Here’s How Two-wheelers Have Fared In India  Over The Years

Here’s How Two-wheelers Have Fared In India Over The Years

Featured Stories by Team Drivio | 9 Mar 2023

It’s hard to keep track of the sheer number of new two-wheelers our country sees every single year. And here’s how it all started:

  • Royal Enfield is the oldest brand amongst two-wheelers in India.
  • Hero MotoCorp is the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer.
  • The Hero Splendor is India’s best-selling bike till date.

Since the announcement of the liberalization process in 1991 by then-finance minister Dr Manmohan Singh, now former Prime Minister of India, the two-wheeler industry in India has grown rapidly. There were previously only a few two-wheeler models available in the country and now it’s the largest market in the world for the same. 

How did it all start?

It all started with Bajaj Auto, which began selling imported Vespa scooters in 1948. Meanwhile, Automobile Products of India (API) began manufacturing scooters in the country in the early 1950s. Until 1958, the only two-wheeler manufacturers in India were API and Royal Enfield. However, in 1960, Bajaj signed a technical collaboration agreement with Piaggio of Italy to manufacture Bajaj Scooters. This agreement expired in 1971.

Motorcycle manufacturers were in a similar situation. There were only three major motorcycle manufacturers in India until the mid-1980s: Rajdoot, Escorts, and Enfield. In the mid-1980s, the two-wheeler market was opened to foreign manufacturers. The industry, which had previously experienced a smooth ride, now faced fierce foreign competition.

Why are two-wheelers so popular in India?

A rapid increase in population, poor road infrastructure, an inadequate public transportation system, and increased use of four-wheelers are all factors contributing to India's ongoing traffic congestion. A personal vehicle, particularly a two-wheeler, thus provides the convenience of driving to the desired destination at the desired time and taking detours as planned. Two-wheelers are becoming more popular for reasons other than their low cost. So here are five of the reasons for their growing popularity: 

1. Better mileage & low maintenance

Two-wheelers outperform cars in terms of mileage; cars' average mileage does not typically exceed 20 - 25 km per liter of gasoline. However, for two-wheelers, it can be as low as 50 km/liter and as high as 80 - 90 km/liter for commuter bikes. With the rising cost of gasoline, bikes can be a lifeline; they can result in significant long-term savings.

2. Better suited for Indian road conditions

Cars are not designed for a rough commute. Two-wheelers, meanwhile, can withstand greater abrasion than cars. Given India's road conditions, two-wheelers are a better bet than cars. The wear and tear on two-wheelers is not as severe as that on automobiles. As a result, the maintenance cost of two-wheelers will be lower than that of cars.

3. Ability to manoeuvre in heavy traffic

Manoeuvring in heavy traffic is a skill that every commuter in India must learn. Two-wheelers are, in such situations, the only type of vehicle that can fit through small gaps and squeeze through lesser spaces, making for a lot quicker commute.

4. Relatively less difficulty in parking

Finding a parking space for a four-wheeler can be a nightmare in many places. Two-wheelers, on the other hand, have it relatively easy because they take up less space. Many two-wheelers can be stacked close together, whereas a car requires enough space between them to allow the door on either side to be opened.

5. Convenience

People prefer to commute in their own vehicles due to overcrowded public transportation and social distancing norms in the post-Corvid era. This is where bikes and two-wheelers have grown in popularity, particularly in tier 2 and tier 3 cities where public transportation may be inconvenient and difficult to use. Thus, owning a two-wheeler not only makes practical sense, but it is also financially rewarding.

Which are some iconic two-wheelers in India?

As we already said, India has had an extremely rich history of two-wheelers till date. And there’s no doubt that over the years, we’ve seen two-wheelers that have now become a cult. Even if a lot of them don’t exist as of now, they’re still immensely revered and remembered, just because of what they were able to do back in the day. So here’s a quick look at 15 extremely iconic two-wheelers in the Indian history: 

Sr. No.Two-wheeler
1Royal Enfield Bullet 350
2Bajaj Chetak
3Yezdi Road king
4Kinetic Honda Scooter
5Yamaha RX100
6Hero Honda Splendor
7Hero Honda CBZ
8Honda Activa
9Bajaj Pulsar
10Hero Honda Karizma
11Yamaha RD350
12Kinetic Luna
13Jawa 250
14Bajaj Sunny
15TVS Scooty

What next?

So we’ve established the fact that India has a very rich history in terms of two-wheelers, but what now? Where’s our industry heading now? Well, what the industry is going through, for the very first time, is an electric revolution. We’re seeing EVs all around, more than we ever have and it’s quite exciting. 

That said, it’s not all electric and there’s a lot for the petrol-head to be excited about as well. Brands like Honda, Hero, Royal Enfield, Bajaj and more, are all gearing up for new launches, updates and more, as our industry slowly transitions into the OBD 2/ BS 6.1 norms, that are all set to kick in from April 1, 2023.