Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Four reasons why Royal Enfield should make a V-Twin.

As everyone has heard by now, there are rumors that Royal Enfield will produce a two-cylinder motorcycle. Initial rumors speculated it could be a V-Twin, but more recent ones talk about a parallel twin. Readers of this blog seem to dislike the idea of a Royal Enfield V-Twin, saying that it would be a copy of an American cruiser. Let's have some controversy.  I tend to like the idea. Here are my reasons:

#4 V-Twins are as Royal Enfield as apple pie.

(Or whatever the food is that makes the phrase work). Royal Enfield introduced its first motorcycle in 1901. It was a single, and variations of it appeared till 1905. Then the company went into making cars, with rather disastrous results. It reentered the motorcycle market in 1909 with a V-Twin. In fact, the oldest surviving Royal Enfield motorcycle is a V-Twin, I believe from 1910 (picture at left). That 1909 machine, further refined the next year with a gearbox and chain drive, became a workhorse that would eventually increase in displacement till  1140cc and would be in the lineup up until World War II disrupted production in 1939. Those machines were amazing. In the 1910's and 20's the 6hp V-Twin was capable of anything. From carrying machineguns in wars, to stretchers with wounded, to towing cars, camping trailers, etc. It represented the main vehicle of entry for women motorcyclists in 1915 and for policewomen. In its later incarnations in the 1930's it became the top of the line model, with elaborate sidecars for touring. After the war, the company felt that the future laid in parallel twins, and was of course right. The parallel twin then became a triple (although too late for Enfield) and then a four cylinder that the Japanese perfected and that brings us to the top of the line motorcycles of today.

#3 V-Twins thump. Not in the same way than the long stroke engine of the Bullet does. But nevertheless they do. Parallel twins are much smoother. Now, the thump is what attracts many Enfield riders to the Bullet. It is the indication that there is something alive down there when you are going 40mph, doing work for you. In a parallel twin that is lost. If you want smoothness, then don't stop there. Go for an inline four.

#2 Enfield could make a unique V-Twin, unlike any other in the market. Put a refined modern engine in a KX like body, as the one shown in the picture above. Low, long, purposeful. Super-stable. Add rear suspension. Keep the suicide shifter of the 1920's (probably for legal reasons in addition to a regular foot shift). Include fishtail exhausts. Such a bike would be super-cool.

#1 World peace. Can you imagine that universe of US bikers, that currently are vaguely aware that India is different from Indiana, suddenly learning that there is this cool bike made in India that is different but nevertheless has points in common with a Harley and that can be had for about half the price? Suddenly two of the biggest motorcycling communities in the world would connect. From there on anything is possible!


  1. Lovely pictures and the idea has great appeal. I prefer the parallel possibility, though. For one, yes, I think the comparison to Harley would be immediate. Harley has had a long time to get the V-twin formula correct; Enfield would suffer in any comparison. There also is danger in the parallel cylinder route, since the comparison there would be to the Interceptor. England defined that formula and a modern parallel twin Enfield would likely be too modern, mild and civilized for true lovers of that breed. But those who like the idea of an Interceptor are far greater in number than those who would willingly pay for and live with one of those 45-year-old dragons. I think a NEW parallel-twin Royal Enfield would soon out-sell the Bullet (from which it could borrow many production line parts) since it would be FASTER -- and adequate speed is the crying need in the U.S. As for four-in-line, sigh. That holds no interest for me. Now how about that triple they never built? There's an idea!

  2. I think that a set of parallel twins based on the UCE is the most likely outcome. While the V-Twin is extremely appealing, the modernity of the current Enfield design would steal a lot of its charm (meanwhile projects like Aniket's Musket and the Carberry and Norcroft twins retain much of it). I think the parallel twin is the safest option for the company, since it sidesteps direct competition with Harley and (probably a better comparison) the numerous metric cruisers available in most any size or shape one could want. I think a new frame, inspired by the post-56 Enfield frames, would be a sharp move, as well. It would look more like the "iconic" British twins, which would almost certainly be the central selling point.

