The motorcycle world has been eagerly waiting several new launches this year, and both of the motorcycles I will discuss today despite having their roots in the British motorcycle industry, are coming out of India.
As well as discussing the bikes and their place in the market, I will look at the possible impacts of them on the market in general.
In India they will be seen as premium, entry level motorcycles, that offer a great combination of performance and features.
But how will they be viewed by the rest of the world I wonder?
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So, first I am going to talk about the new Triumph 400cc motorcycles. Motorcycles built by Bajaj group who are now a major shareholder in Pierer mobility and the whole KTM group.
This alliance between Bajaj and Triumph was forged almost four years ago and despite delays the product is finally ready.
The global launch of the first four valve, single cylinder, 6 speed, 400cc, water cooled models will be on the 27th of June, so by the time this video is out, it should already be happening. The bikes should be on showroom floors very soon.
We have seen the two motorcycles that will make their Global debut in many supposed spy shots. A retro Roadster and a Scrambler, but there is also talk of a Custom model coming.
The other thing is that there is also talk of two distinct models of each, the 400cc version most people are discussing, but also a sleeved down 250cc model that may be being made just for the Indian market.
Triumph have been absent in the low capacity segment of the market and their initial trial of moving production of the larger capacity bikes away from the UK was hit by a big backlash from UK riders.
Sales were hit so hard the decision was revisited very quickly. Components and sub assemblies are still manufactured abroad but the final assembly was returned to the UK to try and limit the impact of their initial decision
However, Triumph have now decided to gamble on moving not only production to India, but using Bajaj group to design, develop and manufacture both of these bikes from the ground up.
The Design Spec
Triumph really have had very little real input other than giving Bajaj group a design spec and then signing the final designs off for manufacture.
That could be as simple as “We want a small capacity motorcycle that looks like the Bonneville, and Bonneville Scrambler”
The truth is, they do need to explore the smaller capacity market to succeed on the world stage. Without smaller capacity motorcycles their sales in both India and China, the worlds two biggest markets, would be very limited.
As it stands, certainly in India the market is dominated by Royal Enfield, and producing the 3 models I have mentioned would mean they instantly had motorcycles to compete with the 350 Hunter, the 411 Himalayan, and the 350 Meteor.
Both BMW and KTM entered this market segment a while ago now so Triumph will be playing catch up, but the big elephant in the room is what I think will inevitably become the battleground of the admittedly fake British bikes.
The fight between Triumph and Royal Enfield to place themselves as the premium historic manufacturer when it comes to small capacity retro styled motorcycles. Both of these companies have based much of their sales success on making motorcycles that hark back to the bygone age when British motorcycles ruled the roads.
Bajaj have been manufacturing KTM motorcycles for the home market for a while now and have a well established manufacturing base with a recently finished new factory. However, the Triumph/Bajaj project will mean Bajaj made motorcycles will gain instant credibility in the UK and European markets by being badged as Triumphs.
How do you feel about that?
What do you think about the fact that not only the production, but all the design, research and development has been done by Bajaj not Triumph?
You can read more about the Bajaj groups increased shareholding in the KTM group in the video linked above if you are interested, but don’t leave yet, there is more to come.
These motorcycles were originally rumoured to be 250cc capacity, but cost of development versus resale price meant a 400cc engine was decided on as the final design because development costs would have been exactly the same for a 250cc engine.
Designing a 400CC engine meant they could simply sleeve it down to make a smaller capacity 250cc motorcycle where the market wanted one. Getting 2 variations of each model with little increase in overall costs.
The Retro Roadster and the Scrambler are both built on the same modular platform and will get the same engine and chassis but the front forks, rear sub frame and swing arm could be different on the Scrambler. This is because it’s a motorcycle built for a sector of the market where you know it has to have the ability to go off-road. It may also have fairly different cycle parts.
Designing the additional parts to turn this into a basic custom style motorcycle would also be very easy now they have the initial models to work from.
A lot of the cycle parts will inevitably be shared by the different models in an effort to cut costs. Swapping in longer travel suspension for the Scrambler and lowering the Custom version might well be the total extent of the differences although it would seem obvious that an upswept exhaust should be fitted to the Scrambler.
The Scrambler is aimed at the market that has become dominated by the Royal Enfield Himalayan and Scram. So who knows, we may get a version with a 21 inch front wheel in time.
The Roadster is the bike that will take on the segment leader which is a Royal Enfield Hunter 350 In fact in just a few years you are likely to see a lot of new motorcycles in this sector, and Triumph and Bajaj are trying to place themselves in a position where they can become one of the go to manufacturers for small to medium capacity motorcycles.
Exact pricing of these bikes is still speculation but by the time the video hits that should have been announced. Expect them to be priced competitively with the Royal Enfield’s.
Final specs have been equally hidden although their have been supposed leaks, I think we can expect power figures around 42HP and about 40Nm of torque, with a dry weight of around 170Kg.
We will all find out more over the next few days.
Interestingly, in India, these bikes will not just be sold in Triumph showrooms. Bajaj wants to expand its influence and consider the only way they can get the sales volumes they want for this motorcycle is to set up between 100 and 150 new dealership in the next few years.
