Ed speak


IT WAS LIKE AN IN­DIAN AUTO EXPO RE­VEAL! With space hav­ing run out, the ad­ja­cent Tri­umph stand was packed with jour­nal­ists cran­ing their necks for a glimpse of the pro­ceed­ings. Pho­tog­ra­phers were stand­ing on the pegs of Clas­sic 350s of var­i­ous hues pep­pered around on the stand to get a bet­ter van­tage point to train their (long) lenses on Sid­dhartha Lal and Ru­dratej Singh con­duct­ing pro­ceed­ings in the dis­tance. All I could see were heads. The world’s press had de­scended in force for the re­veal of Royal En­field’s worst kept se­cret, the 650cc twins. The world’s press ap­plauded when Sid­dhartha proudly an­nounced, “We are the largest grow­ing mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­turer in the world”. The world’s press ap­plauded harder when they heard the num­bers, “We did 50,000 units in 2010. This year we will do 800,000.” Stand­ing in the back, I was re­minded of Eicher’s stock price that has soared by 1750 per cent (!) from the time I started writ­ing about cars and bikes and I du­ti­fully kick my­self for not be­ing able to see a gold mine even when it slaps me in the face. And the roof came down when, a cool video later, the wraps were taken off the In­ter­cep­tor INT 650 and Con­ti­nen­tal GT 650. This, at a show, where 50 yards away was the new Tiger and 200 yards away was the Pani­gale V4.

So the In­ter­cep­tor looks ex­actly like the mil­lions of (de­lib­er­ately?) leaked pic­tures but in fi­nal pro­duc­tion form, all pol­ished paint and gleam­ing chrome, it looks fan­tas­tic. Per­fectly brand ap­pro­pri­ate with the clas­sic styling evok­ing a sim­pler time. And spilling out of the frame was Royal En­field’s first new en­gine in, like, for­ever. An easy-go­ing air-cooled en­gine (okay, oil-cooled to be pre­cise) with fuel in­jec­tion, overhead cams (no more pushrods! Yay!) and the abil­ity to do the ton (100 miles an hour or 160kmph, which Royal En­fields could do back in the six­ties but never since!). Of course fi­nal ver­dict will have to be re­served for when we get astride the bikes and we re­ally, re­ally hope that the qual­ity is noth­ing like the Himalayan night­mare, but if I’ve learnt any­thing in my two decades of do­ing this, it is to spot a win­ner from ten yards away. The In­ter­cep­tor is a win­ner. The Con­ti­nen­tal GT 650, I don’t know, but the In­ter­cep­tor def­i­nitely. The only way they can screw it up is by pric­ing it all wrong but the sky rock­et­ing price of par­ent Eicher’s shares, the fact that they’re adding a new dealer ev­ery two days, and that they’re dou­bling vol­umes ev­ery year, means that’s rather un­likely. Heck Sid has made the brand so cool I’ve just gone and bought my­self a pair of Royal En­field jeans and a decade af­ter I moved on from get­ting my fin­gers dirty on a se­ries of Bul­let long-term bikes, I’m now re­ally, re­ally look­ing for­ward to rid­ing a Royal En­field all over again. ⌧

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