    Then again, it might be a bust. While it would outsell the Bullet in the US, would it outsell the Bullet elsewhere? And is the US a big enough market to warrant the development costs? Compare, say, the Kawasaki W650. Its sales were apparently weak in North America, which may have a lot to do with why we haven't seen the W800 here yet. Would the Enfield fare any better?

    1. The W650 never flourished due to a few reasons: poor to no sales efforts and the sharp rise of 'superbike' GP style movement which I believe has thankfully peaked and is now receding...the moto magazines put all their efforts into pushing these type of bikes because 1. greater profits for the mocos who pay the bills and 2. this type of bike really spurred a huge aftermarket of everything from star trek styled booties to all that ugly and garishly branded apparel, etc. etc.
      Now the movement towards simpler more elegant motorcycles is on the rise and has spawned numerous editions: W800, Bonnie, Thruxton, Moto Guzzi V7, Honda's new CB1100 and the new Norton Commando as well as Yamaha's new "Bolt" a throw back v-twin.
      A new Interceptor would be a big hit world wide.

  3. RE must build a world bike which will attract as many buyers as possible to keep RE in business and profitable. High speed roads are improving globally and this will increase demand for bikes with faster top end than a one cylinder can not offer. People are in love with faster bikes that can pass at highway speeds as they are safer and all purpose.

    There are more V-Twin advantages in addition to the 4 reasons above:

    #9 V-Twin advantage is narrower, better cornering, and longer wheel base for inline 45 degree V-twin that creates a more stable bike to ride overall at highway speeds

    #8 V-Twin usually has better torque and great power from stop light to stop light for big riders or a rider and his date

    #7 Parallel Twin UCE head has disadvantages as it needs proper cooling and this complicates design and adds weight

    #6 V-Twin would sidestep Triumph at similar cost as Triumph sells P-Twin and RE could offer a more economical new ‘vintage’ V-Twin with EFI and undercut the more expensive HD V-Twin

    #5 Many standing RE parts and factory machine shop tools for existing 350 cc and 500 cc heads could be reused for on a 700 or 1000 cc RE V-twin. This could holding down costs and service shop retraining. This exact design and discussion has already been stable and completed by a individual who looks like a novice see video on You Tube here, check out how it sounds!

    1. I do not believe that H-D riders would be interested in a new's just not their style. Interceptors were sporty roadsters, not huge heavy touring bikes like H-D's bread and butter bikes.
      1. As for your V-Twin reasons I disagree. V-Twins have much more problematic cooling than parallel twins...H-D is having big problems with this issue. The rear cylinder is the problem.
      2. A parallel twin can be made just as long as a v-twin and I'm not sure length would be good consideration in anycase for a roadster.
      3. Parallel twins are also torquey engines, this is not something v-twins have a corner on.
      4. V-twins are not necessarily better cornering bikes re: look at how bad H-Ds are....look at how good GP bikes can corner, they're not V-Twins.
      5. V-twins are both boring and extremely ubiquitous, parallel twins are far more rare and also look much prettier with their headers both coming out the front and curving back...just so British.
      6. Parallel twins can also 'thump', it has more to do with
      piston cycle then cylinder location....a 360 degree parallel twin sounds wonderful and uniquely British however a parallel twin can employ a 270 degree cycle similar to H-Ds which thump like nobodies business....I prefer the 360.
      I honestly believe it would be a sales mistake to forego the 60's style Interceptor for 1920s-30s style v-twin. Bike styles from the 60's are now making a pretty big come back.

  4. Oops I meant 90 degree V-Twin (requires smaller flywheel and well balanced like Ducati) see illustration here:

  5. I would prefer flat twin boxer, preferably diesel one(remenber flat twin diesel gensets of 40s),with shaft drive.But I know it is impossible.

  6. Yes, India Motorcycle news recently interviewed new RE president and an updated Diesel was discussed but could it also come to US (i.e. as 50 state clean?) or other locals with less regulations, perhaps. Thing is USA RE Service Shops would have to retrain for that cool flat D engine w/ nice harmonic balancing.

