Enfield has a loyal following among classic bike enthusiasts in the US, going by web traffic
In late January, at New York’s Progressive International Motorcycle Show, Royal Enfield’s new CEO Dr Venki Padmanabhan unveiled the firm’s latest offerings for the US market: the 500-cc Classic Chrome and 500-cc Black Bullet.
The bikes are part of a gradual rollout that over the next three years will include a Café Racer, a diesel-powered Himalayan Touring bike, and a parallel vertical twin model in the 650–750-cc engine-size range, which should play well in the US where bikers prefer larger engines for highway driving. Enfield has a network of dealers in 37 of America’s 50 states. The iconic Indian brand now has distributors in over 30 countries worldwide.
Enfield has a loyal following among classic bike enthusiasts in the US. There are about 3,500 people active on the message boards of Enfieldmotorcycles.com, website of the Minnesota-based US distributor. “A new Royal Enfield offers a true vintage experience at a price below that of a fine restored motorcycle, and it comes with a warranty too,” says David Blasco, a Florida-based hobbyist who runs RoyalEnfields.com, another fan site. “The price is less than what Americans expect to pay for a Harley-Davidson or Triumph.”
Enfield’s most popular model in America appears to be the C5, which retails for around $6,000 and is offered in both a classic and military design. The popularity of the military model makes sense. The bike, which is a holdover from the time when the company supplied the Indian Army, is marketed as a throwback.
These days, however, the company is 100 per cent Indian. Eicher acquired a majority stake in Enfield in 1993. In 1994, it changed the name of the company to Royal Enfield Motors Ltd. Still, Blasco says, “The Enfield is seen as a British motorcycle… One of the saddest things I see in ads for used motorcycles is sellers trying to pass off a Bullet, obviously made in Chennai, as being from Redditch, England [where the original Enfields were made].”
Blasco, however, makes it clear that he is proud to ride an Indian-made bike. “It is the real thing,” he enthuses, “it is the motorcycle India kept alive when England couldn’t—for 50-plus years. You can’t beat that.”