Is Royal Enfield Preparing Properly Modern Bikes?

It was with surprise that I found out earlier this week about Royal Enfield's rather bold move of Harris Performance. A respected name in the world of motorcycling, Harris Performance has been engineering and building bike frames for the last four decades.
However, it has now become a subsidiary of Royal Enfield, while the Indian manufacturer internalizes frame development as an in-house business. This recent move complements other interesting ones, such as having visionary bike designer Pierre Terblanche of Ducati and Confederate fame as part of the team, as well as other big names with past relationships with Triumph.

That is, one of the key people in the development department at Triumph, former Project Manager Simon Warburton, plus the guys who designed the Tiger Sport, Explorer and the Daytona 675, Xenophya Design. Xenophya is, by the way, going to cease operations under this name very soon, and officially become a part of Royal Enfield's R&D.

As you can see, Enfield is gathering a strong team that is supposed to deliver a new generation of motorcycles. The question that pops into my mind is what types of motorcycles are envisaged. In the absence of any official hints, it's, like always, down to the speculation games.

Modern classics in the vein of Triumph's bikes

With so many names that worked for Triumph Motorcycles, the first of the decent suppositions is that Royal Enfield might be planning to remain in the retro-looks segment, but replace the old technology with modern hardware.

It goes without saying that the retro vibe is the new fashion. Ducati's Scrambler added a much-needed breath of fresh air to the industry and the bike is a real champion. Ducati's sales went through the roof and the Scrambler already is the brand's best-seller in Italy. If anything, it would be surprising to see the Scrambler NOT climbing to the top of the sales charts in more markets, honestly.

Kawasaki's W800 is also looking great, while Triumph's modern classics, The Bonneville, Scrambler, T100, and Thruxton are also growing ever more popular. Meanwhile, other smaller, older manufacturers are also reviving bikes with the looks of yore.

Royal Enfield's line-up comprises only retro bikes, so upping the ante of the tech side while retaining the vintage looks could turn out to be quite lucrative.

A strong name in the Asian markets, Royal Enfield also has a good following in the Western ones and is slowly expanding to more countries. Still, Western customers are not that fond of the underpowered bikes and the reliability problems that plagued them in the past.

As nice as Royal Enfields are as authentic pieces of motorcycle history, they simply cannot grow in Western markets as they are now. Putting things in a more blunt way, Royal Enfield needs new engines that are bigger, more powerful and more reliable, and modern suspensions and brakes. All packed neatly in the retro, half-a-century-old looks.

With such prerequisites met, Royal Enfield can stack up pretty well against Western manufacturers, especially if those who will market the new bikes will be smart. Stressing out the true heritage and authenticity of the brand and infusing the new products with the almost magical allure of the past might transform into a strong selling point.

After all, Royal Enfield is probably as close to the real-deal cafe-racers and retro bikes as anyone can get, so capitalizing on this might be a smart direction for the future of the brand.

True modern machines to rival the Western or the Japanese ones

Another direction Royal Enfield may be heading for could lead to manufacturing a completely new generation of motorcycles to rival what the European and the Japanese offer nowadays. So far, American producers are focused on very specific niches with a minor interleave with anything Royal Enfield could deliver in the near future.

On the other hand, looking at the Japanese middleweight cruisers, there's a bevy of machines a new Royal Enfield, say 750cc, cruiser could do battle with in key markets.

Recent rumors speak of Royal Enfield allegedly working on a new 750cc parallel twin engine that's supposed to power at least two new motorcycles. Excuse me for saying that "750-ish parallel twin" and multiple people who were formerly employed by Triumph sounds a bit funny...

Truth is that a 750cc parallel twin power plant can be used for a whole lot of different motorcycles. One can replicate the cafe-racer design and motivate it with this engine, just as easily as create a scrambler, possibly on the same frame and do just fine.

At the same time, it was Triumph and Kawasaki who showed that a parallel twin-powered cruiser can sell well and there will be people to enjoy it just as much as a v-twin. Being able to squeeze some 60 horses out of such an engine and with torque to match will deliver a bike that's fun even for more experienced riders. Of course, adding a restrictor kit will make it A2-compliant so European beginners can choose it as their first bike, as well.

As for a sportier machine, I doubt that Royal Enfield has such plans. A well-engineered engine could deliver very neat street performance, and the older ER-6n/ER-6f Kawasaki's are probably the first models that come to mind.

The really funny thing is that, as I told you in the beginning, Royal Enfield now have THEIR OWN chassis manufacturer! And this means that building almost any type of motorcycle (just don't go in R1 or S1000RR territory) is now a much simpler endeavor, even when considering sportier bikes.

All in all, it will be interesting to watch Royal Enfield's development in the near future. It's rather hard to believe that the Indians will be able to come up with something relevant this year, which by the way, is almost half-through.

I would not write off Royal Enfield from delivering cool stuff quite soon, not with the new guys under its umbrella, and not with the competitive pricing they can offer. If the new machinery is also well built, we might be looking at history in the making.
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