    Air cooled simple V-Twin on longer bike could really be breathtaking expansion of the line up or anything that could keep up with traffic.

  7. Bring the KX back!

    The styling.. the stability...

    Give it a few more HP so I can tug a sidecar at 80mph and I will want one. Badly.

  8. There are already enough v-twins on the market. The world doesn't need another v-twin. It would be simpler for Enfield to add a cylinder to the existing engine than to build a whole new v-twin platform. I am sick of seeing nothing but v-twins everywhere. V-twins suck(except for Moto Guzzi).

  9. A few points: I would think, based on H-D's experience, that V-twins are much harder to get the cooling right then it is for a para twin. The idea that a v-twin has more grunt is also erroneous, the head style has nothing to do with torque, that is a function of stroke length.
    Also, nothing on earth sounds like a 360 degree para twin. It is the iconoclastic British motorcycle sound. A 260 v-twin is american "potato potato".

    North Americans want a new heavy British style bike (look at the demand for the near non-existent Nortons at $18,000 a crack).

    There is nothing more British than an air cooled para twin Interceptor. They'd sell like hot cakes in North America as long as they are authentic air cooled retro styled Interceptors. The Bullet is just too light and under powered for North American roads and riders.

  10. A Bullet COULD be turbo'd, with hidden DOHCs and THEN it could straddle Great fuel economy AND be a "World-bike"--the 21st century's Perfect 60's Tonner-café-roadster, available today. Otherwise, put a 3-D metallic-substrate replicator in each 'Royal dealer, and make what the mates want--the perfect Interceptor parallel-twin OR a Carberry or Aniket Vee--great because they use Bullet parts. Most of the twins/Vees are TOO EXPENSIVE! 3-Ds could make $4K DOHC, turbo-Bullets that last, are 650cc, 6-spdr, WITH the Store pocketing a grand. An 800cc interceptor DOHC 6spdr should go for $6K, with the Store pocketing $1500/per. A 3-D replicator means a total custom-look with NO attendant parts-stocking nightmares. Of COURSE, the twins would have Norton-style vernier isolastics. I think its STUPID to even try to challenge Harley.--stay Indo-Brit and enjoy it. New Royal Enfield Motto: "3-D built for YOU like a Gun"

  11. The current trend towards bikes with a retro appearance has a number of drivers. One of them is that water-cooled high performance fours look like the back of a washing machine: plumbing everywhere. Harleys sell because they look great to non-bikers. They impress the opposite sex like no 'Blade ever will. They sound great too. The newer, younger riders are less interested in top performance due to lower speed limits, crappy roads and a strong desire to just have fun, rather than racing around like us older fools. So, we all agree that Enfield needs a two-cylinder, shiny, gutteral bike with great sound and cool looks. So far, so good. The problem on the global market is pollution controls. It is really hard to make an air-cooled engine meet Euro 4, for instance. H-D has water cooled heads, the new Bonnie is all water cooled. So Indian's design challenge will be greater than "V-Twin or Vertical twin?" It will be a compound problem involving power, weight, pollution controls, tooling costs, NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), packaging and appearance. They are probably pulling a few competitor bikes apart too see how they are made. Instinct tells me that the Bonnie is going to look like their better bet than a vee. Why? I think it will offer Enfield cheaper tooling and easier water cooling,while retaining a retro look. The parallel twin is more compact and easier to package, too. The Interceptor lives on in bikers' memory; the KX is almost forgotten. Does any of this rant sound convincing?

  12. the debate need be no more! the Royal Enfield factory as you would know by now is going for a parallel twin, and also in India I will be building vee twins,make your choice!
    Paul Carberry

  13. I own an Interceptor,(2 actually)and what I love is all that torque, and the sound that comes with it.
    I like not having to shift gears all the time like on a Japanese bike.
    The Bullet is a great bike, but it's not fast enough for American roads.
    If they can reproduce the things that made the Interceptor great,into a modern bike, I think they will have something unique and marketable.



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