The Royal Enfield Classic 500, the most unlikely adventure motorcycle in the world, is reportedly about to be discontinued.
The Classic 500 is a rare example of a retro motorcycle that actually deserves its name, as the roots of this bike go all the way back to 1955, maybe even earlier. This single-cylinder design has undergone some changes over the years – most notably, a 2009 overhaul – but ever since the ’50s, Royal Enfield’s bikes have owed much to the original thumpers produced under licence for the Indian military. Now, the Indian spin-off company has long outlived the original British Royal Enfield motorcycle marque, but its motorcycles remain visually very similar to those original bike, even after the addition of EFI and ABS and other modernization.
But now, the Classic 500 is reportedly about to be axed. It’s the same old story: Royal Enfield can’t keep the bike up to emissions regulations, because it’s an older design. Air-cooled bikes with large pistons generally have a hard time with oil blowby, and that’s not good news for the Classic 500.
It’s too bad, because Royal Enfield’s 500 series has a long history of taking adventure riders through the Himalayas and other adventurous jaunts. Although their reputation for reliability was … not great, the 500s were cheap and easy to fix, and the constant breakdowns made much of the fun of the trip. Maybe.
Anyway, Royal Enfield’s still going to be selling its 350 series, and has also recently updated the Himalayan for India’s new emissions regs. The question is, as India cracks down harder and harder on gasoline-powered bikes, is there any future for Royal Enfield unless they build an electric motorcycle, and soon? The rest of the Indian moto-scene is working hard at it, and Royal Enfield must evolve, or follow its British ancestor.
To commemorate the long run of the original 500 series, Royal Enfield is launching one last machine in the line, the Tribute Black Limited Edition. If you want one, buy it now, because pretty soon, they won’t be making any more.