One is a budget cruiser and the other a cult following albeit at a premium price point. What's the right decision?
Evolution is a quintessential part of any industry. And on the same lines, the Indian bike market has been ever evolving. And in this cut throat competitive environment with new-comers in the market, mere survival is not enough. For a motorcycle to work in Indian space, it should be priced right, in the right segment, have a decent road presence and most of all – riding dynamics. We put two of the best (rather only) bikes in the cruiser segment, the Royal Enfield Thunderbird and Bajaj Avenger to the test.
Bajaj Avenger 220 DTSi
At a point when there were no cruiser motorcycles in the country, the Bajaj-Kawasaki tie-up gave a potent 175cc true-blue cruiser in the form of the Eliminator. As the competition rose, with Yamaha launching the Enticer 125cc cruiser offering, Bajaj Auto was quick to swap the Kawasaki powerplant in the Eliminator with the Pulsar 180 DTSi motor and rename it as the Bajaj Avenger. Soon thereafter the Avenger received incremental upgrades finally getting the 220cc DTSi engine from the Bajaj Auto flagship the Pulsar 220 DTSi.
The design cues remained more or less unchanged from the original Eliminator, but the localisation approach allowed Bajaj Auto to competitively price its cruiser offering at a killer price point of Rs.77,000 (OTR, Delhi) settling any doubts anyone had about investing in the Bajaj Avenger. Today it is the most affordable cruisers in the Indian market, and is sufficiently capable of munching miles without tiring the rider. Not to forget it’s a sipper that will return a fairly decent fuel economy ranging in between 45-50kmpl. The only hiccup is the Bajaj Avenger’s top-end of about 120km/h which is a bit lousy for a cruiser motorcycle but then our roads don’t really allow anything faster than that without compromising on safety.
Royal Enfield Thunderbird Twinspark
No other bike maker has come this far and evolved this much. The robust overhead valve design, rugged suspension, massive road presence are just a part of the cult status that a Royal Enfield has. It does take a little getting used to but, once you own a Royal Enfield, you own it for life. There is no doubt that riding the Royal Enfield Thunderbird with its laid-back handlebars and easy-rider ergonomics make it an absolute delight to cruise on the wide open highways and the 350cc motor thumping away to glory underneath and pumping out solid 28Nm of torque makes it a treat to be in the saddle of a big bad cruiser motorcycle like the Thunderbird. However, the only factor that makes it hard to get is the premium price point. Costing above a lakh of rupees is an issue for bikers on a budget.
So, what becomes a decision in terms of cult can be an issue over what the price of the Royal Enfield Thunderbird. However, at the same time, the road presence, exceptional handling that is offered by the oldest bike maker in the country is better than what the Avenger is. Our suggestion, if you are willing to throw that extra buck then go in for the Royal Enfield, else the Avenger that has everything on its side, minus the cult following, which is also only a matter of time.