If the Royal Enfield can be described as the king who ruled over the two-wheeler market in India, Rajdoot could easily be its commander in chief. However, Hero Honda Splendor that took birth only in 1994 is the prince who is still "alive and kicking". We present you the bikes that had a long run on Indian roads.
Royal Enfield Bullet 350 (1956-2010)
Even though several motorcycles have made their appearance and disappeared, there are many who firmly believe that the Bullet is the real king among the bikes. Enfield India took shape in 1955 in association with Madras Motors. The very next year the first 350 cc Royal Enfield Bullet rolled out of the Tiruvottiyur plant in north Chennai. The bike had a royal run for the next 54 years in India two-wheeler market. Until 1970 when the factory in Britain down shutters, all important parts including the engine and gearbox were imported. Later, they were made in India itself.
The Royal Enfield received only minor changes during its lifetime. Until 2010, it had a right-leg gear shift setup and the brake on the left. When the strict BS III emission norms kicked in, the bike received a makeover, including a new engine platform.
Escorts Rajdoot 175 (1962-2005)
In 1962, Escorts Group brought the manufacturing rights of Polish motorcycle SHL M11. This vehicle became Rajdoot 175 in India. Though SHL M11 had a short life span of seven years, its namesake Rajdoot has a successful run of 43 long years. Equipped with a three-speed gearbox and 173 cc two-stroke engine, it was never a threat to neither the Royal Enfield nor the Jawa, which was a hot favourite among youths.
But a value-for-money price tag and a rough-road friendly nature made it a popular bike in the rural areas. The Rajdoot's popularity suffered a minor dent only when Japanese two-stroke engines made their debut in the 1980s. Four-stroke bikes like Hero Honda too ate into the market share of the Rajdoot. Thought it got a makeover with four-speed gearbox and telescopic fork, the Rajdoot could never recover its lost glory. The BS II norms sounded the death knell for the bike in 2005.
Hero Honda Splendor (1994- continuing)
Four-stroke bikes came to India when Hero Honda launched its CD100 in 1985. But the real 'hero' came in 1994 when Splendor made its debut. In 2004, the name was changed to Splendor Plus. Later, Honda pulled out of the alliance, but the Splendor continues to be produced and is available even now.
Though several bikes with varied power, size and shapes were launched later, they never made any impact on the demand for the Splendor Plus in the Indian market. The bike has changed with the introduction of various stages of emission norms. Though the design has changed, its parts including the 97.2 cc engine have seen no alterations. The Splendor is the only bike that is still the largest selling motorcycle even after 25 years of its launch.