Is There A Bigger Strategy Behind The TVS Ronin?

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There are modern classic motorcycles, and neo-retro styles, in popular […]

There are modern classic motorcycles, and neo-retro styles, in popular motorcycle parlance, underscoring design languages which have their origins in heritage and legacy, but the underpinnings and features of contemporary motorcycle engineering. A typical modern classic is a 1960s-inspired design, but with the platform, engine, features and electronics of a thoroughly modern motorcycle. Sometimes, “modern classic” is also substituted with “neo-retro” flavour; motorcycles with similar heritage inspired design, but more modern, than retro. The new TVS Ronin attempts to create something similar, yet hold its own.    

The Ronin breaks new ground for TVS, offering a completely different engine charracter and design language, not seen in any of the company’s motorcycles launched so far. Is it a sign of more “retro-flavoured” models to come?

TVS Motor Company describes the new Ronin as a “modern retro,” a motorcycle that has been launched to address what TVS calls a “third dimension” of new riders. This target consumer group, TVS says, wants something different from performance-oriented sporty models, or the heritage-laden typical modern classic motorcycles. This new consumer segment is apparently looking for a motorcycle that breaks the stereotypes of conventional genres.

 “Unslottable, unstereotyped, and legacy-free,” is what Vimal Sumbly, Premium Business Head of TVS Motor Company, described the new TVS Ronin as, at its launch event. Ronin, in Japanese means, without a mentor or teacher, a sort of maverick, underscoring the motorcycle’s lack of legacy or heritage styling.

Also Read: TVS Ronin First Ride Review

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Ronin, in Japanese means, without a mentor or teacher, a sort of maverick, underscoring the motorcycle’s lack of legacy or heritage styling.

Yes, the TVS Ronin is different, not just in its looks, but in how and where it is positioned in the Indian motorcycle market as well. Its 225 cc single-cylinder engine doesn’t just pit it against motorcycles with similar engine displacement, like the Bajaj Dominar 250, or Bajaj Avenger 220 Street, but its unique design and positioning also pits it against other modern classic models, placed in a segment above. And it’s this entry-level modern classic segment, which seems to be squarely in Ronin’s sights. It has similar performance, but boasts of a long list of features, as well as impressive dynamics and comfort. But is it pure economics and sales volumes behind the strategy that is the Ronin?

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The 350 cc modern classic segment has long been dominated by one legacy motorcycle brand, Royal Enfield.

Watch: TVS Ronin First Ride Video

The 350 cc modern classic segment in India has long been dominated by one legacy motorcycle brand – Royal Enfield. In fact, up until a few years ago, Royal Enfield sold around 80,000 bikes a month, with 90 per cent of those sales volumes coming from its bestselling Royal Enfield Classic 350. It’s also a segment that is likely to see more action outside of India, and overseas markets remain Royal Enfield’s big focus area, to establish leadership in the mid-size segment around the world.  In the domestic market, the TVS Ronin does have a significant price advantage in this segment, which now has models like the Royal Enfield Classic 350, Jawa 42, and the Honda H’Ness CB350.

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The Honda H’Ness CB 350 offers a more neutral and comfortable riding position for everyday riding.

Also Read: TVS Ronin Price Comparison

So, is the Ronin trying to create its own niche segment, targeting both similar quarter-litre rivals, or is it gunning for a slice of the big pie of volumes in the 350 cc modern classic segment? The answer may not be as simple. Yes, the Ronin will address a new sub-segment of younger riders, both male and female, with easy rideability and leisure riding as cornerstones of what it offers. TVS has made no secret of the fact that Ronin introduces a lifestyle statement. So, there are factory customisable options available through an online configurator, an entire range of Ronin-branded merchandise, as well as soft luggage options for customers looking for longer two-wheeled adventures. So, the Ronin, in a way, is a completely new ecosystem, a product, merchandise, apparel, and factory custom blitzkrieg.

