Bikernet Blog Search Bikernet
Ride Forever - Bikernet.com
Friday Edition


Invasion of the Small Capacity Engines

Small is Big: Motorcycles with less power, more styling, high sales volumes

by Ujjwal Dey
3/29/2023


Share this story:


At first, there was Enfield, a British company which became the first motorcycle company in the world to offer production models for sale. Then there was Indian in USA followed by Harley-Davidson. Surely, there were others in-between or even before all this. But the world revolved around the Queen and the British Empire.
 
 

Motorcycles were supposedly the entry-level vehicles. So much more affordable than cars and people had to learn how to drive a car. Whereas, people already knew how to balance themselves on a bicycle –which now had an engine added to it.

Times change, and so does fortunes of companies and global customers. Also, it is interesting to note that two-wheel training might be so ignored in developed nations that Strider and All Kids Bike together offer and promote a national physical education program to teach kindergarten kids how to ride a bicycle.

 

Meanwhile, in developing nations in Asia and Eastern Europe, as well as parts of Africa, per capita income of citizens are rising. Hence, they are aspiring to buy their first car and relegate motorized two-wheelers to their low-income colleagues and neighbours. Car is a matter of prestige in many such cultures and the Western concept of class divide enters subtly into the socio-economic mix. At the same time, a kid with a bicycle is considered a son or daughter of financially privileged families.

Most adults cycling there daily are the ones having no means to transport goods or deliver food to customers who have ordered it from local restaurants --by phone call and now apps as well. On Sundays, the elite adults, young and old can be seen on the expensive (and luxurious really) geared bicycles on highways for ‘exercise’. So, with their cars parked securely, they venture out in the early morning to get some fitness with finesse after a work week in an enclosed office.

 

Yet, as always, motorcycles and scooters are a big part of the life of salaried people in Asia and Africa. If not for commuting to an office, then to ship goods and food and transport people as well. Yes, Uber and some other similar apps were briefly allowed by many cities to have paid passengers as pillion riders. By offering two-wheeled transport, these apps were able to add or retain users –because car travel is of course expensive on Uber which depends on changing global fuel prices plus rush hour demand pricing. Motorcycles and Scooters made the app affordable.

Unfortunately, the idiots who became the riders and the snob-nosed citizens who became their pillion passengers did not follow traffic norms. Many cities banned two-wheeler app-based taxis. The riders were found riding rashly and even dangerously to complete minimum 8 to 10 trips per day for a decent income. The pillions refused to wear helmets worn by other passengers nor did they bring their own helmets while hiring such a service.

 

While on the subject matter, a timely movie has been made and released on this ridiculous concept of Gig-Economy where everyone except the company’s founder-owners and angel-investor make money and find joy in it. They are not legally liable for wrongdoings of their gig-partners, namely the people who drive you or deliver your stuff, because those partners are not employees, they are ’partners’ (strangely, without any perks or equity in the firm except their own vehicle & life). Watch out for the movie titled ‘Zwigato’ released in March 2023.

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt21998526/

The film debuted in the Toronto Worldwide Film Celebration, 2022. It is not so subtly named and references the two popular food delivery apps in India, namely, Swiggy and Zomato.

Watch Official Trailer at: https://youtu.be/RCMxX6lWJcY

 

On the extreme end of motorcycling, NCOM and Bikernet reported how an African nation banned motorcycles because – bandits !!!

No! Not our resident ruling Emperor of Bikernet Empire Keith ‘Bandit’ Ball, but actual dacoits were raiding villages and towns and looting people & businesses, as if it was Old Wild West with jungle law. It would make a decent spaghetti western movie if not a documentary. 

Niger, Nigeria and Ethiopia are nations mentioned in international news as having raiders on motorcycles plundering in various parts of the respective nations. These are not large V-Twins. They are light and fast motorcycles that are commonly seen (and stolen) in developing nations.

Refer: “Nigeria -- the sixth most populous nation in world -- is set to ban the use and sale of all motorcycles in an effort to hamper the actions of terrorist 'bandits.'”

https://www.bikernet.com/pages/NCOM_Biker_Newsbytes_for_September_2022.aspx

 

Among other uses of motorcycles in Africa, includes electric motorcycles introduced as a pilot program for protecting one of the world’s largest urban forests just outside Nairobi, one of Africa’s busiest cities. These were donated by United Nations Environmental Program to avoid air and noise pollution in God’s most gifted continent, full of precious flora and fauna and of course the vast natural resources that made it what it is today – for better or worse.

