Despite the tremendous challenges, there were plenty of two-wheeler highlights in 2020. After all, this was the year that brought us a few madly anticipated machines. The KTM 390 Adventure was one, although it didn’t really turn out to be what many were hoping for. It’s an excellent adventure tourer, but not the adventure-enduro machine many dreamt it would be.
2020 was also when Royal Enfield finally unveiled its all-important new 350cc platform, although we really had to wait for that one. While RE kept postponing, Honda jumped at the opportunity to launch its Royal Enfield rival, the CB 350 H’Ness. Not too long after, the Meteor 350 finally came out, and it’s safe to say RE has done a stellar job. As for the Honda, it’s a handsome and likeable motorcycle, but you can’t shake the feeling that it’s trying a bit too hard to be a Royal Enfield. I’m looking forward to future models on the Honda platform, and hopefully they’ll have more of their own identity.
It’s been a good year for EVs too. For the longest time, the only EV scooter worth buying has been the Ather 450, and it was only available in two cities. This year, both Bajaj and TVS have joined in, taking the total of high-quality electric scooters actually designed and developed in India to three. Even better news is that Ather has finally turned up the heat on its expansion plans. While both the Bajaj and TVS have limited availability, Ather will be in a total of 27 cities by Q1 2021.
This was also the year of many new alliances. The much-discussed Bajaj- Triumph alliance was finally formalised in January this year, TVS acquired Norton in April and Ola bought out a Netherlands-based EV start-up named Etergo in its attempt to break into the EV space. Later in the year, Hero announced that it was taking over Harley- Davidson’s India operations after the American company shut its wholly-owned subsidiary here. Most recently, Classic Legends, which owns the rights to the BSA name, revealed that it was going to assemble BSA motorcycles - petrol and electric - in the UK from next year onwards.
This was also a year of struggle for many big-bike brands that didn’t have BS6-compliant vehicles to sell after the April 1 deadline, although companies like Triumph and BMW dealt with it far better than others like Ducati, Indian and Suzuki. In fact, Suzuki was probably the most disappointing two-wheeler performer this year, because the company had no new products apart from BS6 updates and it hiked up the prices of popular models like Gixxer 150 and V-Strom 650 by unreasonable levels.
Other small but notable highlights, like Royal Enfield topping the UK sales charts in June, added cheer to the year. Overall, 2020 was tremendously challenging, but could have been so much worse. With a sense of gratitude, I wish you all a happy and stable 2021!