Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Royal Enfield: Real rider. Genuine smile. Please attempt.

Aaron Clarey, author of "Bachelor Pad Economics," poses on a Royal Enfield.
Young, Urban Adults. They may be the new customers Royal Enfield goes after in its quest to rapidly expand the brand in North America.

No sooner had Rod Copes, Royal Enfield's new President North America, suggested this to me than I came across these photos of two young men posing with a Royal Enfield in Seattle, Wash. Their obvious enthusiasm prompted me to send a link to Rod.

"Another data point!" he responded.

It's too soon to guess what new strategy Royal Enfield will employ in the U.S., if any. Plenty of people responded to what Rod told me with encouragement for Royal Enfield to recreate the Interceptor — the fast twin-cylinder motorcycle of the 1960s.

John Donlon of LaGrange Park, Ill. wrote to tell me that the time for a new Royal Enfield Interceptor is sooner, not later. Like so many others, he feels the power of the big twin is needed for U.S. conditions. But he also thinks the legacy of the world-beating Interceptor is slipping away.

If Royal Enfield doesn't hurry, guys like us will begin aging out of the hobby. Then who will care?

Maybe these two young guys will care.

The Royal Enfield is not THAT old, and neither is its rider.
Aaron Clarey (he's the one in the cowboy hat) is an author ("Bachelor Pad Economics"), a motorcyclist  and "frustrated economist" who blogs at Captain Capitalism. He posted the photos recently.

"Met up with a fan Leif from Seattle who drove a Royal Enfield motorcycle. The motorcycle is about four times older than he is, but he still allowed me to sit on it," Aaron wrote.

When I asked permission to use the photos, he responded:

"Oh HELLS YES! I was so impressed with Leif's motorcycle and was happy to find out they were making essentially the 'old school bike' brand new.  I'm intending on purchasing one upon finishing my new book. Whatever you need to market it more and get them here in the U.S., absolutely."

So. There's a data point for you.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Considering a Royal Enfield Continental GT? Read this

Royal Enfield 535 GT takes an in-depth look at Royal Enfield's cafe racer.
Continental GT owner Mike O'Reirdan pointed me toward a "wonderful new site on the GT. The guy has put a lot of work into it."

The guy is Stephen Feber, who writes that he built the Royal Enfield 535 GT website "for an number of reasons." Such thoroughness makes this a good site to consult if you are considering purchasing a Continental GT.

Feber's "reasons" really strike home. For one, he wants to correct the reviews that have appeared.

"While some of the reviews have been good and accurate there have been some very strange remarks about the bike — the gear change is notchy (it isn't), vibration is excessive (it isn't — but you can feel the engine working) paint finish is poor (it's good). Some reviews have found the ride too soft and some too hard."

Thoroughness is not surprising in Feber, who served as Curator of the Future at the London Transport Museum for its Sense and the City exhibition. He is owner of Stephen Feber Ltd., which develops social enterprises from an idea to the finished project. As such, he thinks about things such as sustainable transport and "resilient design." He also designs and develops museums and exhibitions.

In the end, Feber likes the Continental GT for solid reasons. Based in the UK, he has done more than 2,400 miles on his GT, including a 500-mile two-day trip. He "went the Long Way Round in most cases," and so rode about seven hours each day. A pleasant pace.

The Continental GT is not fast, but he has an answer to that:

"Speed is an essential part of motorcycling but I ask how much speed you need to have fun?"

Still, after his trip, he concluded "it could use more top end power." He has entitled one page of his site "Tuning for Speed."

Other pages cover Frame, Wheels, Suspension, Quality, Induction and Fuel, Maintenance and Improvement.

All in all, it's a deeper dive into the Continental GT than you will get in any magazine review.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rod Copes, Royal Enfield President for North America

Rod Copes, Royal Enfield's new President, North America, likes to think of himself as "down to earth."

"You work for a company like Harley-Davidson (as he did for almost 20 years) and that's part of the culture. You're not just an executive you're also a customer and getting to know customers and interacting with them and giving them a product is the most important thing I can do.

