The question has been around for ages but as more and more premium motorcycles go on sale in India, the dilemma worsens. Should you purchase a premium motorcycle from a known brand? Like Harley-Davidson or Triumph or Ducati? Or is it okay to pick up a motorcycle from a relatively unknown brand, like say Benelli or SWM?
The biggest issue in this perhaps, in the tangibles column, is reliability. Unfortunately, the record of a manufacturer in this aspect is directly linked to its fame and reputation. Chances are that a Honda or a Yamaha will prove to be more reliable than, say, an SWM or a Benelli. But note that this is a probability. If you're not among the early adopters - they are the real risk-takers - then chances are that there will be enough word of mouth for you to know what to expect from your purchase.
Most of the time, resale value is a small consideration, but it's a real thing to add to your list of decision making factors. You see, a reputed brand and product is more likely to have a strong residual price than a relatively unknown brand. There are a few exceptions on both sides, of course, but generally that's the spread.
But the real core of the problem is trust. How reliable, what resale value and all of these considerations are probabilities. It could work out, but it might not. That's hard to call. But here is the thing. The state of the market in India is that we're a nation starved of options when it comes to premium motorcycles. The luxury market has opened up and the options are increasing, but the duties are idiotically high and it makes the bikes that much more expensive to figure out how to own. So while you're looking for trust, your aspiration drives you forward relentlessly.
So the primary reason to think about investing in a premium brand versus an unknown one is desperation. If you look at the SWM Superdual T, for example, the question really is how much longer are you willing to wait for an adventure tourer to come around?
If you are willing to wait, then two things happen. First, you can sit back and have the early adopters purchase and live with their SWMs, and the reports online and by word of mouth will give you a sense how good, bad or ugly the motorcycle really is. As we noted in the first ride, the SWM Superdual T felt European in feel and quality at so the prognosis is good. Second, you might see the market is opening up. OVERDRIVE broke the story that the KTM 390 Adventure was a shoo-in for the end of 2019 and should launch in 2020. By then, more motorcycles will already be in the adventure touring space.
Then come other considerations. Waiting a little bit might give you the budget to afford a Kawasaki Versys 650. While the Superdual T and X are more off-road capable, are you going that much off-road? If not, a road-biased tourer like the Versys 650 - which has excellent suspension, by the way - might make more sense. And Kawasaki, as a brand, has a bigger reputation as well as more service centres than SWM.
As we have said earlier, motorcycles exist in the real world and no matter how much you turn them over and poke and prod the idea in your head, ultimately you have to ride outside. What we mean by that is that is simple. The most important thing you can do while waiting for a new bike to launch is to ensure your money is safely kept aside. That's full amount or down payment, but in either case, the budget is clearly marked and the money is set aside.
The next thing is to remember that no matter what the road test says, a motorcycle is personal. Which means only you - through the seat of your pants, through the feelings deep inside of your - can decide if the bike feels right for you or not. This could be the simple stuff - is an 890mm seat too high for you? This could be the hard stuff - could you live with a motorcycle as frantic/chilled out as this?
We urge you to look past the specification and the metal-for-money buying pattern. Instead, focus on what you want to do with the motorcycle. And use that list of requirements to evaluate if the motorcycle is worth it or not. You might discover that the SWM, for instance, is an easy decision to make. Your test ride might reveal that you like the bike a lot at Rs 4.5 lakh, ex-showroom. But the same bike's appeal fades at Rs 7 lakh, ex-showroom. But the price should be the final consideration after you have evaluated the behaviour, nature, quality and fit for your purpose.
So, should you consider buying a premium bike from a known brand or an unknown one? Test ride it first, judge it later.