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There are factory customisable options available through an online configurator, an entire range of Ronin-branded merchandise, as well as soft luggage options for customers looking for longer two-wheeled adventures.

Also Read: Everything You Need To Know About The TVS Ronin

The Ronin also ventures into a segment, where TVS has had no product so far. Unlike frugal, yet feature-laden commuter motorcycles and sporty entry-level naked motorcycles which have been the mainstay of TVS Motor Company’s product line-up, the Ronin’s tractable 225 cc engine focusses on easy, leisure riding, as well as touring. Its engine is a refined four-valve unit with a square design with an identical bore and stroke of 66 mm. The engine’s architecture offers a balance between refinement, performance, and low-end tractability. Not the typical long-stroke engine formula with the characteristic “thump” that seems to have done wonders for brands like Royal Enfield. It’s a formula that Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India replicated with its new 350 cc modern classic platform as well, with an exhaust note and engine characteristic that doesn’t stray far from the hugely successful Royal Enfield 350.

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TVS decided to strike a balance, so, it’s not a long-stroke thump, but the square engine offers a relatively decent high-revving nature.

But this is where TVS took a different approach. While Honda already had the CB series models from the 1960s and ‘70s to look for design inspiration, the new H’Ness CB 350 platform goes the other direction, at least in engine character, opting for the tried and tested long-stroke formula. TVS though decided to strike a balance, so, it’s not a long-stroke thump, but the square engine offers a relatively decent high-revving nature, and the focus has been kept on low-end torque, with short gearing, to negate too many downshifts in everyday riding. The exhaust note is meaty still, but the efforts were taken to make the engine’s performance refined.

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TVS Ronin has a design that apparently had its fair share of internal discussions and debates within TVS.

The Ronin’s design may be polarising, but it’s a well-built motorcycle. TVS has no classic heritage, and to make a quintessential modern classic with design inspiration from 1960s roadsters would have been something that needed to be inspired by classic British or Japanese designs from the ’60s and ‘70s. It just wouldn’t have been original enough. So, we have this “modern retro”  design of the Ronin, a retro-styled motorcycle with a mixture of influences, from ‘80s roadsters to ‘70s scramblers to hints of completely modern cruiser influences as well. It’s a design that apparently had its fair share of internal discussions and debates within TVS, and eventually, we have what we have. Not a strikingly beautiful motorcycle at first glance, but it’s certainly built well, and looks decent from some angles.

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The Ronin makes a bold statement that TVS can develop and produce an original retro-styled motorcycle.

More importantly, though, the Ronin seems to be a statement from TVS Motor Company. From sporty entry-level nakeds to its flagship Apache RR 310, the Ronin makes a bold statement that TVS can develop and produce an original retro-styled motorcycle, which feels different from the traditional long-stroke formula that has proved to be so successful. It’s also an indication that the Ronin will probably be just the beginning for TVS in the retro-styled motorcycle segment. After all, leisure motorcycling, easy rideability and relaxed long distance cruising are qualities which are likely to become increasingly more important, as will affordability, in the short and medium term. It also gives enough time to introduce perhaps another higher-spec model; something with more performance, slightly more premium appeal, to not just extend the Ronin family, but also display TVS’ engineering and product update capabilities.  

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TVS acquired British motorcycle brand Norton in 2020.

The idea perhaps is also to lay the foundation of TVS Motor Company’s solid engineering and R&D, even in the retro segment. As for the true modern classic, that seems most likely to be the next future course of action. After all, TVS did acquire British motorcycle brand Norton in 2020. It will perhaps be only a matter of time, where a legacy modern classic, possibly a 350 cc, makes its appearance, but with components, features, dynamics, and performance, which could set new benchmarks in the segment. And a historical and iconic brand like Norton has the strength and brand equity to take on anything and everything from Royal Enfield, Honda, Triumph, and BSA globally, as well as Jawa and Yezdi in the domestic market when it comes to the mid-sized, retro-styled modern classic segment.

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