Refer: Electric Motorcycles to help in Wildlife Protection

 
Amid its tranquillity, the setting is often pierced by ear-splitting gasoline motorbikes emitting fumes as rangers patrol for poachers, intruders and watch over visitors.

https://blog.bikernet.com/electric-motorcycles-to-help-in-wildlife-protection/

 

Suddenly, as motorcycle magazines disappeared, among global gloom and environ-‘mental’ doom, there was a revival of Polaris-Indian Motorcycle Company, turnaround of Harley-Davidson (on paper?) through Jochen Zeitz’ 'The Hardwire' five-year strategic plan (2021-2025) and of course the gigantic growth in leaps & bounds of Eicher Royal Enfield motorcycles spreading its authorized dealerships in UK, USA & entering flat track racing under AMA.

Just as the world was recognising the perks of weekend motorcycle getaways and big V-Twin engines, there was also economic collapse, trade tariff wars and then the curse of the climate. Everyone complained about the weather and then somebody actually did something about it. Like all solutions, the proposal was a ban. No more fossil fuels. No more emissions. No more manufacturing. No more custom aftermarket chops. No more accidents.

 

It’s a New Age. The Age of Zero (actually everything digital and in binary, 0s and 1s).

The March 2023 NCOM Newsbytes has an interesting insight on how governments who were so dandy about Paris Climate Accords, may be realising its just another money-making scam by investors and bankers.

Bill Bish Reports on NCOM newsbytes: “Instituted on January 1, 2023, the new law prohibits manufacturers from claiming a vehicle is carbon neutral (in France) if the same can’t be said of its production or recharging stages.”

Read this book quick, before it's too late!
Read this book quick, before it's too late!

 

Keith ‘Bandit’ Ball has been practically saying the same thing for over a year now. Let one city or one State survive and succeed all by itself in ‘Zero Everything Mode’. If they can’t, we learn something. If they can, we learn something. How can an untested theory be forced upon not just a nation but the whole world – risking not just livelihoods, but the very lives of humans everywhere.

If entire gamut of medications and vaccines needs mandatory laboratory trial and testing before being sold – and that too with prescription of a qualified medical practitioner – then it is insane to just grab the opposite pole and ask the world to join in nude and carefree!!!

 

Wall-Street investors and bankers intimidate the myopic or the idiots in governments and sheepish citizens to buy these new expensive electronic machines. They retain absolute control on all the users’ data through smart-connected devices. The more the convenience offered, the more dominance over the customer.

Internet of Things (IoT) is not a cool fancy freebie that enables you. It disables you and all your choices and decisions, for the rest of your life.

Customers buy and own the electric vehicle. Yet he can’t repair it himself or at a local garage. He can’t add, modify or remove stuff. Hell, he has a tough time reading the dashboard as if it was one of those ancient VCRs on which you needed a bunch of friends, neighbours and your kids’ help to record your favourite TV show.

 

If large battery consumption is as bad as large SUVs, then maybe motorcycles and scooters are the solution again? Only, they won’t be the proud big V-Twins. They will look more similar to the world-record holding bestseller of all time, The Honda Supercub. 100cc to 150cc motorcycles and scooters and even mopeds are making a comeback.

Lost your car to the repo man from the bank? Hey, they will issue you credit for buying a motorcycle instead. Very affordable. Won’t cost you a lung & a kidney! Not comfortable using clutch and gears? Hey, the automatic geared scooters are meant for you.

People even add a sidecar to their scooter and that works like a charm. In fact, in India, you will rarely see a sidecar on a motorcycle. They are all attached to the all-time bestselling scooter model, the family-friendly Honda Activa (150cc engine).

Carry yourself or carry luggage. ‘Two-wheeled trucks in another part of the world!

Refer: https://www.bikernet.com/pages/TwoWheeled_Trucks.aspx

Enfield never really went out of business (‘technically?’) because even though the UK company closed down, their licensed business in India thrived – with orders from military and police – and then civilians who liked to look macho on ‘bigger’, heavier bikes.

BMW decided to promote 310cc engines in Asia and it has had great success in its partnership with TVS Motors in this ‘relatively’ small capacity motorbikes market. It’s the most popular entry-level sports-tourer.