This is following the same business model that KTM and Pierer Mobility are using to expand the influence of that company. It has the added effect if increasing the reliance of the associated brands on the distribution network of the parent company.
Now, CF Moto, MV Agusta, Gas Gas, Husqvarna and Triumph will all be reliant on the Bajaj or Pierer Mobility groups to manufacture and in most cases distribute parts.
Is that a healthy situation?
Different Marketing Tactics
What I find interesting, is the way that this motorcycle is being marketed very differently for the different markets. In India this is being marketed as a Bajaj Triumph. The focus is on the Bajaj name, as they are better established in India.
This begs the question, is this motorcycle really a Triumph at all? Or are Triumph, as many others, simply buying and rebadging something they have really had minimal connection to.
As we have established, The motorcycle was designed by Bajaj. All the research and development was done by Bajaj. Production of the complete motorcycle and all parts will be done by Bajaj too. The whole package to me looks like a Bajaj motorcycle simply rebadged as a Triumph for the UK and other western markets.
The only connection to Triumph is via the initial basic design criteria and the possible influence of raising the capacity from the originally discussed 250cc design up to the present 400cc capacity. Oh, and the badge of course.
I for one would like to see the details of the deal done by Triumph and Bajaj, and to know if this might influence other future plans Triumph have for motorcycles beyond these new Bajaj produced models.
We know there is a new off-road range coming too.
I have no problem with manufacturing in any country a company wants to, but as I have said before with KTM and Ducati to name just two, I cant stand the lack of honesty, when the same companies constantly play on their history and the “Made in Britain” “Italy” or “Austria” concept.
You just know that somewhere, at least on the motorcycles headed for the U.K. market, we will see some sort of “Union Jack” logo used as a marketing ploy.
All I want is honesty.
Royal Enfield Himalayan 450
Then we come to the new Royal Enfield Himalayan 450. At least honesty isn’t an issue here.
Now, the Himalayan has surprised a lot of people with the great success it has had since it was first launched. However, this new Himalayan has been designed to address the acknowledged limitations of the previous model.
The all new water-cooled motor is a first for Royal Enfield, and the lighter chassis has been a customer led initiative in many ways. There have been many renderings and many spy shots including what looked like a very dead one after a crash. There is a similarity to the present Himalayan but it looks different enough to make it easily distinguishable.
Across the world Himalayan owners have been screaming for more power and a lower weight from the very start.
The Scram was a little lighter, but the hope is that this new 450 Himalayan will be significantly lighter than in predecessor.
The Himalayan 411, which is still on sale, is known for its Comfort, economy and versatility and has gained a reputation as a rugged, do it all motorcycle.
In India it is seen as an aspirational motorcycle. While here in the western world, it is the cost conscious rider looking for a simple cost effective motorcycle that has driven the sales so far.
Do you think that the change to water cooling will put those riders looking for simplicity off the new model?
The Himalayan 411 was never really powerful enough to make highways and long distance touring comfortable. Although many have done plenty of miles, they will tell you that above 95 kph or 60 mph the motorcycle always felt lacking. So the new engine needed to have significantly more power.
It seems fairly well established now that the new engine will produce around the 40HP mark and will also throw out a better looking torque figure of about 45 Nm. So it will have significantly more grunt than the previous model and be comparable to the KTM 390 Adventure.
If the weight is also decreased significantly, the combination of less weight and more power could make this more than competitive with bikes like the CB500X and Benelli TRK 502. Having said that, from the marketing it is clear that Royal Enfield see people who would otherwise buy the KTM 390 Adventure as the real target market for this motorcycle.
You can also expect the new Himalayan to land with a full catalogue of extras, from luggage, screens, handlebars, hand-guards, seats, water and oil cooler guards and more. Anything you could want to make the motorcycle your own. That is the Royal Enfield way.
It will inevitably come at a more expensive price than the existing 411 Himalayan, but the company has managed to enter the market with more than competitive prices so far, so expect the new 450 Himalayan to continue that trend. I would expect it to be priced between the 411 Himalayan and the CB500X for maximum market impact.
I will be looking at this whole sector of the market more as time goes on. I have the feeling it will become one of the new industry battlegrounds, We will see in time if Kawasaki’s brave move to launch the high spec ZX4R alongside the Z400 Ninja twin will succeed, and there are many models already available around the world that could be reworked for the Western marketplace.
New bikes like the CF Moto SR 450 and the Kove 400RR are also set to be released soon too.
There is a deep dive into the SR 450 in the video linked above and the Kove is mentioned in the video I did about that company too, just check out the channel for more details.
How Will The Market React?
How will the other Japanese manufacturers react in this newly invigorated sector of the market?
What do you think the bikes they will bring to the party are?
Will we get a Yamaha R4 as an updated R3? Or a new KTM, powered by the 450cc CF Moto engine?
What may well have an effect is the rumours of a possible shift from 300cc to 400cc for the Supersport World Championship. This would open the gates for some exciting new 400cc models in the near future if it goes ahead.
Time will tell I guess.
What I do know, is there are a lot of 400cc motorcycles available in the various eatern markets that are already in production. They could prove interesting competition for the more known manufacturers if the sales figures start to make it worthwhile exporting them.
I will end here for now.
I hope you enjoyed the read and I look forward to reading your comments as always.
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