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    It’s not only wine. Even iron becomes valuable over time, especially if it rolls on two wheels and has ‘Royal Enfield’ stamped on the fuel tank. Thousands of biking aficionados across the country are discovering to their dismay that the world’s oldest motorcycle in production has become more expensive, not only in showrooms but also in the large unorganised pre-owned domestic two-wheeler market.

    Sample this: Twenty-three-year-old media executive Abhimanyu Chakravorty wanted to buy his first Royal Enfield bike. After scouting for a few bikes in Karol Bagh, the capital’s dingy pre-owned automobile hub, he had to shell out Rs 40,000 for a 2001 Standard model. “A few months ago, 10-year-old Royal Enfield bikes were selling for around Rs 15,000-Rs 20,000, depending on the condition of the machine. But now, suddenly, prices have gone up by almost 100 per cent,” he says.

    According to Royal Enfield dealers, this trend was noticed a few months ago when Chennai-based motorcycle manufacturer, Royal Enfield Motorcycles, started offering an advanced all-aluminium united constructed engine (UCE) on all its models, starting with the much talked about 500-cc Classic variant that it launched here last year. The company had invested around Rs 80 crore in developing the new engine and claimed that it offered the much-needed reliability and fuel efficiency that Royal Enfield motorcycles earlier lacked. But it came at a price.

    The Classic was priced well over Rs 1.2 lakh, pricey by Indian two-wheeler standards, and even the 350-cc Standard model, which earlier retailed for Rs 72,000 now comes for Rs 93,000 with the new UCE mill.

    But hardcore Royal Enfield enthusiasts are not amused. Saurabh Deb, a Royal Enfield owner for nine years, feels that the new models lack the classic Royal Enfield charm. “The characteristic thump is missing,” he points out.

    Scores of Bullet owners that FC spoke to second Deb and argue that the cult value of Royal Enfield motorcycles lies in their niggling mechanical faults and the now discontinued long bore iron-cast engine, which produced the distinguishing beats, akin to Harley-Davidson’s ‘potato-potato’.

    So, it comes as no surprise that all existing Royal Enfield bikes in the pre-owned market with iron-cast engines have unexpectedly become prized collectors’ items. Says Mohd Alam who has been selling only Enfield motorcycles in the capital for the last 20 years: “The first thing that all Bullet buyers look at before purchasing a Royal Enfield bike is the sound, the characteristic thump. Iron-cast engines produce something that the new crop of bikes can only dream to emulate. So, old bikes have suddenly become the toast of town and ‘real’ Bullet lovers will settle for nothing less.”

    It’s difficult to estimate the number of Royal Enfield motorcycles on the road now since the bike has been around for more than half a century. But, by the look of it, there are enough “iron-willed” motorcycles to keep fans from taking a bullet (pun intended).

    But the manufacturer of the world’s oldest motorcycle in production seems unfazed. National marketing head at Royal Enfield Motorcycles, Shaji Koshy, is optimistic about his company’s new move and feels that the new engine will help spread the company’s footprints across the globe.

    Incidentally, Royal Enfield Motorcycles is the only Indian two-wheeler company in the country that exports its products to developed markets while the rest of the breed is still trying to find a footing in the developing ones.

    Says Koshy: “Last year we sold 60,000 bikes. We are investing another Rs 60-70 crore to increase our production capacity to one lakh units in the next two years. Latin American markets are next on our agenda.”

    It still remains to be seen whether ‘royal’ beats can replace salsa, but what the heck, it seems well worth a ride.


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    1 Comment
    1. Anonymous Said,

      could you tell me where you got the picture from?

      Posted on 8:47:00 AM

       

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