Royal Enfield’s marketing in recent years has predominantly looked to milk the iconic image of its flagship carrier ‘Bullet’.
Building a loyal community and selling the Enfield as an experience has been the key. It seems to be working fine for the company which still sold 47,000 units last month even though the first Bullet rolled off its Madras assembly line in 1955. On Tuesday, the company took a step into the great unknown – it launched the Himalayan which is the first genuine attempt at a dual-sport tourer motorcycle from an Indian company.
Actually, Enfield isn’t moving too far from its roots. By default, the brand has become the de rigueur tourer for the majority of Indian bikers. It’s relatively cheap price for the engine-size (basic model retails at 1.14 lakh in Delhi) ability to lug a decent load and simple mechanicals that could be fixed almost anywhere in the country (once you have figured its individual nuances, that is) made this the only motorcycle for adventure touring enthusiasts. The Himalayan looks to further augment the company’s hold on this segment by offering a package that’s been custom-built for long hauls with luggage while enhancing the comfort level of the ride. With eight inches of travel in front and seven inches of wheel travel on the mono-shock, this bike may not jar on rough terrain. The 21 inch front only helps.
The knee-sculpted tank holds 15 litres which is likely to yield in the vicinity of 450 kms (30km/litre). The bike has about 8.6 inches of clearance but the design allows for short guys to get their feet on the ground rather easy. The company feels “99% of Indians” are below six feet and as such the ride height is a logical customization.
“Not even a pin has been carried over from our earlier models to this bike. The Himalayan is a completely new product coming off a fresh assembly line in Oragadam (Tamil Nadu),” says Siddharth Lal the genial MD &CEO of Eicher Motors, the parent group that acquired Enfield India and renamed it in 1994. That particular assurance may also quell doubts on reliability. An Enfield hasn’t always been the easiest of motorcycles to maintain what with all its quirks --- it isn’t always the most reliable fresh out of the showroom.
The bike looks good, both in Matt (black) and Snow (white). Enfield also launched a range of saddle bags and aluminum panniers that fit snug on the bike. The basic nature of the engine, the lack of fancy electronics and robust look promise a no-frills machine which should happily drink in the suspect fuel in our hinterland without choking.
That’s the nice bit. The worrisome bit is the power plant of 410 cc. At 182 kgs dry weight, this bike won’t be too light especially when laden. It offers a maximum torque of 32 nm that begins to kick in around 4,000 rpm. That may take too long on what is after all a long stroke engine. A maximum BHP of 24.5 does not lend too much confidence as just how the power will play out in the mountains that this machine is named after. That bit remains to be seen.
The most crucial component for this motorcycle will be the pricing. Enfield intends to announce that mid-March just as the bike begins to make its way to showrooms. In the vicinity of two lakh, this motorcycle may yet wean men away from the street bikes available in India in that range. Too much more may well mean that the traditional Enfield guys stay on their trusted old steeds while the new segment that Lal and gang intend to tap stays a fantasy. Their worst nightmare would, of course, be if your neighborhood doodhwalas (milkmen) figure that this version from Enfield is far more suitable for lugging their load as the company has so thoughtfully provided such luggage-carrying ability!