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Friday, February 27, 2015

Royal Enfield parallel twin: An Interceptor or an Edsel?

Royal Enfield's incredible sales successes with its single-cylinder motorcycles only fuel enthusiasts' hopes for a powerful new Royal Enfield twin.

The prospect of a twin-cylinder Royal Enfield evokes memories of the mighty Royal Enfield Interceptor of the 1960s.

I reported in January, 2011 that Royal Enfield plans a parallel twin, the same configuration used by the 750 Royal Enfield Interceptor back in the day.

Since then, my email has reflected the hopes of fans in the U.S.

"Now would be the time for the parallel twin; blow your competitors into the weeds and unlock markets that haven't been yet served," wrote John Donlon, of LaGrange Park, Ill.

"As I have said before: a Bullet with a twin becomes a Meteor, an Electra with a twin becomes an Interceptor and the Continental GT with a twin becomes a Metisse. Three new bikes with one engine change."

Such a motor is coming, the authoritative blog Visordown reported. (I have not been able to confirm the size of the twin or the timing of its release reported in that article.)

But what would a Royal Enfield powered by a twin look like anyway? And how would it fare in the U.S. market? I found interesting the following cautionary comments by "Lannis," of Appomattox, Va., on the WildGuzzi forum. He wrote:

"Being a Britbiker with original '50s and '60s bikes myself, I understand why the Enfield single was and remains popular. It doesn't have anything to prove; it can johnny-pop around the countryside and break down every once in a while and go really slow and that's all OK, 'cause it's cheap and historic.

The Edsel.
"But a parallel twin? People are going to expect more out of that; they may even expect something like a Hinkley Triumph twin.  But if they get something anything LIKE the 1970 Royal Enfield Interceptor it's going to be an Edsel-sized sales disaster. Those were terrible bikes even in their day, as opposed to the single.

"What I mean is, the Enfield single was attractive to a certain type of person because it was a direct, genuine descendant of the British Enfield of 1955. Made the same way, with the same warts, eccentricities, and idiosyncrasies, and looked the business, too...
 
"So with the 'new' Royal Enfield Interceptor twin they've got two choices:

"1. Make it a direct copy of the 1970 twin, like the single was; hey, it worked once, maybe it'll go twice. If they do that, it'll be a nightmare and no one will buy one. They'd rather have a Chang Jiang, and with good reason.

"2. Make it a brand-new bike, with styling cues from the old RE 750, a la Hinkley. I'm not sure that would work.

"Heckfire, people didn't know what the RE twins were back when they were NEW! There weren't many around, and they didn't run for long when they were around. There's just no 'history' to help the new technology get accepted with the 'cachet' of the old one.

"I'm not hoping they fail. I'm just not going to be blindly optimistic about its chances, in hopes of adding to some karma stream that will get the bikes sold."

3 comments:

  1. RE has had 45 years to wring out the bugs from the Series 3 engine.The UK operation never had the benefit of CAD/CAM engineering. Today, that engine can be virtually built and run to see where the strengths and weaknesses are before a casting is poured. That twin will give RE a bike with Interstate highway muscle and Terblanche can update the bike's design.

    As far as a nightmare I can only say this: It is an enthusiast's machine, made for people that can appreciate it and are able to properly maintain it. Any problems I had with Brit bikes were my doing and not the engineering. There are people in this world that shouldn't be allowed to own anything and you can bet that an RE will end up in their hands as well. That's the pity. So bring on the twin and let's see where we go from here. Good luck to all.

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  2. Having owned (and worked on!) everything from original 50s REs, to Indian copies (iron barrels), to EFI UCE bikes, I can only add this: a new RE twin will certainly have NOTHING in common with an Interceptor or any preceding Bullet. I don't think it will be high-performance at all, but, neither is the Bullet and it sells very well despite it's limited usability. A 40 hp, fuel injected, unit construction twin might not appeal to many, but if REs recent sales surge is anything to go by, there are plenty of people out there who simply want a motorcycle that's fun, easy to own, and engaging. I think the naysayers are missing the point, but I DO think the much-anticipated Interceptor resurrection is not likely. Enfield will hopefully bank on what makes them a joke to "serious" motorcyclists but a passion for those who "get it."

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