Royal Enfield has had a lot of feathers added to its cap when it comes to motorcycles. It is the world’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer in continuous production, it has the world’s longest running serial production motorcycle in its lineup, and is also fast becoming a major tour-de-force in the middleweight motorcycle segment.
But how did Royal Enfield survive for more than a century on the strength of its limited lineup? We try to get to the bottom of the brand’s enduring legacy going back 118 years.
Founded in 1901 in Redditch, Worcestershire, England, the Enfield Cycle Company started off with marketing motorcycles, bicycles, lawn mowers, and stationary engines. The company gained its current popularity and momentum when it shifted its motorcycle manufacturing arm to India in 1955. While the original Enfield went off the boil in 1971, Royal Enfield kept leaping strength to strength, headquartered in its new base of operations in Chennai, India.
Originally founded as Enfield India, the firm eventually became Royal Enfield and began steadily selling and expanding its range of standard motorcycles. Its claim to fame in India arrived when the Indian Army placed an order for the Royal Enfield Bullet for use in harsh mountainous terrain.
The faithful Royal Enfield Bullet served the Indian Army spectacularly, instilling people’s trust in it. The fact that the Indian Armed Forces were using the bike lent it an aura of respect, trust, and overall desirability.
To this day, the oldest motorcycle in continuous production is the Royal Enfield Bullet. Why does it still tick with its buyers? There are various factors that account for its unceasing popularity.
For one, the design. A Royal Enfield is the simplest, purest version of a motorcycle. No fancy bodywork, mass of wiring to support unnecessary electronics, and no newfangled liquid-cooling. The only bits on a Royal Enfield are the bits without which a motorcycle is just not complete.
Next up, maintenance. One might say that Royal Enfield motorcycles are a bit heavy on the pocket, for they require intensive maintenance over short durations. While this might hold true for older models, new-generation Royal Enfields employing UCE (Unit Construction Engine) powertrains are much more reliable.
The real USP of this bike is its ease of maintenance and repair. You don’t need tonnes of tools, a service bay, and diagnostics devices to repair this bike. Park it by the roadside, figure out the problem, and solve it with the help of a professional mechanic or yourself. There are no complicated systems and parts that are out of reach on the motorcycle. Everything is accessible. With the right set of tools, you can take the entire motorcycle apart and piece it together yourself.
This might come across as a frivolous argument for many but it is no less true. The more time you spend working on your motorcycle, the more you bond with the machine, getting to know its inner mechanisms, finer nuances, and the occasional tantrums that it might like to throw. Modern machines are so self-sufficient that they rob you of the DIY aspect of owning a motorcycle. Royal Enfield delivers this in spades.
The legendary rugged personality of a Royal Enfield is one of the main factors why the company is such a strong performer in a space where other bike makers struggle to turn a profit. An Enfield might trouble you with little niggles throughout your ownership, but it will never fail you out in the middle of nowhere. After all, if the Indian Army trusts this machine, its makers have to be doing something right, no?
Lastly, the feel of riding a Royal Enfield. People complain that Enfields have a lot of vibrations and harshness to be practical everyday rides. These are the people who like to rev the nuts off any machine they ride. Royal Enfield motorcycles are not meant to be ridden hard and fast. These machines are best enjoyed right in the middle of their torque spread, emitting a sweet lullaby from their simple exhausts.
Ride a Royal Enfield gently, and you will instantly be surrounded by an enriching array of feels and sounds that elevate the experience of riding a motorcycle to a whole new level. Pursuit of speed is not the bike’s goal here, it is to provide you with a warm, pleasant motorcycling experience that will get you coming back for more. Isn’t that why Royal Enfield is an enduring, alluring brand?