For racing fans there is the KTM Duke 390 and its variants because Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki aim at commuters in these markets with 100cc to 150cc variants. Even with racing colours, the Japanese bikes are not fooling anyone about the performance of these lame horse without power. It does not bother the Japanese brands because they want the volume sales and they get it as easy as eating pie (or sushi). Bajaj is having consistent high volume sales by manufacturing KTM bikes.

 

Meanwhile, Mahindra group has purchased rights to the brands BSA, Jawa and Yezdi. Already, Jawa Forty-Two model is popular and eye-catching with a twin-exhaust for a 290 cc engine. Yezdi Roadster however cannot seem to beat Enfield’s classic styling and brand value.

TVS purchased Norton brand soon after Mahindra grabbed BSA but neither of them have realized lot of sales and maybe they don’t mass-produce these motorcycles because the demand just doesn’t exist. Both BSA and Norton were to be big engine bikes to take on Harley-Davidson and Polaris Indian – but the world decided to pour cold water on ICE engines.

Polaris shocked Americans by axing Victory motorcycles and then surprised the world by successfully reviving Indian Motorcycle Co. They are also not too keen to compete with Harley-Davidson on small capacity engines. Harley-Davidson, after dancing around in the shadows with manufacturing in Thailand and having assembly plants sometimes for completely built-up units (CBU) or for completely knockdown units (CKD) – then closing down offices & showrooms in many nations in 2020, not because of COVID but because of super-turnaround plan of CEO Jochen Zeitz – now has surprised one-and-all by releasing Benelli 350 cc engine motorcycles made by QJ Motors of China having the label ‘Harley-Davidson X350’.

Apart from the money and the name, probably nothing American is in that X350 bike! Most likely, even the money is from the Chinese partner, to sustain the brand name that has been through enough stress in 120 years to suffer this on its anniversary.

 

Clearly, volume sales matter in automotive industry unless you are as exclusive as Lamborghini or a Bugatti luxury cars who consider it a grand success if they sell just 80 units in a financial / calendar year.

To remain relevant to both investor, employee, dealer and loyal customer, Harley-Davidson decided to sell ‘franchises’ – like a burger joint to boost revenue. That’s what the deal with QJ Motors looks like; that’s what the deal with Hero MotoCorp looks like – calling a spade a paid tool for digging your own grave.

Why not make a manufacturing or an assembly base in a few strategic stable locations and use that to sell more while retaining the century-old trust.

Automotive industry also creates several other jobs. Of course, they don’t manufacture the screws and conveyor belts and the paint and a whole gamut of metals and electricals that are used inside a factory to manufacture one vehicle. Even if majority physical showrooms close down due to online orders – (example: Barnes & Noble and small retailers of books) – still the car or motorcycle has to reach from a factory to a warehouse to a delivery vehicle that makes it reach the customer – endless number of lives and jobs are touched.

Yet, that is just the beginning. Mature markets have plenty of demand for customization of motorcycles. Developing nations need other support such as a non-dealer mechanic (just like your local garage / shop) who are more affordable, second-hand purchase legality, mandatory and optional accessories such as helmets, pollution control certificate, panniers and carriers for moving goods.

 

However, Harley-Davidson chose a different option to go big.

They reduced their global footprint to focus on economically prosperous and mature markets. Hence by leaving some nations and selling their brand name to earn a buck – they have managed to cutdown their corporate financial liabilities & expenses & corporate governance issues –this small sizing made them bigger on a revenue graph.

Here is an analogy. Imagine it this way – you have a large garden and you go around watering, controlling pests and caring for multiple fruit trees and flowering plants. They all give different outputs at different times. Then, your Dad comes to visit and tells you how much time and energy you are wasting for an occasional fruit and flower. ‘Just work hard at your one job and business and you can just buy the rarely usable flower or fruit of choice,’ he says. So your Dad and yourself chop of all but one productive tree and plant. You sell the seeds from that and eat the fruits all for yourself. Now you do more with less!

Besides, Chinese manufacturers were already ripping off so many designs from Harley-Davidson. It’s just better to earn a few pennies and give one company over there the right to make & sell Harley-Davidson bikes.

