Where Is Royal Enfield Headed?

I recently started following Akhil Kalsh’s blog at Today he updated one of his earlier posts titled “6 reasons why I would never buy a Royal Enfield!“. It’s a nice humorous read even if you are a hardcore Royal Enfield fanboy.

Being a Royal Enfield owner myself, I regret to find myself agreeing with most of what Akhil has to say. Royal Enfield is basically feeding off its old glory and if the company doesn’t get its shit together quickly they run the risk of losing a large chunk of market share to the competition that is springing up in all shapes and sizes. The leisure riding scene in India is changing quickly and the new generation of riders are very different from the older folks. This new generation doesn’t have the time nor the patience to fuss over their motorcycles. They want instant gratification. To them, a motorcycle is meant to be ridden. It’s not meant to be towed to a workshop every now and then.

This weekend I went for an over night ride to Kumbharli with a motorcycle group that started out as a Enfield only group. Over time and after many horror stories, some of the group’s members have gotten rid of their Enfields and upgraded to Duke 390’s. They are basically done with Royal Enfield. The Enfield to Duke ratio in the group is fast deteriorating. As if to drive the point in, on the way back to Goa, one of the Enfields gave up and we had to tow it 100+ kilometers back home.

I don’t think my Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 is going to see the outside of Goa ever again. It’s a wonderful motorcycle to ride through sleepy Goan villages in the mornings and evenings at a speed not exceeding 60 kmph. I can take everything else, but I just can’t bring myself to take the vibrations that start after 60 kmph. For me that’s a deal breaker. I tolerated it for a while. But after buying the Fat Boy and the Duke 390, I’ve decided not to subject myself to the ridiculous vibrations of that motorcycle anymore.

In his blog post, Akhil mentions an instance where he followed a couple of Royal Enfield riders for an hour. He writes:

“The worst hour of my life! These guys never went above 65 kmph, a speed where I am barely able to shift into 6th. The road in front of them was wide open, no traffic, nothing to stop them, but their top speed for the entire section was 69 kmph. How can someone ride like this? Why would someone ride like this?”

The answer is simple. A normal person quite simply can’t enjoy riding a motorcycle if everything is rattling. It is exhausting and downright reprehensible. Unlike cars, the engines of motorcycles are directly mounted onto the chassis without any rubber bushes to help damping out the vibrations. For this reason the engine needs to be properly balanced and the chassis needs to be carefully designed so that its natural frequency doesn’t come close to the operating RPM’s of the engine. This is not very technical to understand and do. It’s just common sense an every motorcycle manufacturer I know has solved this problem one way or the other. Why the engineers at Royal Enfield can’t figure this out after all these years is beyond the limits of my comprehension.

Royal Enfield reminds me of Blackberry. The question is whether KTM or some other motorcycle manufacturer will be the Apple of Indian motorcycling. Where exactly is Royal Enfield headed? Where will the company be in 5 years?

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