Technology vs Heritage - Zero Electric vs Royal Enfield Combustion

How They Compare:

Compared to Zero’s bikes the GT is a dinosaur. Its 535cc single cylinder engine can’t compete with the Zero SR’s lightning fast electric powertrain but why would it have to?

Royal Enfield and Zero are two motorcycle companies with completely divergent approaches. Royal Enfield can rely on the fact that they already control one of the largest motorcycle markets in the world thereby minimizing their risk when introducing a bike like the GT, that they hope can expand their reach into international markets.

2014 Zero SR
2014 Zero FX

Zero on the other hand does not have the luxury of a safety cushion, instead they have to trust that electric bikes are the future of motorcycling. Clearly they are well on their way to developing the technology that will be key to their success, but in their way stands cost issues and the task of convincing the everyday motorcycle enthusiast that electric bikes are the way to go. As of now in the eyes of the average motorcycle consumer the idea of an electric motorcycle remains somewhat of a novelty. With the price tag of a premium motorcycle and the uncertainty that comes with a new technology, Zero has yet to break into the mainstream market.

Royal Enfield’s close proximity to the Zero made for an interesting contrast between old and new. Standing on the showroom floor, to your left you have a familiar brand with classically styled machines and to your right, Zero, who claim their bikes have “the most advanced electric motorcycle powertrain in the industry.” While both companies offer vastly different products their end game is the same, mass appeal. So far Zero’s customers have mostly belonged to the baby boomer demographic but moving forward they hope to prove that there is a place for an electric bike in everyone’s garage.

On the other hand, Royal Enfield has established at home that their product is a bike for the masses but has yet to demonstrate that on an international level outside of their base market.

2014 Royal Enfield Continental GT
Royal Enfield Classic 500 kick-starter

So What?

The juxtaposition of Royal Enfield and Zero Motorcycles displays at the show encourages you to think about the role each company plays and about the bigger picture with regard to the future of motorcycling. Royal Enfield relies on the fact that there is a customer base that appreciates what came before, that doesn’t want the latest and greatest but rather, desires what works and what is classic. While Zero is aiming to push electric motorcycles to the forefront of motorcycling while overcoming preconceived notions about what electric motorcycles can and cannot do. The path of both of these companies has greater implications for the future of the motorcycle industry as a whole. Will companies like Indian and Royal Enfield, that rely heavily on tradition, fall by the wayside as motorcycle technology advances or will companies blazing trails like Zero hit impassable roadblocks in an industry that is deeply rooted in heritage and history? Only time will tell.

Do you think there is a middle ground? What about companies like Triumph that offer both classic bikes and more contemporary ranges? Let us know in the comments section below.

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