Friday, February 2, 2024

The girl who launched a Royal Enfield

Photo of girl on Royal Enfield Interceptor.
This photo wasn't an advertisement. But it became an inspiration. 

 Helen of Troy's face launched a thousand ships, it is said. 

I say that thousands of Royal Enfield Interceptor 650s have now been sold thanks to a photograph of a young, Swedish-born woman in Australia. 

Perched on the seat of an original Royal Enfield Interceptor, wearing a smile and a bikini, surf crashing in the background, she inspired the designers of the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650. 

Her photo, shot in the 20th Century, was on the designer's bulletin board as they shaped the new Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 for the 21st Century. Stuck to the photo was a sticky note marked with one word: 


Yes, that. The shiny bike, pretty girl, bright sun, beach and waves. The photo has it all. 

So who was this young woman, who launched the Interceptor. Who took the photo?

The photographer recently told the story of his photograph in an article reproduced on the REInterceptor forum, an outgrowth of the Interceptor website he founded in 2001 to connect owners of the original Interceptor.

His name is Michael Ahlberg. His wife Ann is the girl on the bike, pictured seated on their Interceptor on North Stradbroke Island beach, Australia, in 1981.

Michael, who went by the moniker "Royal" on the forum, posted the photo on the website years ago.

"This is not an arranged foto, we were riding along the ocean for miles. No problems on this great Island, which is a must see if you come to Brisbane Australia," he wrote in the caption.

Royal Enfield designers must have spotted it on the Internet, and thought a great deal of the girl on the Interceptor.


Yes. That.

Royal Enfield would shape the new Interceptor to match the original in looks. Then they would introduce it on the beach at Santa Cruz, California. And they would advertise it with video of young men and young women cavorting on the beach in California to the sound of a young woman singing "California's Calling Out Ride!"

Watch the video, with the volume turned up.

As it happens, Royal Enfield invited me to see the new Interceptor at its Santa Cruz introduction in 2018.

To help explain the new motorcycle, Royal Enfield imported the bulletin board designers had used for ideas during development.

There were many good thoughts on that bulletin board. But the photo of Ann and her Interceptor was worth a thousand words.

Though I recognized at the time that I'd seen the photo before, I didn't realize until years later that I'd already met the girl in the photo and the man who'd shot it.

Michael and Ann had stopped by my Fort Lauderdale home in 2015 during their motorcycle trip around the United States. They are globe trotting motorcyclists and Ann is herself a dedicated photographer.

Four people standing in front of a tree.
From left, Michael, wife Ann, my wife Bonnie, and me.

I couldn't know then (and neither could they) that their 1981 photograph would be central to the style and shape of Royal Enfield's new Interceptor 650, and the marketing that would surround it.

As this is written, Royal Enfield's website continues to stress the California-cool appeal of the Interceptor 650 (labelled INT 650 in the U.S.). The website explains it this way:

"It marks the return of one of Royal Enfield's most loved classic motorcycles. Hailing from a time when all that mattered was that the California sun was out and the surf was up, the new INT650 retains every bit of charm that made it a legend."

Royal Enfield website for Interceptor.650.
Royal Enfield still promotes the Interceptor's California cool.

Michael's recent post reveals that Ann still has the Interceptor seen with her on the beach that day, and is restoring it. But there's more.

She'd purchased a new Royal Enfield 650, a shiny chrome model, like the old bike, in 2019. Only after her purchase did the couple learn from forum friend Jeremy Baxter, of Baxter Cycle, that a Royal Enfield artist had altered the original photo to show her, swimsuit and all, posing on the brand new model -- like the one she had just purchased.

"This story is like a movie script," Michael wrote in the article he posted. "It surely was meant to happen."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2/05/2024

    Great article David. What a story. I'm hoping Royal (Michael) can get a more readable copy of the articlehe posted on the Inteceptor Group website.


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