Not too long ago, anyone looking to buy a motorcycle in India had two options. The selection was simple, either buy a dreary 100-150cc commuter or put in some extra cash and head out to buy a marginally larger 200+cc single cylinder from the likes of Bajaj and Hero Honda, now known as Hero Motorcorp. It was a time when motorcycling enthusiasts spent countless hours on the Internet, ogling at high performance machines from the likes of Honda, Yamaha and Ducati while spending countless hours fantasizing about these machines over the nascent Indian motorcycling forums. There was a third option too, but it was dark, risky and quite illogical. Many, who wanted more than these mere power commuters, would bravely go ahead and invest their money on an illegal import, with no insurance, or even clean papers for duties and registration. With the fear of an uninsured and illegal motorcycle, these early adopters could never fully utilize their motorcycles the way they were meant to be, limiting themselves to short city rides, merely liming around the city to cafes and restaurants to meet their buddies.
Trailing back, India had its blaze of glory in the 80s with some amazing machines. At the peak of India’s motoring evolution we have seen raw powerful coming from machines like the RD 350 that were ridden with care and respect for its ruthless behavior world over. As a result, the eighty’s era gave birth to some fabulous racers, and motoring legends that India saw in the years to come. Unfortunately, for the time that it was, the rest of the country was in need of vehicles that demanded less fuel and could be purchased half of what the average middle class salary is today. So came in the 100cc four-stroke commuters, and the next two decades went into an abyss of dreary conversations about fuel economy rather than understanding corners and apexes.
Fast-forward to today and things have changed drastically. Never before in the history of this country have we seen motorcycle manufacturers showing so much ferocity. Today, everyone from Japanese manufacturers to European and to American, are all trying to get their entire range of motorcycles to India. Their passion for the country has grown to such lengths where manufacturers like Harley Davidson are manufacturing machines like the Street 500 and Street 750 right here in this country, while others have setup assembly lines to assemble their products. Today, one can choose to buy a cruiser from 4 lakh to 40 lakh or a superbike as petite as the KTM RC 390 to the pinnacle of advanced technology that is the BMW S 1000 RR. The choices are limitless and it doesn’t end there with more manufacturers, even exotic oneslike Benelli and Moto Morini lined up to get a taste of our snake-charming markets.
So what happened in the past few years that we deserve to see such drastic change? Did we Indians suddenly become rich, or did manufacturers suddenly realize that Indians too have a heartfelt desire towards such glorious machinery? To answer these questions, we need to dig as deep as understanding an Indian’s socio economic status quo that has changed over the last decade.
In the early 2000’s the superbikes (mostly illegal) or larger bikes got introduced to the average Indian as leisure tools that were seldom taken out for short rides by rich who enjoyed them as playthings to boast about their money. For a average Indian at that timethe idea of buying a bike worth lakhs was beyond comprehension, and if such melancholy existed, his last expectation from it was great fuel efficiency. Alas, performance machines were looked down upon as worthless investment. So for people like us who were growing up and ready to leap out of their teens at that time, it became next to impossible to explain our parents and relatives what was the real purpose of these motorcycles. The Indian society at that point was long away from the thought of vehicles for leisure, which today at least has evolved into an idea for many in urban areas.
For people like us, there were really a handful who had the job of explaining a large section of society that had no clue what we were talking about, motorsport long rides, motorcycle trips were all more haunting tales for our parent capable of getting our bikes confiscated indefinitely. Our thoughts and actions were restricted to forums on the Internet; in a surge find like-minded motoring enthusiasts. With the growth of motoring forums based in India, boundaries lifted, as more got together online, planning rides and many motorcycling actives, the joy of riding together with people who finally understand your call was enthralling. Clubs and cults where made to pursue their passions, giving birth to India’s first motorcycling enthusiast groups all around the country. Unfortunate for them, their dreams of a bigger more precise performance machines were still nowhere with the so-calledpower commuters their only alibi to riding.
A tough time for manufactures too. On one hand, under the leadership of Rajiv Bajaj, Bajaj Auto decided to take a leap of faith and focus their interests towards more exciting and powerful motorcycles. On the other hand, Hero Honda decided to keep enjoying the massive number of commuters that they sold year over year, assuming that this is what the Indian market wants and eventually get. Thankfully, they were wrong.
With time the online communities getting bigger and stronger their offline presence grew. As the mid-2000’s approached, there was a drastic change in lifestyle. With the foray of companies in the private sector, large number of jobs opening doors to the Indian youth. It was now when international manufacturers raised their head to see the growing opportunities in the motorcycle market in India, quickly packing their bags and heading out to the subcontinent, eager to set shop to address the needs of the motorcycle hungry crowds. It’s been a patient wait for most who started their motorcycling passion in the early 2000s. While many lost all hopes and gave up waiting, moving on with their lives while those who waited patiently are finally to rejoice from the options that exist today in the Indian motorcycling scene.
As 2015 approaches, it is now safe to say that we have once again re-established the lost glory of the 80s, as we once again usher back the golden age of motorcycling. But in the end, the credit lies with the those individuals who never gave up hopes and nurtured the spirit of motorcycling into the hearts and minds of countless people who today have embraced the motorcycling lifestyle, becoming the reason for motorcycle manufacturers to live up to their growing demands.