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Saturday, April 25, 2009

What?! Royal Enfield is the 'best value'?

"The Royal Enfield without question is the best value on the motorcycle market today." Did you ever think you would read those words? That's the claim made by U.S. importer Kevin Mahoney on his blog.

Sure, you'd expect someone who markets a product to consider that product the best there is, and say so. But Mahoney isn't given to fluffy claims.

And he knows the history of Royal Enfield in the U.S. He has been with the motorcycles through the years when they wet sumped, rattled off parts and destroyed their own starter sprags. Horn brackets always broke. Electrical connectors routinely disconnected themselves at random. The factory tended to put paint on a key grounding point. The factory-supplied fuse looked like a part from a novelty store gag.

Mahoney patiently helped owners through the teething problems. His demeanor, expressed on message boards and on his web site, suggested the best way to own a Royal Enfield: "First, keep your sense of humor," he seemed to imply.

He's not joking when he says, now, that "Royal Enfield without question is the best value on the motorcycle market today." He makes the claim in connection with the new "ultra reliable" Unit Construction Engine.

"The new bike is so reliable that we have doubled the warranty to an industry leading two years," Mahoney writes.

That's outstanding. However, "value" has many components. Perhaps, like Hyundai, Royal Enfield has a better warranty. But Hyundai builds cars that are just as fast and cost no more than competitors. Royal Enfield still competes against motorcycles with lower price tags that go faster. So how can it be "the best value"?

The answer, for me at least, is that Royal Enfields are not Hyundais. They are not just an alternative to taking the city bus. They inspire passion and reward enthusiasm. They have a history and a long tradition. In this, I would compare them to Jaguar -- in more ways than one.

For instance, warranty or not, hydraulic lifters, fuel injection and all, I suspect you will still want to keep your sense of humor. Or, maybe I should say, your sense of joy. That's where the real value is. Money can't buy you love.

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