2 Wheels

Is Royal Enfield Looking To Take on Harley-Davidson’s Cruisers?

With Royal Enfield’s classic-styled standard motorcycle and café racer each a resounding hit, the Indian company is starting to expand its offerings. It already offers one Triumph rival in the form of the Bonneville-esque Interceptor 650. And rumors claim it’s also working on a competitor for the Triumph Scrambler. The latest news, though, seems to indicate Royal Enfield has another target in its sights: Harley-Davidson and its cruisers.

The 2018 Royal Enfield KX cruiser concept

The green-tanked Royal Enfield Concept KX cruiser
Royal Enfield Concept KX | Royal Enfield via Instagram

Royal Enfield has previously hinted at the desire to create a cruiser, Motorcyclist reports. Back in 2018, the company brought its UK and India design teams together to create the Concept KX.

Like the Continental GT 650 and Interceptor 650, the Royal Enfield KX has a two-cylinder engine, The Drive reports. However, instead of a 648cc parallel-twin, it’s an 838cc V-twin. Which, if it were made today, would be the biggest engine the company produces. However, back in the 30s, Royal Enfield offered an even-larger 1140cc V-twin in the original KX, Bonhams reports.

The rest of the Royal Enfield Concept KX also intrigues, RideApart reports. It has girder front forks, typically only seen on highly-expensive bikes like the reborn Brough Superior SS100. It also has LED lights, a single-sided swingarm, a walnut-leather solo seat, and a hidden rear mono-shock. The airbox is a stressed member of the frame, Motorcycle.com reports, and the copper pin-stripes are hand-painted.

At the time, Royal Enfield claimed the KX was just a concept, and it had no plans to put it or the V-twin into production. However, it appears those plans may have changed in the past few years.

A functioning prototype has been spotted

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At the end of August 2020, an Indian rider spotted a bike that looked very similar to the Royal Enfield KX, RideApart reports. Only this wasn’t a show-stand concept—it was a functioning, riding-in-traffic cruiser.

Admittedly, some of the unknown cruiser’s components differ from the show bike. For example, instead of those girder forks, it has what appears to be upside-down forks. Which, Indian Autos Blog reports, would be a first for Royal Enfield. Instead of a mono-shock, it has a dual-spring setup. The solo seat’s been replaced with a black dual seat. This cruiser also appears to be belt-driven, not chain-driven like the KX. And while it still has dual exhausts, they’re now one on each side, instead of stacked.

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Perhaps the biggest difference, though, is with the engine. We already knew, based on the scrambler news, that Royal Enfield was working on more two-cylinder bikes. And based on those exhaust pipes, it appears the new cruiser won’t have a V-twin but instead use the brand’s 648cc parallel-twin.

Using that engine makes a lot more sense than building a brand-new one, RideApart muses. Although US emissions regulations for bikes are less strict than in the EU, it would still be an incredibly expensive task to design a whole new engine. In contrast, the 648cc two-cylinder is already emissions-certified. Why reinvent the wheel?

How would Royal Enfield’s cruiser compare to those from Harley-Davidson or other companies?

As of this writing, we don’t have any further details about this potential Royal Enfield cruiser. Not a release date, not a price, nothing. However, if it does use the same engine as the Interceptor and Continental GT, we can at least compare its output to what Harley-Davidson offers.

2020 Harley-Davidson Iron 883
2020 Harley-Davidson Iron 883 | Harley-Davidson

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One of Harley-Davidson’s best entry-level cruisers, the $8999 Sportster Iron 883, is powered by an 883cc V-twin. It produces 54 lb-ft, and on Cycle World’s dyno, 47 hp at the rear wheel. Which translates to about 51 hp at the crank. That power gets to the rear wheel via a 5-speed manual and a belt-drive.

An orange-helmeted rider on an orange 2020 Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
2020 Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 | Royal Enfield

In contrast, the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650’s 648cc two-cylinder, makes 43 hp and 37 lb-ft, Cycle World reports. However, it has a 6-speed manual, chain-drive, and an additional gauge. Plus, despite its $5799 starting price, it has standard ABS. On the Harley-Davidson cruiser, it’s an option.

A gray-tanked 2020 Honda Rebel 500
2020 Honda Rebel 500 | Honda

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Royal Enfield isn’t the only motorcycle company competing with Harley-Davidson for cruiser customers now, though. BMW is also joining in with its premium (and pricey) R18. And Honda already has a parallel-twin-powered affordable cruiser: the Rebel 500. For $6199, you get a 41-hp 471cc two-cylinder engine, ABS, a slipper clutch, and LED lights. In addition to Harley-Davidson, Honda may arguably be Royal Enfield’s biggest cruiser rival.

To that, we say, the more affordable bike options, the better.

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