Refer: Motofino Streetboy V-Maxter 300 From China Looks Eerily Familiar to Harley-Davidson Sportster S

https://blog.bikernet.com/knock-off-motofino-streetboy-v-maxter-300-looks-eerily-familiar/

Refer: Xiang Shuai XN650N Is An Exact Imitation of Sportster 883

https://blog.bikernet.com/another-new-chinese-imitation-of-a-sportster/ 

Triumph is one true-blue-blood British brand which has made a strategic and technical comeback of all comebacks. It’s like the sudden new found success with a blonde James Bond. With a new British owner, Triumph slowly but steadily proved its mettle in engines, chassis, modern technology, manufacturing and then spreading its mushrooming showrooms globally. Whether it is the classic styling of its Bonneville brand or the huge power of Triumph Rocket 3 and the racing capacity of Speed Triple 1200 and off-road capability of Tiger 900 adventure sports-tourer – it has ‘triumphed’ on all requirements of its customers.

 

Triumph already noticed the growing global demand for middle-weight segment motorcycles being filled fast by Royal Enfield. They launched Triumph Trident 660 and then Tiger Sport 660 to slow down Enfield’s 650cc parallel twin-engine demand. It has been reported repeatedly that Triumph is partnering with Bajaj to release a smaller-capacity motorcycle to take on Enfield’s dominance in middle-weight sub-750cc motorcycles. Bajaj’s ‘Dominar’ brand, ridiculing Enfield as slow clumsy elephants, had flopped, failing to generate interest among long-distance riders.

In turn, Enfield launched many variants of its top-selling Enfield Classic 350cc, Std Bullet 350cc, introduced Hunter 350 for city cruising, Scram 411 scrambler, terminated all its 500cc engine models to force owners to go for better designed 650cc engines on 1960s cool ‘Interceptor’ and the café racer ‘Continental GT’ models. Enfield launched Meteor 350cc to replace their popular cruiser Enfield Thunderbird which was axed from their line-up. Lately, they challenged the big boys with their best ever technical production and their most comfortable highway cruiser offering – the Super Meteor 650cc. Never has there been a more expensive motorcycle from Enfield than this Super Meteor parallel twin engine with three prominent variants – Astral, Interstellar and Celestial.

 

What’s in store for gearheads and motorcyclists? The new Age of Zero means you live with zero rights and zero privacy and zero wealth. You already pay for bottled drinking water. Maybe paying for clean air is next. There are cities that already tax people if they bring a four-wheeler into the city – ‘traffic tax’. Paper currency causes deforestation because nations and banks just keep on printing them since metal coins are costlier than the denomination embossed on them. You would be forced to be digital in everything. Maybe in that futuristic world, you or your descendants would have no use for money since bots (similar to Facebook & Google bots) tell you what you deserve on your smart couch / chair. An ‘electric’ chair!

We ain’t taking much into our graves. Let there be a few smiles and gratitude while reaching there. So, enjoy these two-wheeled beauties while they last. Even a Harley-Davidson Sportster has a much smaller carbon footprint than any American car owner’s car or SUV. If electric is the solution, then let the customers and dealers realise it naturally instead of an emergency enforcement like a bat out of Wuhan.

(Maybe then, if a flower grows from your buried dead body, your grandkids could get some ‘royalty income’ from its sale. Pray for an apple tree or something more prosperous to ‘grow’ on you as your inheritance.)

I like the quote “People don't change when they have a choice. They change when there is no choice”.

Learning and educating is the key to any acceptance of change. Education includes debate and research. True, we have only one planet. Yet we have a shocking range of experiences with electric vehicles in such a short time. Clearly ICE engine vehicles are thousand times more refined than any existing EV. They have undergone a century of progress and usage and testing. Without enough pilot period time and phased introduction in infrastructure ready cities, these EVs would cause wastage of even more natural resources and that too in a record shorter period of time.

Instead of global warming, the term should be ‘global warning’. Haste makes waste. Ride easy! If you ride, feel proud. You use less resources, own less and are already a zero liability person. LOL !

 
And save the World. It's a blast and whacky forever!
And save the World. It's a blast and whacky forever!

 
 

Share this story:



Back to Of Cultural Interest, Special Reports


Your thoughts on this article

Your Name
Email
City
Country
v
State/Province
v
Comments
Anti-Spam Question:
Please enter the words you see in the box, in order and separated by a space. Doing so helps prevent automated programs from abusing this service.
Submit
Clear