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.


  1. Last weekend I attended the Muffler Burn Brooklyn Bike Show, well worth going to and I recommend it. A number of Enfields turned up, older and new models, solo, two up and in the best Indian style three up, although in this case, the third was a pug in a handbag :) What was most noticeable was once again the absence of any Enfield support. It is all very well having splashy campaigns, turning up at the NYC motorcycle show but I think there needs to be more effort to make better use of the base of riders that so far have driven the Enfield sales so far. The riders so far have marketed the bikes. With a few exceptions, there is little activity to sell these bikes. The riders that turned up were in the main younger, with more limited budget and a realistic appreciation of the bikes themselves and their "perceived" limitations. It seems to me that Rod Copes perhaps appreciates this, and so I do hope that he can persuade both Classic Motorworks and the factory to start directing resources at the proper marketing of these machines.
    I see the comment above about the Interceptor above. That is very interesting to me, but if that is an avenue to be pursued, it is going to be a substantial engineering challenge. I am sure you have all seen lovely BSAs, Nortons and so on, A65s, Cmmandos and whatever. What makes these usable now is the substantial after market that there is in rectifying the original Friday afternoon, cheapo, bodged British engineering that passed for quality when they were designed. (I carry a UK passport, I can criticise this :) ) When you see a decent A65 it has had bearings replaced, crankshafts rebuilt and so on and the engines can now match the frames and furthermore match the expectations of the end users. If RE make a performance twin, people are going to expect performance and reliability and dare I say it, without substantial fettling of a major nature many of the old British engines are not up to the demands of high speed cruising that will inevitably come their way. I do wonder if an alternate approach is to look at a third party engine in the frame of the Continental. That rolling chassis could handle a bucket load more power, a nice Rotax or Yamaha XS 650 motor would be amazing in there, a Yamfield anyone?

  2. Mike's comments are well taken. But the blueprints for the Series 3 engine have been around for more than 40 years now and if nobody from RE has taken the time to examine their strengths and weaknesses and make changes (if those 40+ years) then that just demonstrates poor business accumen. And if the US importer is content to just peddle whatever Chennai cranks out and those "upgrade" parts that should have been on the bikes to begin with; letting the bike owners to market the products themselves, then they'll get what they got coming to them when other manufacturers start going after that market. Morale of the story is: Be customer driven. The RE I want will be able to handle I-80 for an extended period the same way by Triumph Bonneville and BSA Thunderbolt did.

  3. Anonymous8/21/2014

    I think the re-introduction of a parallel twin such as the 750 Interceptor might be a mistake from a manufacturing as well as a marketing angle.
    My points are:
    #1, it would require serious capital investment to produce a fresh design that has virtually nothing in common with what is already in production.
    #2, Look at what the majority of manufacturer's have out there catering to the highway cruiser market- V twins.NOT parallel twins.They are limited in capacity because of the design.
    #3, Look at what has been accomplished in the private sector by passionate devotees of the marque- Carberry-Enfield & Musket V-twin.

    To me it's a no brainer; if you want to capture a decent market share AND keep capital investment to a minimum, either buy the rights to the Musket design or adopt that manufacturing model using as much off-the-shelf parts as possible.
    If I had a say in it, I'd go for the big Banana and bring out a updated version of the 1930's KX; similar to what someone has done with the new Brough Superior. But make it AFFORDABLE.
    Sure, a parallel twin will sell; but to a more limited market, IMO.
    And there's goes the return on investment.

  4. Yes, the Enfields are too small for serious motorcycle work here in the west. The little 500's are too small for highways, a full load of luggage and/or a passenger. They MAY be able to do it...for awhile. But that little engine is working darned hard at highway speeds. Enfield needs at LEAST a 750cc - more would be better - to better cope with our long highways and large distances.

    As it stands now the little bike is an excellent city machine and that's about it.

    1. Anonymous8/22/2014

      I agree; and with a parallel twin 750-900cc is about as big as you can or would want to go.
      And if you've never owned an RE 750 twin, especially the last version, the Series 2, they are well known for running HOT.
      The idea of separate oil tanks on air cooled engines is to keep the motor small, and give the oil a chance to get away from the engine and cool down.
      RE defeated that by incorporating the tank with the crankcase. The SII is the worst because it has a wet sump, and the oil never gets a chance to cool down as much as when it was pumped back into the tank. That's why the last ones came fitted with oil coolers. I NEVER ride mine if the temps are over 85. IMO the old parallel twins were designed to work best in the English climate.They never considered temps like what the American West or South has.

    2. I concur with Anonymous. I did serious damage to my '76 Triumph Bonneville's engine after a few season of slow driving in Chicago's heat. My ignorance lightened my wallet accordingly. As bad a Chicago's summer driving conditions are, the probably pale in comparison to India. That may be the real reason why RE hasn't gone with the twin. What a warranty nightmare that would be! Still, if RE doesn't come across with an Interceptor, I will keep my eye and wallet open for a Kawasaki W800 or a Moto Guzzi Nevada Scrambler if they ever enter the US market. Smarter riding and way better lubricants (and way more expensive ones at that) would cure most of those problems........best always.

    3. You guys are really starting to convince me. I liked the parallel twin format because I like the Interceptor look, and I just don't think America needs another V-twin. But if it's a dead-end layout then maybe parallel wouldn't be good.

    4. Interceptor, like the Commando, Thunderbolt and Bonneville is a real road burner motorcycle; runs best at highway speeds in conditions similar to the UK's. Basically, that means the bike stays in the garage mid-June through mid-September unless a Canadian high pressure system moves through the area. It's just another old man's pipe dream I suppose.

  5. Anonymous8/25/2014

    If you think about it, the parallel twin is definitely limited by it's design.
    That's why the originators scoffed when management wanted to keep increasing the size past the original 500cc.They felt 500c was the optimum size for a parallel twin.
    I think we've seen that 800-900cc is max with modern engineering.
    Yes, the Interceptor is a handsome machine; especially the 1-A's with the bacon slicer rings and the motor with more curves than Betty Grable; IMO.
    But does RE want to cater to a market wearing rose coloured glasses, or to a market that wants to really GO places.
    Look what they had to do to a Norton Commando to make it come even close to modern day sport bikes.
    And then look at the price and availability; is that what RE wants ?

  6. I can see the twin being built as an expensive upgrade to existing RE motorcycles. However, I see it offered with either a limited or no warranty attached to its purchase. RE has had 40 years to upgrade the twin. Innovations in design, technology and also with lubricants would make this viable. The other day I saw my first Continental GT on the road. Nice bike, nicely made but no cajones. That's not for me.


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