"I'll tell you that was the funnest part of working for Harley."

He's a resident of a Milwaukee suburb, which puts him near the center of gravity of motorcycle industry talent in the U.S. The center of press attention, though, is in California. Which location is more important is just another of the many questions that can't be answered yet.

"We're in the process of figuring out first what the strategy should be in North America. How do you want to go to market here?"

According to the press release, "Rod will be responsible for driving Royal Enfield’s businesses in North America in cooperation with the existing importers and distributors. Classic Motorworks LTD. of Faribault, Minn. has been the Royal Enfield importer and distributor since 1999 and will continue to serve that function."

Rod Copes.
"In September I will be in India, getting oriented to the company and letting them get to know me. I'm the first U.S. employee of Royal Enfield. We'll be doing a workshop there to really dive in and figure how we will go into it.

"We're going to walk through this the right way. It's a marathon, not a sprint. We're in this for the long haul."

I asked him about the press release note that by creating his position "Royal Enfield has firmly stated its intentions to rapidly expand the brand in the United States of America, its top export market."

How do you do that when even many motorcyclists don't know the name "Royal Enfield."

He responded with a story that will be familiar to many U.S. Royal Enfield owners.

"I've been talking to people I know, about my new gig, and they say: 'Enfield. They made guns and stuff.' And you mention 'Royal Enfield' and they ask, 'Is that British?'

"Older people have a slight recollection.

"I had a motorcycle (a Continental GT) delivered to my home yesterday, in a crate. We got the crate off the truck and started to take it apart and the truck driver — he might have been 40 years old — said 'Wow, that's cool. I've never seen a motorcycle like that. What year is it?'

"I had the motorcycle delivered because I want to get it out there and have people see it and react to it. Every time someone sees the motorcycle, that's another data point."

It may be that Royal Enfield needs a "re-launch" in the U.S., he said — which could be a good thing.

"You're starting from a clean sheet," Copes said, "but the brand has great definition already. India has done a lot of great things with it, positioning it.

"It's going to be a lot easier with Royal Enfield than with something that never existed before. You've got that rich British motorcycling history. And then you've got the Continental GT that brings it into modern times."

Modern times, yes. But is 535cc ever going to be enough for the U.S. market?

Well, that "medium size" too could be an advantage, Copes explained.

"The motorcycle companies have vacated this space. The industry has changed and the rider has changed as well...

"I think — I don't have the data to prove it but I really believe it — that the young, urban adults could be very interested in associating with a brand like Royal Enfield and riding a motorcycle like the Royal Enfield. Let me tell you, there are a lot of people who are intimidated about getting on a 700 pound Harley, especially as a first motorcycle.

"Look at Vespa. They're very popular (and not cheap), for one because of the brand, two because of the 'retro,' and three, 'I want something cool to get around the city and commute on.'"

Copes has four children, including an 18 and 20-year-old.

"A lot of them want to get back to simplicity. Yes, they're tied to the electronics on their hips. But they like a break from those electronics, whether it's mountain biking or riding a Royal Enfield."

OK. But, really. Is 535cc enough?

"They've got a good product development plan for the next few years. Royal Enfield has said they want to be the largest middle-weight motorcycle company in the world, and they define that as 250-750cc. So there's room at both ends.

"I'm going to be asking the mothership in India about what they can do for the consumer in the U.S. and talking about what the U.S. consumer is going to require in the future.

"There's an opportunity with the GT. We've provided bikes to some customizers and we're going to an event at Bonneville. They're going to be tuning these for performance. It maybe won't be street legal but I'm really interested to see what they come up with. Maybe there's a way to get a little more out of this."

When that happens, you'll hear about it. Copes is looking for "high impact visibility."

Copes has a track record in expanding a motorcycle brand. According to the press release, he was head of Global Sales and Customer Service when he left Harley-Davidson in 2012. He was responsible for growing the company’s businesses across four global sales regions, establishing offices in Singapore, Miami (Latin America), New Delhi, Moscow, Dubai, Saul Paulo, Shanghai, Prague, Athens and Seoul.