Royal Enfield has such a strong brand image mainly because, it restricted people's entry to the club by offering an impractical bike that remained unchanged for decades. Only a person who appreciates the sturdy build and has passion for biking and long rides favored the Bullet. For him the hassles that came with it were part of the experience. For a common man though, other bikes were cheaper, better built and more reliable.
Since couple of years however, in a mission to increase their market presence, Royal Enfield is going through a major makeover. It is now offering bikes whose looks are universally appealing and are not that impractical to own anymore. This has opened the flood gates and every other bike enthusiast wants a piece of that image now. These new buyers of Royal Enfield, are not passionate about the bikes the same way as the loyalist are. They neither go hiking in the Himalayas for a vacation nor get their hands dirty on the mechanicals. They just want to look the part in the crowd flooded with the 150cc commuters.
Fast forward a few years and the roads are filled with RE bikes now. Few doing their daily commutes quietly and few are thundering down the street with their modified loud exhaust annoying the rest of the pack. These are the people who bought the bike for its image and looks alone. I know it because I was one of them who went on to book a Bullet without even riding one thoroughly.
It took me a lengthy test ride a few days later, to realize that Bullets are not meant for me. I am passionate about bikes but I do not take them on long rides. I want my bike to be a relaxed cruiser but am not ok to put up with the noisy mechanicals. I love a stable motorcycle but don't want it to weigh a ton. And finally, I like the classic looks but hate to compromise on the skinny tyres and insufficient brakes. So to keep the respect for Bullets and Bulleteers intact, I opted out and cancelled my booking!
With Royal Enfield's new launches like the Continental and the Himalayan, it's reassuring to know that they haven't lost the plot fully. These bikes are targeted at a niche segment of enthusiasts and am sure they will help build the brand image further. However, bikes like the Classic seem to be aimed directly at the mainstream commuter segment, which I believe is diluting the "Religion".