Top 5 Motorcycles and Scooters That Set New Segment Benchmarks and Transformed the Industry

  • Jun 9, 2024
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These two-wheelers have been indispensable in defining their respective segments

Motorcycles and scooters that define their segment don’t come by often but when they do, they come in all guns ablaze. These are the bikes and scooters that will go down in history books for being absolute legends. They might not look so at first glance, but their lore is deeper than what meets the eye. Today we’ll be taking a look at 4 such bikes and one scooter that set a benchmark in their respective segments. Cue in the theatrical background score! 

Hero Honda CD100

The first bike from a joint venture between Hero and Honda – two forces to reckon with in their own markets. Like a fusion between Goku and Vegeta, these brands spawned the CD100 in 1985 and also gave birth to the Indian commuter motorcycle segment. Honda brought in their world-famous technological prowess, and along with it, their legendary 100cc sloper engine that was not only bulletproof but could run for miles with as much fuel as a cup of cutting chai. Hero came in with their manufacturing prowess – as a brand that could produce motorcycles at a mind boggling rate. The result was a motorcycle that could almost qualify to be the national motorcycle of its time. The CD100 later paved the way for the equally iconic Hero Splendor – the best-selling bike in India, till date.

Yamaha R15

Born in Iwata, made its mark in India. While the Yamaha R15 was launched in India in 2008, it had a team from Yamaha’s global headquarters in Japan (reportedly the same team that worked on the very first R1) oversee the entire project from scratch. Which is most probably why the R15 became an instant success in India. It was the first small capacity liquid-cooled faired motorcycle in India that made an entire generation realise their dream of owning a supersport-styled bike. And the first generation R15 handled like a dream too. It would flick on a dime and carve corners like a hot knife on butter, all the while being affordable. You could ride it daily, you could take it to the track. It was, and still is, a bike that ticks all the right boxes. The R15 has always been a forgiving bike. It will help a beginner grow into a skilled rider. It will let you make mistakes and then tell you “you went wrong” without a slap on your face. And if that’s not enough, remember the Daytona kit? It had a performance exhaust, an upgraded ECU with new cams, and even better brakes! What’s not to like!?

Royal Enfield Classic 350

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You can call this bike slow as much as you want but the Classic 350 has enough torque to pull Royal Enfield back from a certain death, and a thump powerful enough to kickstart the retro motorcycle segment in India. Royal Enfield did exist before the Classic 350 but weren’t doing as good as they were in their early days in India. They were overshadowed by the influx of Japanese bikes that were reliable, refined, frugal, easy to maintain and to ride, and better equipped too. While standing in the captain’s helm, Siddhartha Lal brought in the Classic 350 in 2009, and steered Royal Enfield all the way to glory in the thunder of the Classic’s exhaust. 

Royal Enfield Himalayan 411

The Himalayan 411 was literally a bike from which the mountains called you. While it wasn’t the first adventure bike in India or even the first off-road friendly, it brought in what the entry-level ADV segment was asking for - affordability, power and capability. The segment was led by the Hero Honda Impulse, but it felt underpowered on the highway. Royal Enfield hit that nail bang on with a completely new platform. A proper ADV with enough grunt to sit at highway speeds for a long time and still have a bit in reserve if you needed some to overtake, comfortable riding posture, good luggage carrying capacity, spartan looks, and most importantly a rugged, capable chassis (bar the early social media reports that claimed otherwise). The Himalayan 411 defined the affordable adventure bike segment in India and look where the segment is now, especially its successor, the Royal Enfield Himalayan 450.

Ather 340/450

While Ather might not have pioneered the electric scooter segment in India, it surely showed them all how it's meant to be done. Ather was made in India from scratch. R&D’d by IIT-ian Tarun Mehta and his aides to a scooter that has now become a benchmark for how premium e-scooters should be made. The Ather 450 launched in 2018 has features unheard of in the segment: OTA (Over The Air) updates, full-fledged Google Maps right on the instrument cluster, which was a touchscreen unit by the way, accurate range claims, with fast charging, and a whole lot more. Ather’s scooters have always delivered on the promises and have been far from the vaporware that we sometimes see now. They ensured Indians didn’t have to rely on shoddy imported e-scooters masquerading as Indian products, and laid a base for the premium electric scooter segment in India. Ather proved that even Indian manufacturing could be to global standards. Probably why Hero MotoCorp invested in them; well, it’s not hard to draw parallels between Hero group from the 80’s and Ather, isn’t it?

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