Royal Enfield unveils the Classic Chrome and Desert Storm
On the face of it, the Royal Enfield Classic Chrome and Desert Storm are just cosmetic variants based on the Classic 500, a motorcycle that in 350cc and 500cc guise, is currently sold out. But outside of the Machismo-esque chrome on the Classic Chrome and the lovely, off-road plus sand plus military colour of the Desert Storm, there are a few changes under the skin. On the engine side there are a few tweaks to the fuel injection system though the power and torque figures remain the same at 27.1PS and 41.3Nm.
But for the first time, Royal Enfield has made changes to the chassis, taking off the fork offset and mounting the front forks directly to the front axle. These changes effectively reduce the rake and trail of the motorcycle which should make the steering feel sharper and quicker in response. At the back, the swing arm is a bit longer which is usually said to improve traction and feel for the rider.
While it is easy to dismiss these as minor changes, this is a big deal for Royal Enfield, a company that has shown immense reluctance to making changes to the chassis for the longest time. In fact, the move to the 18-inch wheel and the round profile rear tyre for the Classic in itself was considered a major change of stance. These changes do reflect a change of heart at Royal Enfield. We met up with Siddarth Lal whose personal interest in the brand is well known, new CEO, Dr Venki Padmanabhan and Shaji Koshy, the marketing head at the media ride preview for the motorcycles in Jaisalmer. And the upbeat mood was immediately obvious.
There are a number of factors to this. The Eicher group is on a roll, with both the CV and the motorcycle business doing well. On the motorcycle front, the bikes are sold out, waiting periods are 10-12 months and the factory is running at full steam. To the point where the second plant is coming up in Chennai. It is left unsaid but understood that a new factory means new machinery, new staff and the consequent opportunity to boost production volumes as well as values. But accompanying this is a clear understanding that Royal Enfield can no longer afford to churn out the same bikes in different guises. The company is working on new, different products and likes to say that the forthcoming products reflect what Royal Enfield (UK) would have been up to in today's market if the company hadn't gone under in the 70s. This is a dramatic shift from the time, when RE engineers would refuse to change the smallest parts of the motorcycle because they believed that each little nut and bolt was part of the heritage and had to be preserved at all cost.
We understand the company is now working on new platforms and product lines as well working hard to sort out the niggling quality and finish issues that have been part and parcel of the Enfield experience.
All these changes at the company philosophy level, as well as at the product level, can only be beneficial in the long run given RE's unrivalled ability to rally enthusiasts around its brand. It is today India's most prolific company when it comes to interaction with its customers in the form of long, organized rides and the one big annual bash, Ridermania.
The short ride at Jaisalmer on unknown, varying surface roads didn't allow us to really experience the difference that the new chassis has made and our initial impression is that the Classic Chrome and the Desert Storm feel more or less like the Classic 500 to ride. Finish levels are slightly better but only a longer ride will confirm what the differences really are. That said, we instantly gravitated towards the Desert Storm, clearly the more attractive of the two motorcycles in our eyes.
Royal Enfield has priced the Desert Storm at Rs 1.58 lakh (on-road Mumbai) which is Rs 3,000 more than the Classic 500. The Classic Chrome is Rs 10,000 more than the Classic 500 with a price tag of Rs 1.68 lakh (on-road, Mumbai). The motorcycles are being launched in major cities today with other regions of the country to soon follow. The company is also looking at improving its dealership to provide easy access to its customers. Look for a full story in the November issue of OVERDRIVE.
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