers relax and the power flow overrides the sprag. You can see the broken sprag and the intermediate gear in the photo at the lower right. All those little pieces are supposed to be held together by the assembly.
 
Classic Motorworks covered the parts under warranty, and we did the repair ourselves, figuring it was a good opportunity to get to know the Enfield better. All in all, it's a straightforward process, requiring removal of the primary gears/chain assembly. We ended up replacing the complete sprag assembly, and the intermediate starter gear, which broke a tooth when the sprag locked everything up. Below you can see the complete assembly removed. If you look carefully, you can see the broken tooth on the large intermediate gear at about the 4 o'clock position. The sprag is at upper right.
 
It all came apart easily, and if you've ever torn into the primary drive on a Brit twin the process is very familiar. The only special tool required is a puller (I used a standard steering wheel puller), and I'd guess it took me about three hours total, and if you're mechanically inclined you'll find the job's pretty easy. Truth be told, it's kind of refreshing to work on something so simple. When it was all buttoned up the Enfield fired up happily and we've had no problems since. From what we can tell, we're not the first to suffer this problem, yet we've spoken with Enfield owners who have put thousands of miles on their bikes without suffering the same fate. Richard Backus, Editor in chief