At Common Tread, we try to be selective about the industry gossip we spread. That being said, allow me to peddle some hot, juicy gossip that is totally unsubstantiated: Royal Enfield is going to drop a new motorcycle on these shores, and it’s going to be totally unlike the bikes they have made for years.
Let’s rewind to this summer, when Royal Enfield decided to set up shop in Milwaukee, parking a new U.S.-based distro center there. Top brass installed Rod Copes as the man running the show. Rod served as the head of global sales and customer services for Harley-Davidson previously. Yeah, Harley. That company that’s currently making the Street 500 and Street 750 for the rest of the world, starting in India.
Here’s what they said in the press release. "By naming Copes to a top-level executive position, Royal Enfield has firmly stated its intentions to rapidly expand the brand in the United States of America, its top export market."
OK, now let’s consider this new model. I’ve been following this in the Indian bike rags for a while. RE has hardly been good about keeping it under wraps, and spy shots of the bike abound. Called the Himalayan, it is an ADV machine of different proportions. It’s got a new chassis, which sure looks like a semi-duplex frame to this guy. I also see a single-cylinder engine, said to be 410 cc in displacement. (It looks like a dual-cam engine, too.) If you believe what’s being bandied about, the engine should make about 28 horsepower and 24 foot-pounds of torque.
I see a monoshock rear on this bike, a fender and a teeny-tiny beak. It’s topped off with a retro-styled tank. This bike manages to look like a modernized scrambler. No, not a Ducati Scrambler that’s no good for scrambling. No, not a BMW RnineT. (A 180-section rear tire? Please.) Nope, this is a hipsteriffic scrambler in the true sense of the word: Think Honda CL450 with suspension that works better.
Oh yeah. Look at the front of the bike. No rad. This is what an off-road machine looks like. OEMs peddling "scramblers" that weigh as much as a Panhead with similar ground clearance, take note.
Now I’ll hit you with the Common Tread editorializing you’ve come to know and love. First, this is an incredible play by Royal Enfield. They don’t have a large engine in their arsenal. They also see where the market is going — ADV and crossover-style bikes. Rather than compete and fail against the big boys, RE is coming in and filling a niche without having to reinvent the wheel. Who cares about a 28-horsepower engine? As long as you’re not spending life on a super-slab or trying to earn your first podium in an MX race, this setup is going to be fine for regular joes. It’s a one-lunger that looks like it will take a decent pounding off road with some alacrity. Killer.
It’s slim and light, two things most “adventure” bikes are not. (Have you ever picked up a V-Strom 1000? Have you ever done it 60 times in a day?) The Himalayan certainly has some marketing juice thrown into it. I could easily see their web page being displayed on Ducati or BMW’s site. Long story short: RE used what they had and reworked it into something that handily fills a gap in the market currently only occupied by the CSC Cyclone.
Second and final editorial point: You’ll see this bike stateside. People here are clamoring for this bike. Sure, the Indian market is Job One for RE, but this bike is going to be way too popular here for them to ignore this. Assuming this bike gets through emissions (something I’m sure it will do, given the displacement and RE’s increasing manufacturing adroitness), Yankees are going to be lined up in droves to purchase this bike, because it’ll probably be pretty cheap, relatively. You can go buy a German-built ADV machine for a pile of loot that you’re not good enough to use to its potential, or pick up an Indian-built bomber that’s probably significantly simpler and plenty tough due to that air cooling and basic steel chassis. You can farkle the shit out of it, and this bike will likely still be at half the cost of a decked-out “adventure” rig.
I’m no RE sympathizer. I’ve never owned one, and I’ve always been terrifically underwhelmed at their offerings.
This bike, however, shows genuine promise and planning. Playing to strengths is always a good idea. I might not conquer the Himalayas on one of these bikes, but I sure as hell might hit some woods out in central Pennsylvania with Spurgie once these bikes hit the beaches here.