How Can A Small Motorcycle Company Crack the US Market? Make Bigger Engines

As you may rightly guess, the people of the whole wide world are into motorcycles.

Most of those motorcycles, some 58%, get stored at night in what passes for garages in the developing countries of Asia — Southern and Eastern Asia, and the Asia Pacific countries. In the US, we clearly tend to favor cages as 33% of the cars – somewhere around 195 million of the dull beasts – are concentrated in the United States and Japan.

Ace Performance Bullets

Sumanth "Chumma" Janardhan of Ace Performance Bullets in

2006, China had 54 million motorcycles in use and an annual production of 22 million bikes. As of 2002, India boasted an estimated 37 million motorcycles and mopeds and was home to the largest number of motorized two wheeled vehicles in the world.

What does it all mean?

The bike market in India is seriously competitive, and the global manufacturing leaders are finally taking notice and offering the latest in technology and products. While the top companies are preparing their full-on assault of Indian shores in a war to attract new customers, the old guard in India is trying to innovate and retain customers.

India’s oldest motorcycle manufacturing company, Royal Enfield, is exploring newer market segments with an idea that’s pretty familiar to American motorcycle manufacturers – make bigger engines.

Royal Enfield,  based in Chennai, India, is looking to upgrade their standard 350 and 500cc mills to offer a 750cc engine.

“It makes sense for us to move into that (750cc, twin cylinder bikes) category,” said Venkatesh Padmanabhan, CEO of Royal Enfield. “So many bike companies have been entering India and competition has just begun. Things are at a very early stage, as neither the volumes from that segment or the commercials seem encouraging.”

But what about piling all those newly-muscled-up Indian bikes on transport ships and rolling them out in the US?

Here’s the problem with that, a brand-stinking new Royal Enfield straight out of the crate is essentially already 56 years old. Aside from incorporating fuel injection, the standard 500cc Bullet model for the American market is the same design the Brits built back in 1955. Hardy. Simple. Damn good-looking in a classic way. And abysmally underpowered.

If you’re anything like me, 22 HP is just not enough to get me juiced and I know I guy down the road from here who has a lawnmower he races which generates 35HP – and would probably hang with a stock Bullet through the first 250 yards in a drag.

Granted, there are these guys here in America, the principals of  Ace Performance Bullets – Tom “Ace Cafe” Lyons  and Sumanth “Chumma” Janardhan – who make the parts to bring a stock Enfield into screaming life, but what you end up spending might prove daunting to the poor man like me. Personally, I’d love to have one of these and I’m very impressed with what APB do with an engine, but when you can buy a used bike with twice the horsepower and modern steering and suspension and bob it yourself, it’s a hard sell.

Please let it be said that I have enormous admiration for what Lyons and Janardhan are doing right here in the good old US of A. What they do is what motorcycling should be about, making things better with your own two hands.

You can also get some superb technical information about Ace Performance on The Kneeslider:

Fireball build photos on Flickr

Yahoo group for the ACE Fireball 535

Royal Enfield Ace Fireball Cafe

ACE Fireball 535 Royal Enfield High Performance Kit


  • Royal Enfield Bullet Deluxe
  • Base price: $4495
  • Standard colors: Black, red or blue
  • Type: Air-cooled, four-stroke OHV single
  • Displacement, bore x stroke: 499cc, 84 x 90mm
  • Compression ratio: 5.5:1
  • Claimed Horsepower: 22 bhp @ 5400 rpm
  • Transmission: Wet clutch, 4 speeds
  • Final drive: Chain
  • Lubrication: Dry sump
  • Front suspension: Telescopic/hydraulic
  • Rear suspension: Dual dampers, adjustable for preload
  • Brakes: Drum; 7-in. front, 6-in. rear (Disc brakes optional)
  • Fuel capacity: 3.8 gal.
  • Wheelbase: 53.5 in.
  • Seat height: 30.0 in.
  • Weight 370 lb. dry (claimed)

Royal Enfield hopes to bring diesel-powered bikes back into the Indian market as well. With current demand for diesel bikes far above the company’s capacity at this point, RE is trying to reach a target of 75,000 units a year and the waiting period for some models,  such as the Classic, is nearly 12 months in Mumbai. A new facility near Chennai set to open during the first quarter of 2013 will cover more than 50 acres and produce some 150,000 units year across the entire model line.

Another market the company is targeting is the  planned street versions of a Cafe Racer concept which they say they’ll roll out over the next 12-18 months.

For more information about Enfield motorcycles or to locate a dealer near you, contact:

Classic Motorworks

9 Third St. NW

Faribault, MN 55021

(800) 201-7472

Insuring your collectible or vintage motorcycle

As for insurance? You should be able to get Agreed Value coverage on a 1959 BSA valued at $15,000 for somewhere around $25 a month, and that gives you the whole shooting match of coverage. You can spend a lot less, but if you plan to ride the bikes in your collection, the above pricing is a reasonable approximation of what you can expect to pay.

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