10 motorcycles that CHANGED India: Hero Karizma to Royal Enfield Classic

12 motorcycles that CHANGED India: Hero Karizma to Royal Enfield Classic

India is the largest two-wheeler market in the world, which means motorcycles and scooters are many times more popular in our country than cars, SUVs, and other four-wheeled passenger vehicles. Today, the Indian bike market has some really well-sorted offerings. However, over the years, there have been some really special motorcycles that have shaped our bike market. Let’s have a look at 12 of these motorcycles.

Hero Splendor – Single-handedly made a two-stroke market into a four-stroke market

The Hero Splendor is not only the largest-selling motorcycle in India but also the largest-selling bike in the world. On sale since 1994, the Splendor single-handedly managed to change the two-stroke dominated market into a four-stroke one. Its 98.2cc, horizontally inclined four-stroke engine enjoys a legendary status owing to the high fuel economy and reliability it delivers. Also, the bike is well-built and is a low-maintenance product. The Splendor is definitely among the biggest game changers of the Indian motorcycle market.

Royal Enfield Bullet – The original big bike

The Royal Enfield Bullet has been soldiering on since 1931. It’s still a fairly popular model in the Royal Enfield line-up. The Bullet has been a popular high-displacement motorcycle since the British era. Initially, the Bullet 350 was imported into India. However, Royal Enfield later started producing the motorcycle in India. The Indian operations remained unfazed even after the parent company in the UK went bust.

Yamaha RD 350 – The first high-performance motorcycle in India

The Yamaha RD 350 was brought to India in partnership with the Escorts group. The RD 350 is actually the first-ever high-performance motorcycle in India. While the Yezdi Roadking was quite quick off the block and a zippy performer, the RD 350 was several leagues ahead. Its 346cc, twin-cylinder, two-stroke motor offered 28 bhp in the low torque variant and 32 bhp in the high torque variant. The motor came mated to a six-speed transmission. The engine benefited from advanced engine ports. It was the first twin-cylinder motorcycle built in India.

Yamaha RX100 – First-ever affordable performance-focussed motorcycle

It’s true that the Yamaha RD 350 made two-stroke motorcycles really famous among the performance enthusiasts. However, it’s the RX100 that made two-stroke performance really affordable. The RX100 came with a 98.2 cc two-stroke engine that produced 11 bhp. The motorcycle had a top speed of more than 100 kmph. The bike weighed just 96 kgs, which, combined with the decent power and torque, made it very quick off the block.

Yamaha YZF-R15 – First affordable track machine

First launched in 2008, the Yamaha YZF-R15 became the first-ever affordable track-ready motorcycle. It came with a Yamaha R1-inspired design and a Deltabox frame. Powering the R15 was a 149.8cc, liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, 4-valve SOHC, single-cylinder that offered 17 PS. The bike weighed only 131 KGs, which, combined with the decent power and torque, made it pretty quick off the block. Also, the original R15 was a very sharp cornering tool. This is the motorcycle that started the era of low-displacement, performance-focussed motorcycles.

Hero CBZ – First sporty four-stroke motorcycle

The Honda CBZ came in at a time when the Indian two-wheeler market was shifting from two-stroke motorcycles to the four-stroke ones. It became the first-ever sporty four-stroke motorcycle. The CBZ filled the void left behind by the sporty two-stroke performers. It also became one of the most attractive four-stroke motorcycles on sale. Powering the CBZ was a 156cc, single-cylinder engine that offered 12.6 bhp of maximum power.

Hero Karizma – First touring-friendly semi-faired four-stroke motorcycle

The Hero Karizma was the most aspired motorcycle of its times. Launched in 2003 with a really high price tag of Rs 1 lakh, the Karizma became a hot favourite of every well-heeled motorcycle buyer looking for sporty looks and decent performance. Its Honda CRF230-sourced 223cc motor offered a good mix of power and refinement. Also, the Karizma was a great mile-muncher.

Bajaj Pulsar 180 – First affordable performance-focussed four-stroke motorcycle

While the Karizma was the most powerful four-stroke motorcycle of its time, the Bajaj Pulsar 180 offered similar levels of performance and even higher thrills. The 180 has evolved over the time and continues to be on sale. However, it’s actually the first-ever affordable performance-oriented four-stroke motorcycle of the country.

Royal Enfield Classic – Changed the way India looks at retro bikes

While the Royal Enfield Bullet continues to attract motorcycle enthusiasts with all its retro charm, it’s the Classic range of motorcycles that changed the way Indian bike buyers looked at retro motorcycles. The design of the Royal Enfield Classic is similar to that of the Bullet. However, it brought in the more modern UCE engines, which made REs more reliable.

Royal Enfield Thunderbird – India’s first-ever cruiser motorcycle

First launched in 2002, the Royal Enfield Thunderbird became India’s first-ever cruiser motorcycle. Initially, the RE T’bird came with a 350cc AVL engine, which was later replaced with the UCE motor. The Thunderbird also got a bigger 500cc motor. The T’bird is responsible for making cruiser motorcycles popular in the country.

Royal Enfield Himalayan – India’s first adventure motorcycle

The Royal Enfield Himalayan became the first purpose-built Indian adventure motorcycle. The motorcycle is powered by a 411cc, long-stroke, four-stroke engine that features a single overhead camshaft, fuel injection and an oil cooler. It outputs a maximum power of 24.5 bhp and a peak torque of 32 Nm. The Himalayan was the made-in-India adventure motorcycle until the recent launch of the BMW G310 GS.

KTM Duke 390 – World-class performance-focussed motorcycle at an attractive price

The KTM Duke 390 is fast, fun, and well-priced. It’s the motorcycle that introduced India to the world of well-priced world-class motorcycles that can deliver a really high performance. Powered by a 373.3cc, single-cylinder motor, this motorcycle offers a maximum power of 43 bhp and a peak torque of 37 Nm. Back in the day, it was priced a shade below the Rs 2 lakh mark, which made it excellent value for money. Even today, it’s easily the most well-priced performance-focussed Indian motorcycle.

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