There is beauty in simplicity - it’s hard to argue against that. However, like all consumer products, motorcycles are constantly being touted as improved thanks to the added tech to enhance rider experience. Yet, there is an increasing demand for bikes that are just motorcycles in the classic sense, such as the recently revived, Polaris-owned Indian that relies heavily on the past as it's selling point.
At the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach we chose two diametrically opposed bikes, the technologically packed Zero electric and the paired down, and very pure Royal Enfield combustion to see how they stack up for today's riders and the challenges they face in the marketplace.
Zero Motorcycles, of Santa Cruz, California has been producing electric motorcycles since 2006. They were at the Long Beach show to display their 2014 line-up that boasts higher performance and lower prices for all of their bikes. Zero has bikes for performance, fleet, everyday and adventure riding, giving consumers more options for electric motorcycles than ever before. Their products are compelling and admittedly very nice to look at.
Some new features for 2014 include a Power Tank accessory for the S and DS models which brings battery range up to 171 miles per charge, a new dash/control interface that integrates features from the Zero smartphone application, improved suspension, plus overall better handling and braking. Not to mention the new Zero SR that has a high performance motor with improved power output at higher speeds.
Zero clearly believes that electric motorcycles can perform just as well, if not better, than combustion engine motorcycles. Their newly introduced 2014 Zero SR can go from 0-60 in a mere 3.3 seconds and hit a top speed of 102 mph, making it their highest performing bike to date. Zero doesn’t seem to be concerned about classic ideas of what motorcycles are or should be, instead, they have visions of what the future of motorcycling could be.
Parked about ten feet away from the Zero display was Royal Enfield. Royal Enfield offers a range of bikes that are true to their original style and for the first time in 50 years they presented a new model: The Continental GT. The GT is a nice looking bike styled in the image of a cafe racer (check out our First Ride review).
CEO of Eicher Motors, which owns Royal Enfield, Siddhartha Lal in a recent interview explained that Royal Enfield is not necessarily after numbers when it comes to their new GT. Instead, he expressed a desire for the GT to inspire a new type of motorcycle culture based on the philosophy of building something timeless. Although Royal Enfield does not have the same U.S. presence as other manufactures it is important to realize that they command the majority of India’s over 250cc market which is extremely significant, especially when considering India has one of the largest consumer markets in the world. With the international release of the Continental GT, Royal Enfield is trying to appeal to a younger, hipper demographic who want to emulate the Cafe Racer scene of the 1970s.
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