Saturday, May 16, 2009

Royal Enfield attracts notice of The Times

Royal Enfield's dramatically new and yet boldly retro C5 motorcycle fully deserves the notice of The New York Times. It's still exciting to see it happen.

Times writer James Parchman visited the factory in Chennai, India and rode a new C5 on the test track. He does a fine job of explaining to his U.S. audience why this new motorcycle is at the same time old and why it's an important development although it's not the fastest, cheapest, finest or most expensive motorcycle on the market.

Parchman writes with tremendous clarity. I particularly admire his paragraphs on the C5's place in the world:

"The Bullet Classic C5 (not to be confused with the Bullet Classic, a much older design, or the Bullet Classic G5, a model that uses the newest engine in an older chassis) went on sale in Europe late last year. The first production bikes destined for the United States began rolling off the assembly line here at the Thiruvottiyur factory, where Bullets have been made for more than 50 years, in mid-February and are expected in showrooms next month.

"To say that the C5 is a striking motorcycle or one that looks to have been lifted directly from a motorcycle museum is no overstatement..."

"With the Bullet Classic C5, the Royal Enfield designers have succeeded in building on the Bullet heritage and in their interpretation of retro-classic British style."

The on-line slideshow of Parchman's photos from the Chennai factory includes information-packed captions. At lesser publications, slideshow cutlines are often written by sub editors who don't know what they're looking at and simply clone information lifted from the article. But, in The Times' package, we learn of the powerplant:

"It retains the trademark cadence of a thumper, but now the engine and transmission, formerly separate components, have been integrated to create the Unit Construction Engine. The UCE, as Royal Enfield calls it, is fuel-injected and designed to be efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly. It will be used on all Royal Enfield export models."

The news media is often criticized by fans of a marque for getting information wrong, or, even getting the information correct but missing the spirit of the thing. In this case, The New York Times and James Parchman appear to have it exactly correct -- with one exception:

"In some circles, this introduction is bigger news than the debut of the Tata Nano; if the past is any guide, the next all-new Royal Enfield Bullet won’t arrive for another half-century." I'll bet Royal Enfield can beat that.

James Parchman Photo


  1. I'm curious about Parchman. You call him a Times writer, but is he staff or freelance? Just wondering. Seems doubtful the Times would send someone to India for this -- those days are over -- but he may be an enterprising enthusiast, which explains why he writes clearly and knows his subject...

  2. Anonymous5/18/2009

    It's great to see that a prminent media giant like the N.Y. Times has published this report, thanks for telling us about it Dave, I wonder if the London Times might be pursuaded! ;)


  3. James Parchman was described by Kevin Mahoney, who is quoted in The Times article, as a freelance writer and photographer.


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