Motorcycles are rarely built in a bubble. While we’re probably all used to the idea of brake specialists like Brembo or suspension specialists like Showa or Öhlins making their components available to a cross-section of motorcycle manufacturers, there are also deeper partnerships at work.
This fact isn't at all new, or even particularly unique. In fact, in motorcycle history, it’s a bit of a time-honored tradition. Going back to the early 20th century, frame and engine specialists would team up to create a single machine together, secure in the knowledge that each partner company was doing the thing that it was best at doing.
Now that we’re in the 21st century, motorcycle manufacturing partnerships occur on a much larger scale—but the spirit of tapping multiple points of expertise to create new bikes to sell to riders remains.
Since it can all get a bit complicated, we’ve started a new series that we’re calling Behind the Bike to help explain it all.
Look for new entries on an occasional basis, and if you have a particular story in mind that you’d like to see, drop us a line or leave us a comment below.
As you might recall, Triumph officially introduced its Speed 400 and Scrambler 400 X earlier in summer 2023. First, there was an official unveiling event at the Triumph factory in Hinckley in late June. Then, in early July, the full launch event took place in India, facilitated by Triumph 400 manufacturing partner Bajaj.
The bikes readily piqued both national and international interest. Bajaj preorders for the bikes soon exceeded the company's expectations. In November 2023, Bajaj CEO Rajiv Bajaj even said in an interview that the overwhelming response came as a surprise, but that the company has been fortifying itself to meet both existing and future demand for these bikes.
Like so many motorcycle models that are planned for release across multiple markets, Triumph and Bajaj planned to bring these bikes to different markets in phases. First, very naturally, they became available to order in India. From there, they would roll out to additional markets in the future.
Four of these bikes (two Speed 400s and two Scrambler 400s) are currently touring the US as I write this, making the rounds of dealerships so that potential owners can see and touch them in person.
While we haven't had the chance to ride these bikes yet at the time of writing, I can tell you that the fit and finish seems nice. Added touches like braided stainless steel brake lines are a Triumph hallmark, but also very welcome in this segment.
Depending on your personal geographic history, you may or may not be familiar with the company. Founded in 1926, the Bajaj Group is now one of India's largest manufacturers of two- and three-wheeled vehicles.
The company also sells its motorbikes throughout a wide variety of countries across Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. With its partnerships with KTM, Husqvarna, and now Triumph, it only stands to sell even more bikes in an ever-growing list of countries.
Triumph and Bajaj Auto India first officially announced their global partnership plans to the world on January 24, 2020. To be fair, they'd both been teasing the fact that they were hammering out mutually agreeable terms for several years by that point. The official language used in the press release referred to it as "a long term, non-equity partnership."
In other words, the Triumph/Bajaj partnership is not like the Bajaj/KTM partnership, where Bajaj Auto purchased a 14.5 percent stake in KTM back in 2007 and has gradually increased its equity to a 49.9 percent stake in PTW Holding AG (parent company of Pierer Mobility, and thus KTM, Husqvarna, and GasGas) in 2021.
According to the public announcement made by the two firms, it will provide different benefits to both Triumph and Bajaj, as well as expanding available motorcycle choices in different markets for riders.
Bajaj will exercise its manufacturing and distribution strengths, both in India and elsewhere. Triumph, meanwhile, will gain a strong foothold in motorcycle segments where it hasn't had much of a presence in decades. The two will design bikes together, also utilizing Triumph's strong history, image, and presence in the motorcycle world. The plan announced from the beginning has been to focus on creating multiple bikes in the 200 to 750cc range.
A direct quote from the original press release characterizes these bikes as being a "proposition [that] will be aspirational and affordable," and will also help to encourage riders who are new to the Triumph brand to throw a leg over and ride one home. By creating the types of bikes that riders in many high-volume markets want, both Triumph and Bajaj see incredible potential.
Getting younger riders on bikes has been a subject of much hand-wringing in western motorcycle media for years at this point. Aspiration and wanting to look cool is all well and good, but it doesn't do much if a potentially interested younger rider simply can't afford what you're selling.
In multiple Asian markets, you'll find a wide swath of riders, from all ages and walks of life. Young and old alike are out on motorcycles and scooters as a matter of daily routine. So, while concerns about attracting new riders are always on every manufacturer's mind, riders aging out of the sport is generally less of an issue than it is in, say, the US.
Consider that Bajaj Auto reported an impressive 77 percent increase in motorbike sales year-on-year in November 2023, reporting 218,597 units sold. Add to that the fact that these figures include the new Triumph 400s. This math makes it not at all difficult to see why the moto partners were eager to bring these bikes to market.
More bikes are certainly on the way, with a rumored Thruxton-esque café racer 400 and additional small-displacement models in the pipeline, at various stages of development. In April 2023, as part of their agreement, Bajaj officially took over Triumph's distribution in India, which is an arrangement that should also continue into the future.